Religious-associated interests in the seventh installment of the Star Wars' series franchise to premiere Dec. 18 prompted 'geeks' at First United Presbyterian Church in Wisconsin to present a special event about "Faith and the Force" on Saturday.
"We looked at this as a way to bring Christianity into contemporary pop culture," said Dawn Picard, who coordinated the church's special event. "All of us being 'Star Wars' fans recognized there are so many parallels between 'Star Wars' and the Christian stories."
The upcoming movie is entitled "Star Wars: The Force Awakens."
Picard said the event team's underlying emphasis was about needing to always keep hope and to go to the light of God.
"With the (terrorist) tragedy in Paris that just occurred the night before our event, we ended up having discussions with participants about how there is profound evil in the world, and how important it is to celebrate the good and to give assurances that we know the end of our story will be with joining God," she said.
Pastor Luke (Skywalker) Farwell used the Star Wars saga as a vehicle to "teach, preach and celebrate" God's love and direction.
The event, which also attracted 150 non-churched people and those of multiple denominations, included a message from Farwell called "Raising a Jedi: Spiritual Formation and the Force." Other activities included a discussion on "The Force," workshops that explored similarities between "Star Wars" characters and Biblical characters and the wisdom of a Jedi, as well as a photo booth with "Star Wars" characters and games based on the series.
"Today's culture produces many challenges for children and families. Many times we were impressed with children's understanding of the connections," said Picard. For example, one workshop, called Princess In Training, associated examples of Biblical, Star Wars, Disney and real princesses. She said the workshop leader led children through the commonalities of princesses, helped them make their own crowns, and provided them with a poem about God being their king.
Star Wars' trivia led to a 'who's who' from the Bible in the movie, she said, such as whether Han Solo was supposed to represent John the Baptist, whether the legendary Yoda was God, and whether The Force was the Holy Spirit.
As others see the new Star Wars film next month, Picard encourages Christians to think of it as a reminder of being part of a bigger story, of insertions into God's unconditional love. "Just as we've all been talking about what happened in Paris, there is worth in our lives. But those who don't realize that sometimes get sucked into evil. Like what the movie's rag-tag group likely will face, something bad will happen and things may seem hopeless for the characters. But we need to move toward the light of Christ and lift up the good in life, because it will triumph in the end. We know what the end of our story is. There is life beyond this world."
Interest in the Star Wars film is swelling, as the Wall Street Journal just yesterday reported Star Wars' merchandise is causing "a great disturbance in toy aisles."
Bloomberg, via Yahoo Finance, also reported today that sales of items related to "The Force," such as toy light sabers and action figures, are strong with Asian toy makers. The article indicated these toys may help "drive a 10.9 percent jump in American toy imports in 2015," according to an analysis by Mario Moreno, senior economist at JOC Insights, IHS Maritime & Trade. The article referenced China already is the biggest supplier of toys to the United States, making up 83.9 percent of the market year-to-date through September by TEU volume, a standard cargo measure. "But because of the Star Wars effect, shipments of Chinese-made toys to the U.S. are up 13 percent for the same period."