Close Enough?
By Anthony Casperson

If I were to ask you what movie the quote “Luke, I am your father” comes from, what would be your response? Likely, many would say Star Wars. Some who might consider themselves more astute among us would respond Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back. But the truth is, neither of these responses is correct.

Sure, there have been many films and TV shows that say this quote. Even more parodies, homages, and clones exist of it, calling out to the character in question and saying that the person speaking is some member of their family. And the sentence, “Luke, I am your father” is well established among western culture.

But the truth is that black-clad cyborg space samurai never uttered those words. Well…never uttered those words in that order and sentence structure. During that lightsaber fight in the bowels of Cloud City, Darth Vader asks Luke if Obi-Wan had told the young Skywalker about his father. To this, the budding Jedi responds that he’d been told enough. Obi-Wan had told him Vader had killed his father. And here we get the culturally misquoted line. In truth, Vader responds, “No, I am your father.”

The misquote of this line makes me wonder why individuals have said it wrong for so long that literal generations of people believe the modified version to be truth. And why do we continue to spread the misinformation even as the quote tops the charts of most misquoted lines in movie history? It’s publicly known to be a mistake, but yet it continues to be misquoted.

Perhaps some people believe that the quote as it truly stands would be less understood if we don’t know that it was to Luke that the speaker directed their statement. We might not know that the person is quoting a movie line, or which movie they’re quoting if we don’t hear the “Luke” part. But doesn’t that go against the whole point of being a memorable movie quote? The line is supposed to be so integrally tied to the movie that no one would mistake it for something else? Do we doubt the ability of the quote so much that we have to help it along?

Or maybe some people realize that the real quote at that point is difficult to weave into everyday conversation. It starts with the word “No.” So there has to be some set up that requires a negative response before the revelation that “I am your father.” It’s just easier to use the quote if we modify it a little.

Likely, there are also some people who would rather not make a statement admitting that they are the father of someone else without it being clear that they are quoting a movie. I mean, think about it, if someone just stood up and said, “No, I am your father” there might just be someone in the crowd who believes that their paternal needs have finally been met.

I know there are some people who are like, “So what?” Is there really a problem if people quote the movie to say “Luke, I am your father” instead of its actual quote? It’s basically the same thing. We all understand what’s going on here. We all get it. Isn’t close enough good enough?

My response to that is, sure. When it comes to trivial things like movie quotes, it’s not that big of a deal. But the problem comes when we use this idea of close enough for things that actually do make a difference. There are times when “basically the same thing” leads to misunderstandings of great importance.

I could go in many different directions for this thought, but since I’ve already hit the length of my average blog post and have only gotten past the introduction, I’ll just choose one to stand as representative.

When we hear the word “faith,” what comes to mind? To most, there’s likely some form of strong belief. Maybe some might even speak of trust. But often when we use it in our daily lives, there’s a sense of “If I will it enough, then it’ll happen.” “If I have enough faith, then what I want will come to be.” We think that we’ll get that job, we’ll receive that miracle cure, or we’ll find ourselves in a better place. And we’ll get it all if we close our eyes hard enough, wish long enough, and think good thoughts determinedly enough.

Faith in this sense has a chance of failure. And we feel as though we’ll take the blame for the deficiency. But if we speak of faith in a biblical sense, this cultural definition pales in comparison.

If you look at Hebrews 11:1, you can see a biblical definition of faith. “Now, faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Though this might sound like we’re just wishing for something to come true because it uses the word “hope” (and we tend to equate those two ideas), the truth is, there’s a much more definitive stance to faith.

In one of the first blogs I posted on this website, I pointed out that biblical hope is a confident stance in the power of God. Hope is a sure thing. It’s not a strong wish and desire, but rather an assurance that what God has promised will come to pass. So does that mean that faith is the assurance of assurance? That’s kinda redundant, isn’t it? Well, the word translated in the verse for “assurance” has the idea of “substance/physicality/reality.”

With all of this in mind, we can say that faith is the physical representation of hope. It’s what’s on display for all to see when we stand confident in God’s ability. And this is what the second part of Hebrews 11:1 reiterates. It’s the conviction or evidence of the unseen. When our sure hope in God stands on trial, faith is Exhibit A.

So, in this very biblical definition of faith, we can see that it’s not just wishing for something to be true. And it doesn’t depend on us; it depends on the power of the all-powerful God. He will not fail to accomplish his work in our lives. And in that we can be confident.

So then why are there so many people who hold this opinion of faith as wishing with a chance of failure? I believe it is, in part, due to the concept of close enough. We want to speak of the godly but only have the language of humanity.

It’s easier to understand faith if there’s a built-in chance of failure. That means when things don’t go our way, it was because we didn’t wish hard enough, rather than realizing that what we were wishing for didn’t align with the ways of God. We’d rather think that we’re a failure in faith than a seeker of things that are not for our betterment. It’s better to have an accidental oops than a full-blown rebellion. So, that’s how we want to spin it.

But the truth is that when we take this close enough perspective of faith, it steals the agency from the God who understands far more than we do. And it attempts to weaken the sure stance of his work that will not fail.

In our language, we must be careful to not “help” it be more understandable, while at the same time modifying the truth just so that it is easier for us to speak. If it is true, then those who need to hear it will understand the words as coming from God.