Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Jedi as a Legitimate Religion?

Gary Laderman of ReligionDispatches discusses the actual existence of the Jedi Religion. Apparently, 8 police officers in Scotland, on a diversity survey, listed their religion as "Jedi." They, however, aren't alone. According to the article, the BBC reported in 2001 that in England and Wales there were over 390,000 are self-professed adherents of the Jedi religion; the option was on the census form, after several "Jedi Knights" earned official recognition of the religion. With this in mind, Laderman provides the argument for the legitimacy of this religion:
On the one hand, the narrative itself provides viewers with a mythology that is vivid and gripping as it covers well-trodden, mythically familiar territory—good battling evil, revealed mysteries about the true order of the cosmos, innocence lost, self-discovery, transcendence of death, and ultimate reconciliations.

On the other hand, the series has made a dramatic impact over the years on the lives of devoted fans: personal identities have been transformed; tight-knit communities have been formed; complex and meaningful ritual systems have emerged in cyberspace, at conventions, with video games, and in other non-theater settings. Seeing the films is simply not enough for many who seek to bring the Star Wars mythology to life and into their own lives.

Laderman recognizes the inevitable disdain from theologians and biblical scholars, as unserious or passing fancies, but concludes with this thought:
Welcome to the twenty-first century, when sacred matters are not limited to the monotheists, or confined by conventional religious traditions. ... Master Yoda and Obi Wan Kenobi are legitimate guiding religious lights whose words and actions stir the imagination and rally the faithful in ways those of us who study religion are only beginning to understand.
Count me, a fan of the movies, in the disdainful category. Within the growing secularization of Europe and the United Kingdom especially, providing atheists - how the government actually recognizes this group - and jokers, people apathetic to religion, with a "fun" option, and viola!, you get a sizable religious following.

Or maybe the Force is just not with me.

5 comments:

Katie said...

Okay, I've got two:

1. Dangerous it can be, to not trust in the Force. Unwise it is, to anger a Jedi Master.

2. Aww, Drew. Did you not get the invitation to the costume premiere party? Must've gotten lost in mail.

Just kidding. :-)

Michael said...

One thing I have learned about the "Jedi craze" is that while most look on the subject as a bunch of die hard fan attempting to participate in something that seem to enrich both their lives and experience.

The Jedi philosophy has a lot of aspect that would appeal to individuals looking for some type of balance within themselves and a perceived place within their world. The Jedi Code and mythology can offer that and bring greater understand on self and others. Star Wars is a Cult Classic, and one that transformed a generation, movie styles, special effects, and even movie plots. But religion? Anthropolically speaking, yeah, I am willing to go there. As one thinking theologically? Yeah, I think there is something we can learn from the Jedi Mystic and philosophy. But, will I "go Jedi?" I guess yes, but only when it coincides with my Christian faith (which it can).

So Geek me up, and gimmie a cloak.

Matt F. said...

I found the Jedi in the Star Wars movies to be fairly annoying and preachy. I guess you could say I'm a Han Solo man. Individualistic, refusing to follow the rules, and great with the ladies. Now there's a role model. Has there ever been a greater response to "I love you" than "I know"? Those Jedi guys can have the force, I'll take the Millenium Falcon anyday.

Katie said...

Matt F.:

So what you're saying is... hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster at your side?

:-)

matt said...

Katie / Matt F - don't forget to give Chewy his props. Every ladies man needs a good wing man. And a blaster.