Some weeks ago, my attention was snagged by a title over at ScreenRant, Star Wars Hints at the True Purpose of Force Ghosts, which discussed why the phenomenon seemed only available to the Jedi and not the Sith. As I read with interest, these words stuck with me: “The ultimate goal of the Sith, yet they can never achieve it,” Qui-Gon Jinn explained, “It comes only by the release of self, not the exaltation of self. It comes through compassion, not greed. Love is the answer to the darkness.”
Imagine my geeky, little, Catholic heart jumping at those words! What does Christ Himself say to us?
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”Matthew 16:24-25
Much has been debated over the Christian themes of Star Wars and indeed whether they are really Christian at all or merely truisms all religions and people of good will would share, but one thing is certain: this message of Star Wars is, whatever its inspiration, in accord with the heart of the gospel. The Jedi achieve a sort of everlasting presence through their goodness, their self-gift, and ultimately their love. They lose themselves and thus keep themselves. Meanwhile, the Jedi strive for everlasting life and fall short. They die and even kill one another. They clone themselves in attempts to cheat death and they try to steal the life force from others.
Like the saints, force ghosts in the Star Wars universe are made strong in their holiness, such that death is not victorious over them. They continue and may interact with the (biologically) living. The Sith, instead, devolve into a nightmarish imitation of life, grasping to continue their reign of terror.
Unfortunately, the latter part of the article delves into — of course — a Manichaean sort of take on virtue that would conclude the moral virtue of suicide. Alas.
Nevertheless, we find in Star Wars a helpful reflection on the truth we see in the paradox of the Cross: if you want to save your life, you must lose it.