Not that they weren’t human to begin with… but I guess I have come to expect more from those who have taken the mantle of Jedi to heart.
Its hard to talk about the real-life Jedi these days without mention of the Church of Jediism in the UK. This Church has been making some waves of late, that have gotten media attention on an international scale.
Over hoodies, I might add. Its a bit of a contentious issue amongst Jedi. Some debate is going on in various corners… some good debate, others not so much. According to the Church of Jediism’s own doctrine, members of the church are encouraged to wear a hooded sweatshirt, if not actual Jedi robes, preferably with the Church’s logo on it, at all times while in public. It has come to light that this is more a suggestion… as they don’t enforce it… which translates as: It’s still Doctrine on their part, and not Dogma. Basically they want their members too do it, but they won’t punish you if you don’t. (If only more Church’s stuck to Doctrine and avoided Dogma.. we’d all be better off.)
Although I’ve not received any answers that I found satisfactory on just why members of their church should do such a thing.. other than for self-promotion reasons… in the end what do I care? I’m not one to really get up in arms over what people decide to wear, and when they decide to wear it. Even if I do view spandex as a privilege and not a right. I’m even less inclined to weigh in if you tell me whatever you are doing is for a religious reason. I’ll just give you the benefit of the doubt and be on my way. Whatever floats their boats is generally fine by me (just don’t sink my boat).
I knew sooner or later, though, this hood thing would find itself challenged. One could say I’ve been eagerly awaiting it. I foresaw the implications of that piece of doctrine very early on. Sooner or later, someone would be called out for wearing the hoodie. Sure enough it happened, with a second incident following on its heels. (Force premonition perhaps? Or just history repeating itself?)
In the first incident, the CEO of the aforementioned Jedi Church went into a Tesco, with hood up. Apparently Tesco has some rules about their customers concealing their faces or something. All in all, I can understand their reasoning. They’ve not doubt had some past experience that keeps them wanting to see everyone’s faces… I suspect more for the benefit of their security cameras than anything else.
Ordinarily I’d expect a Jedi to say, Okay, and take the hood off. On the other hand, though, we have some Jedi who are religious in their path, and believe very strongly that they should be allowed to wear their hoods. They even provide justification for their beliefs. I may not understand them, and why they are so insistent, but my own values dictate that its their right and that it falls under the same category of religious expression that is practiced by Muslims, Jews, a host of indigenous religions across the planet, and even Mormonism in some regards. I’d have a hard time believing Tesco would tell their Islmamic customers to remove their headdress. But that’s a long-established religion with centuries of tradition to support the custom. No religion under the broad umbrella of Jediism can really claim that. Most are a decade old or younger. Those that predate that aren’t generally of the mind that they are religions (although I have my own ideas on that…)
I knew it would happen eventually, and it did. The Church of Jediism decided their religious rights had been infringed upon. I actually agree with them on that stand.
The Jedi Order of the Sacred Flame’s official response on it is that the right of all Jedi to express their religious affiliation is affirmed by the order. The order also affirms that the belief outlined in the Church of Jediism’s doctrine on wearing a hood is a valid one (valid as any other belief anyway), and that in places where religious expression is freely permitted, that accommodation should be made for new religions, as well as those that have been established for centuries.
I was then preparing to witness Jedi in action… fighting for an injustice in the way only a Jedi could. Unfortunately I was sorely disappointed. Maybe its because this is a Church whose leader identifies himself in terms of being a CEO when I know of no other church whose executive actually goes by that title. Maybe its because the CoJ seems to be run more like a business than a religious institution. Whatever the reasons, the CoJ’s response did not live up to my expectations of how Jedi should handle this. In my opinion, the CoJ destroyed all the credibility they had in their case with their chosen response. It wasn’t the calm, rational, approach that I would expect Jedi to exhaust before taking more aggressive action. Aren’t we known for our diplomacy? Is not diplomacy about finding common ground and also acknowledging fundamental differences? Right or wrong, they’ve been portrayed by the media in a poor light and its cast a dark shadow over the rest of the Jedi in this world who would like to be taken seriously. What I see in their response is more inline with a Sith’s philosophy than it is with a Jedi’s.
So I understand those Jedi speaking out against the CoJ. Unfortunately, I’m not particularly impressed with their demonstrated level of Jediness in the process. I know they mean well… wanting to show the world that not all Jedi behave like the CoJ Jedi have been portrayed to behave (and can we honestly believe that all members of the CoJ act and behave the way the handful of individuals we’ve actually seen in the media do?). But when you’re going out into very public forums like Wikipedia and start labeling the people of this church… your fellow Jedi (whether or not you agree with their philosophies or position in this particular manner)… and calling them idiots and other, even more derogatory, terms… (and i’m not completely innocent on this either I realized)… that you’re destroying your own credibility as well. It saddens me because I’ve seen it done by people whom I KNOW are better Jedi than that. It saddens me because I’ve gotten myself into that camp too. I know I labeled them a bunch of teenagers at one point.
Better that Jedi remain silent if they can’t find constructive means of critiquing the decisions of their brethren. These decisions may affect the whole, but the standards a Jedi are held too are so high as to make me consider name calling and disrespect of another’s religious beliefs, however justified we might feel about it, something that should be kept to ourselves.
It concerns me that Jedi are not only attacking the CoJ’s response to their perceived injustice, but also attacking the CoJ for holding to its own doctrine… attacking them for having such doctrine in the first place… and making light of the fundamental issues at play simply because a few Jedi caused some bad publicity. Granted, in the minds of the world-at-large… very little distinction, if any, is made between the various sects that fall into the category of our real-world Jedi. Its true that not all Jedi pursue their path as a religion, but some do, and they have rights.
To label them idiots, to declare their doctrine nonsense… simply because you either don’t agree with it, or worse, can’t be bothered to understand it from their point of view… is not the Path of the Jedi that I have walked (and stumbled quite a few times in the process) these many years. I call on all Jedi to be better than this, and to live up to the mantle they have taken as their own. Treat the Church of Jediism with the same respect and courtesy you would any other group of Jedi.. even if you don’t agree with them… especially when you don’t agree with them. Treat its members even better, for they are individuals with their own minds and you are unlikely to have polled each and every one of them to form your opinion. This is how Jedi behave. Not name calling. Not insults against their religion. The dark side, if there is such a thing, would like nothing more than to see the Jedi of the Earth fighting amongst themselves. Our movement is defeated the moment we do, and our rights as Jedi forfeit the moment we oppose the rights of our brothers and sisters in the Force.
Clearly some of my Jedi brothers and sisters have more training to do. Really though, we all do, for a Jedi’s training is never complete… They are rightly annoyed by the events that have taken place, but I fear they are working against themselves in how they’re dealing with their own emotion.
These incidents are the work of the Force. Of this I am certain. Jedi across this globe are being called to undergo the Jedi Trials over this. There are four such trials and foolish is the Jedi who thinks they undergo them only once on their path. The Force tests us time and time again. For many Jedi, these incidents are bringing about more than one of the four trials to face simultaneously. In the end, who will pass them, and who will fail?
Jedi are symbols, first and foremost, and we must live up to that symbolism if we are to truly be Jedi.