'The Force' enlisted to help young find spirituality

November 13, 1994|By Alisa Samuels | Alisa Samuels,Sun Staff Writer

In the movie "Star Wars," hero Luke Skywalker learned to rely on "The Force," a mysterious, quasi-spiritual field of energy that helped guide his actions.

Now, a local Unitarian Universalist church group is using that same concept for a class that will encourage young people to explore the meaning of spirituality.

"May the Force Be With You: Spirituality for Youth," sponsored by Channing Memorial Church, Unitarian Universalist, takes place from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. today at Oakland Mills Meeting House

The class will give high school students in the congregation's youth group and other county teen-agers a chance to wrestle with a difficult theological concept, said Rev. Garry M. LeFevre, the program's facilitator.

Like vertical dimension

"We know we've got a body and we know we've got a mind because we know we can think," the minister said. "And we know we have feelings. . . .

"To me, the spirit is like a vertical dimension in life. It's really your feelings that come from deep within. You really can't trace the source."

He added: "It's not a matter of scientific proof. It's a matter of what makes humans tick."

For Lara Risser, a senior at Oakland Mills High School and a member of the congregation's youth group, spirituality is something of a mystery. But the 17-year-old said today's class could change that.

"It'll help me figure out what's the right thing for me, what's my personal belief," she said.

Integral part of life

Mr. LeFevre, who leads the 60-member Unitarian Universalist congregation, said it is crucial for young people to gain a deeper appreciation of spirituality.

Such an understanding is especially important at a time when society is beset by crime, violence and a declining respect for the value of life, he said.

Mr. LeFevre also stresses the importance of making spirituality an integral part of the individual's daily life, rather than an intellectual abstraction.

In the West, he said, Christians sometimes compartmentalize their faith or practice it only on Sundays, unlike Muslims, Hindus and followers of Eastern religions who practice their faith daily through their behavior.

Those with a deeper appreciation of spirituality are "better in touch with themselves," he said.

"It's a little hard to respect others more if you don't respect yourself," he said.

Christ as teacher

Mr. LeFevre's congregation, which meets Sunday mornings at Pointers Run Elementary School, was created in January 1993 by some former members of a Unitarian Universalist group that still meets in Owen Brown.

Unitarian Universalists believe in one God. They do not believe that Jesus Christ was divine, but that he was a religious teacher and prophet. They also use teachings from other religions, including the Koran and Buddhists texts.

The Unitarian Universalist Church was created in 1961 with the merger of the Unitarians and Universalists, both of them liberal Christian churches, Mr. LeFevre said.

The Unitarians believe in one God but not in the Christian Trinity, and the Universalists believed that salvation is for all, no matter .. what their sins.

Though doctrines may differ, spirituality remains a common thread in the world's religions, Mr. LeFevre said.

Providing perspective

"In times of difficulty, it's one's spirituality that can really help get people through," Mr. LeFevre said. "It can provide a kind of perspective on what's going on with one's life and can help provide comfort in a trying time."

A firm connection with one's inner spirituality can teach a person that "ultimately, you're not really or totally alone," he said.

"You feel a connection with some other aspect or dimension of life."

Mr. LeFevre said he chose the title of today's youth class, "May the Force Be With You," because it contains an image that he believes will resonate with the younger generation.

Tale of good and evil

The "Star Wars" trilogy, he noted, tells the tale of good and evil and of a deeper power, "The Force."

The villain of the series, Darth Vader, used that force in a negative way. "Darth Vader was the personification of evil," Mr. LeFevre said.

Used for good rather than evil, however, that same force was "kind of a blessing," said Mr. LeFevre.

"While it's a little dated, it's something I think every teen-ager in America and in this community will recognize," he said of the "Star Wars" image. "The goal would be that they have a deeper appreciation or greater awareness of their own spirituality."

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