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The Theology of Star Wars!

The fourth episode of the Unitarian Universalist Association video series "A Religion for Our Time" presents a creative approach to youth programming from the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Wilmington (UUWF) in North Carolina. What's a compelling way to engage teenagers in a deep, year-long discussion of theology and Unitarian Universalist principles? How about a curriculum designed around the Star Wars movies? It's working like a charm at UUWF.

Download Episode Four (MP4) (right-click to save the file).


Rev. Peter Morales: There probably isn't a UU congregation anywhere, that doesn't spend a fair amount of time thinking about how best to educate and inspire its youth. And, when it comes to teenagers, that thinking and planning has to include how to get them excited enough to show up. The UU Fellowship of Wilmington, North Carolina has a theology curriculum that's definitely intriguing.

Narrator: Long ago, well 2009, in the galaxy of North Carolina, Robert Kienitz watched a PBS documentary on the Star Wars mythology. And, then he thought about the teenagers at his church, The UU Fellowship of Wilmington.  Hmmmm....

Robert Kienitz: So, how could you go wrong using Star Wars with all of the splash and the flash and the interesting -- these kids had been brought up with that. They have been raised with Star Wars in their background.

Connor Haughton: Definitely, one of the better classes I've taken here.

Robert Kienitz: We talk to them about the concept of the hero's journey.  We talk to them about Joseph Campbell's work, and how George Lucas had been influenced by them.

Connor Haughton: I mean the hero's journey, it definitely applies to growing up and maturing, and figuring out who you are as a person, and your place in the world -- who you want to be, what you want to do.

Robert Kienitz: We had to have students kind of re-frame the seven principles for a more galactic and universal view point. So, we took out words that were species oriented, and made everything more universally egalitarian so that we could include everything from Wookies to Jabba the Hut, all beings that were out there in the galaxy.

Jo Cline: We will look for points in which UU principles are being used, or even points in which UU principles are not being used.

Robert Kienitz: It's all about behavior. It's all about how are you going to react under the considerably extreme circumstances, under difficult circumstance as your life unfolds.

Connor Haughton: Everyone has to go through their own hero's journey  to become the person that they're going to be in this world.

Robert Kienitz: And, we see in these very short cinematic clips, that hero's journey unfolding very, very rapidly. And, quick decisions that are having to be made about things that are going to affect people for the rest of their lives. And, this brings to home, for the kids, the reason for this solidity and the foundation of the UU seven principles.

--Yeah western religions will take Christianity for instance --

From there, we talk to them about common qualities of religion. The concept of an afterlife, the concepts of good and evil, man's place in the universe, etc.

-- Unitarian Universalism doesn't believe that, but some of the other Christian religions do --

Scott Heck: I never looked at it that way, that there was religion in Star Wars, like the Jedi religion and everything. And, then after watching it, and us going through and talking about it, I, it just seems so much more out -- that's what really got me interested is, the religion of it.

Gabriel Keith: One of the really interesting things about this class is, really I've seen all the movies, but not for a while. It's really great to kind of go back over them. And, really like pay attention along to stuff behind the scenes. And, I had no idea there was so much.

Unknown speaker: -- this is brilliant. This is great --

Rev. Cheryl M. Walker: We can take something that are user familiar with, and then de-construct it, to bring about a conversation, a dialogue, about their faith.

Sue Graffius: We have some students who have discussed with their parents how they're fascinated that they are not being told what to say, but they are being asked what they think. And, it's encouraging to have those children opening up, and learning more about themselves.

Jo Cline: It's not just the kind of geeky, nerdy ones who are really enjoying it. It's all the teams that are really enjoying it. And, all the adults that are involved. Which we might, probably actually be considered geeky, nerdy, but that's OK.

Rev. Cheryl M. Walker: What's been exciting is that, I've seen adults come to the church, because their kids heard about the curriculum from one of their schoolmates.  And, they were fascinated by it, and then they wanted to come. What better curriculum can you come up with, than something that excites our youth; gets them talking about their faith, and it's so exciting, their parents want to come and see what this faith is all about.

For more information visit the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Wilmington.

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