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Sunday Sermon September 5, 2010 Ethnocentrism

I felt compelled to write this week with a very special day approaching here in the United States. On September 11, we will be remembering the many that were killed in the attacks in New York nine years ago. Many nations grieved with us and we thank those who have offered kind words in remembrance. The towers now gone and a hole left where they once stood we are troubled again with conflict in the area as there is protest about plans to build a mosque near the area as mentioned in another blog recently. Another event that has led me to write this is a dispute between a couple family members about how Jediism is not real because it does not fall into their definition of their religion. As we are all individuals and entitled to our own opinions this is my opinion on matters of discrimination and the lesser evil of ethnocentrism. 

Ethnocentrism is a term that until recently I had not heard. It was mentioned in an Anthropology class that I am taking this year and the book definition is “The practice of viewing the customs of other societies in terms of one’s own.” And “The belief that one’s own culture is superior to all others.” Where this sounds much like discrimination I see a subtle difference as ethnocentrism is more a mental view that can lead to acts of discrimination. Both however are in dire need of elimination.

As stated on this site one of our Jedi beliefs is stated as: Jedi believe in working towards a culture that is relatively free of discrimination on the basis of gender, race, sexual orientation, national origin, degree of ability, age, etc. In order for this to happen we first need to find a way to stop seeing our unique cultures as superior to others. Everyone in this world and even the universe is as different as snowflakes. How then can we say that one is better than another? Are blue eyes better than brown? Is engineering knowledge better than security knowledge? Even though this is an apples to oranges look it also hold true to apples to apples. I may prefer green apples and you, red. The only thing we can really say is that one is better for me.

Focusing on the religious standing, nobody can say that they have all the answers to what is right and what is wrong. We must all look at our own life and figure out what works for us. How do we do that? The best way is started in our initiates program with a study of several religions. We can also branch out into studying as many other religions and beliefs as we can. In this way we are broken free or the known ideas that re are raised to believe and forbidden to question. Only after we have all the facts and once we see all the angles can we decide which view is right for us. The biggest mistake that many make next is that once we see what is right for us we then assume that it is best for everyone else. So, step two is to understand that different does not mean better. We do not have to go out and convert members to believe as we believe because we see our way as the right way. All that we can do is to hold true to our values and beliefs and if others choose to follow then we can guide them to understand what we see as right. The third step then is to accept others rights to believe as they choose.

Here at the Temple we believe in a Syncretistic look at religion in such we may remain members of whatever faith we have and add to it the belief and faith of the temple. This outlook still does not make us better than any other religion just better for us and different than others. Let us be free of the need to feel better than other people. Let us reach out and see that the acts of one person do not define the beliefs of the culture as a whole. Just because the terrorist that attacked the Twin Towers were Muslim does not mean that all Muslims are terrorist. Ethnocentrism in these cases can be stated in one of my favorite quotes saying: “We all judge by our own standards”. Let us judge by the standard of tolerance, understanding, and peace. May the Force be with us all.