Thursday, December 9, 2010

Peyotists and syncretism

One of my students directed me to the Peyote Way Church of God, a "peyotist" group under the umbrella of the Native American Church. Their spiritual leader, Rev. Immanuel Pardeahtan Trujillo died this summer in Willcox, Arizona.

What caught my student's attention about this church is their statement of doctrine: they cite Joseph Smith's revelation on health as a source of inspiration. Elsewhere in their history, written by Vin Supyrnowicz, journalist for the Las Vegas Review Journal, we learn that the Peyote Way Church of God looked to Smith for inspiration not only for their sacrament of peyote but for their stance on continuing revelation outside the Christian canon.

The syncretism here is fascinating. An intimate group of believers---with roots going back to the Ghost Dance, the Native American Church, and, oddly, the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints---appeal to the first amendment's free exercise clause using Indian tradition, new age healing, Protestant Christianity, and Joseph Smith's revelations. What could be more American!

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