Written By: Lawrence Lam
If you haven’t seen Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens by now, you probably don’t care that I reveal a few details from the plot. The film was just released on disc for home viewing a couple of weeks ago so I think by now, no one is spoiled by what follows.
A part of the latest Star Wars movie’s plot struck me from a theological point of view. Finn is one of the main characters introduced in this episode. A stormtrooper, formerly FN 2187, he deserts and ends up joining the resistance to fight against the First Order. As stormtroopers attack a town full of innocent people, Finn is disturbed by the actions of his colleagues and instead refrains from obeying a direct order to which he is conditioned to follow without question. The camera zooms in as you see the stormtrooper struggle despite his helmet masking any facial expression. Before FN 2187 can be brought back for reconditioning, he manages to escape and join the good guys in the story.
What triggered that thought in Finn to think otherwise? It appears there is a power greater than “The Force” that transcends George Lucas’s strictly pantheistic amoral universe. “The Force” is the dominant religion, the “energy field…[that] binds the universe together” as described by Obi-Wan Kenobi in Episode IV. We learn over the course of the Star Wars series that the force possesses both a light and dark side, like the Yin and Yang of Taoism. No amoral dominant power could trigger what is essentially a struggle with a conscience rooted in objective good and evil. The voice in Finn’s head calls him away from perpetrating evil despite all the conditioning and training he had undergone to become a stormtrooper. The Western tradition calls it Conscience.
Peter Kreeft ascribes conscience to be so powerful that its existence constitutes an argument for God’s existence. Aquinas describes it as an acting with knowledge (it’s not an accident that science is contained within the word conscience), and Scripture notes the existence of a law written on the hearts of gentiles (Romans 2:15). I found it notable that God’s voice made its way into the plot of Star Wars in order to advance the story. Even if not an explicit decision of the film writers, this no doubt was found written on their hearts as well.
Thus this is a good reminder as to the source of Conscience whenever discussed in a relativistic society, and even surrounding controversy that arises within the church on this matter, whether from an ecumenical council or an apostolic exhortation. Conscience begins naturally written on our hearts but over a lifetime, good or bad habits can grow so as to hamper its ability to maintain clarity over moral decisions. Amoris Laetitia, the Post-Synodal Exhortation, as well as the Catechism, emphasize the need to maintain a properly formed conscience in good living. Hence, we should maintain accountability with others so that we can help each other level-set our “inner voices” ensuring they allow the clear voice of the Divine to come through. Keeping the solid tradition as the foundation of the Exhortation, there is little to find ambiguous on this matter from the Holy Father, and much to delight in the Divine Law to have a major cameo appearance in the most anticipated film of 2015.
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