Saturday, March 14, 2015

Mormons, the Episcopalians formerly, and Kansas City

A Facebook ramble. It started with this news story: Execution by firing squad in Utah.
Mormons believe that certain sins, like murder, cannot be forgiven by God unless there is an "atonement of blood" from the guilty. Firing squad is a preferred way of getting this done.
Guess the Mormons don't believe in Jesus' sacrifice, but I knew they're not Christians. When I was a kid I knew little about them; I just assumed Donny and Marie were a kind of conservative Protestant. The Mormons want you to think that.
You know it, John, but it's unbelievable how many people out there don't. I've sent this vid to a number of Christians and they were shocked at what they saw. They honestly didn't know.

You probably know my line: nobody who becomes Mormon does it for the theology. They don't get John Henry Newmans reading their way in; no intellectual conversions. No, people convert because they love the version of '50s America that Mormons adopted to blend in. They met some nice Mormons and liked what they saw. As my friend Jeff Culbreath says, they've made a religion out of natural goodness, to which I add "with wacky theology mixed in." Their theology makes no sense. It's sort of like Hinduism and Buddhism in that the universe is eternal; what they call God isn't. He is an evolved man, and a good Mormon man gets to be a god too in the hereafter, begetting spirit children with his wife or, preferably, wives (why polygamy is part of their doctrine) to populate a planet with people to worship him. They're henotheists, believing in many gods but worshipping only one. No, thanks. I'll take Aristotle's and St. Thomas Aquinas' prime mover, identified with the Hebrew God.
Their theology is a mishmash of Protestant Christianity and 19th-century New age beliefs with a sprinkling of Freemasonry added to the mix. It was actually cutting-edge at the time (Like Christian Science was also), but now seems ludicrous.
Right; Joseph Smith was an ex-Mason so I understand Mormon liturgy is based on Masonic ritual. He was smart, writing a pastiche of the King James Bible that people still believe in. But his garbage was easier to preach when it couldn't be disproved. Now we can read Egyptian hieroglyphics and have DNA testing; Smith's story doesn't hold up. Plus Mormonism was largely Brigham Young's invention, a gunslinger terrorist in the Old West massacring people; interestingly, Smith's own descendants remain Christian.
Few people realize that various occult beliefs which we'd term "New Age" were actually very big in 19th-century America (look at spiritualism). There really is nothing new under the sun out there. Most of what's big in New Age circles today was either believed by the same types back then or else has been rehashed with more modern-sounding terms and explanations by them in order to sell to people these days.
New Age isn't really paganism but like the left/political correctness obvious invented by apostate Christians; Christianish ethics about love and doing good, without Christ.

Right, Missouri has a mild version of that, the Unity School of Christianity, part of the 19th-century New Thought movement, only iffily Christian but their heart's in the right place. A lot of it's true, as far as it goes, which isn't far enough.
Yes, Unity Temple still exists in Kansas City. I don't know what they believe, but they are always mentioned for their charity work by local media.
Unity on the Plaza, right? As a kid in KC I'd hear them on the radio, with a woman minister and everything. Modernist, I know now, but they make valid spiritual points.

By the way, as an Episcopal kid by accident of birth (since my dad left the Catholic Church), growing up partly in KC I had the benefit of conservative Episcopalianism (believe it or not, that used to be a thing), a big reason why I normally don't go to the Novus Ordo. We had the 1928 Book of Common Prayer (which I still say the Gloria and Creed from in English, by heart) with eastward-facing Communion while the Catholics were hippie-ing out with guitars.
Yes, KC is an epicenter of various conservative as well as liberal religious movements, including traditional Anglicans.
The Episcopalians there could be conservative because their culture isn't anti-high church/egalitarian (at least it wasn't, once) and because they're semi-congregational; every parish is almost its own church. So we kept using the old books even after the national church brought in the new ones. Didn't know about women's ordination until we'd moved elsewhere, and it was a sucker punch to me (I thought I was in part of the Catholic Church).

I remember in 1979 or 1980 hearing a radio commercial in KC about the Anglican Catholic Church, and I thought, "This jibes with what I was taught in confirmation class, that we are a Catholic church, and why leave over the new Prayer Book? We don't use it!"
Yes, the have a cathedral in KC. I used to see pamphlets advertising their faith in a local religious bookstore some years ago. I've heard that they've even broken up between one faction that wanted to be more Anglican and another that wanted to be Catholic.
What I wrote above and finding out my dad was Catholic to begin with set me on the path I'm on, with a few slight detours. (Catholicism to Orthodoxy: "moving from Dallas to Fort Worth.") By the way, he reconciled with the church before he died; I like to think I helped. (Even though he liked Vatican II. But like with lots of Catholics, the old religion formed him and stayed with him.) I'm grateful the Episcopalians accidentally gave me a pre-Vatican II basic catechesis and liturgical formation, and a refuge in Anglo-Catholicism a little later on. These days I've talked to a few Episcopal women priests, unthinkable decades ago, but the other side of that is I don't think that's the church. Catholicism is home. The Continuum is a divided mess, though I've met some nice and holy people in it. (One thing that impresses me is they're not all ex-Episcopalians.)
Catholicism works for me. We got "issues," it's true, but we are still number 1.
I never wanted to be a Protestant, which was why women's ordination seemed like a sucker punch. There is only one church. I picked up on that young.

That isn't un-ecumenical, by the way. If you're as Christ-centered as the Missouri Synod Lutherans and Fr. Robert Hart's Continuing Anglicans, you're doing it right. Just do it in the church as God intends.

Mormons and Episcopalians: both very northern European (the Mormons aren't just English; in the late 1800s, lots of Scandinavians converted to Mormonism and immigrated to Utah) and both believing in progressive revelation; doctrinal change, by decree (Mormon) or vote (Anglican).

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