AMERICAN MESSIAHS False Prophets of a Damned Nation By Adam Morris
Whenever Americans attach the label “cult” to a religious group, they reveal more about their own anxieties than about the theological eccentrics themselves. In “American Messiahs,” Adam Morris offers up some truly strange historical characters. All were charismatic prophets who dissented from traditional Christianity — and claimed, in one way or another, to represent God himself. But what, exactly, were their enemies so afraid of? Was it their wacky theology, or their disregard for traditional gender roles, racial hierarchies and capitalist values?
Morris opens his gripping narrative with Jemima Wilkinson, a Revolutionary-era mystic from Rhode Island, well-known to historians but often left out of conventional accounts of that era. In 1776, after a bout of “fatal fever” — likely typhus or typhoid — nearly killed her at the age of 23, she claimed to be reborn as a divine messanger of God: the Public Universal Friend. The Friend claimed to transcend sex and preached the spiritual advantages of celibacy. He preferred male pronouns and dressed in men’s clothing, a white or purple cravat and beaver fur hat. In the 1790s, he persuaded about 50 families to prepare for the coming apocalypse by building a new Jerusalem on the frontier — a communal village near Seneca Lake in western New York.
As idiosyncratic as Wilkinson was, the Friend emerged from a long tradition of Christian experiments in mysticism, communal living and occult theories about controlling sexual energy to connect with a bigendered God. For Morris, that ministry set the tone for messianic sects that followed, from Ann Lee’s community of Shakers and Father Divine’s racially integrated communes in 1930s Harlem to the deadly Peoples Temple of Jim Jones. He sketches a theological family tree that, while selective, highlights the connections between these individuals across generations: They read one another’s metaphysical treatises and visited one another’s communes. When a self-proclaimed messiah died without inaugurating the apocalypse, you can bet that younger rivals were ready to scoop up disappointed disciples.
These leaders demanded total obedience and called followers to abandon family and live communally, as the first Christians did. They controlled disciples’ sexuality — in part because of trauma that often lurked in their own backgrounds. Wilkinson’s mother died giving birth to a later child; Ann Lee suffered three stillbirths and the death of one child who survived infancy. Thomas Lake Harris — a New York mystic who specialized in channeling the afterlife verses of dead English Romantic poets before founding a commune in Northern California — modeled his vision of the Divine Mother goddess on his own mother, who died when he was 9. No wonder these prophets preached that salvation lay in renouncing family and transcending one’s reproductive organs.
Even when a man was in charge, these communities were primarily women’s movements. Wealthy patronesses helped fund them, and membership was disproportionately female. Androgynous images of God, rejection of traditional gender roles and the promise of economic security on a quasi-Christian commune held special appeal for women, especially those who needed a way to leave toxic marriages and survive on their own.
Women held most of the leadership roles in the Koreshan Unity, a Chicago-based group founded by an obscure figure named Cyrus Teed. “Dr.” Teed dabbled in alchemy, astrology and electrotherapy. He advocated celibacy in order to redirect sexual energy to the brain, which would in turn cause “combustion” in the pineal gland. “The explosion would cause the production of gametes to cease entirely, allowing the body to regenerate to the bisexual completion of pre-Adamic man,” Morris explains.
When Teed himself transformed into a bigendered deity — which would happen soon, he promised — he would destroy the cruel capitalist system and inaugurate a “New Order of celibate socialism.” In the meanwhile, he appointed favorite disciples to the Planetary Court, a seven-woman advisory council.
Women also surrounded Father Divine, a son of a former slave who proclaimed himself God. In 1915, he formed a commune with followers (black and white) in a New York apartment building. Father Divine rejected racial labels and “casually referred to himself and his followers as both masculine and feminine.” They broke family ties and took new “angelic” names like Wonderful Wisdom, Pearly Gates, Twilight Twilight and Precious Jewel. Women vied to be one of his “Sweets,” an inner circle of secretaries dedicated to recording their leader’s prophecies.
Father Divine’s disciples abstained from sex. They rejected alcohol, tobacco and other temptations in exchange for the promise of eternal life — and lavish communal suppers, a successful method of evangelism during the Great Depression.
His movement, the International Peace Mission, is absent from most histories of the civil rights movement because of “its tacky theology, its unappealing blend of communistic lifestyle and respectability politics, its disavowal of racial identity, and most of all, its iconoclastic leader: a squat, bald, dark-skinned man whose followers called him God and their Redeemer,” Morris writes. Yet over the next 20 years, the Peace Mission expanded into a global network of racially integrated hostels and businesses, with outposts in at least 25 states and several foreign countries.
No matter how many times critics accused Father Divine of causing a public disturbance, racketeering or other charge to get him hauled into court, they struggled to prove that he had broken any laws. (They also struggled to explain the mysterious wealth that allowed him to buy up dilapidated mansions and drive around in a chauffeured Rolls-Royce.) But in 1932 he was convicted of violating Section 72 of New Jersey’s Crime Act, which made it a misdemeanor to impersonate Christ.
Other scholars have traced this mishmash of mind cures, millennialism, mesmerism, spiritualism, theosophy and other strains of pseudoscience and mysticism. The central idea of New Thought spirituality is that all humans possess a divine essence. God, or Spirit, is everywhere, and once we learn its secrets, we can manipulate reality with our minds. Faith is not a gift or a comfort, but a superpower.
One might get the impression from “American Messiahs” that this spiritual stew has appealed only to feminists and socialists. But New Thought’s legacy — not to mention the fierce strain of authoritarianism among Morris’s subjects — is at least as prominent on the religious right. Domesticated by celebrity pastors like Norman Vincent Peale, apostle of positive thinking (and Donald Trump’s childhood pastor), New Thought became the bedrock of the modern Prosperity Gospel, the capitalist catechism of the New Gilded Age.
Morris shows that these oddball spiritual liberators are not just historical footnotes. They reveal society’s fundamental themes and contradictions. “That they appear irrelevant to American historians, aberrant to contemporary evangelicals and abhorrent to the average consumerist is a signature of the victory capitalism has achieved over the American religious imagination,” he writes. But the deeper impulses that drove these would-be messiahs and inspired their followers are not the province of the right or the left. They are simply human, and no messiah can save us from ourselves.B:
“【本】【宫】【不】【知】【道】【你】【到】【底】【在】【说】【些】【什】【么】，【你】【的】【女】【儿】【在】【何】【处】，【你】【难】【道】【自】【己】【不】【清】【楚】【吗】？【你】【来】【找】【本】【宫】【要】【孩】【子】，【莫】【不】【是】【疯】【了】【吧】！”【端】【靖】【大】【长】【公】【主】【拍】【着】【桌】【子】。 “【公】【主】，【奴】【婢】【真】【的】【只】【想】【见】【女】【儿】【一】【面】，【还】【请】【公】【主】【成】【亲】。”【妇】【人】【一】【下】【下】【的】【磕】【着】【头】。 “【宛】【彤】，【你】【也】【少】【在】【此】【处】【胡】【编】【乱】【造】，【当】【年】【你】【才】【伺】【候】【了】【几】【日】，【如】【今】【来】【说】【有】【个】【孩】【子】，【当】【真】【觉】【得】
【不】【过】【对】【此】，【林】【南】【完】【全】【没】【有】【怜】【香】【惜】【玉】【之】【心】。 “【滚】【吧】！” 【林】【南】【淡】【淡】【说】【道】。 “【你】！” 【那】【女】【性】【真】【仙】【此】【时】【也】【没】【有】【颜】【面】【继】【续】【留】【下】，【只】【能】【愤】【愤】【不】【已】【的】【离】【去】。 【而】【到】【了】【此】【时】，【整】【个】【拍】【卖】【会】【也】【已】【经】【结】【束】，【林】【南】【带】【着】【柳】【如】【卿】【和】【两】【个】【女】【儿】【离】【开】【了】【拍】【卖】【场】。 【到】【了】【外】【面】，【站】【在】【中】【州】【皇】【城】【的】【广】【场】【上】，【林】【南】【释】【放】【神】【念】，【通】【知】【正】【在】【游】2017第一期开码RT，【又】【是】【新】【的】【一】【个】【月】【啊】！【肥】【龙】【还】【是】【每】【天】【三】【更】【中】，【对】【其】【他】【人】【来】【说】【没】【什】【么】，【但】【是】【对】【肥】【龙】【来】【说】【真】【的】【是】【不】【容】【易】【啊】！ 【肥】【龙】【有】【很】【严】【重】【的】【腱】【鞘】【炎】，【持】【续】【了】【一】【个】【多】【月】【加】【更】【后】，【这】【几】【天】【真】【的】【是】【几】【乎】【是】【一】【只】【手】【在】【码】【字】【了】，【速】【度】【慢】【不】【说】，【更】【是】【十】【分】【难】【受】。 【现】【在】【还】【有】17【章】【的】【补】【更】，【肥】【龙】【会】【咬】【牙】【坚】【持】【下】【去】，【请】【大】【家】【多】【多】【支】【持】，【肥】【龙】【拜】【谢】～
【赵】【能】【前】【四】【千】【多】【年】【一】【直】【参】【悟】【水】【遁】【神】【术】，【修】【炼】【成】【功】【入】【门】【神】【术】【和】【小】【成】【神】【术】【只】【花】【了】【一】【千】【多】【年】，【参】【透】【大】【成】【神】【术】【花】【费】【了】【二】【千】【五】【百】【多】【年】，【但】【在】【虚】【空】【世】【界】【的】【陨】【石】【群】【中】【来】【回】【奔】【驰】【近】【六】【百】【年】，【行】【程】【数】【千】【万】【亿】【里】，【水】【遁】【大】【成】【神】【术】【还】【是】【没】【有】【突】【破】，【而】【瞬】【移】【达】【到】【近】【三】【十】【万】【里】（【小】【成】【神】【术】【近】【三】【成】【的】【速】【度】）。 【水】【遁】【大】【成】【神】【术】【遇】【到】【修】【炼】【瓶】【颈】！ 【赵】【能】【只】
【艾】【克】【转】【身】【注】【视】【着】【墨】【菲】【斯】【托】。 【后】【者】【微】【笑】【着】。 【但】【墨】【菲】【斯】【托】【脸】【上】【的】【皮】【皱】【子】【足】【以】【夹】【死】【一】【只】【绿】【头】【大】【苍】【蝇】。 【半】【响】。 【艾】【克】【双】【眸】【幽】【深】【如】【深】【海】【之】【蓝】，【一】【抹】【戏】【谑】【的】【笑】【意】【浮】【上】【他】【的】【嘴】【角】：“【如】【果】【是】【这】【样】【的】【合】【作】，【值】【不】【了】【我】【给】【予】【的】【两】【尊】【神】【位】。” 【墨】【菲】【斯】【托】【笑】【容】【不】【变】【道】：“【这】【是】【唯】【一】【的】【办】【法】，【别】【忘】【了】，【你】【是】【上】【了】【地】【狱】【黑】【名】【单】【的】【人】