Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Fanatics are Always Dangerous

Regardless of what religion's in view, when people get the notion that they have a direct hotline to God, there's bound to be trouble.

The Mormon guy on trial--what's his name, Jeffs?, leader of a fundamentalist Mormon sect--is accused of forcing an underage girl to marry an older man over her objections. One tack of defense he is purportedly arguing is that God told this to him. Hopefully the Utah jury will follow its recent course of impatience with these wierdos.

But let's take on the argument for a moment. OK, so Jeffs heard directly from God that he's supposed to force this girl to marry. I guess his lawyers are going to spin this into a barely more palatable notion of religious freedom.

And what will the prosecution say? Of course, they will simply refer to the letter of the law, and thus no doubt win the case. You can't do things like that around here, fella, no matter who told you to do them.

You know, there's something refreshing about the rule of law. It's a curb to fanatics of all stripes. And it's a warning to everyone. In society we are governed by what is written. In the faith, too, we are, and must be, governed by what is written.

So don't come and tell me that God told you this or that. Don't even tell me He gave you a sign to help you decide this or that. Good grief, that's why you have a brain. Think! Make your decisions carefully, but don't rely on some ethereal "sign" from God. Trust only in His Word, which is a lamp unto your feet and a light unto your path. And if His Word doesn't tell you specifically what to do in a certain situation, beyond giving you the moral direction of His law, then don't go looking for some bedewed fleece. You can do that if you're a prophet, OK? Otherwise, how different are you than Mr. Jeffs? It's only a matter of degree, I say, which is a rather flimsy difference. So, you say that God gave you a sign to help you decide what job to take? Did He really? And how do you know? By what sense did you receive this revelation? And if the sense by which you received it is no different than the sense by which Mr. Jeffs received his, then how are you different? And what would stop you from doing something really crazy, even contrary to God's Word? After all, if God is speaking directly to you, well then, shouldn't it trump what you get out of a book, no matter how holy it is? So what happens when you are told directly that you ought to give in to some sort of immorality? The Bible says no, but God says yes! Ah! Go with God, then, right? And wind up in jail, I say, the sooner, the better. Because you can't do things like that around here, fella, no matter who told you to do them.


Anonymous said...

Nice post, Father. I remember a former neighbor showing my wife an expensive painting that she had bought for her home. It cost more than her family could afford but she told my wife that her husband wouldn't be angry with her because God had told her to buy it.

Convenient, huh?

Joe Greene, S.S.P.

Stephen Harris said...


A good read on the subject is Jon Krakauer's 2003 national bestseller; "Under the Banner of Heaven - A story of Violent Faith". The cover reads: "On July 24, 1984, a woman and her infant daughter were murdered by two brothers who believed they were ordered to kill by God. The roots of their crime lie deep in the history of an American religion practiced by millions ...". The "religion" is the LDS.

There are a number of references to Warren Jeffs.

The book contains an interesting history of the cult.

The trial of the two brothers may still be ongoing (more then 20 years)? Lawyers for one of the brothers repeatedly attempted an insanity plea which the defendent denied.

Page 304 notes the opinion of "The final expert to testify for the procecution" who answered the defence ... "You can't take a word (delusional) in a diagnostic manual (written by this expert) and lift it out of contxt, ... Almost every religious belief system that I know of is made up ninety percent of things that are articles of faith and cannot be reduced to fact. So by using your (the defense lawyer's) definition they would all be false - they would all be delusional."

The defense had stated from the manual that "false beliefs," by definition, are delusions. Because everyone seemed to agree that (the defendent's) beliefs were not based on fact, and were therefore false, (the defense) demanded to know why (the expert) refused to characterize (the defendent) as delusional.

The prosecution preveiled and the defendent was sentenced to death.

Hence in this country we can belive anything as long as we don't act on that which is criminal.

Stephen Harris

Anonymous said...


Anastasia Theodoridis said...

After all, if God is speaking directly to you, well then, shouldn't it trump what you get out of a book, no matter how holy it is?

Of course it should, and does -- but only when and if it actually *agrees* with The Book.


Father Eckardt said...

Now this sounds rather like a tautology: God speaking directly to you trumps what is written in the Book only if it agrees with the Book? So which is trumping which?

Better: it is only to prophets that God speaks directly, and their words *are* the Book.

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

>God speaking directly to
>you trumps what is written
>in the Book only if it
>agrees with the Book? So
>which is trumping which?

The direct Word always trumps, of course.

A messenger comes and tells you, "Your sister says x, y, and z..." Your sister comes to you herself and says, "X, y, and z."

Same message, but which messenger is the more authoritative? Both are correct, but the firsthand word carries more weight than the secondhand.

>Better: it is only to
>prophets that God speaks
>directly, and their words
>*are* the Book.

Well....prophets, apostles, angels... even egregious sinners such as Saul of Tarsus. And assorted saints such as Cornelius, who knew Saul was coming. And everyone who heard Jesus speak or saw Him cure the sick or raise the dead...and anyone who has the witness of the Holy Spirit within him.

I know an unbelieving Jewish woman who, as her newborn baby lay dying and she herself was in grave condition, heard a voice: "God so loved the world that He sent His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not die but have eternal life." She heard those words over and over and over again, and believed them, and desperately clung to them. It was not until much later, after her full recovery (and that of her child) that she made inquiries and learned those words were in the Gospel of John. That was a glorious confirmation for her (she converted), but it never was, before or after, the main reason she believed those words.


Father Eckardt said...

Well, as you yourself said, "only if it agrees with the Book." Ergo, if it does not agree, it carries no weight. The norm is always the Book. And I am always suspicious of anecdotes which would call our attention to the direct speaking of God to an individual. The history of the world is replete with false prophets who claimed a direct line to God. How easily they are derailed, once they get themselves duped into believing that maybe God is speaking to them. Rightly do we call them schwaermer, charismatics. The revelation of God is complete and full with the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ into the world, for in Him we find all the fulness of the godhead bodily, as the apostolic testimony has revealed to us. That, I say, is quite enough for me.