It is almost time for the full wave of Star Wars coverage to hit. So far, I think that religion-beat specialist Jeffrey Weiss at The Dallas Morning News has asked the most serious questions about the content of the movies themselves -- at least without seeing the new film.
The big question: What if the religion in the Star Wars canon was totally and utterly screwed up, a mixmaster blend of everything that is out there filtered through the Baby Boomer perspective of a man who has no idea what he believes?
And what if this aspect of the film is, along with special effects, at the heart of its popularity in postmodern America? What if it makes no sense whatsoever and that is a good thing? Would anyone in mainstream American religion have the courage to say that?
The lead, in this case, should have been the headline: "Like it or not, the Force is with us." Here is a big chunk of the Weiss report, which contains the big idea:
America's median age is about 36. That means about half the country has little or no memory of a time before Star Wars was part of the cultural landscape. George Lucas released the first Star Wars movie in 1977.
Not coincidentally, some experts say, younger generations of Americans have been turning away from institutional religion in record numbers. There may be some link, they say, between the fuzzy "theology" of the Force and the powerful but fuzzy spiritual longings of this group.
Most of those who check "none of the above" when pollsters ask about their religious preference aren't atheists or agnostics. They believe in a Higher Power and a Higher Purpose to their lives, in a transcendent order to the universe and in the immortality of their souls: Life and love carry eternal values.
Sound familiar? Star Wars fans might say all you need to do is listen to your feelings.
As Yoda explained it: "Luminous beings are we."
So here is my question: Will the Culture Wars -- accurately defined -- show up in the new movie? At some point, will Sith and a Jedi superstars point fingers at one another and say that the other is on the side of George W. Bush and the Religious Right?
Will the big word -- ABSOLUTES -- show up, as in "absolute truths"?
Watch for it. Will Lucas be able to resist? Or will he yield at last to the political side?