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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 Vulnerability to be Strong

What role does vulnerability play in our relationship with God? Is it a weakness or a strength? This week Tania compares vulnerability and victimization, and writes about how they connect to our relationship with our Creator. -Editor.

It seems like life pretty consistently asks us to be strong. Stand on your own. Make a something of yourself. Follow your dreams. Do the right thing. Stick to your goals. Live your principles. A lot is expected. And while these more external expectations of strength can seem hard to meet, even more is asked of us. The Lord asks us to be strong: we have to take action in order to allow Him to work in our lives. So with all this strength required, what role does vulnerability play? Lately I have been thinking about vulnerability as both its own kind of strength, and a tool to find strength in a world that defines strength as something else.

Perhaps one of the reasons vulnerability is overlooked is because we sometimes confound being a victim and being vulnerable. Both involve an acknowledgement of weakness, even helplessness. But one says: the world is against me and I can’t do this, while the other says: this is hard for me and I’m going trust you enough to let you see that I’m hurting. I have written before about the incapacitating power of the victim mindset; it’s no good. But vulnerability is something else, something with a power of its own. What is this power, and what is its relationship to strength? How can it help in our relationship with the Lord and with others?

It is first necessary to clearly distinguish victimhood and vulnerability. Perhaps the crucial difference between them is in accepting responsibility for our part in the situation.

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Meditate | Letting Go of the Outcome: Reality is Better

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

"Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others." Philippians 2: 3-4 (NIV)

"This is what Jehovah has said: 'Render judgment in the morning and snatch spoil from the hand of the oppressor, so that my fury does not go forth like fire and burn (and no one to quench it) because of the wickedness of their deeds.' (Jeremiah 21:12)

Rendering judgment is saying what is true. Snatching spoil from the hand of the oppressor is doing good deeds that embody love for others. The fire stands for the hellish punishment experienced by people who do not act that way—that is, who live by the lies that hatred spawns. In the literal meaning, this kind of fiery fury is attributed to Jehovah, but in the inner sense it is exactly the opposite." Secrets of Heaven 1861

The quote from Jeremiah caught my eye in my reading; maybe because it seems thoroughly slathered in appearances. Sure, God is talking about his own fury burning us on account of our misdeeds, that appearance is all over the place, but telling us to steal? It begs further contemplation. The meaning Swedenborg relays is entirely simple: say truth (in the morning) and do good deeds that embody love for others. But why put it in terms of stealing?

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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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