ENTERTAINMENT

The spiritual mysteries of ‘The Mandalorian’

Nov 22, 2020, 1:36 PM | Updated: Nov 23, 2020, 6:27 pm
Originally Published: 22 NOV 20 05:21 ET

(CNN) — In Disney’s hit show “The Mandalorian,” the title character has defeated a dragon, massive ice spiders and a horde of ugly squid-face creatures called Quarren.

But in a recent episode, the stoic bounty hunter faced perhaps his most fearsome foe: pluralism.

For the uninitiated, “The Mandalorian” is a live-action series that explores an outer rim of the ever-expanding “Star Wars” galaxy. In Season Two, airing now on Disney+, the main character — named Din Djarin — is looking for other Mandalorians, a diaspora in exile from their home planet.

RELATED:  Disney+ was the future. Now it’s Disney’s present

Raised by a religious cult, Djarin suddenly discovers other Mandalorians who — gasp! — follow different creeds, or perhaps no creed at all. He greets this new fact with the enthusiasm of a man handed a ham sandwich at a bris.

Judging by Google, many people are curious about the mysterious “Way of the Mandalore,” the creed shared by Djarin and his sect. The question, “What is the Mandalorian religion?” has consistently trended since the show premiered last year.

A Mandalorian credo, “weapons are part of my religion,” also is trending now. (Is that bad? That seems bad.)

The answers to this question, so far, have been sparse. But a recent episode contained a major revelation.

‘Star Wars’ has featured religious themes since the beginning

This is not the first time “Star Wars” has dabbled in religion. George Lucas, the franchise’s creator, has said he wanted to introduce young Americans to spiritual teachings though “new myths.” “I wanted to make it so that young people would begin to ask questions about the mystery,” he said.

In the ’70s and ’80s, the interstellar saga explored Eastern traditions, mainly Buddhism and Taoism, just as many “spiritual, but not religious” dabblers were doing the same. At the turn of the millennium, “Star Wars” caught the McMindfulness craze — 1999’s “The Phantom Menace” opens with two Jedi talking about the benefits of meditation.

RELATED:  ‘The Mandalorian,’ Disney’s biggest blockbuster of 2020, returns with a new mission

And now, with “The Mandalorian,” we see the “Star Wars” universe borrowing from another contemporary feature of religion: the battle between orthodox conservatives and liberals.

Until recently, the show kept most explicit details about the Mandalorian religion under wraps. We know that Mandalorians consider themselves both hunters and prey, never remove their helmets in front of other people and vow to always protect each other in a blaster fight. And the weapons thing.

(There’s more about Mandalorians in other “Star Wars” series.)

Since being rescued as a war orphan, Djarin has been schooled in “the Way,” which he believes is singular and shared by all. But, in a recent episode called “The Heiress,” he is shocked to meet other Mandalorians who casually remove their helmets, breaking a big taboo.

These new Mandalorians mock Djarin’s conservative practices and tell him that he’s actually part of a small sect of religious zealots called “The Death Watch.”

In other words, there is not just one Way; there are Ways.

Watching Djarin’s shock and confusion at this unwelcome news was like seeing a sheltered fundamentalist freshman in his first theology class at a liberal arts university. Mind. Blown.

The moment may mark a turning point for Djarin. One writer compared it to an Amish youth “finally on his intergalactic Rumspringa.” Another said it should prompt a “huge spiritual crisis.”

‘The Mandalorian’ echoes the story of American religion

It’s not hard to see some parallels with our own world. A lost young man finds an identity, community and mission in a violent, counter-cultural sect. He knows nothing of his faith’s diversity and scorns those who differ.

Then pluralism — a fancy word for our ability to live together amid differences — smacks him across his shiny helmet.

In the “Mandalorian,” Djarin weakly insists: “There is only one Way. The Way of the Mandalore,” then turns on his rocket backpack and flies away.

Discussion over.

But not for long, we expect.

We’re not so great at pluralism ourselves.

In some ways, the clash of religious views in “The Mandalorian” echoes the story of American religion over the past few decades. As believers argue over LGBTQ rights, religious freedom and Scriptural interpretations, pews have become more polarized, common ground harder to find.

Some experts see the cresting tides of xenophobia and tribalism and predict a poor future for peaceful coexistence.

They have a point.

In the United States, for example, new FBI data shows that hate crimes surged in 2019 to the highest level in more than a decade. Most of those incidents were motivated by racial or ethnic bias and another 20% by religious bias, according to the FBI.

Because this is Hollywood, it seems inevitable that the Mandalorian will eventually go the way of the creedless Unitarianians, steadily shedding his beliefs one by one.

It would be nice if that didn’t happen. It’s much more interesting to watch someone struggle with their beliefs, rather than surrender them. What if Djarin stayed true to his Way and the others to theirs, without either side trying to convert or coerce the other.

We could use more models of how different people can coexist without common creeds, even if they come from a galaxy far, far away.

The-CNN-Wire
™ & © 2020 Cable News Network, Inc., a WarnerMedia Company. All rights reserved.

Today’s Top Stories

Entertainment

Salt Lake County is working to make sure its golf courses don't use as much water in the drought....
Martha Harris

Salt Lake County says it has decreased water-use on its golf courses

Salt Lake County says it has back water usage on its golf courses. The county says it has done by changing how they water.
1 day ago
Fireworks light up the night sky over Liberty Park Thursday July 24, 2003 Photo by Scott G Winterto...
Mark Jackson

Fireworks and some open flames are now banned in Park City

Just before the holiday weekend, Park City has banned fireworks and non-permitted open flames due to extreme drought conditions and fire risk.
1 day ago
Vehicles enter Zion National Park   on Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2020. With Independence Day set for Mond...
Mark Jones

Busy weekend expected at Zion National Park

With it being Independence Day on Monday, Zion National Park officials are expecting a busy weekend at the park and say visitors should expect long lines.
2 days ago
The Great Salt Lake Fringe Festival will make its in-person comeback from July 28 to Aug. 7. Courte...
Devin Oldroyd

The Great Salt Lake Fringe Festival is coming back to Salt Lake City

The Great Salt Lake Fringe Festival will make its in-person comeback from July 28 to Aug. 7.
2 days ago
Utah's Hogle Zoo welcomes a new red panda, Priya, to its Asian Highlands exhibit. Photo credit: Uta...
Devin Oldroyd

Hogle Zoo welcomes new Red Panda in effort to conserve the species

Utah's Hogle Zoo welcomes a new red panda, Priya, to its Asian Highlands exhibit. It hopes to breed her with Mow Mow, a red panda currently living there.
2 days ago
The Path of Art explores artists lives....
Ryan Meeks

New podcast aims to bring awareness about Utah’s artists, creatives

KSL Podcasts is launching a new podcast, The Path of Art, to share the stories of artists, comedians, performers, and more. Listen to the first episode here.
3 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Tax Harassment...
Jordan Wilcox

The best strategies for dealing with IRS tax harassment | You have options!

Learn how to deal with IRS tax harassment. This guide will teach you how to stop IRS phone calls and letters, and how to handle an IRS audit.
spend a day at Bear Lake...
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

You’ll love spending the day at Bear Lake | How to spend a day at Bear Lake

Bear Lake is a place that needs to be experienced. Spend a day at Bear Lake.
Curb Appeal...
Price's Guaranteed Doors

How to have the best of both worlds for your house | Home security and curb appeal

Protect your home and improve its curb appeal with the latest security solutions like beautiful garage doors and increased security systems.
Prescription opioids can be disposed of during National Prescription Take Back Day...
Know Your Script

Prescription opioid misuse | How to protect your family from the opioid epidemic

Studies have shown that prescription opioid misuse has increased since COVID-19. So what do you need to know about these opioids?
national heart month...
Intermountain Healthcare

National Heart Month: 5 Lifestyle Changes to Make Today to Keep You Heart Healthy

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. One person dies every 36 seconds in the United States from cardiovascular disease
Joseph Smith Memorial Building...
Temple Square

The Joseph Smith Memorial Building is an icon of Salt Lake City | Why hosting an event at this beautiful location will make you a hero this year

Here's why hosting an event at the iconic Joseph Smith Memorial Building in downtown Salt Lake City will make you a hero this year.
The spiritual mysteries of ‘The Mandalorian’