Churches [i.e. religions] that possess differing kinds of goodness and truth, so long as the kinds of goodness they have relate to love to the Lord, and the truths they have relate to faith in Him, are like so many gems in a king's crown. - Emanuel Swedenborg
Have traveled about 202,000,000 miles. (About a third of the way around the Sun.)
Thoughts during the week:
Franklin Graham, Billy Graham's evangelist son, has declared, "Islam is a very wicked and evil religion." I will soon visit the Islam, and get a little view for myself. It's always a little view, I know, but all in all, the year is worth something. I suspect that evils done in the name of Islam are not so different from those done in the name of Christianity. Hitler referred to the Jews as "The Christ Killers," an attitude that led to the awful holocaust. The whole crowd gets the reputation earned, or supposed so, by only a few.
Franklin Graham is concerned about non-tolerance for Christians (Prayer in school, "Under God," "In God We Trust," etc.) He's not concerned about his own intolerance of Islam, and he has no clue as to what it means (with respect to tolerance of all) to officially honor a particular religion or group of religions in our schools, on our money, with Eisenhauer's addition to the Pledge, etc.
Tolerance is learned and produced by our feelings toward others - not by trying to get others to tolerate us.
The plan to visit:
Plan to visit the Swedenborgians this Sunday.
(Note: the picture of Swedenborg will not cooperate at my level of word-processor knowledge - it could end up anywhere.)
Who is Emanuel Swedenborg?
"I have been called to a holy office by the Lord Himself, who most mercifully appeared before me, His servant, in the year 1743, when He opened my sight into the spiritual world and enabled me to converse with spirits and angels, in which state I have continued up to this day. From that time I began to print and publish the various mysteries that were revealed to me, concerning heaven and hell, the state of a person after death, the true worship of God, and the spiritual sense of the Word, besides other most important matters conducive to salvation and wisdom."
Emanuel Swedenborg, Swedish scientist, royal court engineer, writer and mystic
brother, Rex, has had an interest in this guy for many years - tried to get me to
read a book about him, etc. It appears that there are now congregations all
over the world who call themselves "Swedenborgians."
There are at least two congregations of them in
I'm attending the group that is associated with the "General Conference of Swedenborgians." This is the more liberal of the two, and, I think, the more original.
It has to be of interest to us that Swedenborg's original claim was with respect to an incident about 77 years before Joseph Smith's "First Vision" in 1820. And the claim is also very similar - a visitation from "The Lord" directly to Swedenborg, the 'Lord's servant', and subsequent communications with spirits and angels.
I think this can't not be an interesting visit. (Don't get me on the double negative - this was the best way to say it.)
It wasn't very much as I expected it to be. I expected this to be a more open kind of doctrine - not strictly Christian. The meeting was not very different from other Christian church meetings I've attended. It was more like the Episcopalian's in structure than any other so far. The meeting was very structured. We followed a program exactly.
Opening of the Bible
Introductory Sentence (Read by all together.)
Time of Prayer - (Congregation was asked to speak out loudly the names of those they wanted to include for prayer.) Then the minister said the prayer.
Invocation - Minister
Then the Pastor and the congregation read as written in the program - back and forth - or in unison, as prescribed in the program.
Pastor's Opening Prayer
Many hymns were sung - also exactly as prescribed in the program. It says when to stand - when to sit, etc.
Then there was a piano number by the organist. He gave a short talk on the composer - and then played a very complicated piece - quite impressive. Applause afterward.
Reading from the Old Testament. The pastor read verbatim - ending with "This ends the reading from the Old Testament." No discussion.
The New Testament
Bibles were provided and handed out on entry - they had bookmarks already placed for the two readings.
The building was an old very nice (quaint) building with a nice chapel - and a basement with another large room. The chapel had church-bench seating for about 100. In the congregation were I and four others - that's it. On the podium were the minister, his wife, his daughter, and the organist. The total in attendance was 9.
There was a good-sounding probably very old pipe organ against the right wall - the organist was very good, and it sounded much more than one would expect in such a small church.
Affirmation of Faith:
WE WORSHIP THE ONE GOD, THE LORD, THE SAVIOR JESUS CHRIST, THE REDEEMER OF THE WORLD.
AS THE GOD-MAN DWELLING WITH US, HE IS PRESENT TO SAVE ALL PEOPLE EVERYWHERE, WHOSE LIVES AFFIRM THE BEST THEY KNOW.
OUR FAMILY, COMMUNITY, COUNTRY AND ALL THE NATIONS OF THE WORLD ARE OUR NEIGHBORS. OUR CHURCH, OTHER CHURCHES, ALL RELIGIONS MAKING UP THE LORD'S KINGDOM ON EARTH, ARE LARGER NEIGHBORS. OUR HIGHEST NEIGHBOR IS THE LORD HIMSELF.
More reading back and forth - more songs - Pastoral prayer -
Message - Partly it was about choosing our associates - that when we associate with good, we become better, and when we associate with bad, we become worse. (Where have I heard this before?)
Closing of the Bible.
Minister, minister's wife, minister's daughter leave the podium and join the congregation. Now only the organist remains, while we all sing the last song.
Postlude - Big Organ number - Applause. Organist comes down - meeting over.
They don’t appear to believe that any church is a wrong church, though they do still appear to believe theirs the best of the lot. I asked about non-Christian religions (Buddhists, for example), and the minister said that was also completely acceptable to the Lord, if they are living what they know.
So then I pulled out the trump card. "Well," I said, "then what about the Mormons? Are they ok too?"
He took me into his office, where on his desk was a report written by a Jewish, but now Swedenborgian, friend of his. It was the man's attempt to consider the Mormon's doctrine - and give guidance. He gave me the report, saying he could get another copy. There are quotes from "Sunstone" and other sources.
Check this paragraph:
! ! ! ?
77 years before Joseph Smith's First Vision.
I also asked about the teaching that we should associate with good and not bad people. I asked what advice he would give to "bad" people. Whom should they associate with? The answer is obvious, that they should associate with good people, but we have just told those good people not to associate with the one to whom we are giving the advice. It doesn't work, and it is not Christian. It's just bad math.
This discussion was very interesting to him - and I think, in general, this religion is very open to thinking without lots of rules. Doctrinal or political differences of opinion appear not to be threatening to them at all. Each person does as his best conscience and knowledge lead him - and that's fine. Each can also learn from others and thereby improve on what that conscience and knowledge are, and then live better as a result. The bottom line is that if one is living by the best that one knows, he is on the right path.
It reminds me of Saul - supporting the killing of Christians - doing the best he knew - and as he believed God wanted. God recognized the goodness here even in the midst of very bad activity. What a wonderful person to convert. He already wanted the good; he just didn’t have it. I think there are many people like this, whom we shun, or on whom we have our revenge, rather than help. Many criminals are highly motivated. Revenge is pretty much a useless endeavor. Repentance is the beautiful goal for those about whom we care. Repentance comes mostly through knowledge.