(I considered writing earlier this week on Pope Francis and the whole issue of married priests but decided against it -- it's kind of like beating a dead horse.)
But then I just read an obituary in the Times of a woman named Mother Divine, above, who died at age 91. She was also known as "Sweet Angel," and -- oh, yeah -- her birth name: Edna Rose Ritchings. (Ya gotta love that picture!)
Now read this woman's obit and maybe you'll understand why I'm not religious. Here's a taste (all emphasis mine):
It came as a bolt from the blue. On Aug. 7, 1946, Father Divine, the charismatic leader of the International Peace Mission Movement, introduced his new wife as “the Spotless Virgin Bride” to a gathering of stunned followers at a Philadelphia banquet.
The Rev. Major Jealous Divine, regarded as God incarnate by his disciples, had further news. Sweet Angel, as his 21-year-old former stenographer was known to the movement, had taken into herself the spirit of Father Divine’s first wife, Peninnah, or Sister Penny, who had died in 1943. The two women were one and the same, he announced. Moreover, his union with the woman henceforth known as Mother Divine would be chaste — a marriage in name only, he said — because “God is not married.”
“When Father married me, he symbolically married everyone else,” Mother Divine told Newsday in 2005. “It’s not a personal marriage. It’s Christ married to his church.”
See what I mean? But, wait, there's more:
For months, the news remained secret. “We could not have released it,” Sister Mary, a member of Father Divine’s inner circle, told Ms. Harris. “If we had, there would have been no telling what might have happened. The marriage was such a world-shaking event, it might have made followers vibrate strongly enough to destroy themselves.”
If that sounds a little strange, Father Devine can clear it all up for you:
“The individual is the personification of that which expresses personification,” he said. “Therefore he comes to be personally the expression of that which was impersonal, and he is the personal expression of it and the personification of the pre-personification of God Almighty! Peace, it’s wonderful!”
Now, I know what you're thinking: What was the role of money in this church? Glad you asked:
In the glory days of the 1930s, the Peace Mission amassed a sizable real estate portfolio, including large hotels in Philadelphia. The movement’s members, required to turn over their worldly possessions and, in many cases, their earnings, added to the coffers.
How did I know that was coming?
I know what you're thinking now: How come I've never heard of this church?
Like the Shakers, Peace Mission followers did not procreate, which further thinned their ranks.
That'll do it.
There's more -- trust me. Read the rest of it.
When Mitt Romney was running for president in 2012 someone said that the Mormon Church was just the Church of Scientology plus 150 years. But isn't that true for all religions? They're all a little odd. Take the Catholic Church, for example. All my life they've said they couldn't ordain women or married men. Why? It's never been clear to me; every other denomination has married men and women clergy. But lately, with the global shortage of priests, Pope Francis is considering allowing older married men to become ordained after all. (What about women? Don't be silly.)
That's really convenient, though, isn't it? Or, as Bill Maher would say while cupping his ear, "This just in..."
If you believe in God, fine. If you don't, fine. Personally, I have no idea what exists beyond our experience. But if you choose to be a member of a particular church -- whether it's the International Peace Mission Movement or the Mormons or whatever -- just remember that humans evolved from one-cell organisms over the course of millions of years and, when they finally acquired language, began to tell each other creation stories.
Or, as my son once told me, "It's all made up."