The screenwriters of The Last Jedi, argues Liel Leibovitz, seem to have replaced the creed that figures in the earlier Star Wars films with a watered-down version—what Leibovitz terms “Reform Jediism.” He writes:
Who is a Jedi? The question has been answered several times in divergent ways in the different Star Wars movies. . . . This being 2017, however, the latest [installment] posits a different approach altogether: the Force, [the mystical power that, in the films’ mythology, gives Jedi warriors their abilities and wisdom], is everywhere and for everyone, no study or observance necessary. . . . The ancient, sacred Jedi texts, we are told, . . . are boring rubbish, and the ancient Jedi practices . . . are a waste of time. To be a Jedi . . . you only need to feel like a Jedi, because the old religion wasn’t about the ethics of the fathers but about tikkun olam, which everyone can achieve just by being, you know, a good person. Toss in a few bagels, and you can say that Jediism, really, isn’t a religion but a culture or something.
This bit of theological inanity also makes the movie sag. Instead of fighting [their antagonists] with skill and determination, the rebels . . . are busy bickering about the root causes of evil. Like some galactic fringe group—call them J(edi) Street, or, better yet, Jedi Voice for Peace—these would-be warriors worry that the homicidal maniacs who had just murdered everyone the Jedis love in cold blood may not be, you know, bad, but simply misunderstood or even oppressed. . . .
For [some] American Jewish audiences, then, The Last Jedi can feel almost like a documentary, a sordid story about a small community eager to trade in the old and onerous traditions for the glittery and airy creed of universalist kumbaya that, like so much sound and fury, signifies nothing. . . .
But it’s hard to blame these sunken soldiers for bungling the fight. Instead of a concrete belief, a solid faith with specific rules and concrete decrees, they cling to a feeling, sweet and fleeting, that people are good and worth saving. It’s a noble idea, but unless it is rooted in the hard earth of nation or religion, it tends to melt into air. Untutored in the old ways of the Force, the young rebels have nothing to guide them in their struggle except their passions and their pride, both of which lead to disaster.
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