Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Gospel According to Lucas (And Other Blasphemies)

Howdy, howdy.

For as long as I can remember, I've been a Star Wars fan. In fact, the only story which took hold in my brain before George Lucas' space opera ripped it open was The Hobbit. Oh, I read all about Encyclopedia Brown and Bunnicula, but I knew and loved the adventures of Luke Skywalker and his merry band of Rebels better than anything else.

As a matter of fact, I can only remember six of the VHS tapes we had in the house during my formative years. There were others, many others, but the six constant tapes were Conan the Barbarian, Ghostbusters, The Blues Brothers, and the original Star Wars trilogy. Those movies were imprinted indelibly onto my growing mind. Even today, I could sit and watch any of those with the sound all the way off, and no one in the room with me will miss anything anybody has to say. It's annoying as hell, too. So I've been told. watching a movie with these guys.
Fast-forward to early 1997, and the movie theater on base in Pearl Harbor had just finished being remodeled extensively. One of the things they had done was to put in a THX sound system, which meant (ah-HA!) they could show the theatrical re-release of the Star Wars trilogy, which they did. For free.

As a yound sailor, this had staggering implications for me. I was broke all the time, and I had just gotten someone to agree to go to the movies with me. And she was alright with the base theater. And, she was excited to see Star Wars. Be still my beating heart. I was really enjoying myself, until something happened that ruined our date. (Well, it ruined it for me; I can't speak for the unfortunate girl who was stuck with my company for the rest of the evening.)

Greedo. Shot. First.

I was apalled. I was aghast. I was... some other word, also appropriately alliterate.

There were other things in the movie that were, you know, effing awesomesauce. The revamped special effects were spectacular, and the additional scenes were icing on the cake, but come on. Han shoots first. Everybody knows that. That was firmly planted in my psyche. Rooted there.

I can't really put it into words how much it bothered me. (Yes, I know, I'm a writer and occasional poet. The irony does not escape me.) When I was a pre-teen, just a wee baby, I wanted to be Luke Skywalker and run around the galaxy with my laser sword and fight bad guys. When I got a little older and started to notice girls, I wanted to be Han Solo. A scoundrel.

And Han? Hell. Han is the guy that shoots first.

Except now he didn't, and I know I'm beating this with a dead horse, but I'm trying to make a point here. And I'm about to jump a gap to the other part of this here blog.

*insert pun here*

My parents are very Catholic people. One of them is Irish and the other Mexican, the perfect storm of Catholicism. I'd learned from a very young age that, where the Bible was concerned, it was best to sit down and shut up.

Not from my parents, by the way. Whenever I had questions about that big-ass book, my dad did his best to answer them, and my mom referred me to the mysterious ways God has. No, the repression came from the nuns. As a young proto-person, I went to a Catholic school in Chicago, and I guess it was a pretty good one. (I know this because one year, I went to public school, and the teacher consistenly mispronounced chameleon as "CHA-ma-lonn." Yes, I got into trouble there, too.)

One of the things that bothered me was that the many policies of the Church didn't actually come from the Bible, and I think I was too young to understand that. But I was old enough and had enough reading comprehension skills for the other thing that bothered me, that the Gospels didn't quite agree with each other all the time, and the other contradictions between the Old and New Testaments.

I sat and thought about it for a long while. To be honest, I can't remember where I'd heard this, but the idea was floating around in my head that the Bible was the inerrant word of God. So, how could it be wrong? Or, how could it even contradict itself? Or, how could this happen in the first place?

As I got older, I became less and less worried about who I upset and began to ask these questions out loud to people who I thought should know. Some of them were helpful, some were condescending, and others outright furious I could even entertain the notion. Mistakes, please. You must be defective.

One of the arguments I got quite often was, "If God took the time and effort to give us the Word, don't you think He would take steps to prevent its corruption by the hand of man?"

My immediate response was that time and effort wasn't anything to an omnipotent God, but I learned sooner or later that didn't really move the conversation forward, so I swallowed that one. My follow-up question was usually something along the lines of, "Maybe that's what God is doing, what with the finding of the Dead Sea Scrolls and all."

I was referred back to the mysterious ways, which frustrated me to no end.

Conversations that do this make Baby Jesus cry.

Well, that's not true. The end was when I stopped chasing the truth of the Bible and gave up the whole mess for other people to worry about. I had other problems to worry about besides that, most of them from all the different views of God that were being jammed down my throat by well-meaning friends and pastors and youth ministers.

I think it was about this time I found my dad's copy of Chariots of the Gods... but that's a blog for a different day.

For a long while, I went through the motions to keep my mother happy. I played guitar in church, I did all the... the... I even forget what they're called now. Sacraments? I went to catechism and got Confirmed, and then after graduation from high school and joining the Navy, never stopped to think about God or any of that unless someone else brought it up.

Still, I'm always curious as to what happened. Not just what happened back then, in 33 A.D., but what happened to the gospels and letters and books, and who changed what and why. All that. Every time there was a show on TV about it, I'd watch it. Not only am I intensely curious about all this, but I had to keep loaded up on things that make people mad. Am I right? Of course I am. With that in mind, I read a book by Bart D. Ehrman.

Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why.

This book was excellent. It set up scenarios, and explained not only how the Gospels were being copied, but by whom, and how that led to the first changes, intentional or not. It's a whole big thing, too big for this blog, and if you really want to get into it, the name of the book is right above this paragraph.

What it really did, though, was make things okay with the changing Star Wars universe.

*insert second pun here*

Going back to that. Since 1997, Lucas has changed other things in his grandest of works, and I don't think any of them have been received like he planned. Greedo shooting first, the original thorn in my side, was altered yet again to have the shots coming almost simultaneously, and that helped a wee bit. Other changes included dubbing Temuera Morrison's voice over the original actor's who had played Boba Fett (Jeremy... something? See, I'm slipping.) which I could live with, and putting Ian McDiarmid's face in the hologram for Empire, and that I could live with.

The changes became more loathsome to me when we got to Return of the Jedi. You know the one I'm talking about. Ghostly Hayden Christensen. I know all the rationale behind it, that Obi-Wan said Darth Vader "betrayed and murdered" Anakin, and the ghostly version is of the young self because that was the last time he was Anakin, I get it. But I don't like it. By changing that, Lucas was saying, "Hey, yeah, he redeemed himself at the end, but he still wasn't my Anakin."

I used to get mad about this kind of thing, and about how after approving storylines and official history for the Star Wars Expanded Universe, Lucasfilm trampled all over it, but now? I'm okay. Seeing the changing face of the Bible and the gospels over the course of their early lives made me see how things we take for granted as fixed and immobile aren't really either, as goofy as that might seem.

For now, I'm looking forward to what the next Gospel of Lucas (According to Walt) will bring.

Next time, I'd like to talk about twenty-seven eight by ten color glossy pictures with circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one explaining what each one was, and how they might have changed my life.

-Thom Brannan


  1. Interesting post! I can't say I ever got too much into Star Wars, but I did have the official lunch box in grade school :) After being raised without any religion, I'm also intensely curious about the Bible and it's enigmas in my adult life.