Church of the Jedi has a new hope

church of jediThe force is growing in North Wales. What started as something of an Internet joke has grown into something more significant and concrete as a group of Jedi-loving residents of Holyhead are taking their 2001 census statements seriously that their religion is Jedi.

From a journalistic angle, I am not sure how I would have treated this story out of the Daily Mail. In one sense, it is an endearing story of a group of people taking their love for science fiction a little too seriously. But then again, Jedi ranked as the fourth most cited religion in the 2001 census of England and Wales and the third largest in Scotland. What these statistics tell us about the United Kingdom is a completely separate story, but it is certainly worth noting.

What this story does tell us is a bit about what the religion’s followers believe and teach:

“We will have teachings based on Yoda – the 900-year-old grand master – as well as readings, essays submitted, meditation and relaxation, visualisation and discuss healthy eating.

“The Jedi religion is about life improvement, inner peace and changing your lifestyle so you have a more fulfilling existence.

“It’s based on the films but we have brought things into it because the films are a bit more sci-fi.

“But we have developed on the film’s teachings, introducing teachings we believe the Jedi Knights would seek.

“We used to watch the films over and over again and it came about from that.”

There will be no chance of their empire striking back at people who mock the Jedi, as they are a peace-loving bunch, said Barney.

Of course, there is a lot more that could be said about the Jedi philosophy/theology (consider this from tmatt a whole decade ago). For more on all of that, I recommend Stan Guthrie’s 2005 interview with faith and culture commentator Dick Staub (ironically just posted on the Web this morning). Staub says that the stories by filmmaker George Lucas are “more theologically attuned with Hinduism, but there are some Christian themes embedded in the stories:

George Lucas created an epic tale that taps into the universal themes of good versus evil, and did it in what was at the time a next-edge use of technology and special effects. The alienation of parents and children and allusions to the spiritual and unseen connected at a deep level with a generation seeking something more. A great story and an advancement of filmmaking combined for a memorable and enduring series.

The other thing that I cannot help but think of when I think of science fiction and religion is Scientology.

Scientology of course is the beliefs and practices started by another (less successful) American fiction author L. Ron Hubbard in 1952. This Daily Mail story does not mention this connection, but that is probably appropriate. Scientology is a highly organized and secretive organization while these Jedi followers seem to be just the opposite of organized and have little to hide.

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  • Tracy

    It looks like Hinduism or New Age overlain with Western adventure themes to me. Sort of westernized New Age, which may have been where Lucas was aiming. I always enjoyed the movies, but never took them seriously as religion. I guess we will eventually see if it goes beyond the _fad_ stage.

  • Jen

    I was part of a young adult church group a few years ago, and during one chapel service we shared our spiritual beliefs with each other. As we went around the circle, we realized that nearly everyone had come up with some version of the Jedi beliefs, especially when it came to conceptions of God, which inevitably sounded like descriptions of the Force.

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  • FW Ken

    And in other news, fourth grade boys form new club…

  • http://johnalexwood.blogspot.com John Wood

    I’d like to challenge your “less successful” comment about L. Ron Hubbard. Here is a list of his achievements I blogged about on his birthday last March which includes, according to Guinness World Record, him being the world’s most translated AND the most published author of all time. Secretive? Scientology books are available from virtually every public library in the world, thousands of web pages have been provided by the Church of Scientology about every aspect of it, and its Churches are open 7 days a week, morning till night world-wide, offering tours and answering questions. Doesn’t sound very secretive to me.

  • http://pos51.org Charles

    John, it’s pretty clear she’s saying his fiction career was less successful than Lucas’. And having books published and open doors doesn’t mean they’re not secretive.

  • Stoo

    I guess these people have gone for Jedi the way some others feel drawn to stuff like Wicca. They’re seeking a spiritual dimension to their life but don’t see organised religion as providing that for them.

    I’m not quite ready to become a Padawan yet but I was one of those who put “jedi” in the 2001 census. It’s another story, but not entirely unrelated. That surprise 4th place (beating Jews and Buddhists!) was basically a mass expession of disinterest in organised religion by the young people of the UK. Most of those people will happily be atheist, agnostic or just-plain-don’t-care-ist but some subset might turn to paganism etc.

    I should warn you tho Mail isn’t a great place to turn for a useful in-depth discussion of, ooh, just about anything really.

  • http://www.tmatt.net tmatt

    The goal of OprahAmerican is spirituality without moral doctrines that limit your personal freedoms.

    It’s the ’60s.

  • Christopher W. Chase

    tmatt wrote:

    The goal of OprahAmerican is spirituality without moral doctrines that limit your personal freedoms. It’s the ’60s.

    I’m surprised to read that from you, tmatt. That’s nothing more than the superficially politically conservative strawmen certain figures on the political Right (William Bennett comes to mind) have been promulgating for years now. Certainly not something journalists like you ought to be parroting. As religious historians have been pointing out (Leigh Eric Schmidt, Robert C. Fuller, and especially Catherine Albanese, to name but a few) for some time now, there is an extensive history of American spirituality associated with progressive politics and social gospel morality since almost the very founding of the Republic. I would expect to see such pap diagnoses of spirituality on FreeRepublic or other such sites, but not “Get Religion.” C’mon!

  • Jerry

    The goal of OprahAmerican is spirituality without moral doctrines that limit your personal freedoms. It’s the ’60s.

    It’s accurate to say that it’s Aleister Crowley’s conception: Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law. but I doubt Oprah is a follower of his. From what I have seen http://www.oprah.com/omagazine/200312/omag_200312_beck_b.jhtml it is fair to say that she espouses a morality that comes from within rather than from an external framework. It might seem subtle, but there is a difference.

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  • http://religion.wikia.com/wiki/Matrixism CarryAnd

    I’ll take Matrixism over the Jedi religion any day. Matrixism looks like it has more of a purpose.

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  • Sherry

    Did you know that an Orlando, Fla., radio host (Buckethead) on WJRR 101.1 recently converted to Jedi???

    The church is growing!

    Listen to the conversion here.

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