Excommunication:Expressing a wrath they imagine exists in the Divine


On the most recent ejection of Natasha Helfer, a believing Mormon, from the fold:

Make Them  Pay Jehovah! We’re on your divine errand.

Another excommunication happened this week.

When a member feels some sense of risk of excommunication for having acted or even entertained thoughts believed to be offensive to God and the Church, excommunication hangs over the head like an executioner’s sword.

What is it we believe we risk when someone else, especially someone else who has an authoritative leadership calling, implies the risk of excommunication?

What does excommunication mean and how literally should we take it when another mortal threatens us with being cut off?

Read the following form of religious excommunication and ask yourself if the vindictive and mean spirited God of that particular Jewish church is the same God worshipped by another church that wields  excommunication like an addiction :  the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

Would their God act and think in such a way?

Unspoken but inflicted – and not in practice a pretended “court of love.”

The vindictive, mean spirited and all-around butt ugliness of what was declared to Baruch Spinoza by his Jewish church:

“having long known of the evil opinions and acts of Baruch de Spinoza, they have e and after all of this has been investigated in the presence of the honorable hakhamim, they have decided, with their consent, that the said Espinoza should be excommunicated and expelled from the people of Israel…”

The “hakhamim,” namely the official rabbis of the community, with whose consent the resolution was made to excommunicate the “said Espinoza,” were familiar with thetraditional wording of the proclamations of excommunication and excerpts of these onventional formulations were incorporated in the announcement of Spinoza’s excommunication: 

“By decree of the angels and by the command of the holy men, we excommunicate, expel, curse and damn Baruch de Espinoza, with the consent of God, Blessed be He, and with the consent of the entire holy congregation, and in front of these holy scrolls with the 613 precepts which are written therein;  

cursing him with the excommunication with which Joshua banned Jericho and with the curse which Elisha cursed the boys (who mocked his baldness) and with all the castigations which are written in the Book of the Law. 

Cursed be he by day and cursed be he by night; 

cursed be he when he lies down and cursed be he when he rises up. 

Cursed be he when he goes out and cursed be he when he comes in. 

The Lord will not spare him, but then the anger of the Lord and his jealousy shall smoke against that man, 

and all the curses that are written in this book shall lie upon him, and the Lord shall blot out his name from under heaven. 

And the Lord shall separate him unto evil out of all the tribes of Israel, according to all the curses of the covenant that are written in this book of the law. 

But you that cleave unto the Lord your God are alive every one of you this day.”

The proclamation of the excommunication concludes with the following famous lines of the actual warning:

“That no one should communicate with him neither in writing nor accord him any favor nor stay with him under the same roof nor within four cubits in his vicinity; nor shall he read any treatise composed or written by him.”

I place no credence on what the Jewish officials pronounced on Spinoza … but also none on whatever Church members place on the meaning and intent of excommunication other than the obvious (termination of membership.)

Nope! Not with the least degree of allowance!

Removing the guilt is an okay concept I suppose so long as one buys into the idea that sin summons guilt in the same way that a crime involves guiltiness.

In my reality and opinion I do not see God as in the crime-and-punishment business whether due to laws and procedures created by God or due to some nebulous notion of “justice” which demands a karma-like accounting of credits and debits.

For most within the sphere of Mormonism a thought involving excommunication is usually a thought involving the idea of having offended God or some rule of God that demands recompense.

The idea of a Church benevolently (by removing something called guilt) terminating membership and by extension the hope of eternal life is nothing more than a theological notion that has gained traction by tradition. It is in effect a disingenuous reasoning to justify a procedure intended most fully to assert authority and encourage conformity.

The bulk of Christian belief is based on theology. Theology, by the way, has always been and always will be human religious speculation, suspended disbelief and an imputation of human attitudes in the Divine Mind.

Seems that the best idea is to remove the notion that excommunication is a valid and needful piece of gospel repertoire. In doing what might also be discouraged is the excessive sober judgmental seriousness – the taking of one’s authoritative calling as a mandate to do whatever is necessary to defend God and The Kingdom.

Something else might be dissuaded, the temptation to use fear, shame and guilt as motivation toward desperate conformity.

Excommunication has little to do with any relationship to Jesus Christ and His faith- hope-and-charity business. That’s the business that teaches that we ought to love God and Neighbor as if they were one and the same …

which by the way is the single needful question a genuinely true and living church should ask members in a temple recommend interview.

I say to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints:

Bring your excommunicants back into the fold with open arms and no conditions. Make a truly grown up and loving expression of acceptance of the many forms of spiritual and religious devotion manifested by all genuine and believing Saints.

You will be more grandly and publicly accepted as a worthy institution.