Saturday, January 21, 2012

Jediism


Like any self-respecting Caucasian male working in the technology field, I am a Star Wars fan. Lucas’s films deserve credit as a landmark cinematic achievement and understandably attract legions of new fans every generation ensuring that the phenomenon (and Lucas’s net worth) continues to grow unabated. I purchased the overpriced VHS copies only to trade them in for overpriced DVD copies only to discover that my DVD copies were inferiorly re-mastered when the enhanced DVD copies were released several years later. I am drawing the line at Blu-Ray.

That being said, there are those whose admiration of Star Wars far exceeds the purchase of a few DVDs. These brave individuals have adopted Lucas’s galactic opera as a spiritual calling of the highest order. Their religion even has an official title: Jediism. While they have not yet adopted an official position on infant Baptism or atonement, there is a code that all Jedi must adhere to:

There is no emotion, there is peace.
There is no ignorance, there is knowledge.
There is no passion, there is serenity.
There is no chaos, there is harmony.
There is no death, there is the Force.

Before you  dismiss this as the misguided creation of a few socially-inept suburbanites, keep in mind that Jediism now appears on the official census forms in Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and most recently, the Czech Republic. Not only does it appear on the form, but people are actually identifying it as their practiced religion. When the Czech Republic tabulated its March 2011 census data, they found that over 15,000 considered themselves practicing Jedi. In England and Wales, the number of Jedi exceeded the number of Jews.

Jedi knights have even approached the United Nations to request that the “International Day of Tolerance” be rechristened the “Interstellar Day of Tolerance” in order to include practicing Jedi. The religion’s official site, jedichurch.org, offers membership certificates, mission opportunities, and customized wedding vows. It also featured an ad for something called “Pentecostal Rehab” which I will have to come back to in another post…

At any rate, Jediism’s founder, Daniel Jones (Jedi name Morda Hehol) made headlines in 2009 for refusing to remove his hood while shopping at a Wales supermarket. The store’s manager cited security concerns but Jones insisted he was required to cover his head on religious grounds. Last year, another adherent was asked to remove his hood while visiting an employment center in England. After he complained of discrimination, a district manager issued a written apology explaining that the location’s staff did not intend to offend his beliefs.

Far be it from me to criticize a religion based on the scripted dialogue of a green puppet, but I must point out that Orthodox Jedi Doctrine is either wildly optimistic or woefully unobservant. For instance, let’s take a closer look at principle number two:

“There is no ignorance, there is knowledge.”

Anyone who has ever listened to regional talk radio can tell you that ignorance not only exists, it may actually qualify as its own religious movement. One day I tuned into a discussion about Michael Jackson’s musical legacy only to hear a caller spend two minutes informing the audience that Jackson was overrated and that Pippen had carried him in the 96’ playoffs before the host was able to convince him that Michael Jordan was still alive.

The idea that “there is no chaos, only harmony” was shattered for me the first time I took our nieces and nephews into a Chuck-E-Cheese. The place was decorated as if The Wiggles had taken ownership of Caesar’s Palace. At one point, I came close witnessing a skee-ball induced fatality.

As naïve as some of the group’s ideals are, I fear the most damaging could be their denial of death; because the first time Jedi Bob attempts to foil a liquor store robbery with his plastic light-saber the Jedi church will conduct its first funeral. I can hear the eulogy now:

“Jedi Bob died doing what he loved: Adhering to a fictitious religion while attempting to intimidate an armed assailant with a battery-operated toy. While the force was obviously strong with Jedi Bob, it appeared to be stronger with the Crip who bludgeoned him to death with a magazine display unit. Sadly, Jedi Bob was unable to properly defend himself as his peripheral vision was greatly compromised as a result of his ceremonial Old Navy hoodie. May the Force be with him.”

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