By Heather Abraham
Did you know that Jediism is the fourth largest religion in the UK? That’s right, adherents to the Jedi religion followed Christianity, Islam, and Hinduism in the 2001 census ranking fourth with 0.79% of the population. The Jedi Knight is not only alive and well in the UK but is also thriving in many other English speaking countries including the United States. According to the most recent census records, adherents to the Jedi religion number 400,000 in England, 53,000 in New Zealand, 55,000 in Canada and 70,000 in Australia. In the United States, Jedi Churches have been founded in Maryland, Kentucky, New York, Pennsylvania, Oklahoma, and Florida.
Jedi adherents are coming out of their cosmic closets and proudly claiming their commitment to the Jedi way of life. In April 2009 the BBC reported that the Strathclyde police force had no less than ten members of the Jedi religion. During an interview with BBC, Chris Herbert, editor for the Jane’s Police Review remarked, “The Force appears to be strong in Strathclyde with their Jedi police officers and staff. Far from living a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, some members of the noble Jedi order have now chosen Glasgow and its surrounding streets as their home.”
Before continuing to explore this way cool new religious movement let’s briefly explore the meaning of the term new religious movement (NRM). In New Religions A Guide, J. Gordon Melton argues, “the ‘new’ in new religions most often refers to the seeker rather than the religion itself. That is to say, most new religions are presenting old religions in a new context and to a new audience.” Thus, many new NRM’s are often a complex reimagining of a single or a blending of several existing religious traditions. However, not all NRM’s arise from existing religious worldviews. Some movements, like Scientology or Eckankar emerge independently and challenge the very manner in which we define religion. For some, new religious movements can be construed as “challenging the older religious structures” and thus can be viewed “by many as destructive of the very fabric of society.” It is important to understand that all religions begin as new religious movements. Both Christianity and Islam, for example, began as radical new movements whose ideas threatened the existing religious worldview. Now, let’s get back to the Jedi.
What is the Jedi Religion? Jediism is a non-theistic new religious movement based on the philosophical teachings of the Jedi in George Lucas’ mega hit series, Star Wars. According to the Temple of The Jedi Force,
Jediism is a modern religion which was born as the result of the Star Wars mythology. George Lucas, when he created the Star Wars saga, used various aspects of Taoism, Shintoism, Buddhism, Christianity, Mysticism, and many other religious universal truths as well as a combination of different martial arts and the code of chivalry, in order to create the Jedi and the philosophies behind the Force. The Jedi are modern versions of the Shao Lin Monk, the European Knight, and the Samurai warrior all mixed together. The Jedi path has become an inspiration and way of life for many people throughout the world who take on the mantle of the Jedi. Even though Jediism is a new faith, it is just as real as the ancient faiths and philosophies that it came from…..
Followers of the Jedi religion/philosophy follow the way of the Jedi and live by the Jedi Code. Like all other religions, established or new, Jediism is complex and extremely diverse. Having no central authority, each Jedi organization is independent and therefore has differing philosophical and theological beliefs. For the most part, Jedi organizations are democratic in nature and majority vote is necessary to implement any changes in church structure or doctrine. Although tremendously diverse, most Jedi organizations profess commitment to the following Jedi Creed.
- Jedi are the guardians of civilization and justice.
- Jedi use their knowledge and talents to defend and protect.
- Jedi respect all life, in any form.
- Jedi serve others rather than serving themselves, for the greater good.
- Jedi seek to improve themselves through knowledge and training.
Some Jedi churches embrace an ecumenical approach by promoting Jediism as a complimentary philosophical path that can co-exist with other religious belief systems. Other churches encourage total commitment to the Jedi path and find other religious beliefs to run contrary to the Jedi way of life. All Jedi organizations are devoted to and believe in the power of The Force. According to the Oklahoma Temple of the Jedi, the Force is
an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us, penetrates us, and binds the galaxy together.” The Force, in part, is the energy associated with life, and life is associated with the Force. Most Jedi adhere to the ideology that the Force has a Will of it’s own, and it guides those who would listen to it’s subtle whispers. The Force is primarily made up of the “light side” and the “dark side”. These are concerned with the moral compass of the Force in its various manifestations of Balance. The light side of the Force is the facet of the Force aligned with good, benevolence, compassion, and healing. The dark side of the Force is aligned with fear, hatred, aggression, and malevolence [...] These “sides” of the Force are tied directly to the eternal Balance of the Universe… “Without Darkness, there can be no Light”. By the same token, the “side” of the Force one chooses to follow depends on that individual’s true intent within their heart.
Although many Jedi members devote much of their time for training in the Jedi arts they also recognize the importance of serving others. The Maryland Jedi Order promotes public service as an important undertaking inherent in the Jedi path. “Jedi are peacemakers, protectors, and respecters of life in the world/universe. We strive to serve rather than rule. Self and societal improvement are our cause.”
New religious movements are constantly emerging, evolving, and contributing to the religious diversity in which we live. It will be interesting to observe how this intriguing new religious movement develops and what contributions it makes to our understanding of the religious landscape. I look forward to exploring different aspects of Jediism with you in the future. For more information on Jediism visit the sites below.
Fun Find: To discover your Jedi name check out the Jedi Name Generator at: http://www.xach.com/misc/jedi-name.php. My Jedi name is Abrhe Dejea and my husband’s is Sagte Deist!
- The Oklahoma Temple of the Jedi: http://jedipraxeum.forumwise.com/jedipraxeum-thread369.html
- BBC Article: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/scotland/glasgow_and_west/8003067.stm
- Temple of the Force: http://templeofthejediforce.org/
- Maryland Jedi Order: http://www.marylandjedi.org/
This article first published on April 11, 2010