How do you identify yourself? When you meet someone new, what facets of your life do you mention first as an introduction? For some, it is relationships, children, employment, favorite Star Wars movie, hat size. Whatever. One thing we are always shy to ask about is someone’s religious background and preference. I think this is a newer phenomenon, actually. Nevertheless, in the new millennium, crazy answers to all of these questions are offered. Quite often, we get stories about people listing Jedi as the religion of choice on some form or another.
I knew this was a thing, so in preparation for what I want to say today, I searched out some information. And it is mind boggling. Apparently, in Australia, there are 70,000 Jedi, with another 390,000 in England and Wales. Those, as well as other countries, have had to find appropriate ways to deal with the census responses. You can see their responses on this Wikipedia page. Yep, I am quoting Wikipedia here.
Now, many of these are jokesters and trolls; many of them may be sincere. I don’t know, and it is not my concern here. That someone calls Jedi a religion is an interesting experiment. What is the point of religion? Let’s do the smarty-pants thing and look at the word religion itself. Remember SAT Prep? (Preparing for SAT Prep? Here is a freebie for you). Re- is a root meaning again, to do something once more, to return to a place or idea. Ligio- perhaps comes from the same root as ligament – a thing which connects two other things. Religion is the process or society that connects two things together. An important aspect of religion is about connecting what is below to what is above.
Fr Alexander Schmemann, my favorite theologian of the modern era, who passed away in 1983, talked about the end of religion. Not the end as if it is over and can be ignored, but the end for which it is intended; its goal. Religion points us toward God, may even join our hands together; but that is merely the beginning, and the end of the purpose of religion. Then, something truly great happens. A relationship develops.
Qui-Gon found this meaning through communion with the Living Force. He no longer had any need of the temple authorities, or the ritual practices (there was no demerit to these things, but only that they had been transcended). The point of the ancient Jedi Order was to find the oneness and closeness with the Galaxy. You can look back at my other blogs to see how infuriating the calcified Jedi Order of the PT has made me.
In a similar, though not fictitious way, when Jesus met the Samaritan Woman at the well, she asked about having to go to Jerusalem to worship. She thought that you had to be in a certain place to worship. That was one way that Israel found their connection to God. Fr. Alexander notes that the Samaritan Woman asked Christ a question about ritual, “and in reply Jesus changed the whole perspective on the matter…Religion is needed where there is a wall of separation between God and man. But Christ who is both God and man has broken down the wall…He has inaugurated a new life, not a new religion.” There is something greater to be had now that the connection between God and man has been made.
But it has to tie us to something greater. The Star Wars saga sets us on journeys of discovery that far exceed the simple enjoyment of entertainment. That is why we are here, that is why, perhaps, you have given some of your precious time to reading about the story. In some way, and intentionally so, the Galaxy points us toward something greater, something that is inherently yearned for in the depths of the human soul.
Each of us is called to go out on the hero’s journey; not only to redeem the bad guy, but to find an identity within a greater community. To call Jedi a religion, as a simple thought experiment, is to begin to make that connection. To bind ourselves to something greater and beneficial is the call of human life. Hopefully, it leads to truth, and not just self-satisfaction and selfishness.
Religion is a category of thought, walled from all others. Other possible categories are aesthetics, ethics, ontology, and so on. Yep, I am digging way back to freshman year Philosophy class now. But the point is that, through our maturation and growth as human beings, we are searching for something greater than knowledge of one particular field. Religion is a field. Star Wars is a field of study. If they are introduced properly and grasped completely, they point us toward the greater.
Religion is a means, not an end in itself. True communion with God is the beginning, means, end and joy for which we were created in the first place.
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Please leave comments on this and all my posts – I really look forward to it. You can find me on Twitter at @adelphotheos and email at jamesw@CoffeeWithKenobi.com, occasionally at TheForceandFaith.blogspot.com as long as I am not listening to the latest edition of the Coffee With Kenobi podcast!