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Published: Saturday, 5/21/2005

Youths need their Yoda

BY DAVID YONKE
BLADE RELIGION EDITOR
Yoda, a reluctant teacher, challenges Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker.
Yoda, a reluctant teacher, challenges Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker.
AP Enlarge

There is a universe full of myths and symbols to be explored in the Star Wars saga the latest installment of which opened Thursday but one concept that stands out for author Dick Staub is the relationship between spiritual seeker and teacher.

Mr. Staub s latest book, Christian Wisdom of the Jedi Masters (Jossey-Bass, $16.95), focuses on the student-mentor tradition in Christianity as represented in Star Wars by Luke Skywalker and his instructors, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Yoda.

The two teachers, reluctantly at first, help young Luke learn to use the Force, a kind of energy permeating the universe, to reach his potential and achieve the status of Jedi master.

Through the ages, Christians have shared their wisdom and experience with the next generation, helping youngsters learn things that are hard, if not impossible, to discover on one s own, Mr. Staub said in Chicago in an interview this week.

For centuries, these spiritual masters have conveyed deep spiritual truth from one generation to the next, entrusting it like a baton in a relay race, he said.

In addition to being an author, Mr. Staub, 57, has a nationally syndicated radio program, The Dick Staub Show, and frequently lectures on faith and culture.

Shifting social patterns have made the student-mentor relationship nearly obsolete today, Mr. Staub said.

I think traditional values and beliefs and daily life practices have been passed down from one generation to the next, but not in a classroom way, he said.

in which Mr. Lucas said he believes there is a God, no question, then added: What that God is or what we know about that God, I m not sure.

The first installment in the series, 1977 s Star Wars (episode 4 in the overall sequence), and its two sequels offered the most useful analogies for the student-mentor relationships he wanted to highlight, Mr. Staub said.

Staub Staub
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In episodes 4 through 6, Luke grows from a naive apprentice into a full-fledged, powerful Jedi Knight.

The next three movies a trilogy serving as a prequel to the first three films follow a different path, as Anakin Skywalker succumbs to the Force s dark side and becomes evil lord Darth Vader.

In the second three episodes, Luke is tempted with the dark side but nevertheless overcomes it, Mr. Staub said. In the first three, we are shown the alternative when a young man sets out to do good but is trapped in the dark side.

Star Wars is an epic tale that has threads common to all epics, he said.

In every epic story, there is a young man trying to find some meaning in life, but until he finds help he cannot pull it off. That progression is part of every myth and every religious tradition. I happen to be looking at it from a Christian perspective, Mr. Staub said.

He offers spiritual truths in the fractured syntax of little green Yoda, the mystical insights of gray-haired warrior Obi-Wan Kenobi, and the impatience of Skywalker the apprentice eager for instant results, according to Mr. Staub.

In the first Star Wars movie, for example, Yoda challenges Luke to use the Force to levitate an X-wing spacecraft that had crashed into a swamp.

Luke says he ll try.

No! Try not! Yoda responds sharply. Do. Or do not. There is no try.

Mr. Staub said Yoda s lesson illustrates the biblical truth that faith requires action, not just belief.

When Yoda lifts the craft, Luke says, I can t believe it, and Yoda says, That s why you fail. You can t believe it.

Mr. Staub said the youth of today are looking for spiritual depth that their parents, the baby-boom generation, have too often failed to provide.

The baby boomers say, I m on a spiritual journey but I have a dinner reservation at 6, he said.

Contact David Yonke at:dyonke@theblade.com or 419-724-6154.



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