When you go to church, you go with expectations.
You expect to meet like-minded souls.
You expect to hear familiar music that lifts your heart.
You expect to be refreshed.
Last week, I attended the “First Church of Star Wars” at a movie theater in Brigham City.
And as with most religions, the faithful got what they came for.
The original Star Wars story was fun and playful. It was about common folks behaving in uncommon ways.
The film bounced along like a balloon on joy and good will.
But this new Star Wars — "The Last Jedi" — is solemn and reverential. The cast of players, once normal souls, have now been canonized. We get St. Leia, St. Han Solo, The Most Reverend Yoda and Pope Luke.
Star Wars the story has become Star Wars the religion, with all the institutional weight and clout that come with the territory.
After the "Star Wars services,” my son explained that this was how a great many youngsters now worship. They find a repeating franchise — Star Wars, “The Game of Thrones,” the Ice Age movies — and then show up like clockwork to "rest from every care" and find some energy. They wait for each installment the way Methodists and Mennonites wait for Sunday morning.
They love the companionship and community.
They tell each other (on social media) how much it means to them.
They cling to the thing like birds to a perch.
Some people, of course, will think such devotion smacks of blasphemy.
Some will lament that traditional religions haven’t done enough to retain the youth.
But for me, with a new year about to begin, let me end with a dollop of sweetness instead of sourness.
All those young souls who stand in line for Star Wars whenever a new episode arrives shows that kids today aren't lost at all. They are a generation seeking out messages of hope.
They want to hear stories where good defeats evil, where regular people do miraculous things.
They want to choose goodness.
Many kids aren’t getting those feelings from traditional churches these days. But they are getting them from the nation's fleet of megaplex cathedrals.
Where many traditional believers see the shift as a perversion of spiritual feeling, I say it shows, at least, spiritual feeling is still to be had.
The youngsters today are not much different from me as a youth, or youths 500 years ago. Kids crave what they’ve always craved: strength, companionship and reasons to believe.
The church houses have changed shape, but the quest remains the same.
It is still a quest to tap into something grand and noble.
It is still a quest to reach the stars.