MY HISTORY WITH HAN
I love Star Wars.
I mean I REALLY LOVE STAR WARS!
When I was younger, I was introduced to the original films on VHS. Prior to receiving the Special Edition releases on VHS (for what was hands-down one of the greatest Christmas mornings ever), I would beg parents to rent them on numerous occasions. My parents were surely thrilled when our local library purchased them and allowed them to be checked out by the public. I did my best to wear those tapes out, watching them on repeat.
Since then, throughout my lifetime, I’ve watched the original films in every state of release, along with all of the prequels. I’ve been wrapped up in the saga as much as a person could be, but let me make another admission:
I love Jesus… and I mean I REALLY LOVE JESUS!
Still, early on in life, other than my grandmother taking me to church when I would spend weekends with her, I didn’t attend church regularly with my parents. I ultimately accepted Christ when I was 10, but by that point, the most important belief system I had been exposed to and had a deep understanding of (even though I always saw it as completely fictional) was that of the Force. I daydreamed about a long, long time ago in that galaxy far, far away, but to be honest, my fascination early on wasn’t with the Jedi, but with my favorite childhood character, Han Solo. Whether it was the natural charm of the actor, Harrison Ford, his friendship with his furry companion, Chewbacca, or his penchant for having an answer for everything, a blaster at his side, and the ability to evade danger with the Millennium Falcon, Han was the man, and I knew that even as a small kid, no question. I wanted to be that smuggler, and he was who I play-acted in my imagination.
Later in my childhood, I became a Christian. Throughout my teenage years after that decision, I learned more and more about Jesus, and alongside that, I continued my love for Star Wars. I had some friends say “Star Wars is of the Devil,” but I attribute that in hindsight to misguided teaching in their lives. I have always looked at pop-culture through the lens of my faith, and when I look at Star Wars, I see so much to examine. I have served in ministry for over 11 years since I was 18, and in that time, I have transitioned from a music minister into a pastor. Whenever I can, I try to tie what I love from movies into my messages, as I see the Gospel truths related to us by God in so many ways. I could write article upon article about this character or that, how the concept of the Force as a whole appeals to our need for a connection to something larger than us, and just the idea of good defeating evil ultimately, no matter the odds. Star Wars is chock-full of spirituality, even if it was never intentionally Christian.
Looking back on the character of Han Solo as a whole, from A New Hope all the way to Return of the Jedi, I recognize a character arc that speaks to me, and the trailer for The Force Awakens gives me hope that that arc will only get better. There’s no denying that Han started off in one way, but he certainly seems headed to better places. I will go over each of the original three films (and even say a word or two in regards to the recent Marvel Comics series) to give an understanding of the character from a Christian perspective, all in prep for what, according to Harrison Ford’s top billing in the credits, looks to be Han’s biggest role yet in the Star Wars cinematic universe.
Episode IV: A NEW HOPE
We meet Han sitting at a dirty table in a dirty cantina, filled with dirty aliens who have surely committed their fair share of dirty deeds. The idea of an inhabited world in Star Wars perhaps isn’t fully felt and experienced until the Mos Eisley Cantina scene. There could have just as likely been a swinging door and spittoon there, because the rough edge of the West is evoked so clearly. And if it is the West, Han is that rough and tumble character, making his way wherever he goes, however he can.
Han will pilot the old man and young kid, Obi-Wan and Luke, wherever they want… as long as they pay. Apparently, at this point in his life, Han’s only true aim is profit, and having a sure aim has helped him live to continue that pursuit. What he’s good at has got him this far in life, so why change anything? Sure, he’s ditched some jobs midway here and there in a pinch, and he’s made some enemies along the way because of it, as Greedo so pointedly reminds him. He expects to be paid for what he does, but he’s not in it for the glory or some grand cause. ‘Numero Uno’ is his primary concern, as well as looking out for Chewie. The Force doesn’t even register in his day-to-day life, and why should it? The thoughts of Jedi and Sith, Light and Dark, Rebel and Imperial, good and evil all look less necessary in the face of getting his jobs done and lining his pockets. Money coming from someone “good” or “bad” in the end meets his needs all the same. Why should he believe in anything that doesn’t impact him personally?
Han expresses as much to Obi-Wan and Luke on their way to Alderaan: “Hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a blaster at your side, kid.” Han has no aspirations to be like Obi-Wan. In fact, you could say he sees him as a fool, a crazy old man wasting his life on superstitious nonsense. Still, as long as he pays, who cares?
Han’s story takes a turny when the planet he is taking Luke and Obi-Wan to no longer exists. The pull of the Death Star, destroyer of the planet Alderaan, pulls Han and all aboard the Falcon into its bays; you could say, metaphorically, that it pulls him down another path he would never had chosen for himself or Chewie. After saving Leia and getting far more than he bargained for with the whole ordeal, he demands payment so that he can get far, far away from all of the trouble the Rebellion is stirring up with its planned attack on the Death Star. That appears to be it for Han’s story… until he has a change of heart and comes back to offer the necessary help Luke needs to take his shot and destroy the Death Star. Han and Chewie are awarded by the Rebels for their help, but tomorrow, they’ve gotta eat, right?
I see in Han the same character as people prior to a relationship with Christ. The necessities of existence in this world we live in are practical ones, and living often necessitates doing what we have to do to survive in many cases. I’m sure in doing what we have to do that some days are easier than others, but the flexibility of having no apparent belief system, and the only authority being what provides us our own apparent needs and desires, has to have some kind of pull for people, because so many entertain that mindset. We have all ascribed to this way of life, prior to knowing and trusting Christ:
2 Timothy 3:1-5 (NKJV) But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!
I believe many today, whether they claim to believe in anything or not, are lost. They are tossed to and fro by the winds of seeming necessity. They turn to this leader, influence, or benefactor now, but later, they go elsewhere, wherever it is that pleases them then. Hedonism, the pursuit of pleasure, knows many forms, but it’s most innocuous and susceptible means is just living to survive with no mind of anything beyond the here and now. So many live only concerned for and about themselves, when Scripture calls us to so much more:
Philippians 2:4 (NKJV) Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.
The Rebellion could use a good, capable pilot who can even shoot his way out of trouble on the ground, but Han initially nixes that idea. Who cares if the Empire is bad if it doesn’t affect him personally? I can understand that many live lives that almost necessitate such a narrow view of effect, but they are only looking at life prior to death. Surely, there is more to truly living than just surviving. By the film’s end, we see Han start to open up to the idea of life beyond just profit, but he still has a ways to go, as we will see.
THE MARVEL COMICS SERIES
Han is a man still very much the rogue. His past comes to the forefront in a big way: he has a wife, apparently, a complication that justifiably upsets Leia, who feels deceived by someone who has obviously not told her and others everything about himself. This plotline carries through for much of the current run, and I won’t go any further as to not spoil the storyline, but I will say that if you haven’t been reading, you absolutely should be. Marvel has done great work on his character and with the run overall.
We all have pasts, whether we regret them or not. People will hold us accountable, surely, for all we’ve done, sometimes for degrees and lengths of time that hardly seem fair, but however others treat us or wish to view us, the Lord can release us from the pains of guilt when we turn to Him with a repentant heart.
Romans 3:23 (NKJV) For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
Acts 17:30-31 (NKJV) Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.
1 John 1:9 (NKJV) If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
The comics are currently on a path that could lead any number of places, but it certainly won’t take Han in a much different direction than where he is left at the introduction of Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back.
Episode V: THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK
We begin the movie with Han seemingly on the fence while at the Rebel’s hidden base on Hoth: he’s devoted to his friends, Luke and Leia, but he has to deal with bounties on his head. The consequences of his past dealings with Jabba look to be looming; still, when Luke goes missing, Han goes after him. He finds Luke clinging to life, and returns him to base.
The Imperial probe droid catches wind of the Rebels’ location, and evacuation of the base begins, but not without a fight. Han and Chewie transport Leia and the droids to safety, and on the journey, Han and Leia become romantically involved. Han has the idea of looking to Lando Calrissian, an old friend, for safety, and the crew head to Cloud City where Calrissian runs things.
But trouble has followed them, as Darth Vader, alongside Boba Fett, are waiting with a plan to ensnare Luke. Vader wants to keep Luke alive but incapacitated, and encasing him in carbonite should suffice, if he lives. Han is used to test the process. He is then given to Boba Fett to collect the bounty Jabba has on Han. The film ends with Han’s fate uncertain, but with a lesson to learn.
Friendships from our past can prove difficult on our path to living for Christ. I’m not saying all our old friends will give us up for a ransom, but I will say that the motivations of people living for the world are not the same as those living for Christ.
Ephesians 4:17-24 (NKJV) This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart; who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. But you have not so learned Christ, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.
Proverbs 16:2-3 (NKJV) All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, But the Lord weighs the spirits. Commit your works to the Lord, And your thoughts will be established.
I believe when Han is frozen, he is a man that is coming away from his past. He’s embracing the plight of the Rebellion and realizes that helping this cause won’t make his life easier, but it will make it meaningful. He cares for those close to him, not just himself, and he is discovering the strength that lies in loyalty to a cause greater than himself. All of these traits are necessities for us as Christians, and Han displays them, despite his encasement in carbonite. Had he died during the encasing, I believe that Han would have been in a better place as a person, but thankfully his story doesn’t end there.
Episode VI: RETURN OF THE JEDI
Luke, Leia, and the crew come to the rescue of Han, whose carbonite encasement is being used as a trophy on Jabba’s wall. After being thawed out, Han is stricken blind temporarily, but he regains his sight over time. At the Rebel command ship, we see Han not only helping them, but also volunteering to lead a very dangerous mission focused on disabling the new Death Star’s shield generator.
The Han we see in this film is vastly different than the one we met in Episode IV–a leader of others, loyal, brave, and selfless. We don’t see a scoundrel, but a man who now knows that there are bigger things than personal profit. Freedom for others and seeking out their betterment are things not to be avoided, but embraced. Han allows himself to become close to others, mostly Leia, and because of this his circle of friends widens. He even forgives Lando for turning him in to Vader and Boba Fett. At this point in the story, Han has changed. His experiences allowed this.
Who knows what Han could have been thinking in the carbonite, or even if he could think? Still, I was struck by the blind motif and its application to the Christian viewpoint. I believe that Han comes out of the process, almost like the Apostle Paul, struck blind on the road to Damascus.
Acts 9:18-20 (NKJV) Immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he received his sight at once; and he arose and was baptized. So when he had received food, he was strengthened. Then Saul spent some days with the disciples at Damascus. Immediately he preached the Christ in the synagogues, that He is the Son of God.
After this point in the saga, Han the scammer and scoundrel, is no more. He was blinded by the delusion of selfishness, but through the impression other people have made on his life, the causes around him, and, yes, even his witnessing of the power of the Force, he is now a changed man. For us, too, there is hope; we too can come away from lives lived only for self. Through allowing the Lord the ability to change our lives, we can do different, see different, and be different. There is hope for all of us. It doesn’t matter how quickly a person made the Kessel Run, or how many credits they made on a job; worldly accolades and riches will get us nowhere, if we don’t have Jesus in our lives.
Episode VII: THE FORCE AWAKENS (Speculative)
I don’t care to indulge all my thoughts of where Han may be headed; I want to be on the unspoiled journey this week, just like the rest of the world. Still, I think the trailers and teasers (as well as the Marvel Comic miniseries, Shattered Empire) show us that Han is an even better man than he was in Return of the Jedi. He is quoted as saying, “It’s true… All of it. The Dark Side, the Jedi… they’re real.”
The unbeliever, years prior, is now professing the reality of his universe based on his life experiences: the Force is real. Morality exists, and there are right ways and wrong ways to achieving what we want and need. There is a balance that must be achieved in the order of things. We don’t always understand it, but there is something greater than us going on in the universe.
So much can be speculated, but I digress. I believe we’re going to see a Han who has changed and now stands up for what he believes in against great odds. And I believe that stands to teach us something.
Ephesians 6:11-13 (NKJV) Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
Will Han’s story end in The Force Awakens? At this point, I don’t know, but if it does, I believe I will be satisfied with where I think his character is headed. He has transformed from a selfish rogue to a devoted soldier, loved by those around him and standing up for what he believes in. I doubt the creators intended for such a Christian message to come out of Han’s story, but I believe we can see the truths of God in many things…
Yes, even from a stuck up, half-witted, scruffy-looking Nerf herder.
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