bookmark_borderPost-431: an Easter with Mormons

(2200 words)

Easter 2023 was a good experience, but it unexpectedly came with a hundred or more Mormons.

The Mormons were there by invitation of the Lutheran pastor. He invited members of other churches for an early-morning gathering outdoors. None took up the offer, except the Mormons. They took full advantage and sent well over a hundred of their number to the gathering. The Lutheran hosts had a small showing from their own church, whose main is service is 10am. We were far outnumbered by the Mormons. The gathering went well in an objective sense, and the church hadn’t seen such a crowd in a long while.

I noted that the Mormons read Bible verses with wordings I had not heard before. The Mormons said the word Amen like “Ey-men” while the Lutherans said “Ah-men.” Not one of the Mormons showed up dressed less than as for a job interview. They had a choir that sings very well.

The Mormons who were sent were almost all in their twenties and thirties with a few older male leaders. I guess there are no female pastor-equivalents in the Mormon church. The Mormons divide people into congregations based on age and marital-status. It does seem it was young-single and young-married congregations who were sent to this gathering, as it is those congregations that are in the immediate area. I am told that when a young-single congregation member marries, he or she is mandatorily transferred to a different congregation. Whenever one learns anything about the Mormons, such as the method of sorting people into congregations and limiting the member’s own choice in the latter, one tends to sense something “off” about the whole thing. On the other hand, I think non-Christians feel the same thing about encounters with any Christians.

Nothing specifically bad happened at this early-morning Easter gathering. One could even say much ‘good’ happened. While lots of people seem to love to point out that Mormons are “nice people,” the whole thing left me with a vaguely uncomfortable or dejected feeling.

The experience itself was the opposite of dejecting, for it is a rare person indeed who can feel dejected when such a large crowd of enthusiastic people is around and in the generally-positive spirits that Easter always brings (that even for those with no Christian connection at all who do “Easter egg hunts,” such as the big one that happened at the White House today, drawing thousands of children to the South Lawn). The dejection comes from the thinking about the thing.

The Lutheran pastor, who is new (this is his first Easter), made a point to say: “This is not an inter-faith gathering, this is an intra-faith gathering.” What he said was a highbrow of saying: “I declare that Mormons are Christians.” The polite Mormon elder thanked him for signaling that he, the pastor of a traditional Christian congregation, is willing to say that Mormons are Christians. The subtext of these few words is thick and generations deep. Few if any in the 19th or 20th centuries would have said such a thing.

Mormonism is not traditional trinitarian Christianity. Traditional Christian denominations have never considered Mormons to be Christians, unless the label “Christian” is extended so wide such that Jehovah’s Witnesses are also in, along with “Moonies” and other such groups. And to take another few steps in that direction, what’s the big deal against Islam? They also think highly of Jesus, right? There are all kinds of connections there, why not join up with them?

Our traditional view is that the Mormon doctrines make them a separate religion, and in certain historical periods a menacing one, which had undermined social norms, treated the majority as hostile, and in other ways used the strategy of a small or diasporic group to get ahead. They are “nice people,” but aren’t we also nice? Or at least used to be. White-Protestant Middle America types were once considered much like the Mormons are today, but generally without the negatives and clannishness.


The Mormon religion has assuredly drawn from the strength and prestige of the Christian religion, and asserts a place for Jesus. But, then, some brands of Christian-influenced Hinduism also reverse Jesus (so it is said). Our traditional view is that the Mormon movement in the mid-19th century left behind traditional Christianity and created a new religion in the desert, one alternately considered a serious threat or too small and eccentric to really be a serious threat.

From accounts I’ve read of overland emigrants from the U.S. East to Oregon and California, many or most of whom passed right through Mormon strongholds, the whole Mormon religion in its early years was depicted in deeply unflattering terms, with regular scenes of Mormon males propositioning westward-bound emigrant women to abandon their party and become third or fourth wives to his (Mormon male’s) growing harem; get on the winning team! They did often successfully coax such women; one doesn’t need to land ‘hits’ at any high percentage to eventually wind up with large female-to-male ratios. Such a social movement was, needless to say, an outrage to Protestant America as it was a potentially destabilizing force. If they had attempted the movement in the fully settled U.S. East and had no desert refugium to go to, they’d simply have been crushed.

Last year I read the published diary of an early-1850s emigrant woman a young bride and mother in her twenties. She recorded little observations along the way, except a gap when she lost her pencil and could not get a replacement on the trail for x weeks. This woman wrote of how glad she was to get past the Mormon area on the trail, after an unexpected stay in Salt Lake City of several months (many emigrants altered plans to winter at Salt Lake City, or work for wages a season there to continue financing the emigration or as advance-members of their group continued to California to send word when all was ready). Her diary entries were peppered with anti-Mormon comments throughout that period. They ran an oppressive, theocratic spy-state and cheated or persecuted outsiders (whom they called “gentiles”), she said. But when the diarist’s party did leave Salt Lake City, she recorded that her mother-in-law had herself become a Mormon and refused to leave with the party, so they left her in Salt Lake City.

When the Methodist movement was sweeping America in the late 1700s and continuing throughout much of the 1800s, it also met resistance and resentment. The difference was the Methodists were traditional Christians and did not run a parallel-society like the Mormons did.


One cannot easily deny that the Mormons present an image that seems wholesome, functional, and productive — much like our entire society used to be. It’s very possible that their current domestic strategy is to target disgruntled or demoralized Christians and in coming years try to take over traditional churches. It’s not a process that would happen in one year or ten. That I see pairs of them with suits and nametags and books in hand around here suggests they are serious about domestic evangelism.

I think my uneasiness is that celebrating the most important of the Christian holidays, Easter, with Mormons is because it is a step in the direction of abandonment of our churches. I can foresee it all happening in part because it is hardly prophecy but more extension of what has already happened, the trajectory of the churches I’ve observed in my lifetime, in the 1990s, 2000s, 2010s, and some of the 2020s.

On the bad-so-far “2020s” decade, I wonder how the Mormons dealt with Lockdownism… Most of the traditional churches embraced it, some with great passion, the social-panic and new Virus-centered defacto social religion taking the place of any nominal religion. I was virtually alone in urging against it and although my arguments were sound none were willing to listen. One of the local churches, I understand, never re-opened after embracing Lockdownism in 2020.


At some point in the 2010s, I remember it hitting me that most of our churches today are really “unitarian-universalist,”regardless of what they call themselves or what they would assert about themselves if queried. I notice the change in all kinds of little ways but that the church now says “All are welcome to receive communion,” with not even the mildest of references that some kind of standard is in places, something like “all Christians” or some basic statement of faith. It’s all people. This is an overt non-standard that seems a sign of lack of self-confidence.

If a decline process can’t be reversed, one might predict a consolidation of churches. Some observes would think it a surprise this hasn’t happened yet. For me, the large number of Christian churches persist because the church-affiliation-driving individuals in a family have attachments to different specific Christian traditions that are meaningful to them above-and-beyond the practical matters of running churches. Often it’s family-ancestry and/or personal upbringing. Sometimes those things are modified by formative experiences. These religious-associations or identities have historically been so important that any proposed working definition of “ethnicity” that excludes church-affiliation entirely cannot be said to be worth much.

Ethnicity is an important but fluid concept over time and space, and one useful way to “track” ethnicity tends to be church-affiliation. These things have meant a lot to people and they still have meaning to people today, even “young” people. One such person I think of often is E. S. of Australia, who I may never see again and who I am sure is not reading this. She was from a German-Lutheran family with many generations in Australia. She signaled that the Lutheran church or the identity was important to her. While there are many other positives to E. S., a church-identity is a good sign, a rock upon which something can be built; historically, it was so. It was as if E. S. (born about 1989) were catapulted into the 2010s (which is when I knew her all-too-briefly) from another era, an era when life had more meaning and we could be proud of who we were. That she felt adrift is no sin, for the West of this late date doesn’t seem to be made for people like us. I felt an affinity for E. S. that was probably not reciprocal.

One of the great early Protestant missionaries to Korea, Appenzeller, was from an old Dutch Reformed family in Pennsylvania, and respected the tradition, but at age eighteen or nineteen in the 1870s he had a religious experience with in company with some Methodists and within a few years entered a Methodist seminary, and is forever known as the pioneer Methodist in Korea. It is said he personally always had great sympathy for Calvinists (which his own family was back in Pennsylvania), including his Presbyterian rivals on the ground in Korea.

The Protestant churches are the rock upon which the leading elements of Western Civilization, as we’ve known it for five centuries, has existed and progressed. The churches were definitely the basis of the United States. Observing their decline leaves me sad and dejected, that weak feeling in the “pit of the stomach” you hear people talk about when you feel unconfident about something and it’s bothering you.


I have heard people bash the churches plenty, often in the same sort of the same way I’m doing but usually in a less-informed way. One friend, G. S., in younger years loved to bash the churches and say they were a source of our discontent. G. S., too, coincidentally, was from a Lutheran family of long roots in Pennsylvania, continuing some themes of this essay. G. S. was difficult to talk to at times because he tended against yielding points or compromise, and when I talked to him about the churches he would reveal that he didn’t know much about them. He was not a church-attender after childhood. He didn’t even know if his childhood church was ELCA or LCMS or other. He had never heard these terms, as I remember. (Having visited G. S.’s parents on several occasions, I feel confident they’d be ELCA.) He still felt confident in saying the churches were a root-cause of our problems. I viewed that as immature, and ten or twelve years later maybe he has moved on from that view.

The networks of ideologues that seem to be present in the upper leadership of the churches are really social-justice activists, and if one only looks or hears from them, it does seem very off-putting to a typical young male. For the kind of person who seems to end up in leadership of these church-bodies (denominations), the “church organization” is really a left-wing NGO. Their output is not distinguishable from secular NGO’s.

There are many positives about the churches, even though I cannot deny that the overall picture leaves me tending towards pessimism. The rank-and-filers in churches, ordinary members and attenders, are seldom like the ideologues in the central-organization leadership. People attach themselves to churches for specific reasons and those church-communities become part of their civic-life. It’s generally a positive to be more socially engaged in such things than not.

My ambivalence for the church I am most familiar with is sometimes reinforced by single observations. An affirmative-action policy was in place (mandated by the ideologues up top) by which any nonwhite person and persons whose mother-language is not English is given favoritism. Of course it’s to “increase Diversity.” That is how every institution seems to work in the USA, which  leaves so many of us pessimistic, observing the clear signal that we are not wanted. I have tried suggesting in a roundabout way that a church should be about empowering its own members. “Inreach” is as important as “outreach.” People are inspired to great things by feeling part of something. The Mormons, as best I can tell, very much do do that.


Easter: the greatest of the Christian holidays, the culmination of a week of important days in the Christian calendar. To explain the themes of the holiday without the doctrines, the idea of “rebirth” may suffice. The calendrically synchronous tie-in with spring is also obvious. The tradition of wearing light-colored clothing on Easter also signals spring.

In some sense, Easter is the approximate starting point of the best of the social calendar of the year in northern-hemisphere temperate areas, with months of relatively long days and good weather  ahead. It is hard to be truly pessimistic at this time of year. This specific experience of Easter 2023 was a mix of the positive and negative.

bookmark_borderPost-425: Buddhist Digital Resource Center

(3600 words)

The “Buddhist Digital Resource Center” (BDRC) ( was the topic of an interesting talk I was able to attend this year.

This organization, the BDRC, is devoted to Buddhist texts: finding them wherever they may be, restoring-and-cleaning them as needed, scanning them, uploading them, hosting them on the Internet, and making them accessible. The last point there (“making them accessible”) is a lot more involve than it may sound.

This work is privately funded and is preservationist in nature. The originals of these Buddhist texts are always left with the original owners if that is at all possible (or otherwise, I presume, deposited in museums or archives in the country in which they originated).

Buddhist texts of various languages, scripts, conditions, and provenances are involved, but Tibet has an enduring pride-of-place with this organization. The role of Tibet in this thing is an entire interesting backstory, and that backstory was one of the reasons why this talk ended up so surprisingly rewarding in the best tradition of public lectures (which were once such an important part of our civic and intellectual culture).

I was interested to get a window into a subject-matter with which I was not much acquainted.

I feel compelled to record some of what I heard and learned as faithfully as I understand it, and other observations or thoughts on the project, its background, and what it all means.

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bookmark_borderPost-409: Rawhide, and Synchronicity

Synchronicity. The very evening I published the Star Trek Voyager post, I randomly flipped to a channel, early in the 11pm hour. To a number on the channel list I feel certain was random. I wasn’t sure what number I was typing. By this set up you may already have guessed what I found. None other than Star Trek Voyager.

There it was. Very occasionally I’ll do a random flip to see what’s going on. The channel I’d stumbled onto was called “Heroes & Icons.” I’d never heard of this channel before. I had planned to turn off the TV and sleep. Tthere was the face of the character Tuvok, looking perplexed, with ominous music playing and dark lighting. A mystery assailant was attacking crew members and Tuvok was on the case.

People can mock the concept of Synchronicity if they want, but I can attest that I had never watched this channel ever before nor knew of its existence. I can attest I had not seen Voyager on TV in man years. What are the odds the very day I wrote/published about it that I’d encounter it at random? I couldn’t believe it.

Although that very morning I had written that Voyager was still airing, I confess I was saying so to puff up the importance of my subject. I hadn’t seen it, myself, on regular TV and had only heard of its syndication airing (an impressive fact for a show off the air twenty years. I assumed it would be on the Sci-Fi channel, which I think still airs it, too. Maybe others, I don’t know.)

Today, before proceeding with other matters I turned it on again to see what would come up. On came the television show Rawhide. This is an old Western show, originally conceived of in the late 1950s and which clearly draws influence from the old radio dramas which preceded it. In other words, I think the show could have worked on radio almost just as well as on TV.

Rawhide is a good show.

I am not sure I’d ever seen Rawhide before but it’s typical of the Western genre set in the late 19th century. I had heard the theme song, which became a well-known Country-Western music song in its own right.

Okay, now. Whoever reads this may not believe this but the purpose of this place is for me to record any thoughts or experiences, or etc., that I want. I already opened this post with a long tangent on Star Trek Voyager and Synchronicity. If you’re with me, get ready for another.

Yesterday afternoon, I had some business in downtown Washington. It is very hot this week, and from late morning to early evening the temperatures, sun glare, and maybe humidity are all enough to make it physically oppressive during those hours. As I had business to do and under such conditions, and especially as the business I had to attend to went badly and ended up somewhat humiliating — a small psychological blow in addition to the physical as described — my mind drifted to humming a song that seemed suited. You may have guessed from this set up, too, what I am getting at.

Many times yesterday afternoon, the simple tune and lyrics of “Rawhide,” the song, turned over in my mind. Let me say again I was familiar with the song, but had (1) never seen the show, (2) wasn’t sure the song was from the show, (3) wasn’t completely sure there was a show named Rawhide, (4) had never been on the channel aforementioned (Heroes & Icons) before the 11pm hour of the night before, (5) had no idea of the channel’s schedule, (6) had no plan to return to the channel but did by chance this morning.

It was a good show and something compelled me to watch it to the end. I didn’t realize I was watching Rawhide until some of the transitional and mood-setting music in certain scenes, recorded by an orchestra, used variations on the tune to the song.

This is the song:

I don’t think my mind had drifted into the “Rawhide” song in a very long time, and again here within less than a day I see the show for which it was the theme song, as far as I know the first time I’d ever seen the show.

I think I’d been familiar with the song since the mid- or late-2000s, probably first encountering it via a download from one of the Napster-successors of the day, especially one I was on called WinMX. (I assume most of the market for music-sharing on those networks was replaced by Youtube, which is a worrying development, a Youtube monopoly.)

I don’t know what to make of this double-synchronicity. I know well that the usual attitude of skeptics, there must be some explanation you are overlooking. I have had experiences like these before, more often when I was younger, and I have no explanation for them. Mysteries of the universe, including events that do not align chronologically like the two I’ve described, are best not sledgehammered away with ultra-skepticism.

I have never read Carl Jung in a serious way, but like any reasonably educated person I am familiar with many of his ideas. I believe Jung coined the term “synchronicity,” and two major and identifiable ones in a row like this is no small matter. What is the significance of this?

I have tagged this post ‘Religion’ as the closest of the existing categories I have to capture this discussion. But I don’t know how to proceed further with such thinking except to read Jung or his successors, but I don’t really want to.

The episode of Rawhide I saw was Season 3: Episode 6, first aired November 1960. Clint Eastwood is one of the protagonists in Rawhide, playing a cleaner-cut type of the character for which he later became emblematic in a long series of movies.

The plot: The group of cattle drivers encounters a former stagecoach robber who is on a mission to repay all his victims from ten years earlier, and then turn himself in. Because of the looseness of the law in the Old West, this is best done by tracking down victims and secretly dropping off the money and slipping away.

The group helps the reformed robber get to the final town he needs to get to, for it’s in the same direction they’re going. They repay $250 to the town’s bank. But it turns out someone in the town had framed him ten years earlier, had stolen the entire town’s savings of $11,000, and had shot dead the popular bank clerk.

The local sheriff and mayor are mixed up in this plot and kept it a secret for ten years. Agitated locals, led by the sheriff, form a posse and insinuate that may lynch the reformed robber, or at least fast-track his murder trial and hang him that way. Eastwood, a junior hand in the group, starts to figure out the frame-up, devises a plan to expose the plotters, and does.

Eastwood is the co-hero of this particular story, along with the head of the cattle driving group who agrees to help the reformed robber in the first place, putting himself at some risk.

What to say about Rawhide. Sixty years is not a short time (1960 to 2021), and the era depicted is about 90 years earlier still (ca. 1870), 150 years before our time.

The idea of linear progression is our civic religion. From a very-bad Distant Past, to a somewhat-bad Moderate Past, to a better-but-still-bad Near Past, to a still-bad-but-much-better Present, to a hopefully better Future, the last achieved through constant and unrelenting striving against The Bad People, who are of an identifiable demographic who “cling” to this and that (as someone famously said in 2008). This is what I see as our civic religion, and the dominant American historical-cultural narratives are now all based this premise, a form of worship of Progress. In other words, I have no doubt at all — zero — that any of the priests of our civic religion were to watch and analyze/interpret this episode of Rawhide, or any episode, they would get angry and produce a laundry-list of grievances against it, maybe even try to start a social-media mob to get it canceled for some inane reason. Such is not in the realm of parody but happens pretty regularly now. As such I’m always a little surprised when very-old TV shows or movies still air on TV. Even Star Trek Voyager of the 1995-2001 period, has plenty of episodes which would draw ire.

The funny thing about or civic religion is how there are so many heretics to the religion, people who basically disbelieve the central premise of the civic religion that the past is horrifyingly bad and one gets one’s moral worth through eternal striving against the past and against any supposed remnants of the past, an eternal political-cultural purge apparatus now seems built into our system. The wave of statue-topplings and name-changings goes on. The latest I hear is people are demanding bird names change because the people who named them one or two hundred years ago had some kind of impure political views as judged from the early 2020s. The America I know by now will have some people make noise, complain, about the ever-more-bizarre Jacobinism of our time, but the institutions with power over such things will fold.

Clint Eastwood himself stands out as against this tidal wave. I don’t know what his personal views are. I think he is a longtime Republican. I don’t know if he actively supported the Orange Man at any point, either the wild days of 2015, or through the Orange Man’s presidency. I don’t know what he may have thought during the disputed election drama going on a few months, except that he was too smart to say the wrong thing once things got heated and people started getting arrested by the hundreds.

Clint Eastwood the man is less important, anyway, than Clint Eastwood the artist (actor, director, movie producer), and the latter really stands out as a living tie to the days of a culture basically wholesome and optimistic, as I see it. May he live and continue working for years yet to come.

I’m going to write a little about a recent Eastwood movie I saw next, Richard Jewell (2019) but this post has already sailed well past a good length limit.

bookmark_borderPost-387: A BBC podcast on the Waco 1993, Koresh cult story; podcast review and thoughts on Waco’s place in history

Losing a pair of gloves I felt particular attached to, I decided I’d be willing to retrace my steps around town. Chances were fair that I could find the missing gloves, as I had in similar cases before. I was committed. I figured the had fallen out of my pocket while I was cruising along on the bicycle.

The glove search failed.

But unexpected good thing have a way of showing up, springing from the bad. I decided to make the best of this perhaps-several-hours-long commitment to carefully and slowly retrace all my steps by listening to a podcast along the way, so as “not to waste the time.” This is how I justified the search to myself. I am not in the habit of listening to earphones in public these days, so this was a conscious decision.

I googled around for a podcast that would make my time worth it. Something new. I came to the BBC podcasts page. The top one I saw was called “End of Days.” I said, Okay, yes, this’ll do. I don’t even have a good working pair of earphones anymore. I have a few freebies from airlines. Only one earphone worked.

Gone forever though the gloves may be, those gloves did give me a final gift, one arguably even better than hand warmth, as without losing them, I’d never have come to hear this really excellent “BBC Five Live” podcast. It’s less about the 1993 Waco incident, more about the personalities involved, a retrospective after 25 years. About 4.5 to 5.0 hours of total listening time; eight episodes. Some impressions and reactions follow in this post. First personal re:Waco, then a long review of the podcast’s contents, then a brief final thought on cults as I encountered them in my years in Korea.

Continue reading “Post-387: A BBC podcast on the Waco 1993, Koresh cult story; podcast review and thoughts on Waco’s place in history”

bookmark_borderPost-382: Thirty Pieces of Silver

We use the phrase “thirty pieces of silver” metaphorically in a variety of contexts. I used it today. It is a reference to the betrayal of Jesus by his apostle Judas for which he was paid that sum of pieces of silver.

I got to wondering how much thirty pieces of silver, ca. AD 33 in the Roman province of Palestine, would be worth in our terms, today; what is a reasonable US-dollar figure to attach to it? I spent some time on this and would propose $10,000 (see below).

From a version of Da Vinci’s The Last Supper; Jesus has told the twelve apostles that one of them has betrayed him. Most are in one or another state of shock or anger. Peter, angry, leans over Judas’ shoulder. Judas, slouched over and looking worried, clutches a bag with unknown contents but about large enough to hold 30 pieces of silver.
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bookmark_borderPost-381: Southern California observations; Anaheim, Robber’s Peak, Orange

Nov. 2019: I passed through California for about five days.

(Observations about Southern California with pictures, and some springboarding off of them.)

Places I spent at least some time were: Van Nuys; the Santa Ana River trail in Orange County; Anaheim and “Anaheim Hills;” Orange (the city of); Santa Barbara. On a previous visit (late Aug. 2018), I went to Huntington Beach.

Leaving Southern California, north to Silicon Valley, I spent time in: San Jose; Palo Alto; the Stanford campus; Menlo Park; Redwood City. (Another post, maybe.)


Friday early morning. I arrive at the airport from points east (Korea, by way of a long layover in Hawaii) and am soon on the bus to LA Union Station. Or am I? I am not. I got on the wrong bus. It was not labeled. It came to the place marked LA Union Station; I decide to take this new opportunity. and follow the shuttle bus where it goes. New destination: Van Nuys.

Continue reading “Post-381: Southern California observations; Anaheim, Robber’s Peak, Orange”

bookmark_borderPost-376: On “electoral tipping points”: 1618 (the trigger for the Thirty Years War) and the present

New Year’s Day 2020.

For reasons I don’t know, I began to re-read the classic history of the Thirty Years War by C. V. Wedgwood. In it I was reminded of a political point about that war I had forgotten, and one similar to one the US may be, today, at the cusp of.

The crisis began in 1618 because of an electoral tipping point.

There are fairly direct parallels between the Thirty Years War origin and the US institutions of the electoral college system and the nine-member Supreme Court system (see below) and fears about the ‘flipping’ thereof.

The Holy Roman Empire, a nominal political arrangement encompassing most of central Europe for most of the second millennium AD and ruled (in theory if not practice) by an emperor of the Hapsburg Dynasty for much of that time, had seven “electors” (Kurfürsten). These were seven seats which held the right to cast one vote for emperor when the need arose.

Continue reading “Post-376: On “electoral tipping points”: 1618 (the trigger for the Thirty Years War) and the present”