Conversation in Ignorance
By Anthony Casperson
“Do you like Star Wars?” the elementary school student asked me, passing time as I drove the bus.
Though my interest had waned in the past few years, I affirmed my position on the franchise. “Yeah, sure.”
Excited to continue the conversation, he asked, “Who’s your favorite character in the movies?”
“Artoo,” I replied.
Thinking the child had merely not heard me, I repeated, “Artoo.” The student’s face scrunched in confusion. I tried again, “R2-D2.” The student looked at me as if I was speaking another language. “…The droid.”
“Oh.” He looked at me incredulously, as if the child believed the droids weren’t characters in the story. “Why?”
“Artoo is the true hero of Star Wars. Whenever they need anything it’s all, ‘Call Artoo.’ They need a door opened, ‘Call Artoo.’ They’re about to be crushed in a trash compactor, ‘Call Artoo.’ They need the ship fixed, ‘Call Artoo.’ They need an escape route, ‘Call Artoo.’ Without R2-D2, none of the heroes would have ever accomplished all that they did. He is the real hero of Star Wars.”
A few moments of silence passed. Eventually, he picked up the conversation again, “Well, then, who’s your favorite Dark Side character of the movies?”
I thought about it for a moment. Well, Darth Maul does have that double-bladed lightsaber. And that is cool. But he’s not really much of a character otherwise. I could say Darth Vader, but that’s not really true either. The characters from the now de-canonized books and video games came to mind. Darth Malak from Knights of the Old Republic was both a believable character and one I really liked to oppose. And to a lesser extent, Darth Bane held my attention while reading his books. But they weren’t from the movies, and the student had asked about the films’ dark Jedi. “I don’t know. If we’re limiting it to just the movies, I don’t think I have one.”
A few seconds later, he asked, “Well, then who’s your least favorite Dark Side character?”
Without a moment’s hesitation, “Palpatine.”
It was now my turn to look incredulous, “Palpatine…The Emperor…The old guy who was Darth Vader’s master.” That finally got a response from the kid.
A few minutes later, the student asked, “Which of the movies is your favorite?”
Again, no hesitation, “Empire Strikes Back.” That face of not comprehending came back to the child. “Episode V…The second one from the original trilogy…The one that starts on the ice planet.”
“I don’t remember one with an ice planet,” he responded.
And people wonder why I have issue with the Disney-fication of Star Wars. It became obvious to me that this kid did not know much about Star Wars. Sure he knew some things, but it seemed more like he was speaking from a limited perspective and some second-hand knowledge. This made me ask him, “What Star Wars movies have you seen?”
The student began to mumble his answer, growing quiet as I questioned his actual interaction with the franchise. He said something about starting to watch one, but not liking it, so he stopped. And most of the rest of his response might as well have been static. Even when I asked him to repeat his answer, it remained much the same.
And silence filled the bus until we reached his home.
I didn’t think much more about this conversation until a couple of days later when I heard someone talk about something that came from a medieval piece of fictional literature as if it had come from the bible. This guy knows the bible about as well as the student knew Star Wars.
It struck me how often we hear people share their dislike of the bible and the God who’s word it is, yet have little first-hand understanding of it. Some speak with conviction about discrepancies and fallacies in the bible and the Christian faith. Yet if you were to ask them how much of the bible they’ve actually read, often the answer would be very little.
Maybe they’ve read a book or two. (Revelation is common.) But very rarely is the answer the whole thing. (And I personally have more respect for those who’ve read the bible in its entirety, and yet still discount it, than those who rely on the opinion of others who share their worldview and speak with authority on its supposed failings.)
When people speak on any topic for which they have limited familiarity and second-hand understanding, they often show their ignorance even as they believe themselves to be brilliant. (And this goes for we followers of Jesus as well.) The question, “How much of this have you actually read/seen/studied?” can do much to undercut misunderstanding and exasperation when discussing a topic.
But what this also means is that we followers of Jesus should be just as diligent in our understanding and reading of the bible. We shouldn’t simply parrot what church leaders, Christian speakers, and our pastors tell us. If we are to not speak out of ignorance, then the solution is to become less ignorant.
Above and beyond that, we followers of Jesus should take the time to look at the opinions of those who disagree with us, so that we can have an education discussion about specific topics when the need arises. Extending the same courtesy as we expect from others is important.
So, I guess as we come to the end of this blog, I have to ask the question, “How much of this have we actually read?”