There is no Yoda

Famously, Yoda observes, “Always two there are, no more, no less: a master and an apprentice.”

“Well, yes, if lucky you are.”

But in my experience of sending students off to mother church — and in an ecumenical setting, there are lots of mothers — I have watched in horror at the number of those apprentices who are forced to travel alone.

It’s a dynamic worth describing, because in most cases you have either been an apprentice or you have the opportunity to be a master.  How you handle those experiences is a spiritual issue.

So, in the interest of candor — what happens to young Jedi Knights in the nascent 21st century?

HAZING…It is an ancient ritual with roots in human barbarism, but in some quarters it has not died out.  Its inspiration lies in the emotional satisfaction that it gives the Faux Yoda.  To humiliate is to feel superior and so much the better if pointless rituals and endless hoops extend the experience.

SLAVE LABOR…The apprentice could be valued, nurtured, and trained.  But in the words of despair.com, “You can do anything you set your mind to when you have vision, determination, and an endless supply of expendable labor” and far too many Faux Yodas know it.  As a result, all too often the apprentice is saddled with work that the master would rather not do.

THE GENEROSITY OF COWARDS…Some apprentices are in the wrong place trying to do the wrong thing; and the masters are often so conflict-adverse that they fail to tell the truth.  As a consequence some apprentices turn slowly at the end of a rope — encouraged to endure, but with no real future.

NEGLECT…Other apprentices find themselves saddled with masters who have no ambition to be Yodas.  They are so captive to fear, ambition, or both that they are incapable of aiding their apprentices.

There may be other patterns, but those are the ones I have seen more often than not in over three decades of work between the academy and the church.  If all of this leaves most young Jedis feeling as if they have been stranded on Tatooine, it is not surprising.

The problem with such behavior — in any work world — is that it debases the apprentice and it robs institutions of the wisdom that could be transmitted with careful attention to the needs of the apprentice.  Worse yet, it is the kind of behavior that breeds cynicism and nothing corrodes or weakens the spiritual moorings of any community than the disaffection that follows on well-fed cynicism.

What to do about it tomorrow.

About Frederick Schmidt

The Reverend Dr. Frederick W. Schmidt, Jr. holds the Rueben P. Job Chair in Spiritual Formation at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in Evanston, IL, and directs the Rueben Job Institute for Spiritual Formation. He is an Episcopal Priest, spiritual director, retreat facilitator, conference leader, writer, and consulting editor at Church Publishing in New York. He is the author of numerous published articles and reviews, as well as several books: A Still Small Voice: Women, Ordination and the Church (Syracuse University Press, 1998), The Changing Face of God (Morehouse, 2000), When Suffering Persists (Morehouse, 2001), in Italian translation: Sofferenza, All ricerca di una riposta (Torino: Claudiana, 2004), What God Wants for Your Life (Harper, 2005), Conversations with Scripture: Revelation (Morehouse, 2005), Conversations with Scripture: Luke (Morehouse, 2009), and The Dave Test (Abingdon, 2013). He and his wife, Natalie (who is also an academic and an Episcopal priest), live in Highland Park, Illinois, with their Gordon Setter, Hilda of Whitby. They have four children and four grandchildren: Henry, Addie, Heidi, and Sophie.


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