What Han Solo taught me about Easter


One of my favorite scenes in the latest Star Wars film, The Force Awakens, is the one where new characters Finn and Daisy first come across the infamous space rogue Han Solo and his longtime Wookie companion Chewbacca. When asked about the ancient myth of the Jedi and the force that surrounds the universe, Han replies, “It’s true. All of it.”

What gives this line so much meaning is that this wasn’t always Han’s conclusion. In the first Star Wars film, A New Hope, Han is outright dismissive of the Force, telling Luke Skywalker, “Kid, I’ve flown from one side of this galaxy to the other, and I’ve seen a lot of strange stuff, but I’ve never seen anything to make me believe that there’s one all-powerful Force controlling everything. ‘Cause no mystical energy field controls my destiny. It’s all a lot of simple tricks and nonsense.”

We, of course, know Han Solo is wrong, but the pleasure of his journey, so expertly capitalized upon in The Force Awakens, is seeing him accept this realization for himself. There are things he doesn’t understand about the universe, things he can’t even see. And Han, ever the pragmatist, denies they exist because he hasn’t seen the evidence for himself.

But his admission 30 years later changes all of that. He is now telling fellow doubters that the things he once refused to believe in are true. All of them.

I’ve thought quite a bit about Han’s realization during Holy Week. I think we often treat the resurrection of Christ in the same way Han initially treated the force. A man rising from the dead? How can such a thing be true?

imagesWe live in a pragmatic, logical society, and this is in many ways a good thing. We are naturally skeptical until we have reason to believe otherwise. We value science and evidence-based convictions, much as Han did when he told Luke, “Hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster at your side, kid.”

But our faith in science only takes us so far, before it becomes just that, faith. We can become so obsessed with what we can observe, what we in fact can witness with our own eyes, that any other way of experiencing the world is dismissed out of hand. We somehow think that science will solve all of our problems, that it will save us from ourselves, despite the fact that the study of science is done by human hands. We need only to look at the atom bomb and two world wars to convince us that our salvation is not found in science alone.

Two famous skeptics, C.S. Lewis and Lee Strobel, were a lot like young Han. They were so obsessed with evidence that they set out to disprove Christianity and the existence of God entirely. They didn’t do a very good job. Both became staunch Christian apologists, and they did so primarily by examining the evidence they were so hoping would lead to a different conclusion. If all things are created by God, then science, like everything else, points back to the majesty of the creator.

As Strobel has written, “Christianity is a very historical religion. It makes specific claims that are open to testing.” He also said, “I think it’s very healthy to use journalistic and legal techniques to investigate the evidence for and against Christianity and other faith systems.”

Doing so is not only healthy, but essential. One of the things I love about the Gospel accounts of the life of Christ is that they strike me as very journalistic. Four men, approaching the same story from four different angles, astonishingly came to the same conclusions. Luke, a doctor by profession, was particularly interested in providing an orderly and accurate account of what transpired during Jesus’ three years of ministry, along with his eventual death and resurrection.

Luke tells Theophilus, to whom his gospel account is addressed, that he intended “to write an orderly account…that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught” (Luke 1:3-4).

The story of Easter is not some far-away fairy tale, but a story rooted in many of the things our society holds dear. Archaeology, science, history…it all points to the risen Christ.

“Points” is the operative word here. None of these things, on their own or combined, irrefutably prove that Christ was raised from the dead three days after he was crucified and buried. There is, of course, a strong element of faith to, well…faith. Christianity is both intellectual and experiential. Han Solo could have seen evidence of the force and still not believed, because doing so would require a change of perspective in his life. It would require him to reorder his priorities, to abandon some of the things that had previously brought him joy. His life would never be the same.

We can assert the veracity of the story of Christ’s resurrection all day, but if we don’t allow it to penetrate our hearts, to reorder our lives in response, that we haven’t really been listening. Some people may never feel like they will be able to take that step of faith to surrender their lives in this way. But the Easter story reminds us that it is, indeed, just a step. Tomorrow there will be another. And the day after, another. Before we know it, Christ has changed us from the inside out.

As Easter approaches, I think of Han Solo’s confession, informed by both rational study and the realization that there are some things about the universe that will never fit neatly into his compartmentalized mind. “It’s true…all of it.” As I look upon the resurrected Christ, I repeat these words with awe, wonder and the realization that it changes everything.