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New Church Perspective
is an online magazine with essays and other content published weekly. Our features are from a variety of writers dealing with a variety of topics, all celebrating the understanding and application of New Church ideas. For a list of past features by category or title, visit our archive.


The New Church, Money, and a World Full of Endless Need Part 2

Where have we come from and where are we going? Last week Joel looked back at some of the history of Bryn Athyn and the General Church of the New Jerusalem. Today he looks to the future—to what he sees we can do moving forward. -Editor.

Part 2: Where the World is and What It Needs

So if the money has allowed Bryn Athyn to become what it is today, what is up with the rest of the world? The short answer, from what I can tell, is vastation as far as the eye can see. Vastation is the dying of the old to make way for the new. In the long term, it is actually a beautiful process. In the short term, it is always very painful. In this sense, it is exactly the same whether we talk about the collective states that society and churches go through, or the individual states that we go through in our own lives. When we are going through a temptation, vastation, or spiritual trial it is brutal. And the Writings tell us that these spiritual processes must run their course, even to despair. It is only later, looking back, when we can clearly see that old lower things in us needed to die in order that new higher things in us could be born. So in the big picture of the long term the world is also moving toward heat and light, love and enlightenment. But it cannot get there without going through pain and shadows.

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The New Church, Money, and a World Full of Endless Need Part 1

Sometimes we can learn how to move forward by looking back at where we've come from. Joel looks back at the history of the General Church of the New Jerusalem and its founding families in Bryn Athyn, PA. By looking at the origins of the organization Joel looks to the future, proposing some ideas about how to keep things moving forward. -Editor.

Part 1: Where We Are and How We Got Here

Let’s talk about something that people don’t seem to like to talk about, at least not in public – the New Church and money. The tradition I grew up in, the General Church of the New Jerusalem and the town of Bryn Athyn, is, by any objective measure, quite wealthy. The history is quite telling. Bryn Athyn, the General Church, and the Academy were founded as a utopian town, church, and school system at the end of the 19th century thanks to the largesse and generosity of John Pitcairn. For a long time the Pitcairn family continued to exert a large degree of control over the town and church in a sort of benevolent feudal way. These were of course different times, times when class was more distinct in an America still living in Old World shadows -- time when noble minded patricians were expected to bridge the gap between rich and poor, between the aristocrats and the laboring classes, by acts of civic minded giving. So while the so called “robber barons” made enormous fortunes off the backs of immigrant labor, special access to land and resources, and elite clubby connections -- men like Vanderbilt, Rockefeller, Hearst, and Pitcairn -- they also built parks, endowed schools, and funded all kinds of public projects.

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People Swedenborg Knew While on Earth Part 2

Sometimes helpful and uplifting teachings are found in unlikely places. Helen continues to look at some of the famous people that Swedenborg described meeting in the spiritual world. Helen finds it hopeful and uplifting to read the story of a couple that meets and marries in heaven - both as proof that all find true married love in heaven and that those relationships are similar to those on earth. -Editor

Empress Elizabeth (1709 - 1761) of Russia was the daughter of Peter the Great. It is said that she "grew up to be a beautiful, charming, intelligent and vivacious young woman." (Encyclopedia Britannica) Elizabeth was very popular among the guards, often visiting them on special occasions and acting as godmother to their children. At 32, when she was threatened with banishment to a convent upon the death of the Russian ruler, she staged a coup d'etat with the help of the guards, and was proclaimed Empress of Russia.

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People Swedenborg Knew While on Earth Part 1

At various points in the Writings of Emanuel Swedenborg he discusses people he knew on earth who he interacts with again in the spiritual world. This week Helen shares one story about love and marriage in the spiritual world that Swedenborg documented about one of the former queens of Sweden. -Editor

Swedenborg had a lot of friends and acquaintances when he lived on earth, and he met a large number of them during his explorations of the spiritual world. These people had recently died, or died years before, and for all of them he had some form of recognition, not only of whom they had been on earth, but also some deep-seated insights into their character. Needless to say, many of these people were in the throes of unfinished regeneration, and the evils they had been succumbing to during their life on earth were still plaguing them. There are many lessons to be garnered from their stories, but right now I'd like to tell you about two people, one of them a queen of Sweden who Swedenborg knew while on earth, and the other a Russian Empress who lived during his time here. Both had the kind of experience that fairy tales are made of, including riding in a horse and carriage with a spiritually handsome man whom they really loved. In other words, the stories are insights in how marriages come to be in heaven.

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Meditate | What To Do When We're Down

Meditate is a monthly column in which insights gained from meditating on the Word are shared. We welcome your insights, too, in the form of comments or even your own article. Contact us if you'd like to write a submission for this column. -Editor

I read some of the book of Joel recently and had the opportunity to meditate on what I read. What stuck with me is a short list of things to do when I find myself in a spiritual rut, a time when it feels like “joy has withered away” (1:12). It may not only feel like I have no joy, I may feel utterly devastated, with no will for what my life requires of me and a severe lack of supportive thoughts running through my mind—“the new wine is dried up, the oil fails” (1:10).

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A Case for Anti-war Pacifism in the Threefold Word Part 2

Last week Ty presented a study of the teachings of the New Church to make a case for anti-war pacifism. This week Ty offers further arguments for a world that doesn't have to go to war based on the history of violent and non-violent conflict. -Editor

In the previous post, I tried to make a case for a form of pacifism based upon a close reading of the Heavenly Doctrines. In this piece, I want to add a real-world dimension to the more theologically-centered piece I wrote before. In that piece, I argued that the Doctrines don’t give a clear-cut view on just war. At best, war is an evil that is allowed, as a means of defense. And while there are mixed messages in the Word, most Christians support, at least in theory, some form of the Just War doctrine. If war is permitted, Just War doctrine requires a weighing of costs and benefits. The operative question in this section is, what if war never has to be the last resort? If there is always a less violent form of conflict at one’s disposal, then according to Just War doctrine, war is never just because it, in truth, is never the last resort.

Just War doctrine was created to deal with the tension between the ugliness of war and the necessity of defending one’s nation against threats, foreign or domestic. Because many (starting with Augustine) in the early Christian tradition found war at times necessary, they developed a set of conditions that needed to be met before war could be waged. Firstly, the just war tradition is predicated on defensive war. That is first and foremost. But it doesn’t stop there. Such considerations also need to be applied: 1) is the conflict winnable? 2) Does fighting a war produce evils greater than those that are trying to be eliminated? 3) Have all other means been exhausted? These are supposed to be held with utmost strictness because of the grave evils that take place in war. These conditions are generally accepted by non-secularists and secularists alike.

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