Over on First Things there is a post about Star Wars and religion. It talks about how in the original films the Force was a deeply religious thing which in the prequels was turned into a natural thing however with the new films that have come out we are going back to the religious overtones of the Force. This is an intersection of two of my favorite things. Spoilers to follow in the discussion
Sure in Episodes 4-6 we have Luke learning to trust in the Force. In A New Hope, Luke switches off his targeting computer and uses the Force to know when to shoot his torpedoes into the Death Star. In Empire Strikes Back, Luke goes through rigorous mental and physical training to lift his X-wing from the swamp of Dagobah. In the prequels, specifically A Phantom Menace, we have Qui-gon telling us about Midichlorians, which are microscopic life forms that reside within all living cells and can communicate with the Force. This makes it a physical thing and with the abundance of Jedi in the Prequels the Force becomes as common as a piece of technology, and no longer a spiritual discipline according to some individuals this lead to a secularization of the Force. Now with the newer Star Wars films, The Force Awakens and Rogue One, the Force has become more of the mysterious thing that it was in the originals and there is more reverence show toward it.
The Force has always been a major part of Star Wars and even in the era of the prequels take a look at several of the Clone Wars television series including the last two episodes where the religious nature of the Force is explored. Sure it even notes that the “science” description of midichlorians is pretty vague. This idea is explored by the Church of the Force and the Guardians of the Whills in Rogue One “I am one with the Force, the Force is with me” these are faith filled people something akin to like tertiaries they are deeply invested in the Religious order but aren’t a member, as the Church of the Force and Guardians were just regular people who followed the way of the Jedi but weren’t necessarily Jedi. It is nice to see the religious aspect of the Force becoming a part of the lore again, but it’s not like it was really gone. It might have just been with so many Jedi in the prequels it seemed like it was a common place thing and they used science to explain why they needed to take these young children to become Jedi (midichlorians) however with the Jedi Order all but wiped out in the Original films there is a reverence that is inherent in the Force, as there isn’t much talk about the Force I mean it been 20 years since there were real numbers of Jedi around. 20 years is a long time I mean Han in A New Hope calls it a hokey religion but over time and years with Luke and Leia, perhaps learning a little about the Force he becomes one that can say that “It’s all real” in The Force Awakens. Is this reverence or just acknowledging that there are Jedi still around? We will never really know.