Monday, June 18, 2007

Oh... Wow.

The title expresses my entire initial reaction to this article (best reproduced with dropped jaw and completely stunned look on one's face). In a nutshell, a Episcopal priestess (yes, I know they're called "priests" even when they have a cha-cha instead of a hoo-hoo-dilly, but I like the pagan overtones "priestess" implies when applied to the Episcopal church) became a Muslim. Not weird enough. Said Episcopal priestess also claims to retain her Christianity. Getting weirder, but not there yet. Said Episcopal priestess's Episcopal bishop affirms her Christianity and claims she is still in good standing in Episcopal church even after becoming a Muslim. Bingo! Weirdness achieved!

Certain key snippets that go a long way in explaining things:
She does not believe Jesus and God are the same, but rather that God is more than Jesus.

She believes Jesus is the son of God insofar as all humans are the children of God, and that Jesus is divine, just as all humans are divine — because God dwells in all humans.

That's some mighty fine theologizin', lady!
She began praying with the Al-Islam Center, a Sunni group that is predominantly African-American.

There were moments when practicing Islam seemed like coming home.

In Seattle's Episcopal circles, Redding had mixed largely with white people (Ms. Redding is of at least some African-American heritage, based on her picture in the article -- ed.). "To walk into Al-Islam and be reminded that there are more people of color in the world than white people, that in itself is a relief," she said.

Oh, so you're a racist. Thanks for clearing that up.

But surely you're responsible all on your own for this conversion, without any outside misleading, right?
Ironically, it was at St. Mark's that she first became drawn to Islam.

In fall 2005, a local Muslim leader gave a talk at the cathedral, then prayed before those attending. Redding was moved. As he dropped to his knees and stretched forward against the floor, it seemed to her that his whole body was involved in surrendering to God.

Then in the spring, at a St. Mark's interfaith class, another Muslim leader taught a chanted prayer and led a meditation on opening one's heart.

Oh. Thanks a lot, St. Marks. Buncha jerks. Given the current state of the Episcopal church, though, I wouldn't go so far as to call it "ironic". But as a trained priestess, surely she would have had ample defense against this wonky sort of theology, right?
Despite those difficulties, she graduated from Brown University, earned master's degrees from two seminaries and received her Ph.D. in New Testament from Union Theological Seminary in New York City. She felt called to the priesthood and was ordained in 1984.

Oh, you mean this Union Theological Seminary?

Not that I have a dog in that particular fight (apart from a general desire to see true, Bible-believeing Christianity thrive and spread throughout the world), but I am beginning to think that there are Great Powers, both physical and spiritual, at work in doing everything they can to bring about the complete renunciation of Christian First Principles on the part of the Episcopal church in America. First this guy. Then this guy. Now this woman. &Kappa&upsilon&rho&iota&epsilon &epsilon&lambda&epsilon&eta&sigma&omicron&nu!

(HT to Mark Steyn, who also points out a FOUR YEAR OLD Scrappleface headline written as satire, "Episcopal Church Appoints First Openly-Muslim Bishop")


Anonymous Chris said...

Maybe the Angel Moroni will lend her a few golden tablets to really round out her belief system.

10:54 AM  
Blogger Benjamin said...

Hahaha... great comment, Chris. Given her beliefs about Jesus Christ, she'd probably feel right at home. And I'm sure the Episcopal archbishop would think even that was "great for interfaith dialogue".

Am I the only one who thinks the name "Moron-i" was an insulting joke directed at his gullible followers by Joseph Smith?

12:42 PM  
Anonymous Chris said...

When I was in a Utah hotel room, I read the first part of the Book of Mormon which was there instead of Guideon's Bible. I wondered who the *hell* could buy into that.

Then I read Krakauer's "Under The Banner of Heaven" (the way the religion evolved through "revelations", which just happened to conveniently address political and societal inconveniences), and realized that Mormonism would never fill any spititual void *I* ever had. I like the way Moroni took back the tablets, explaining why Smith couldn't produce them. Also, the signatures of neighboring farmers, testifying to the existence of said tablets, was a nice touch.

I'm sure similar criticisms have been leveled against Christianity, but for me, it's impossible to suspend disbelief with a religion that began in the time of Andrew Jackson.

5:47 PM  
Anonymous Ben said...

I haven't read that one (yet), but I've read the relevant material in Walter Martin's "Kingdom of the Cults" (an excellent compendium on major American cult movements -- LDS, Jehovah's Witnesses, and many others -- and how they diverge from Christianity), and I read "One Nation Under Gods", which seems to be very similar in intent and content to the book you mentioned (although from what I've read, it's slightly less antagonistic -- the facts do all the attacking on their own). I've been meaning to read Banner as well -- I'll probably get around to it some time. And yes, they are certifiably nuts. For me, the big thing is that they have an entire "history" that they cling to as fact (I don't think there's anything like a "theologically liberal" Mormon yet, like there is in Christianity), and unlike the historical content of the scriptures of Christianity and Judaism, not a single stitch of it is backed up or verified by archaeological discoveries. To me, that's just silly.

6:42 PM  
Anonymous Chris said...

I think this explains a lot about the "Priestess".

9:15 AM  
Anonymous Marty said...

Chris: (Re: the Chemical Profile): Must be the hair dye.

Ben: Great article. But, by your title, you seem surprised. I actually had a bet with myself, in the form of a prediction, that I'm now sorry I hadn't come out with a Mazurland Post about. I thought that there would be at least one, if not a rash, of conversions to Islam from among not just Christian rank-and-file (already happening), but from the clergy of a major Christian denomination. I thought this conversion would come from one of the squishier mainline denominations. It would not count if it came from something like Unitarian Universalism, which is not Christian, not mainline, and is at best a kind of pantheism (but I have my doubts about even that). For reasons you point to at the end of your post, it surprises me not a bit that the denomination is Episcopalianism, which has become a silly joke. What surprises me is that the first convert is a black woman. Even though blacks probably make up the largest block of Muslims in America, and there have been numerous conversions to more traditional Islam from among black Christian rank-and-file, I'd have thought the first clerical conversion would have been white, mostly because there are relatively fewer black clergy among mainline protestant branches. (Tangent: if there were a "recognizing authority" form Islam, then Black American Islam would probably be looked on by the rest traditional Sunni Islam in the same way Mormonism is viewed by the rest of Christianity.)

What surprises me is that either of you would think she could feel at home in Mormonism. She already said she doesn't like white people.

10:05 AM  
Anonymous Marty said...

PS: It also surprises me not a whit that she still considers herself a Christian. She is a Christian in the same way all pantheists are Christian.

10:07 AM  
Blogger Benjamin said...

Marty, you win with the Mormon comment.

As for my surprise, re-read my opening paragraph: it's not the conversion that shocks me, nor the fact that we was clergy -- it's the approval of it, both tacit and spoken, on the part of her clerical superiors. I would have thought there would have been a slow trickle of conversions, followed by some hand-wringing, calls for interfaith ecumenicism, more of that fancy liberal theologizin', and then acceptance and affirmation of the apostates.

I also accept your points about Unitarians. I had asked a colleague here at work if he had ever attended a church service, and he responded along the lines of "Yeah, I went to a Unitarian church as a kid". I was then forced to clarify with "No, I mean a Christian church". In fairness, the UUs are the only modern "denomination" with which I make that distinction, but at least they had the decency to officially declassify themselves as Christian... although the "mainline" Episcop-aliens are getting close.

10:34 AM  
Anonymous Marty said...

So you think Mormons are Christians? And Jehovah's Witnesses?

12:51 PM  
Blogger Benjamin said...

Of course I do, Marty. They're all our brothers and sisters in Christ. Shame on you for destroying our spirit of brotherhood and unity!

... just kidding. Above, I was only referring to the subset of religious organizations that, at one time in their history, had been considered to be "mainstream" Christian denominations. LDS and JH just don't fit that bill. They're cults trying to become mainstream (moreso LDS, maybe less so JH). UUs, for example, enjoyed a gradual slide away from orthodoxy, although their particular defining characterists (the anti-trinitarian teachings of the first U and the rejection of the necessity of Christ in the second U) made that slide considerably easier.

A small rant about UUs: many anti-religious folks complain about "organized religion" because it is "all religion" and "no faith" -- i.e., all about tradition and ceremony without any personal, experiential faith. Strangely enough, UU is almost the exact opposite -- they don't really believe in anything, but exist to give people a place to feel good about going through the motions. Strange people.

1:03 PM  
Blogger Mirtika said...

One can only weep at the state of the Episcopal church, and pray.

I'd like her bishop to chill with some decaffeinated tea, and really ask himself what Paul would think. I mean, really. Would Paul say, "Oh, yeah, you can go ahead and be Muslim and be a good follower of Christ."

Clearly, it's not just the spiritual aspect that's majorly screwed up there, it's their capacity to reason.

It's sad. Very sad. And off they go, over the edge of the cliff, into damnation.


5:14 PM  

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