“I think we’re heading to a point where we’re going to see a physical Jedi temple sometime in the next 10 years.”
No, the above quote is neither a projection from the fictional Obi Wan Kenobi nor is it a remark from a grown man in a Jar Jar Binks costume at Comic-Con. It appears in the article “The Church of the Jedi,” by Benjamin Svetkey, from the November issue of Details. The quote’s composer is John Henry Phelan of the Temple of the Jedi Order (the Millennium Falcon of Jedi websites), who is one of a growing number of real-life Jedi zealots.
Jediism, for people like Phelan, is not a hobby marbled into a busy schedule; it’s an around-the-clock observed religion. Yes, there are wonky eccentric types and hyper-obsessed fans twirling light sabers, but, as Svetkey finds out, among the stigmas, there is a pious group devoted to a sacred doctrine.
The creation story dates back to 1987. After the original three movies, West End Games debuted Star Wars: The Roleplaying Game. The activity gave fans an immersive, in-depth way to experience the thrill of the movies as participants, not just observers. The game maker is now defunct, but four parables in the glossary acted as the founding commandments of the religion.
There is no emotion, there is peace.
There is no ignorance, there is knowledge.
There is no passion, there is serenity.
There is no death, there is the Force.
These holy axioms, known as the Code, are each Jedi’s personal Yoda. The poetic fragments capture the ethos of the Star Wars movies (even though they’re never murmured in the films) into a DIY guide for Jedi life in the Milky Way Galaxy.
“It’s about identifying the elements that make characters like old Ben Kenobi so gallant (sacrifice, honor, chivalry) and codifying them into quasi-scriptural tenets that can be applied to real-world experiences so that you can be gallant too…” explained Svetkey in the article.
A myriad of denominations hold faith-based debates in a variety of places. Most exchanges happen via the Internet on no less than six independent websites. Other gatherings happen off-site.
Svetkey traveled to Norris, Tennessee to observe a summit at the Run Rabbit Retreat. Among the 18 faithful men and women, there was neither binge watching nor action figure trading (some of the people there have never even seen the films, but connect with Jediism, nonetheless). Select Jedi came together to share with like-minded souls (Dark and Light side) and to ponder ways of the Force. There was a martial arts class that covered under arm pinches, a ceremony for a Jedi who moved up ranks, and a guy who didn’t get too close to the TV for fear of blowing the set up through his body’s vibrations—all parts of the interconnected galaxy.
Prayer, in the classical Judeo-Christian, is not part of a Jedi knight’s life. Jedi focus on altruistic pursuits to fulfill their religious obligations.
“But most of those other religions are all about attaining spiritual enlightenment in order to save yourself, to stay out of hell, or whatever. With Jediism, though, our religious observance is found through service to the community. Service is sort of what we do for prayer,” stated Andy Spaulding, a Jedi and Kentucky National Guardsman.
Religious splinter groups based on popular science fiction are nothing new. Robert A. Heinlin’s cult classic Stranger in a Strange Land produced The Church of All World; Ed Wood fanatics created Woodism; The Matrix manufactured Matrixism; The Big Lebowski yielded Dudeism. Jediism shares this bloodline, but it’s slowly shedding its niche status.
In England and Wales, more people punched “Jedi” on their 2011 census cards than Rastafarianism and Scientology. Multiple thousands selected “Jedi” as their primary religion in the Czech Republic, Canada and, Australia, according to the article. Yes, the faithful admit that many may be jokes, but that won’t stop them from breaking ground on some temples in time for Disney’s next theatrical installment in 2015.
Click here to get Details on Zinio.