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Religion and LARPing (Can We Tell the Difference?)

In this series, we began with a humorous look at the similarities between religion and nerd culture.  On the way to a more serious analysis of this similarity, we’ve looked at how the Western world gradually became “disenchanted”.  The ancient pagans lived in a world that was alive, filled with a dizzying array of gods, demigods, spirits, and demons.  Christianity gradually pushed these to the margins, though many remained in new forms–angels, demons, fairies, elves, and so on.  The Enlightenment saw the rise of reason over all, and gradually completed the process whereby Westerners went from viewing the cosmos as a living organism to seeing it as a dead machine, while at the same time traditional religion went into gradual, and now steep decline.  Finally, we saw the rise of pop culture and fandom, whereby fascination with fictional worlds gradually developed into obsession, then into a mainstream lifestyle choice.  In this post, I’d like to try to tie it all together, as far as possible with such complex phenomena.

I’ll start with the image at the top of this post.  Someone unfamiliar with pop culture and Catholic religious orders might think that the two sides of the picture were more or less variants on the same theme.  In fact, as I imagine most readers of this blog will have immediately noticed, the left is a group of Jedi.  No, it’s not a scene from a movie, and it’s not necessarily cosplay.  There is an actual, real-life movement in some countries to have “Jedi” or “Jediism” registered as an official religion.  How “seriously” this is intended is something we’ll come back to.  Meanwhile, in addition to these efforts, there are organizations for “real” Jedi.  That is to say, they take the principles and practices, either explicitly stated or implied, of the Jedi Order of the Star Wars franchise and try, as far as possible, to use those principles and practices as guidelines for living their lives.  Their real, actual lives in the real, actual world.  They do this by a combination of aphorisms derived from the Star Wars franchise (movies and extended universe), martial arts training, meditation practices, and so on.  They often, as can be seen, dress in attire based on that of the cinematic Jedi.  The right-hand part of the image above, by the way, is a group of Franciscan friars*.  Their expressions seem a bit surly–maybe it’s because they don’t get to carry light sabers….

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A Prayer of Saint Theresa of Ávila

Today is her feast day.

Nada te turbe,
nada te espante,
todo se pasa,
Dios no se muda;
la paciencia
todo lo alcanza;
quien a Dios tiene
nada le falta:
Sólo Dios basta.

Eleva tu pensamiento,
al cielo sube,
por nada te acongojes,
nada te turbe.

A Jesucristo sigue
con pecho grande,
y, venga lo que venga,
nada te espante.

¿Ves la gloria del mundo?
Es gloria vana;
nada tiene de estable,
todo se pasa.

Aspira a lo celeste,
que siempre dura;

fiel y rico en promesas,
Dios no se muda.

Ámala cual merece
bondad inmensa;
pero no hay amor fino
sin la paciencia.

Confianza y fe viva
mantenga el alma,
que quien cree y espera
todo lo alcanza.

Del infierno acosado
aunque se viere,
burlará sus furores
quien a Dios tiene.

Vénganle desamparos,
cruces, desgracias;
siendo Dios tu tesoro
nada te falta.

Id, pues, bienes del mundo;
id dichas vanas;
aunque todo lo pierda,
sólo Dios basta.

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