Tuesday, July 5, 2011

What is PJJ doing now?

There is something about heterodoxy that captures the imagination. The idea that parts and pieces of belief systems can be Frankensteined together into a synergistically greater whole is compelling. Against the pull of heterodoxy the reactionary elements of orthodoxy too often hold sway. The result is usually a partial reformation where self-convinced enlightened elements of a religion profess modernity for their belief structure.

Heterodoxy breaks free of the bonds of convention at times. At times the new creation gathers enough converts to hit some self-sustaining minimum, and a new religion is born. Often the creation can only boil away as a sect or cult till the action of decadence, sense, or time finally dissolves it.

Some that burn out quickly leave an imprint on history for their excesses. There are heterodoxies that have swept up thousands of lives in their race towards non-existence. Others, like the Juche cult, exist only in rarefied social niches. Most never grow much beyond the germinal rantings of a single disjointed often certifiable personality.

One of the features of a heterodoxy is that the central ideas of it are gleaned from other belief systems. The pilfered parts are usually described as being direct revelation or are identified by source in the hope of inheriting any intrinsic worth the belief system they were stolen from might have.

I personally find the direct revelation information more interesting as it allows a clean excision of the heterodoxy creators' favorite bits.

In addition to the ascendant heterodoxies there are a multitude of them that express some sort of moral relativism. Though the idea of moral relativism encompasses a broad spectrum of ideals one of the core concepts is equivalency in belief systems.

“Each individual spirit claims the freedom to believe for himself. If we were to analyze each person's deepest beliefs—including assumptions, guesses and hopes—we would never find two people who believe exactly the same thing, even within the same religion. In all the affairs of humankind, matters of faith are intensely subjective and are colored by individual interpretation and desire. Therefore it is safe to say that no two of us believe in exactly the same religion.” – Betty Eadie

Against this leveling attitude the Abrahamic religions react with Triumphalism (belief that a particular doctrine, or religion is superior to and should triumph over all others). In no church is this more apparent (though it is equally apparent in some) than the LDS church. The LDS church is widely referred to as the “One True Church”.

"[the Mormon priesthood is] the only power on the earth that reaches beyond the veil of death… Without it there could be a church in name only, [a church] lacking authority to administer in the things of God." – Gordon B. Hinkley

The priesthood in the LDS church is given to young boys, and is essentially the same as baptism in other religions. Interestingly the LDS church can be productively thought of as itself being the product of heterodoxy. The baptism/priesthood rite itself was provided by my more preferred method; by divine intervention. Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery went into the woods and met the corporeal spirit of John the Baptist who “bestowed” it on them. They called it the Aronic priesthood. They would get the Melchizedek priesthood later directly from Peter, James, and John.
"The messenger who visited us on this occasion and conferred this Priesthood upon us, said that his name was John, the same that is called John the Baptist in the New Testament, and that he acted under the direction of Peter, James and John, who held the keys of the Priesthood of Melchizedek, which Priesthood, he said, would in due time be conferred on us, and that I should be called the first Elder of the Church, and he (Oliver Cowdery) the second “ – Joseph Smith

Betty Eadie's moral relativism appears like the sort of ideal that would assist people at finding a common ground for discussions of the intrinsic worth of people. I personally like the idea of people coming together to talk about loving one another. It may be the vestigial hippie in me, but the idea of folks meeting on common ground sounds like a more likely path to a better future than one where one group triumphs over another.

Betty got many of her ideas from divine inspiration. She is the author of several bestselling (one was a NYT #1 bestseller) books that relate to a near-death-experience she had. In it she met Jesus and Angels, and was given specific information about things like pre-mortal existence.  I was surprised she did not also meat Hello Kitty.  Who knew that death could be so safe and nurturing?

Recently one heterodox individual was found guilty of various levels of incompetent practice as a result of par-boiling several dozen of his followers in a sweat lodge. A couple died, and nineteen were hospitalized (one of the hospitalized individuals died a week later). James Arthur Ray had created a heterodoxy out of a fusion of Rhonda Byrne's fabulously popular “Law of Attraction” (popularized in “The Secret” book and movie) and “spiritual warrior” activities.

James's father was a preacher from Oklahoma, and he was raised in a household where divine revelation was the mundane source of household income. This upbringing resonates with the themes in both James's 2008 book Harmonic Wealth and Byrne's 2006 book The Secret.

Betty Eadie also has ties to plains-state spirituality. She was raised on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota, and many of her revelations are tied to her native-American identity.

“After returning from my near-death experience, many things were revealed to me that were to come in the years ahead. Times and dates were given for some events, but the timing of the events seemed less important than the events themselves. One very important event and its timing, which is now, was the spiritual awakening of some of God's ancient people. Their ancient knowledge and understanding of the Creator, our Father, was preserved and kept pure in their cells. “ – Betty Eadie

Betty makes numerous references to Christian ideology, but never specifically endorses any branch. I was a bit shocked when I found out that she was an active Mormon in good standing.

Betty's Mormon beliefs were apparently used to great effect when her book was first released in markets where there was a substantial LDS population. The book is apparently a popular one in relief society book clubs. The Deseret News brags of her being one of a handful of #1 bestselling LDS authors. Her stature is comparable to that of the divinely-inspired Steven Covey. Yet, she is conspicuously silent about her church connections. She reportedly will not answer direct questions about her church when asked outside of Utah.

Maybe Jesus gave her a priesthood that was better than the one he had PJJ give Joe?

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