Star Wars is a work of intergalactic science fiction – and a brilliant one at that. So, it will come as no surprise to you that “Jedi’s” do not actually exist. But that isn’t stopping thousands of people from entering into a religion based on some of the central characters of the movie franchise.
“Jediism” came to the public’s attention back in 2001 when a number of people recorded their religion as “Jedi” on national censuses. Now, these Jedi fanatics have established their own “temple” that seeks to disciple followers and, by all accounts, appears to take itself seriously as a world religion.
Interestingly, Temple of the Jedi Order states on its website that it is distinctly different to the Jediism featured in the Star Wars movies:
“We are a Jedi church and international ministry of the religion Jediism and the Jedi way of life. Jedi at this site are not the same as those portrayed within the Star Wars franchise. Star Wars Jedi are fictional characters that exist within a literary and cinematic universe.”
The homepage of the Temple continues to assert that this is a “real” religion:
“The Jedi here are real people that live or lived their lives according to the principles of Jediism, the real Jedi religion or philosophy. Jedi followers, ministers and leaders embrace Jediism as a real living, breathing religion and sincerely believe in its teachings. Jediism does not base its focus on myth and fiction but on the real life issues and philosophies that are at the source of myth. Whether you want to become a Jedi, are a real Jedi looking for additional training or just interested in learning about and discussing The Force, we’re here for you.”
And what exactly do they believe in?
“We believe in Peace, Justice, Love, Learning and Benevolence: It is unlikely that the Jedi way conflicts with other beliefs and traditions,” the group states.
But they have some more down-to-earth beliefs, also. Despite declaring that they believe in the inherent worth of “the Force,” they also state their support of “the sanctity of the human person” as well as opposing “the use of torture and cruel or unusual punishment, including the death penalty.”
The group further believes “in a society governed by laws grounded in reason and compassion, not in fear or prejudice.”
The website even has a “Sermons” section with titles such as “New Year, New Me,” “Can’t We All Just Get Along” and Take Off Your helmet. You only have to glance at the “Community” section of the website to see that the group is becoming incredibly popular, mostly with Star Wars fanatics looking for a community of fellow enthusiasts.
But all this has got one congress hopeful a little concerned. Michael Snyder, a Republican candidate for Congress in Idaho’s First Congressional District, was made aware of the growing religion after watching the documentary American Jedi. He was also shocked to find out that the group was granted tax-exempt status by the IRS back in 2015 – something that is boldly declared on the homepage of their website.
“I was seven years old when ‘Star Wars’ first came out, and it definitely had a major impact on me,” Snyder wrote for Charisma News. “But even as a child, I understood that it was just a movie. Unfortunately, there are some people out there that are so drawn to ‘the Jedi Order’ that they actually want to make it a religious faith.”
Snyder warned that where there are practicing Jedi’s, active “Sith’s” are not far behind.
The Sith Code is set in complete contradiction to the code of the Jedi and elevates emotion and power over peace and harmony. It reads in full:
“Peace is a lie, there is only passion.
Through passion, I gain strength.
Through strength, I gain power.
Through power, I gain victory.
Through victory, my chains are broken.
The Force shall free me.”
The American Jedi documentary features one avid follower of Jediism: Opie Macleod. The disturbing thing was that while they were living in the Jedi community, Macleod discovered his wife was having an affair with his friend Miles Robinson, described as “a practicing Sith.”
“My student, who I had said was a Jedi Knight, not only tossed the Jedi path away, to follow and explore the Sith path,” Macleod told Huffington Post, “but also slept with a Sith.”
Snyder believes that the rise of Jediism as an official religious faith shows the dire state of American spirituality.
“It is one thing to dress up like Luke Skywalker and wave a fake lightsaber around, but it is another thing entirely to make “Jediism” your religion. I guess it just shows how spiritually empty a lot of people are feeling these days,” he wrote.
But should a group that found its roots in a number of people jokingly recording their official religion as “Jedi” on their census be taken seriously?
“Without a doubt, many are reporting “Jedi” as their religion to census officials just to be funny. But there are others that take this stuff deadly seriously, and their numbers are growing,” Snyder added.
Indeed, the New York Post reported that “Jediism” is now the seventh-largest religion in the United Kingdom with 175,000 members, and it has some 65,000 followers in Australia. No one is sure what the numbers would be in the United States – but it could well be significantly more than these two nations.
So, is the rise of this religion something to concern us? Well, perhaps we should be focusing more on the root cause of why people are increasingly compelled to find community, meaning and fulfillment in a religion that stems from science fiction when Christ can offer them truth, forgiveness, peace and endless joy.
“We live at a time when people are groping for answers to the most fundamental questions in life,” declared Snyder.
“Millions of Americans are feeling deeply disillusioned, and they don’t know where to turn. The spiritual void in our society is growing with each passing day, and the need for a new spiritual awakening has never been greater.”
You can watch the trailer for American Jedi below: