David Prowse died this week. You might not recognize the name [I do; but the man I know was a different individual, my Command Chaplain in Germany to whom I had to deliver the news that his son was killed by a drunk driver.]. For sure, you wouldn’t recognize his face. But for my generation he was the world’s most fearsome villain, Darth Vader. With his imposing size, grilled robotic mask, black helmet, boots, and cape, he was the consummate embodiment of evil in the first Star Wars movies. In subsequent sequels and prequels he was humanized and allowed to atone for his diabolical actions; but there was no forgetting the terror he inspired.
David Prowse was Darth Vader. At 6’7 and weighing 275 pounds he was originally offered the role of Chewbacca, but turned it down because, in his own words, “villains are more remembered.” And he is. Prowse played the part very well. What I find so ironic is that off screen he was completely unrecognizable. George Lucas thought his Welsh accent didn’t fit, so James Earl Jones’ voice was dubbed. And when Darth Vader is finally unmasked on screen, it was someone else’s face (Sebastian Shaw’s) that was revealed. So, at every Star War event, he always had to explain who he was because otherwise no one had a clue.
Makes you almost feel sorry for him. Prowse, that is, not Darth Vader.
In what is admittedly a bizarre analogy, I wonder if, unfortunately, we might have the same problem in hoping to be identified as “little Christs” (as CS Lewis coined the term). Martin Luther, in his treatise On the Freedom of a Christian, wrote that in our neighbor’s eyes, “…each one of us should become as it were a Christ to them, that being Christ to each other Christ may be the same in all, and that way we be truly Christians.” By that he didn’t mean our being elevated to God’s level, but that in our speech and actions Christ, working in us should be seen and acknowledged.
When David Prowse signed autographs, he always added: “…is Darth Vader” as a post-script. That way, people would know him for what he was most proud of. We should be that way—even more proud to be recognized as forces for good. The Christ in us should be patently obvious, not something we need to write down. John wrote, “No one has ever seen God, but if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.” [1 John 4:13] Such love is not meant to frighten or intimidate, but the very opposite: to draw all people to God with a force that is tender and humble, shining brightly with light no darkness—or Darth-ness—can overcome.
May that force be strong in you.