Within the last several months a dialogue has risen in the Star Wars fandom about this new term “gray Jedi.” Just like most speculation, it’s born in the bowels of some discussion forums or social media platform. There, it builds up enough awareness that eventually a clickbait lighthouse rises from the shore, shining its beacon for internet entertainment publications to hone in on. Those writers rush to the light, pick up this devilry and run it up the masts for all to see. Then, unfortunately, and unscrupulously, it ends up in the Hollywood Trades giving many of us a headache in our eye.
Proponents of the “Gray Jedi” theory believe that our heroine Rey and perhaps even Kylo Ren will abandon the traditional ways of the Jedi and become “Gray Jedi.” A new sort of Order where there are fewer rules and structure and more freedom to make hard choices easier. A label that defines that they are talented and exhibit proficiency in wielding the Force, but don’t agree with all the tenents of the kiloyears-long Jedi order. Think of it, like Jedi-Light.
This speculation went into overdrive with Luke Skywalker stating that the “It’s time for the Jedi to end”, in the Star Wars: The Last Jedi teaser trailer. There is always a chance that Rey will not follow like the Jedi Knights of old. There have been many Jedi of the past that have found a crisis in faith with the Jedi Order. Whether it’s Qui-Gon Jin, Quinlan Vos, Ahsoka Tano or even Luke Skywalker, all of whom had their demons and qualms about the institution.
The Jedi Order encapsulates specific ideals, sacrifices, and devotion. All of those tenets must be adhered to for one to be accepted and remain in the Jedi Order. It’s not potluck Jedi; it’s strict observation of rules set along thousands of years of rigorous doctrine.
A great example to explain why gray Jedi is not a thing is the Catholic church. I know before everyone begins rolling their eyes or grabbing pitchforks, please bear with me. I’m putting forth this example at a high level in the best circumstances going an inch deep and a mile wide, to make a point. I don’t want to get into the politics of the Church and its role in modern society.
To be a Catholic Priest is no easy feat. A person must go through a graduate-level education. The vocation, which is a part psychologist, historian, philosopher and life coach all encapsulated in a framework of selfless devotion. They also must learn to perfect the art of explaining the impossible, especially to those individuals who hurt and suffer the most during the direst moments of their lives. They also train in the formalities and strict observation of the sacraments. Then at the end of it all, the Seminarian must prostrate himself before God and swear himself body and soul to that life. A beautiful ceremony, called “The Rite of Ordination” that was explained to me once by a co-worker who’s brother became and Priest. Once accepted into the Order of the Priesthood, the rules of chastity, poverty, and dedication of the faith take hold.
The similarities between a Catholic Priest and the Jedi Order are numerous and even more examples can be found in other faiths across the globe. It’s a strict membership club plain and simple. A Moose lodge with more rules and an added layer of mysterious power that surrounds us and guides us sort of thing.
To call yourself a Catholic Priest, you must be included in that group and follow its rules. If not, then you must leave the order, or in the worst case, be defrocked and kicked out. If an ordained priest has fallen in confidence in the church, he is free to leave the Order and conduct his life in any way he so chooses. However, he cannot call himself a Catholic Priest any longer. That two-thousand-year-old branding has a long Copyright and Trademark behind it. That secret sauce which makes a Catholic Priest a Catholic Priest. Sure you can pick up the knock-off RC Cola™ off the supermarket shelf, but it isn’t Coke Cola™.
If a discontented Jedi finds themselves leaving the order and choosing a different path, they are not Jedi any longer. They are merely individuals who are finding their place in the galaxy. Call them whatever you like “Troubled Force Wielder” or Grousing Force Sensitive,” you just can’t call them Jedi anymore. Sure they can try standing up a new Porg Church with Gray Jedi, but it would not or should not ever be recognized as such. That would confuse and cheapen what it means to be a Jedi.
Is there a chance Lucasfilm will change what it means to be a Jedi?, sure. All groups change over time, especially those who brought themselves to the brink of extinction. If that does happen, then there will be only Jedi, not gray Jedi. This issue is about terminology but sometimes labels matter.
Now, if you all can please bow your heads for the benediction.