Reading and Writing Scripture in New Religious Movements

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1 Reading and Writing Scripture in New Religious Movements

2 Palgrave Studies in New Religions and Alternative Spiritualities Series editors: James R. Lewis and Henrik Bogdan Palgrave Studies in New Religions and Alternative Spiritualities is an interdisciplinary monograph and edited collection series sponsored by the International Society for the Study of New Religions. The series is devoted to research on New Religious Movements. In addition to the usual groups studied under the New Religions label, the series publishes books on such phenomena as the New Age, communal & utopian groups, Spiritualism, New Thought, Holistic Medicine, Western esotericism, Contemporary Paganism, astrology, UFO groups, and new movements within traditional religions. The Society considers submissions from researchers in any discipline. A Study of the Movement of Spiritual Inner Awareness: Religious Innovation and Cultural Change Diana G. Tumminia and James R. Lewis India and the Occult: The Influence of South Asian Spirituality on Modern Western Occultism Gordan Djurdjevic Reading and Writing Scripture in New Religious Movements: New Bibles and New Revelations Eugene V. Gallagher

3 Reading and Writing Scripture in New Religious Movements New Bibles and New Revelations Eugene V. Gallagher

4 READING AND WRITING SCRIPTURE IN NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS Copyright Eugene V. Gallagher, Softcover reprint of the hardcover 1st edition All rights reserved. First published in 2014 by PALGRAVE MACMILLAN in the United States a division of St. Martin s Press LLC, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY Where this book is distributed in the UK, Europe and the rest of the world, this is by Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited, registered in England, company number , of Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire RG21 6XS. Palgrave Macmillan is the global academic imprint of the above companies and has companies and representatives throughout the world. Palgrave and Macmillan are registered trademarks in the United States, the United Kingdom, Europe and other countries. ISBN ISBN (ebook) DOI / Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data is available from the Library of Congress. A catalogue record of the book is available from the British Library. Design by Newgen Knowledge Works (P) Ltd., Chennai, India. First edition: July

5 For Marc Zimmer, friend and colleague extraordinaire

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7 Contents Acknowledgments ix Introduction: Canons, Scriptures, and New Religions 1 Part I New Visions Introduction 15 1 A Teenaged Prophet, a Golden Bible, and Continuing Revelation 19 2 The Lamb of God and the Chosen Vessel: A Prophetic Lineage in the Adventist Tradition 41 3 Straight from the Devil: Holy Books in Contemporary Satanism 63 Part II New Readings Introduction 87 4 Aliens and Adams: Reimagining Creation 91 5 Black and White and Read All Over: Rereading the Ten Commandments Beyond the Gospels: New Visions of the Life of Jesus The End of the World as They Know It: Revelations about Revelation 157 Part III New Writings Introduction Guidance for a New Age and a New Paganism 187

8 viii Contents 9 A Moorish Koran and a New Age Bible It s All in the Mind: Christian Science and A Course in Miracles 231 Conclusion: New Religions, New Bibles 253 Notes 263 Index 303

9 Acknowledgments I came to the study of new religions after I had completed my degree in history of religions, working on religions in the ancient Mediterranean world. After a few years at Connecticut College I began to receive invitations to speak to the trustees, parents, and other such groups. I suspected that they would not be enthralled by the research I did for my doctorate and began to cast around for a suitable topic. During the early 1980s a number of new religious movements were active and the cult wars were at a high pitch. Searching for a topic with some contemporary relevance, I began to read up on new religions. Immediately, I was struck by how many of them had quite a lot to say about the Bible and the major figures in it. At the same time, I was equally impressed by the striking scholarly silence about such matters. Dominated by social scientists, the study of new religions had other topics in mind. Thus began the long road to this book. The more I looked, the more examples I found of new religions advancing their own interpretations of the Bible and sometimes writing texts that could themselves only be understood as new Bibles. The interpretive and creative work that goes into producing such texts is the topic of this book. In it I offer a preliminary mapping of the ways in which members of new religions have claimed the authority to offer novel interpretations of the Bible, how they have read selected passages from the Bible, and how they have produced new sacred texts that aspire to a similar authoritative status. My findings have led me to question any rigid distinctions between new religious movements and the more mainstream religions in American society and to see the exegetical and creative work of new religions as part of the biblical tradition, rather than something quite distant from it. The cumulative effect leads me to see both new religions and the biblical tradition in a distinctive new light. This book took quite a while to write, but fortunately I was sustained by the support of a number of colleagues and friends. Professor Nora Rubel of the University of Rochester and Professor Sufia Uddin of Connecticut College both read the manuscript and pushed me to be clearer in my expression and more acute in my analysis. In the later stages,

10 x Acknowledgments Professor Lydia Willsky of Whittier College provided many helpful comments and Professor Richard Ascough of Queen s University carefully read the Introduction and the Conclusion. I also had the opportunity to present parts of my work at various institutions. Professor Todd Penner invited me to present the Allen-Head Lecture at Austin College and, during my stay, provided me with enough time to work and intellectual stimulation to last a long time. Professor Peter Zaas of Siena College gave me an occasion to present an overview of this book in the Town of Colonie Jewish Association Annual Lecture. Professor James Laine invited me to present the Arnold H. Lowe Lecture at Macalester College, and I benefitted greatly from my time with him and his students. Professor Naomi Janowitz invited me to give a lecture about how new religious movements construct their apocalyptic messages at the University of California, Davis. Professor Burke Rochford gave me the chance to present my work at Middlebury College, as did Professor Jorunn Jacobsen Buckley at Bowdoin College. The opportunities to present my thoughts about the topic of this book at institutions very much like my own were especially helpful. I also thank Professors Sandy Martin, Wayne Coppins, and Carolyn Medine for the invitation to deliver the Howard Lecture at the University of Georgia. In all of those instances, interactions with my colleagues and their students helped me to think more clearly about my topic. My own students at Connecticut College have heard, largely unawares, bits and pieces of this book over a long period of time. But it is really more accurate to say that the regular opportunity to teach about both new religious movements and the scriptural traditions of the West has inspired me to try to write this book. For that I am grateful to Connecticut College and successive administrators, especially Dean of the Faculty Roger Brooks who was a close colleague in the study of religion before following the way of the dean, and especially the talented and engaged students with whom I have been privileged to work over the span of my career. I also thank my good friend and colleague, Marc Zimmer, who works in a very distant field, but does so with such industry and good humor that I ve been inspired to keep up with him. Burke Gerstenschlager, my editor at Palgrave Macmillan, and the anonymous reviewer of the manuscript have also contributed importantly to its clarity. I also appreciate the invitation from Professor James Lewis to submit a proposal to the series in which this book appears. Finally, I thank my wife and my daughter for having the good sense to dedicate themselves to what they think is interesting and rewarding and whose passion for their own pursuits is exemplary. Mystic, CT September 10, 2013

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