Han shot first. He murdered Greedo in cold blood in the first Star Wars movie. George Lucas tried to sanitize this in his new-and-improved Special Edition of the trilogy — he changed it so that Greedo shot first, meaning Han killed him in self-defense. But something in the geek soul rebels against this sort of revisionist history. Why?
Because we value honesty. Truth at all costs. And the truth is that Han Solo is a cold-blooded murderer, not to mention a slimy double-crossing no-good swindler.
I have the same problem with my Judeo-Christian roots. My sacred texts bind me to atrocities committed by MY people in the name of MY God. My children’s religious training involves stories about genocide.
Just like how their geek training involves movies with cold-blooded murderers.
Why? Because I want my kids to understand that:
1. We Homo Sapiens are violent primates. One of the worst things I could teach my kids is that there is such a thing as “good guys” and “bad guys.” That somewhere out there is a weird sub-class of humans who are capable of doing bad things, and that we are not them. We humans have survived because we have out-genocided our competitors. My children are genetically capable of great violence, and they need to know this. We can’t progress in this conversation until we admit that violence against The Other makes perfect sense to us.
2. We like to imagine our atrocities are good. Crimes against humanity are hard work. We don’t do them because they’re fun; we do them because we think they are the Right Thing To Do. For the Greater Good. Holy Work. Our mythology tells us that Canaanites need to die because they’re bad. Greedo needs to die because he might take Han Solo away and interrupt the plot. When we watch violent movies, I ask my kids to identify the characters they want to die, and then we talk about WHY they want them to die. It’s always some version of “Everybody would be better off if that bad guy was dead.” I ask them to think about why we instinctively laugh when Han shoots Greedo. Because let’s admit it, it’s an awesome scene.
3. Yahweh has been infiltrating and subverting our mythology for a long time. The people of the Bible tell themselves all the standard tales about how God loves Us (the good guys) and wants us to kill Them (the bad guys). This is not remarkable in any way. What is unusual is how these stories are salted with little subversive sub-plots that show the goodness of the bad guys and the badness of the good guys. Canaanites are inhuman monsters, but Canaanite women like Rahab and Ruth become great exemplars of faith. David is a man after God’s own heart, but his filandering would make a Congressman blush. And when the good guys (Israelites) and the bad guys (Gentiles) team up to murder Jesus, he doesn’t shoot back, even in self-defense.
(Take that, Han).
What I want my kids to see is that, within the standard mythologies present in the Bible, there is Someone who is up to Something, and it’s that Someone we want to pay very careful attention to.
Han Solo is a murdering thug. Han Solo is one of us. My spiritual forebears are spittle-emitting genocidal religious fanatics. I am one them. There is nothing in them that does not also exist in me, and in my kids. The God who was with them is also with me. And this God is taking us all somewhere we have never been before — a place called Shalom.