Sir Richard Burton on Mormonism

Richard Burton was an amazing man. He lived a life of adventure and writing, being the paragon of a Victorian. He took a journey to Salt Lake City and wrote about Mormonism in a book called The City of the Saints. He outlines how Mormonism is a combination of various systems of thought before it:

This brief outline of Mormon faith will show its strange, but, I believe, spontaneous agglomeration of tenets which, were its disciples of a more learned and philosophical body, would suggest a remarkable eclecticism. But, as I have already remarked, there is a remarkably narrow limit to religious ideas: the moderns vainly attempt invention when combination is now the only possible process. In the Tessarakai Decalogue above quoted, we find syncretized the Semitic Monotheism, the Persian Dualism, and the Triads and Trinities of the Egyptians and the Hindoos. The Hebrews also have a personal Theos, the Buddhists avataras and incarnations, the Brahmans self-apotheosis of man by prayer and penance, and the East generally holds to quietism, a belief that repose is the only happiness, and to a vast complication of states in the world to be. The Mormons are like the Pythagoreans in their procreation, transmigration, and exaltation of souls; like the followers of Leucippus and Democritus in their atomic materialism; like the Epicureans in their pure atomic theories, their summum bonum, and their sensuous speculations; and like the Platonists and Gnostics in their belief of the Aeon, of ideas, and of moving principles in element. They are fetichists in their ghostly fancies, their evestra, which became souls and spirits. They are Jews in their theocracy, their ideas of angels, their hatred of Gentiles, and their utter segregation from the great brotherhood of mankind. They are Christians inasmuch as they base their faith upon the Bible, and hold to the divinity of Christ, the fall of man, the atonement, and the regeneration. They are Arians inasmuch as they hold Christ to be “the first of God’s creatures,” a “perfect creature, but still a creature.” They are Moslems in their views of the inferior status of womankind, in their polygamy, and in their resurrection of the material body: like the followers of the Arabian Prophet, they hardly fear death, because they have elaborated “continuation.” They take no leap in the dark; they spring from this sublunary stage into a known, not into an unknown world: hence their worship is eminently secular, their sermons are political or commercial, and–religion being with them not a thing apart, but a portion and parcel of every-day life–the intervention of the Lord in their material affairs becomes natural and only to be expected. Their visions, prophecies, and miracles are those of the Illuminati, their mysticism that of the Druses, and their belief in the Millenium is a completion of the dreams of the Apocalyptic sects. Masonry has evidently entered into their scheme; the Demiurgus whom they worship is “as good at mechanical inventions as at any other business.” With their later theories, Methodism, Swedenborgianism–especially in its view of the future state–and Transcendentalism are curiously intermingled. And, finally we can easily discern in their doctrine of affinity of minds and sympathy of souls the leaven of that faith which, beginning with the Mesmer, and progressing through the Rochester Rappers and the Poughkeepsie Seer, threatens to extend wherever the susceptible nervous temperament becomes the characteristic of the race.

-pages 397-98

Recovering history

Some folks care about their family history, most don’t. There isn’t anything objectively wrong with not caring about it, although I don’t understand people who fall into this category. The questions we have about ourselves (even if we don’t vocalize them) are: Who am I? Why am I here? What’s the purpose of life? Your family history can begin to answer at least the first question. You don’t know who you really are without knowing who those who came before you are. You can live and die in this ignorance, but you will live in an un-illuminated fashion, not realizing that many of the components that make up who you are have been inherited from those in previous generations.

As I research my family history I am struck by how much is lost that cannot be recovered. Even if I learn facts about my past that I did not know, they usually don’t have much force compared to if they had been handed down within the family. For example, my paternal great-grandfather was the son of Irish immigrants and fought in the Civil War in a cavalry unit. He got my great-grandmother pregnant outside of wedlock and left her at some point to spend his life in a home for veterans.

Now, imagine that instead of this scenario, he had stayed with her. The possibility is that my Grandpa and my Dad would have grown up Irish Catholic (a logical guess due to the Irish nationality) instead of German/Norwegian Lutheran. Culturally, this might have changed everything, and yes, in this counterfactual world I might never have come to be. Also, imagine that stories of his time in the Civil War had been passed down through the family–our heritage would have been one of telling war stories about Great Grandpa saying Hail Mary’s out in battle with the Confederates. Instead, this branch of the family was totally cut off and lost to time. I can reconstruct the bare facts of his life, but beyond that I can only infer and speculate.

When you die, your stories die with you. Everything you knew, thought, believed, and hoped is gone to those who remain in mortality and to future generations. That is unless you or someone near you writes it down. So write it down! Even the little things matter to those who come later and are curious about who you were and what you thought.

Bishop TJ Johnston Moves to C4SO

7/26/15 UPDATESomeone informed me that Bishop Johnston never actually returned to AMiA in 2011/12, but that he and John Miller stayed in ACNA. This means Bishop Johnston is only transferring between jurisdictions within ACNA. The strange thing about this is that AMiA had him listed as a leader as recently as December, 2014:

tj in amia

AMiA will have to explain how it is possible that someone active in ACNA was also part of their Conference of Missionary Bishops.

The Churches for the Sake of Others (C4SO) diocese of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) announced that Thomas William (TJ) Johnston, Jr. has transferred to C4SO. In December 2014,  the AMiA listed Johnston as part of the “Conference of Missionary Bishops” in an inactive status.

Bishop Todd Hunter served with Johnston in AMiA and they both participated in the mass resignation from Rwanda that triggered the collapse of AMiA in late 2011. Bishop Hunter later apologized publicly for his actions and was quickly received into ACNA.

Bishop Johnston is a friend of Archbishop Foley Beach. Johnston once said:

But I dropped that into a context of a friend, of a dear friend that I trust completely since seminary, Foley Beach. We’ve been partnering in ministry no matter what label we’ve had, when he was in Tech when I was in the Mission, when he was with Bolivia when I was in the Mission. Now that he’s a bishop, and I was his co-consecrator with Bob Duncan and Frank Lyons.

So this is a natural relationship. This is not something like I just jumped to ACNA ’cause it’s ACNA. Foley Beach is a guy that I’ve been with.

Johnston had one of the first relationships with Rwanda in the 1990s, which as we know turned into AMiA. He said of that time:

 …started with Rwanda in ’98, before there was any other relationship to be had. That is the only way that I was Anglican. Ed Salmon, the bishop of South Carolina, voluntarily took my license and sent it to Rwanda. I was the first that ever had that done. And the national church passed a canon immediately blocking that kind of action from taking place again.

After Bishop Terrell Glenn resigned from AMiA during the conflict of 2011, Bishop Johnston and David Young worked out an arrangement for Glenn and Chuck Murphy attempt reconciliation.

In the wake of the AMiA collapse, Bishop Johnston and Bishop John Miller of AMiA met with Bishop Charlie Masters and Bishop Leonard Riches of REC/ACNA to attempt to reunite AMiA with ACNA. Johnston and Miller were also received into ACNA as “temporary honorary assistant bishops” working with Bishops Neil Lebhar and Foley Beach, while at the same time remaining within AMiA. These talks were not successful and in an email to Bishop Masters on 27 August 2012, Johnston wrote:

Personally, I have appreciated the integrity, leadership, and faithfulness that both you and Leonard brought to our conversations. I am disappointed with the outcome. I had hoped for so much more, but I trust that the Lord of the Church will continue the conversation. Practically, this means that I will be working with Bishop Beach to he transferred from my present position as an assisting bishop in the Anglican Diocese of the South so that I might continue my ministry with the Anglican Mission    

I assumed from this that Johnston and Miller actually did transfer back to AMiA, but this was not the case. Johnston changed his mind and remained in ACNA, as did Miller. Another update for my book!

The Silence of Rwandan Religious Leaders

David Himbara served under Paul Kagame from 2006 to 2010 as the head of strategy and policy in the Office of the President and from 2000 to 2002 as the principal private secretary to the president. He since fled the country to preserve his life, as so many others have.

Himbara wrote a post this week, asking the same questions I have frequently asked. He says:

Rwanda is very religious nation in which 56.9% of population are said to be Roman Catholic; 26% is Protestant; 11.1% is Seventh-day Adventist; 4.6% is Muslim; 1.7% with no religious affiliation; and 0.1% practices traditional indigenous beliefs. These numbers show why the church is a force to reckon with in Rwanda.

So where is Rwanda’s Bishop Tutu? Where are religious activists condemning dictatorship in our homeland? Even outside Rwanda, our church-going brothers and sisters are largely silent.

Rwandan churches have a long history of playing wrong politics. The Catholic Church in particular has almost always played ethnic politics. The church favored the Tutsi during the colonial period, then switching allegiance to the Hutu after 1959. Church leaders were to develop even closer ties with political leaders, especially in the Juvenal Habyarimana dictatorship.

In the Kagame regime from 1994 onwards, the church seems to have become intimidated into silence like the rest of Rwandan society. Like other Rwandans, church leadership is resigned to a fear-driven life in which thoughts, decisions and actions are predominantly motivated by fear of what harm the current dictatorship can do.

I would broaden what he says to PEARUSA, a branch of the Rwandan Anglican Church that operates in the United States and never says a word about the totalitarian government of Rwanda. How can PEARUSA remain silent?

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Human Rights in Rwanda, 2014

In a letter to the Emperor, St. Ambrose says to Roman Emperor Theodosius:

Should I keep silence? But then my conscience would be bound, my utterance taken away, which would be the most wretched condition of all. And where would be that text? If the priest speak not to him that erreth, he who errs shall die in his sin, and the priest shall be liable to the penalty because he warned not the erring.

The United States Department of State recently released its Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2014, Rwanda’s report is available here. I am interspersing highlights from the report with quotes from Thad Barnum’s book “Never Silent”, which was foundational for the Anglican Mission in America (and what is now PEARUSA). The quotes from the book are from Bishop John Rucyahana, who is now a mouthpiece and tool for Rwanda’s dictator. The irony is thick.

The most important human rights problems in the country were disappearances, government harassment, arrest, and abuse of political opponents, human rights advocates, and individuals perceived to pose a threat to government control and social order; disregard for the rule of law among security forces and the judiciary; and restrictions on civil liberties. Due to restrictions on the registration and operation of opposition parties and nontransparent vote-counting practices, citizens did not have the ability to change their government through free and fair elections.

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Other major human rights problems included arbitrary or unlawful killings, torture, harsh conditions in prisons and detention centers, arbitrary arrest, prolonged pretrial detention, and government infringement on citizens’ privacy rights. The government restricted freedoms of speech, press, assembly, and association. Security for refugees and asylum seekers continued to improve but was at times inadequate. The government restricted and harassed local and international nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), particularly organizations that monitored and reported on human rights. There was a small and declining incidence of trafficking in persons. The government restricted labor rights and child labor continued to be a problem.

On June 5, President Kagame defended the government’s policy and practices with regard to individuals suspected of posing a threat to state security. During a speech in Nyabihu District, Kagame stated, “those who talk about disappearances…we will continue to arrest more suspects and if possible shoot in broad daylight those who intend to destabilize our country.”

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On September 25, the commissioner of the Rwanda National Police (RNP) Criminal Investigations Division announced the arrest of two RNP officers in connection with the July 2013 murder of Transparency International Rwanda Office Coordinator Gustave Makonene. Makonene was strangled and his body dumped on the shores of Lake Kivu near the town of Rubavu; the government and domestic observers noted that Makonene was investigating cases of local police corruption and the trafficking of conflict minerals from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) at the time of his death.

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From July to October, a number of corpses appeared in Lake Rweru, which is bisected by the border between Rwanda and Burundi. Fishermen reported seeing dozens of floating bodies, some bound and wrapped in sacks. The fishermen alleged that the bodies were carried into the lake by the Nyabarongo River and that the majority of the bodies were then carried away from the lake by the Kagera River. Four bodies were recovered and buried near Kwidagaza village in Burundi’s Muyinga Province. Fishermen living near Kwidagaza reported that on the nights of September 21 and 22, Rwandan marines attempted to exhume the bodies, allegedly to return them to Rwanda. Both Rwanda and Burundi called for a joint investigation into the identity and origin of the bodies. On December 16, Burundi’s minister of foreign affairs accepted an offer of forensic assistance from a group of countries through an international NGO for an investigation led by the African Union. Rwandan officials stated that the government also supported a joint investigation, but no investigation was conducted by year’s end.

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There were more reports of disappearances and politically motivated abductions or kidnappings than in previous years. The NGO Human Rights Watch (HRW) and domestic observers alleged the SSF–including the Rwandan Defense Force (RDF), the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS), and the RNP–were involved in reported disappearances. The government stated the police opened missing persons investigations for all individuals reported to be missing by families or human rights organizations, but no perpetrators were identified or punished.

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From March to September, domestic observers alleged that several hundred persons disappeared in Musanze and Rubavu districts in connection with an extensive security operation conducted by the RDF and RNP. The SSF reportedly detained individuals incommunicado without access to legal representation for up to two months. The SSF released numerous individuals without charge; however, the government charged 77 individuals with crimes against state security, including for collaborating with the FDLR. Of those 77 individuals, judges ordered the release of 33, while upholding charges against 44 in pretrial hearing. At year’s end 44 cases awaited full trial, while the whereabouts of at least 150 individuals reported missing during the March to September security operation remained unknown. The government noted the majority of persons reported to be missing by human rights organizations had not been reported to the police by family or community members.

Applauding a Madman
Applauding a Madman

On June 27, the organizing secretary for the Democratic Green Party of Rwanda (DGPR), Jean Damascene Munyeshyaka, disappeared after meeting with an unknown individual in Nyamata town, Bugesera District. Police investigated the disappearance but reported no credible leads.

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There were reports that torture continued in the Kami military intelligence camp, Mukamira camp, Ministry of Defense headquarters, and undeclared detention facilities as first reported by Amnesty International (AI). In 2012 AI documented 18 allegations of torture and other cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment or punishment perpetrated by military intelligence and other SSF personnel in 2010 and 2011 to secure information or force confessions. Former detainees alleged they endured sleep deprivation, sensory deprivation, starvation, extraction of fingernails, electric shocks, scalding, melting of plastic bags over the head, suffocation, burning or branding, beating, and simulated drowning through confinement in cisterns filled with rainwater. Local and international human rights organizations reported the RDF took positive steps in 2012 to reform military interrogation methods and detention standards, resulting in fewer reports of torture and other cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment or punishment at Kami and other military detention facilities. They cautioned, however, that the increased use of undeclared detention facilities by NISS, the RDF J-2, and RNP Intelligence made monitoring more difficult.

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Although there is no requirement for individuals to carry identification, police and the LDF regularly detained street children, vendors, and beggars without identification and sometimes charged them with illegal street vending or vagrancy. Authorities released adults who could produce identification and transported street children to their home districts, to shelters, or for processing into vocational and educational programs.

Bishop Mbanda and Paul Kagame.
Bishop Mbanda and Paul Kagame.

Although the constitution and law prohibit such actions, there were numerous reports the government monitored homes, movements, telephone calls, e-mail, other private communications, and personal and institutional data. There were reports of government informants working within international NGOs, local civil society organizations (CSOs), religious organizations, and other social institutions.

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RPF cadres regularly visited citizens’ homes to demand contributions to the political party and the government’s Agaciro Development Fund, and there were some reports of persons being denied public services if they had not contributed. Despite orders from cabinet ministers not to do so, there were reports that local leaders, employers, and others coerced persons into donating one month’s salary to the Agaciro Development Fund.

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My summary:

Times have changed. Anglicans are silent in the face of evil again, despite all the hoopla about “never silent” 15 years ago.

R.I.P. Patricia Crone

Patricia Crone, the co-author of the famous book “Hagarism” about the origins of Islam, passed away. I wrote Professor Crone in 2010 because I read that she had more or less refuted the premise of Hagarism.  She responded, “As regards the central thesis in part I, yes.”

I asked her what were the best modern works that advance her line of thinking from Hagarism and also if there are works that interact with Hagarism in an attempt to refute it? She replied:

I don’t think there is any of either type. The closest you get is Hawting’s book on Idolatry and the Quran.1

I pass this along in her memory.

CANA East Affirms Classical Anglicanism

At the recent Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA) East Synod, CANA East affirmed the classical Anglican formularies as the following press release tells us:

Today The Missionary Diocese of Cana East voted to to amend the its Constitution and Fundamental Declarations with the following, “The Thirty-nine Articles of Religion (published in 1571) in all and every Article therein contained, the Book of Common Prayer (the versions of 1662), and The Form and Manner of Making, Ordaining, and Consecrating of Bishops, Priests, and Deacons, annexed to The Book of Common Prayer of 1662 commonly known as the Ordinal, the texts being read according to their plain and historical sense and being accepted as faithful expressions of the teaching of Scripture, provides the standard for Anglican theology and practice and may be assented unto with a good conscience by all members of the Missionary Diocese of CANA East.” It must be pass again next year to be added to its constitution.

Under Bishop Julian Dobbs, CANA has been consistently moving towards a more classical Anglican stance theologically. This positions CANA as a potential bulwark of classical Anglicanism in years ahead as various sectors of ACNA veer off in other directions. I think it is an encouraging development.

Salim Saleh and the Anglican Cathedral in Gahini, Rwanda

He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous are both alike an abomination to the Lord. Proverbs 17.15

Rwandan propaganda organ The New Times reports on a new cathedral slated to be built for the Anglican Church of Rwanda in Gahini. The article talks up the collaboration of Uganda and Rwanda in fundraising for the construction. A follow up article talks about how much money was raised at an event in Uganda.

Many Ugandans involved in the fundraising effort are intimately tied to the corrupt regime of Ugandan dictator Yoweri Museveni.1 Indeed, “Gen. Salim Saleh Akandwanaho is expected to be the chief fundraiser.” General Saleh is Museveni’s brother and is well known for his corruption. The picture below shows Bishop Alexis Bilindabagabo of Gahini shaking Saleh’s hand.

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Bishop Alexis and Salim Saleh

A 2002 United Nations report from the Panel of Experts on the Illegal Exploitation of Natural Resources and Other Forms of Wealth of the Democratic Republic of the Congo outlined some of Saleh’s activities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Read the report yourself, particularly pages 19 and onwards, to see all the details about Saleh. Saleh fronted CONMET, a company that specialized in Coltan trading and also the Victoria Group, cited for resource exploitation and tax fraud. The report says in part:

Criminal groups linked to the armies of Rwanda, Uganda and Zimbabwe and the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo have…have built up a self-financing war economy centred on mineral exploitation.

  • The elite networks derive financial benefit through a variety of criminal activities including theft, embezzlement and diversion of “public” funds, undervaluation of goods, smuggling, false invoicing, non-payment of taxes, kickbacks to public officials and bribery.
  • The elite networks form business companies or joint ventures that are fronts through which members of the networks carry on their respective commercial activities.
  • The elite networks draw support for their economic activities through the networks and “services” (air transport, illegal arms dealing and transactions involving the natural resources of the Democratic Republic of the Congo) of organized or transnational criminal groups.

The objective of the elite network in the areas controlled by Uganda has been to exercise monopolistic control over the area’s principal natural resources, cross-border trade, and tax revenues for the purpose of enriching members of the network.

The Uganda network consists of a core group of members including certain high-ranking UPDF officers, private businessmen and selected rebel leaders/administrators. UPDF Lieutenant General (Ret.) Salim Saleh and Major General James Kazini are the key figures.

…a paramilitary force is being trained under the personal authority of Lt. General Saleh which, according to the Panel’s sources, is expected to continue to facilitate the commercial activities of UPDF officers after UPDF have departed. This military group draws on dissidents from Jean-Pierre Bemba’s MLC, members of the Uganda-supported RCD-Congo including its leaders Professor Kin-kiey Mulumba and Kabanga Babadi, and others in the north-eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo who have supported UPDF in the past. It has been reported that Lt. General Saleh discreetly provides financial support for this new rebel group. The Panel’s sources have indicated that Heckie Horn, Managing Director of Saracen Uganda Ltd., is a key partner with Lt. General Saleh in supporting this paramilitary group and that Lt. General Saleh himself is a 25 per cent owner in Saracen. Saracen’s managing director also provides military training and arms to members of this group.

As in the past, the network continues to involve the transnational criminal group of Victor Bout. Mr. Bout recently purchased the Uganda-based non- operational airline company Okapi Air. The purchase of the company allowed Victor Bout to use Okapi’s licences. The company was subsequently renamed Odessa. The Panel is in possession of a list of outbound flights from 1998 to the beginning of 2002 from Entebbe International Airport, which confirms the operational activities of Mr. Bout’s aircraft from Ugandan territory. Currently, Mr. Bout’s aircraft share the flight times and destinations (slots) with Planet Air, which is owned by the wife of Lt. General Salim Saleh and which facilitates the activities of Mr. Bout by filing flight plans for his aircraft.

General Saleh’s Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) used child soldiers:

The spread of HIV/AIDS, the large numbers of child soldiers and the rape of women are other consequences of the pervasive armed conflict. Many soldiers are young boys who hardly seem capable of wielding the weapons they carry. The issue of child soldiers surfaced when 700 young recruits from the Bunia area were discovered at a UPDF training camp in Tchakwanzi, Uganda, of whom 165 were between 14 and 16 years of age.

The fact that a man who:

  1. is the brother of a dictator;
  2. steals minerals from a neighboring country as part of a criminal ring;
  3. evades taxes;
  4. used child soldiers in a horrendous war with widespread crimes against humanity;

is the chief fundraiser for an Anglican Cathedral should raise all kinds of red flags for PEARUSA and all its American parishioners. After all, American bishops like Steve Breedlove and others are counterparts with Bishop Alexis. Surely, they can inquire about this matter and not accept pat answers for what is going on – correct? Or will they ask their congregations to “walk with Rwanda” and pay not attention to the man behind the curtain, so to speak?

What do you think they will do?