Thursday, May 19, 2011

A Character Reference for Morton Smith from the Academy of the New Church

I have been delving into the inner workings of Morton Smith's mind and soul, trying to sort out among other things how much his character might have been shaped by his religious upbringing. You see the preposterous allegation that Morton Smith 'abandoned his faith' and sought to 'destroy Christianity' assumes he had a 'normative' religious background. Under these set of assumptions as a 'typical Protestant' these people assume he'd just get aroused and marry the first girl that came along (sort of like my story). These people then assume that because he didn't get married he didn't find girls attractive and therefore 'must have been' a homosexual (or indeed they bought into scurrilous apocryphal tales developed by enemies from the same set of assumptions).

I get the same nonsense being directed at me all the time. 'Oh you're Jewish,' and then this statement opens up a set of preconceived notions in the mind of those who utter these words which are completely false because of my family's rooting in a sectarian group that despised the Talmud, the foundation of rabbinic Judaism. But of course no one wants to have it thrown in their face that their assumptions are garbage. What was it that Nietzsche said? There is nothing more harmful to the truth than an unfounded presupposition.

In any event, I never bought into this nonsense in the first place with respect to Morton Smith for a whole different set of reasons. However now that I am talking to administrative figures in the community developed around the teachings of Emanuel Swedenborg I see that Smith's background is similarly misconstrued. He didn't grow up in the Church of Leave it to Beaver. This is was a highly mystical form of Christianity taught and practiced at the New Church of Bryn Athyn, PA and in the Academy which trained him for life outside of the tight-knit community. I don't know that you ever 'leave this behind.' Maybe Smith stopped going to this particular church but he never abandoned his spiritual rooting. What do people think he was doing at Mar Saba and other monasteries across Greece? There are easier ways to collect a paycheck ...

In any event I asked about his academic achievements in the class of 1932 as I saw that he received two awards at graduation. Siri Griffin, the Capital Campaign Coordinator at the Academy emphatically noted that one of the two awards was a very big deal at the institution:

the Sons of the Academy gold medal is awarded to the graduate who best displays not only academic excellence, but also exemplary moral character. From what I’ve read, it seems the Mar Saba hoax would have been drastically out of character.

Also, I noticed something in your article that I can offer a possible explanation for. Swedenborg wrote prolifically on the subject of marriage, and emphasized the concept of “conjugial” (a word I think he made up) partners, or soul mates. We in the New Church are encouraged to marry the right person. If we never meet the right person on Earth, many people believe we will meet them in heaven. If Mr. Smith never found his soul mate, it would not be unreasonable for him to never marry. Though, as you say, the man’s personal life should have nothing to do with it, that might help shed light on the situation.

It's simply incredible to me that someone like Jeffery who will go to any length to portray Morton Smith as nothing short of the Antichrist wouldn't have investigated and reported on some of things which speak in favor of Morton Smith good character. It's easy to demonize people, as those in my family who spent time in German concentration camps will readily and frankly acknowledge. Those people who engage in this sort of behavior can certainly be said to possess 'bad character.' I would argue that 'good character' is often having the courage to ask questions which don't lead to expected and self-serving answers. Morton Smith certainly possessed this quality in spades.

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Stephan Huller's Observations by Stephan Huller
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