Category Archives: Ethics

UNDERSTANDING FOLAU FOLLY

BATTERING RAM FAITH AND UNFAITH

Criticized and now penalized Wallabies Rugby star, Israel Folau, who has declared gays are bound for hell (along with other classes of people) if they don’t repent, has something in common with atheist crusader, Richard Dawkins. In the realm of faith and unbelief respectively, both are uncompromising fundamentalist literalists.

Something neither they nor their fans would even recognize, is that both were also born under the (battering) ram sign of Aries which has a remarkable history and function in the sphere of beliefs. Neo-atheism is almost the province of Ariens – Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris, A. C. Grayling. Evangelicalism like that of General Booth of the Salvation Army derived from  a fiery Arien,   while it was the missionary saint, St Francis Xavier, whose unmitigated homophobic fervour would prove a major reason Christianity failed to take root in Japan. The level of insult and abuse directed upon gay courtiers (“worse than pigs and dogs”) was considered barbarian brattishness beyond the pale. Coming up to date, Folau’s chief Australian defender of his abrasiveness as free speech justified, is the Arien broadcaster, Alan Jones.

Although it is undeniably controversial for free speech anywhere to penalize Folau  with termination of contract for his outspoken beliefs, there is an exasperating, tactless insensitivity in them all the same,  especially as regards gays. A rather six of one and half a dozen of the other  type situation has now  arisen  as regards free speech and its censorship  because Folau is just so extreme. (He has even criticized Christians for celebrating Christmas and Easter!) Since it is well established that young gays have extra struggles of adjustment and a higher than usual suicide rate, they don’t need to have a celebrity promising them the hell fires on Instagram.  If public figures must criticize gays at that level, it might be more to the point to call out, say,  those whose rave party enthusiasms help keep the drug cartels in business or again older gays who exploit the vulnerable  and inexperienced young who may have just been shunted into the big world by rejecting families.

For the likes of Folau and his supporters (who now regard him, as he plainly does himself, as a bit of martyr ready to suffer any rejection in service of Jesus!) the matter is as simple as “what the bible says” and needing to repeat it. Anglican Bishop Michael Stead of South Sydney in rather similar vein told The Australian (April 17th) if Folau did nothing more than post to social media “what is essentially a summary of the Bible, then it’s a signal to the rest of us to keep our mouths shut”….. WHAT?!  Can  the bishop be so misguided as to propose a summary of the bible or gospel is involved?!

The matter  certainly isn’t as simple as “what the bible says”  or some “summary” of it, and it’s important to realize why.

THE LIMITS OF LITERALISM

As regards specifically homosexuals, words for “homosexuals” and “homosexuality” simply don’t occur in the bible so that translation and terminology will have a lot to do with how the subject is understood today by different scholars and Christians.

Psychology didn’t come into the picture for the ancient world so what the bible, especially the OT, would recognize as indicated would tend to be persons, sodomites, known for acts such as would be committed by especially paganish temple prostitutes masquerading as women. It was this class of persons who got dismissed from the Jerusalem temple (but not executed) under the reforms of Israel’s King Josiah. Such were almost certainly the original target of the often cited Leviticus ban of male same sex. (But lesbians aren’t even mentioned in the OT, while if male same sex is paganish “abomination”, then so too is eating the pork many Christians eat. So let’s belatedly obtain some perspective!).

But almost more to the point for understanding biblical condemnations and any vice lists of the damned which Folau derives from St Paul to the Galatians, let’s notice it includes liars.

Think one moment. The fact is that even the most honest people do, or need, to lie at least occasionally. The bible doesn’t endorse Kant’s “categorical imperative” according to which one should never lie. In Exodus God blesses the two righteous midwives who lied to save the Hebrew children from Pharaoh.

Thieves. Are all thieves damned? Would it be so evil for the starving to steal a loaf of bread? Obviously by thieves St Paul has in mind all those who Mafia-like spend their lives turning the wheels of corruption.

That it’s so easy in this way to start deconstructing what the bible via St Paul states, should alert us to the following:

  1. The apostle is generalizing. At most he is speaking regards what his supposedly regenerate flock should not exhibit while pointing to symptoms of a larger unregenerate state in the world beyond. But more importantly…
  2. For purposes of random, sensational quotation like Folau’s, there is anyway a certain irrelevance in these vice lists seeing  that in Paul’s understanding, there is another, more crucial generalization involved. This is that – by and large – everyone, even the good, can be hell bound. For the apostle the chief feature of society is that it is “fallen” and largely doomed. “And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing” (2 Cor 4:4).

In the ancient world and before acceptance of resurrection belief became common enough to produce more RIP style optimism in even unbelievers, save in rare exceptions the post-mortem state for everyone was understood to be the darkness of Hades. This was unremitting, a version of hell. Consider the Homeric horrors of Odysseus’ visit to Hades and the souls trapped there that blood sacrifice alone can summon up  to record their misery. The gods can never save from death.

DEATH, HELL AND ALL THAT

Christianity arrived to promise deliverance from death, conditional upon especially faith and repentance. Folau is all for these and not incorrectly; it’s just that he gets the emphasis and application wrong. Without these, and because God is perfect and humanity imperfect, the two can otherwise never now be easily reconciled and. “Flesh and blood cannot enter the kingdom of God”(1 Cor 15:50). The regenerate soul would require nothing less than  the house of a new spiritual body via resurrection to reside anywhere but deep earth or Hades.

Today, neither faith nor repentance (lit. mind change) are popular, well understood concepts, especially amid trendy doctrines of personal autonomy and pride in self and one’s accomplishments. Faith and repentance are nonetheless secrets of meaningful spiritual change …..even if not change to the extent Folau assumes that the gay orientated person will become straight. (As the himself probably gay orientated prophet Jeremiah famously had it: “Can the leopard change his spots?” ( See my “Jeremiah’s Loincloth” feature https://wp.me/p2v96G-Hm).  The gay person needs to be responsibly rather than chaotically gay.

Though the bible does argue for God from creation, belief itself is treated less philosophically than existentially. Accordingly,  “Repent for the kingdom of God is at hand” is how the Baptist introduced his ministry. It is honest recognition of human failure, brokenness and mortality which can best prompt both realization of the need for God and what the nature of God is.

REPENTANCE AS A USEFUL PRACTICE

Providing it doesn’t descend into morbid, self-unforgiving  guilt, repentance or permanent self-criticism, is (with praise) almost the prime religious exercise. To say repentance “doesn’t work” because people keep failing, is almost but not quite irrelevant. Just as people do (or should) reckon to keep saying “sorry” if they hurt and offend others, even though they are virtually guaranteed to do so again (but perhaps less so over time!), so it is good for mind and spirit to keep “repenting” failures. It’s  the opportunity for renewal of mind and spirit. Simply to recognize one is not Superman or Superwoman for ideal performance in life can be both a relief and a means of being closer to interaction with the perfection of God. Confession to self, others and God and being forgiven by them is a profound human need inadequately understood. The rationalist poet, Goethe, couldn’t understand his irrational need for it.

It nonetheless makes sense because from a certain point of view it could be said we are anyway always a bit “wrong” even at our best (our righteousness like filthy rags as the apostle had it) and moderns especially are half neurotic living in what the writers of bible would probably regard as a state of ritual impurity from sheer lack of regular, sufficient “repentance” in  their lives. Some would even boast “I never say sorry”, but perhaps they really should for their own and everyone’s good!

NOT ALL AND QUITE LOST

Though unquestionably he does regard the whole world to be “perishing” and needing to repent,  in fairness to the sometimes severe apostle this doesn’t mean St Paul assumed as some extremists since St Augustine and up to Folau today evidently do, that everyone, (from unbaptized infants to even the ignorant in the case of Augustine!) are all automatically lost souls. In fact, he surely negates that claim in such as Rom 2:14. However….there’s  no need to go into that subject here nor regarding hell, matters I touch on in an article Greg Sheridan’s God is Good for You: A Major Book with and odd flaw https://wp.me/p2v96G-16w What should be stressed  is where Folau’s outspokenness  puts the rules of public conversation  in an era of PC.

Folau’s pushing of his beliefs despite warnings against their unsuitability and possible danger to impressionable young minds, is  troubling. His aggressive “witness” and then his martyred stance is almost a caricature of  type of Christian role. Little good can come of it…. Except possibly that it reminds us of one thing that church leaders ignore, namely precisely the need for “repentance” as a major aspect of life  and Christianity itself, and almost as a   technique…..

FUNDAMENTALISTS WITHOUT REAL FUNDAMENTALS

….Radical change is not being preached in the majority of churches, especially where whole areas of private behaviour are concerned. A too frequent, puritanical over-emphasis on sex in the past has led in the present to an almost total silence to the point almost anything has been allowed, or at least conveniently ignored. The scandals of especially clerical sexual abuse have occurred only because it was too easy to forgive or just dismiss things where a more serious repentance was plainly required. You  don’t say  like Cardinal Pell “I’m not interested” when faced with a case of notorious abuse.

The churches, reduced almost to just arms of smiling public charity, have ceased to teach their members, let alone preach to those outside, some basic spiritual and theological principles of the faith. It is  scarcely possible  to understand what has happened through the Folau controversy otherwise. Folau’s actions and attitudes are both an accident and over- compensatory reaction to what the churches have become where beliefs and witness are concerned. There is a crisis of ignorance that neither church silence nor celebrity shouting can hope to resolve but against which Folau kicks and butts.

This is an article it should not even cross my mind as a lay person  to write. It should be  unnecessary because if they were attending to their their job so many church leaders should already have given meaningful answers to Folau and to gays and others; but so far the silence is either deafening or as in the case of the cited Bishop Stead, almost in itself another scandal of misguided thinking.

 

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THERE’S ABUSE AND ABUSE: Thoughts post Jackson and Pell

EFFECTS WHICH LAST

I watched the Leaving Neverland saga and I am glad that despite a slow start I watched all of it. It was compelling and moving. I believed the stories of abuse as there were some very telling points and moments that could hardly be invented and feigned. They helped me better understand how abuse victims can suffer and react over time. [ Three weeks on I have doubts in light of new evidence about the two victims, Robson and Safechuck whose dates and more don’t correspond with established facts. I can only say they must be good actors and perhaps well read – Robson’s narrative is said to have been borrowed from a novel about paedophilia ]

Any abuse which as in the case of Wade Robson and James Safechuck, is continued over childhood years is  real and serious abuse. I am not surprised that it can be misunderstood by victims, be denied and lie buried only to return belatedly to trouble sleep like so much post traumatic stress disorder. It is even functioning like a virtual possession. Indeed, if one accepts the esoteric explanation of sex which would maintain there is a blending of soul bodies or auras, then the unreadied person of the child, has been entered and joined with by an unequal force in a way that stains the inner being and hurts development.

As against this, the plea that the perpetrator case could have been kind and generous in some ways, as Robson and Safechuck freely concede, is irrelevant;  irrelevant as in another direction is Macauley Culkin’s rush to Jackson’s  defence declaring nothing was  done to him in Neverland. That’s a situation one could attribute to the fact  that from the outset, child star Culkin would  strike Jackson  as more Hollywood, less pliable and cutey-innocent.

Be that as it may,  I find it  strange the public anyway ever idolized Jackson so long and as much as it did, never suspecting the singer with his ghost-like appearance might be another,  more sweet-talking Jimmy Saville. I could never feel easy about someone who dangles his child out of a window. But someone who issues an album like Bad and who keeps clutching his crotch in performance and who brings children on stage with him is surely trying, however unconsciously and despite himself, to admit to something out of kilter.

Anyway,  the main thing is that victims of abuse deserve our sympathies and socially we should all be more discerning and vigilant about who we put on a pedestal. But questions remain, and I feel we must also recognize there’s abuse and abuse if society is ever to manage this difficult issue properly.

Since people do suffer severe stress for all manner of negative life experiences like home robbery, murder of relatives, domestic violence (for which, they may currently receive less overt sympathy from society than sex abuse victims), what I have yet to understand is the alleged effects of what looks like another level and kind of abuse.

I don’t understand how and why there are victims who suffered some brief experience above the age of, say, twelve (Robson and Safechuck’s abuse began well before that ) which they claim, has overshadowed and half ruined their lives. They may claim this although the experience occurred  decades ago and maybe only once or twice, wasn’t rape or major intimacy and maybe lasted only a minute or two (as with cases the genitals got touched or somebody masturbated in front of somebody).

This is closer to some of the casting couch  #MeToo charges  or controversial tribal rituals which over the centuries some young people have been subject to without necessarily suffering the worst possible effects. So, if it’s not a case of making accusation for dubious motives, I would suspect something other or more than the purely sexual has got to be involved, something which perhaps modern law and its terminology might need to adjust in order to cover with greater accuracy and justice.

THE TRICKY PELL CASE

This is not a prelude to any topical defence of the disgraced Cardinal Pell (who seems to have suffered fall from  the heights about as great as Cardinal Wolsey centuries ago!). Like not a few people I do have doubts that he is guilty as charged for specifically something briefly occurring in a sacristy in 1996 according to only one witness. However, although such doubt, including from a non Catholic, is supposed to render me in the minds of abuse advocates friend of some party of ultimate cruel  bigotry and right wing reaction, the fact is  I am suspicious Pell might be guilty of other offences not taken up by the courts and reported as occurring in a swimming pool years ago.  But even if he is innocent of all such charges, the fact seems unavoidable that in the past he has been coldly dismissive of, possibly deceitful towards, traumatized persons making legitimate complaints. My  sympathies  for him are accordingly modified.

Even so…. in any circumstances I would still question whether there is any cause to have a person of Pell’s advanced age and in poor health registered lifelong as a dangerous sex offender for what, if true, were rare, brief failures long ago. Indeed, the failures are getting called “heinous crimes”, apparently so heinous that for some people no amount of punishment would be sufficient. Though it’s likely Pell will anyway die in jail unless appeal gets him out of it, the still suffering victims and their vocal supporters seem to imply years of imprisonment won’t do. They seem to imply the criminal should be locked up and the key thrown away, that he should certainly be imprisoned for life,( ideally executed if the laws would allow it), and then let him rot in hell. “Don’t forgive them” declares the human headline Senator Derryn Hinch of any abusers.

What levels of trauma support these kind of attitudes? I suggest it could be something along the lines of the “homosexual panic” reaction that once used to be allowed as a plea to excuse the manslaughter of gays who had the misfortune to make a pass to the wrong person. It was assumed the psyche couldn’t suffer the shock of being thought an object to any other man. While that idea was always controversial, I could more easily accept that harder to take would be the potential shattering of worlds, self-image and faith in a trusted person like a teacher, or a priest (seen as a power figure and often identified in children’s minds with God), suddenly become a threatening user. Here really is a basis for trauma with some lasting effects..But shouldn’t that be defined more as ”breach of trust crime’ than sex crime pure and simple?

The question can well be asked, especially in an age of supposed sexual freedom and “equality”; because as matters are and the law stands, behaviours are still getting the worst possible, dated, demeaning descriptions that only risk missing the point and confusing the sentencing. This is why Pell’s defence lawyer initially declared (but was forced to retract by the outcry from victims and the public), what Pell had done was “fairly vanilla”. But comparatively speaking he had a point given the  brute reality that all manner of modern crime is often lightly treated by courts(against the public will it must be said)  and we live amid a rather oversexed, porn-ridden popular culture. It seems that Pell,  apart from managing to raise his heavy garb to expose himself (which at least some adolescents might have thought derisively amusing – children do have their dirty jokes) and masturbating himself, he had briefly committed “oral rape”…. which means engaged some forced fellatio.

Of course the accused had no business to be forcing himself on anyone, especially not any young person in his general care; it would always be inexcusably wrong. But for the very short time long ago involved and in its broader socio-sexual context, was it exceptionally heinous, fit to refer to the accused subsequently in terms normally reserved to someone more like a serial killer or a socially dangerous pervert never to be let out of supervision?

IT DEPENDS WHAT YOU MEAN BY…

Like it or not, fellatio, but admittedly not forced on the underaged, is  what one hears most men want when visiting prostitutes, while it’s the substance of a lot of porn and semi-public gay bath house activity.  And no one is going to be prosecuted for it. They won’t be because the laws changed and legal description of acts as “gross indecency” and “indecent exposure” etc were questioned. “Gross” and “indecent” for whom, when and why? Terminology was allowed almost to judge a case almost before it was heard, for example a  person naked in public for whatever reason  could be on trial for crime itself,  disgusting because, well, the word “indecent” was attached to it.

With this in mind one asks, no matter how inexcusable it  might be on the part of the active perpetrator and repulsive for the passive victim, should some briefly forced fellatio be regarded and treated as super-criminal “rape”?…..A female rape victim could be bloodied and battered, even left unconscious. If forced male fellatio could arrive at anything remotely similar, it would be specially criminal indeed, so why the emotive word “rape” as opposed to something more like “exploitation” of, or aggressive “self-imposition” upon, the innocent?

HOW MUCH CAN AND SHOULD ONE LET GO?

I don’t suggest justice should not be sought and pursued for sexual abuse and the Catholic church’s mismanagement of serially offending priests marks a serious scandal, but I do feel what I would call the victims of the “lesser” and most historic abuse need more and better counselling so that they are not suffering feelings of shock, shame, or betrayal over long periods of time and pressing for the severest possible sentencing in all cases. I shouldn’t wish to add to the burdens of those already feeling burdened, but there just might also be another factor people and the courts don’t like to stress to them.

Difficult though the task may be, and again needing active counselling support to manage, at least some degree of cure would come through just forgiveness. Forgiveness is ultimately something we all have to do or failure to achieve it rots the very bones and prolongs the suffering. As the longtime falsely charged and socially pilloried Lindy Chamberlain had it,  forgiveness is really almost more a letting go than anything. It’s admittedly something perhaps easier to do in the religious context where one is meant to believe “vengeance is mine, says the Lord” while serious offenders of the innocent are promised “better a millstone be put around their neck….” If that’s the fate of the unrepentant abuser, it should be easier to pardon and pass on in this life. But in a secular, materialist world it is possible to hang on, hoping for other outcomes and benefits which however will be found to have cured nothing in the long run.

It’s right and good the public should re-think Jackson at this time, but it may also be necessary to re-think a few laws and little questioned attitudes too in the light of the tricky Pell case.  If Pell does get out on appeal as he actually could, I hope there won’t be riots and Australia is left with a public so divided it borders on a Dreyfus case.  In the age of social media it is too easy to get carried away in waves of popular emotion and unexamined opinions.

THINKING AND BEING “SHAMELESS” WITH NADIA BOLZ-WEBER

NOT QUITE THE EXPECTED

I bought Nadia Bolz-Weber’s Shameless with the aim of reviewing it. The book sounded too radical to ignore with its call for a sexual “reformation” in the churches. Some of the pre-launch hype and the anticipation from conservatives was nonetheless misleading . I can report the book does not advocate the unlimited use of porn “ethically sourced” (amateur?) but says a few things about sexual imagery and its use that are rather more nuanced.

But it is true that in-between a wealth of stories and testimonies, in a quieter vein the author does virtually discard biblical and traditional  notions of “sexual purity”(equated with “rape culture”).  They are seen as unnecessary compared with the purity of just  sincerity and caring in consensual sex (free love one might say). This is something one can shamelessly enjoy without need for repentance or absolution because salvation is also about human flourishing not life wrecking . In short, there is something to this book of the  more abrasive, less spiritually inclined  Indecent Theology  from late queer theologian, Marcella Althaus-Reid, back in 2000.

The Shameless title owes more to an insistence that just as Jesus retained and displayed the scars of his crucifixion, we should not be ashamed to display our hurts. Which is what this book does…. full on.

ONLY IN AMERICA, BUT LET’S OPEN THE FIELD

Nadia is intriguing to watch and hear and you can do that here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sVe7jKp4D-E   But that the book is so full-on is why I find I can’t usefully review this offering in any conventional way. However valid its points, they emerge from within the expressions of an American cultural framework of extreme confession, emotion, group therapy, tears, hugs and kisses  that, for me, gets in the way.

This is a book about and for especially the walking wounded. It could leave non- Americans  feeling glad they weren’t raised in “the land of the free” where they might fall victim to often brutal, judgemental, incredibly gender-rigid, regimented, cultic forms of Christianity (rather in the style of the recent film Boy  Erased), plus  pressures from secular media and advertising. Combined, these can leave a person ashamed they are too fat, thin, ugly, sexually unfulfilled, effeminate, too mannish….the list goes on and on. But worst of all, it seems, is to be an abused, wrongly appreciated woman.

Though that could well be the case, I am neither a woman nor male feminist enough to be able to feel with the author in some areas like her current OTT project which involves collecting the purity rings of disappointed, disillusioned women to melt them down for a protest vagina sculpture.

Bolz-Weber would doubtless respond that sex itself is OTT and that one of the problems with preaching “purity” is that almost by definition sex cannot be only “pure”, it’s too irremediably earthy and messy. I accept the problem and in conclusion will be considering whether we have misunderstood what the biblical concept of sexual “purity” means and is intended to serve.  But keeping to  BW’s perspective, if, as her discourse implies,  sex is as good as anti-feminist feminist philosopher Camille Paglia’s “Dionysian swamp”, then plainly Bolz-Weber’s feminist religiosity  with its “rape culture” emphasis  sounds like it would be less keen to take on board elements of masculine protest, straight or gay, and allow it to resist or shape eros in the way Paglia considers is  almost necessary to life and culture.

So…after a few words about the author for those who don’t know her, I shall outline a more general picture of the church/sex problem that could apply almost anywhere. I shall conclude with what I think Nadia is overlooking and which is a possible facet of  any reformation, one that challenges both  her approach and the conservative, supposedly bible- based one of her sterner critics.

A LIFE AND MINISTRY OF ULTRA -LUTHERAN  “ACCEPTANCE”

     

Though she has recently abandoned full time ministry for the lecture circuit and public theologian status, Nadia Bolz-Weber is by now celebrated as the swearing, heavily tattooed pastor or,  some have said  pastrix, of the House For all Saints and Sinners on Denver Colorado’s sin street and where her chief assistant was a drag queen.

Born 1969 and growing to  over six foot tall and feeling disfigured by Graves disease, Nadia  arrived at her pastoral office after a painful pilgrimage. It began amid childhood fundamentalist repressions, and was followed by a history of depression, youthful promiscuity leading to an abortion, alcoholism, drug addiction and  some involvement in wicca and at  one stage  careers as a female wrestler and a stand-up comic. She has been married, had two children (the son is gay) but divorced by mutual agreement in 2016 -the pair didn’t get on too well sexually – and she has found the comfort of  an erotically fulfilling lover since. A colourful, only-in- America person, if ever.

Also unusual in that unlike most sexual liberals in the church, Nadia, more or less, believes her bible as given (except on “purity”). She accepts the resurrection and miracles, though she has suitably kinky  ideas about the afterlife in which she imagines  dining with people she loathes like Harvey Weinstein! It’s a sort of penitential torture she has invented for herself via a universalism that  believes since everyone is “accepted” by God she must love just everyone (even Hitler and Stalin?). In this she is undoubtedly a heretic because though the bible regularly gets cited to support variously inclusive and exclusive views of salvation, nowhere does it proclaim everyone is saved.

It is relevant  Rev Nadia is a Lutheran pastor. Actually I’d say she’s ultra-Lutheran if only people beyond her denominational fold, (which despite protests hasn’t expelled her), could see it. Luther’s Table Talk is surprisingly frank and coarse.  On sex Luther could also be quite liberal, supporting divorce and if necessary even bigamous marriage in the case of a partner become totally incapacitated.  Moreover, at least initially and when he was still mind-blown with the revelation of grace over against a salvation worked or paid for, Luther’s rhetoric told people to go out and sin freely and come back again and again to repent it. In short, there was little notion of any cure for sin  or what later by the likes of Wesley would be called “sanctification”, the improvement of self and soul throughout life.

ONE-SIDED IDEALS

…..But here and with the reformist Lutheran legacy,  I can begin my general reflections because even the (sometimes) ascetical medieval church that Luther left behind, had an understanding that especially Protestant evangelicals have never absorbed, namely that there can be something in the order of “death by chastity”. (1)

It was a concept medievals inherited from the Greek doctor, Galen. Medieval Scholastic philosophers might expound their  weird but influential notions, like notoriously that masturbation was akin to murder (because it destroyed seed thought of pre-scientifically as whole homunculi) and  that “sodomy” was worse than rape (because rape was ‘natural” since offspring could result), but for the laity some priests accepted the inevitable. They   believed that for both sexes masturbation might be medically sanctioned to save lives.

I think one could say exponents of Christian chastity have not been so much totally wrong as seriously one-sided. They will declare everything that is harmful about sex like STDs, but they won’t concede the pitfalls of not having sex, like for example increased likelihood of prostrate cancer in men and low spirits or outright depression in both sexes. Medieval medicine was not so far from the mark.

Return of libido among the chronically depressed is often the proof that cure has begun. But if cure requires libido to return, where does this put Christians who can’t or according to some churches  supposedly shouldn’t, say, get remarried following divorce, or gays who should never have a lover, or almost anyone to whom stimulation or fantasy are forbidden?

I have written elsewhere about what can seem like “incoherence” in biblical sexual teachings    https://wp.me/p2v96G-111   and one instance is St Paul’s notorious “better to marry than to burn”.  Is this truly  a helpful, meaningful statement? Marriage is a big, often expensive undertaking and like love itself not easily arranged. So can or should anyone enter it only to satisfy raging hormones? The very  idea seems to contradict the idealization of love elsewhere in the bible; and then it  isn’t envisaged for gays anyway whose needs are not even supposed to count but whose suppression of desire can be seen to have all sorts of negative effects.

Gays have been liable to be dismissed as mere pleasure seekers, “wankers” or masturbators because their sex serves “only” pleasure and not procreation. Yet if sex were not for pleasure,  why, as BW asks, does the female clitoris serve  nothing but pleasure and, I ask, why does modern medicine reveal to us that a foetus may be self-pleasuring in the womb? One can’t just diss pleasure as being automatically  sin in itself.

Before I move towards anything like a solution to the range of problems Nadia’s  rather free love values present us with , two points should be emphasized.

THE ILLUSION OF PERFECTION AND GUILT SYNDROMES

First is that though there can be improvements in sexual understanding and practice, there can be no complete solutions, so there can be no full “reformation”.  BW partly admits this herself, suggesting one can really only hope for a good as opposed to a perfect sex life. Even so, one feels Bolz-Weber wants perfect solutions, and  if  that’s the case  could  still use insights and warnings  of  the mentioned  Camille Paglia’s Sexual Personae like, “the modern pursuit of self-realization has not led to sexual happiness, because assertions of selfhood merely release the moral chaos of libido”.

In an imperfect world, sex and love will never be perfect (or if sufficiently perfect insufficiently long lasting to quite satisfy). And this is the case no matter how many sex guides (or biblical counsels) the individual applies to it. But it’s this incompletion has always made  it easy to generate guilt and/or embarrassment and disappointment around the topic. Also a degree of confusion to the extent erotic experience takes people “out of themselves”….. but to quite where, for what and why? There are always quasi-metaphysical questions and unsurprisingly “God” is a word often accompanies orgasm.

It’s not a Protestant coping mechanism and Bolz-Weber is all of a Lutheran, but in traditionally Catholic countries, minor rituals like removing religious jewellry, turning crucifixes to the wall, blessing oneself afterwards etc  seem  designed to cover vague uncertainty over the  real status and meaning of sex. The sexually insatiable but moralizing novelist Victor Hugo would even put money in the nearest church box after every visit to a brothel.

All these actions speak to the unease with  activity not, however,  puritanically rejected as it might be further north.  (And It would be wrong to put all this down to a Judaeo-Christian legacy. From years ago I can’t cite the precise source – probably a study of historic Japanese homosexuality, Partings Before Dawn,  I recall  a Japanese  feeling remorse he expressed to the gods for on account of his use of a great number of youths).  In the Catholic cultures it was more a case of  accepting an “ethics of ambiguity”, even a Baudelarian “conscience dans le mal”, (conscience amid the wrong).

One of the core wrongs, at least as far as certain Jewish cleansing rituals were concerned, had always been that, in the case of male sperm touching the body, even as a result of wet dreams, death had touched the body. To the extent sex is about reproduction and not just pleasure, it hints at the need to overcome the universal blight or curse  of death and death is ritual impurity (in traditional Judaism to touch a corpse left one impure for days).

THE ASEXUAL EXAMPLE THAT ISN’T ONE

        

The second point that causes misunderstanding around sex and bolsters false hopes among preachers and moralists that the problems can be easily overcome with a will, or even be virtually ignored, is that despite what modern society and books like Shameless assume, not everyone is sex-hungry and repressed.

The phenomenon of what the French would call “les indifferents” is real enough. It applies to many famous people throughout history like the orator Cicero who amid the opportunities of ancient Rome wasn’t “much interested in those kind of things” or Mme de Pompadour who though happy to be Louis XV’s mistress preferred to run France for him than be active in bed. This was a chore she preferred to delegate to nubile young things like Louise O’ Murphy (immortalized by Boucher’s painting). And then we must absorb that even reputedly sexy people may not be that sexy – Pop icon Madonna has admitted she’d almost rather read in bed than have sex.

The existence, sometimes widespread, of the indifferent has always emboldened moralists to assume there isn’t or needn’t be any problem beyond one of rational ethics and mutual respect. (That seems to be the position of especially the Anglican clergy who have lived through various sexual revolutions without scarcely mentioning the sex subject in their sermons or statements!)

Looking at the sexual problem at the purely ethical level, which I don’t believe one can and should wholly do, it is easy enough to see what the bible is getting at. This is pure intentions and loyalties, good interpersonal relations with fellow humans and beyond them with God. Infidelity at this level bespeaks a failure to remain loyal, to keep promises, to see persons as persons as opposed to objects for passing pleasure. Infidelity is thus an attitude of coveting whatever and whoever we don’t have, or a desire to score or have power over others. And symbolically there can be failure to reflect the ideal of the perfect marriage of Christ with the church.

All this is fine as far as it goes in training sensibilities, making for general security and respect within society and it’s the general framework for any basically devout lifestyle. (Rather obviously prayer and riotous living don’t belong together!). In especially the OT, however, purely patriarchal notions of ownership and property (instinct of the age of Aries, the ultra-patriarchal sign under which it was written), may muddy the ideal which has never quite been able to manage difficult cases like the infidelities of those married against their will . What can get called “adultery” may be little more than a desperate will to realize one’s identity and find some love. Few of us would care like Dante to send Francesca da Rimini to the Inferno.

RELIEF, NOT JUST “FULFILLMENT”

I am going to suggest that almost the core problem is the need  of quite a sizeable portion of the population (from horny youth to the masturbating geriatrics with which Simone de Beauvoir concludes La Veillesse, her depressing study of old age), to just have some sex, to need stimulation and orgasm as surely as some exercise is needed for health.  Idealists may wish otherwise, but love alone if it can be conveniently found, may not suffice to cover the lack of erotic excitement even if it’s also true that sex dissociated from love can also demoralize and increase loneliness.

Not being able to put erotic need neatly inside any framework from the social to the ethical or the spiritual, can cause all manner of confusion including among the devout. These  may be left to wonder how repentant they are meant to be about what might seem only necessary but which, (in the Catholicism which didn’t allow medieval style “medical” reasons for it), traditionally rendered it a subject for penance itself.  That perversely brilliant poem The Great Hunger from Patrick Kavanagh evokes the confusion from the Catholic and peasant position, “once a week  at least flesh must make its appearance…” but it’s all a confusion of a life “more lousy than savage”.

Much helped by St Augustine, the Genesis story of Onan has given rise to fantastic superstitions and horrors around masturbation (onanism) which, despite Augustine, is not even the real point of the story, which is Onan’s insulting and wilful refusal to do his sacred duty to preserve the family line.  (Gen 38:9).

Superficially, even words of Jesus might not seem helpful. In what can be made to sound like distressing impossible extremism, he is often interpreted as declaring that to look on a woman with desire at all is equal to adultery (IMatt 5:27), but the point is missed that Jesus’ subject is precisely the ten commandments and adultery, “woman” means married woman and looking at (more like having a mind to taking) someone else’s wife is to be understood morally equal to doing it. Intentions count and guide contact. Interiorization of the Law is the message not approving what would make for depopulation if no man ever allowed himself to feel anything.

And  surely on a normal basis we would not call all erotic pleasure and  fantasy a defiling misdirection of the will; it can just accompany relief of tension and in the young where imagery might be strongest, it may serve a sort of clarification of the kind of person and experience the individual is working towards. So in this area I am  rather  in agreement with Bolz-Weber who dissents from the religious culture which has sought to banish sexual thought and feeling as soon as they arise because this  can shut down feeling itself and create ignorance of one’s true character and needs. A very strict control of feelings risks creating either or both  such internalized guilt feelings about eros or idealistic expectations for its expression that paradoxically, as Nadia observes, it will not automatically help the adjustments of a Christian marriage at all.

One suspects too some of the periodically reported near sadism of some monks and nuns could have links to precisely a too icily efficient “taking custody” of mind and vision. Granted one could – just- maintain a radical self-correction is only in harmony with Jesus on if need be cutting off the hand or plucking out the eye to avoid sin. But not only does the expression of this counsel  belong with the violent idioms of  Jesus’ native Aramaic with its exclamations  like “cut off my nose if I don’t tell truth”, but the reference is to an obligation to  avoid whatever is absolutely, totally wrong for the individual in a way even Bolz-Weber   acknowledges  is  a  practical necessity as mentioned presently.

So how should one think about the less regimented  approach to impulse, and how does/should the more libidinous kind of spiritual person manage it?

RESISTING ADDICTION

At this point I am prepared to take a leaf out of the book of gay experience of recent decades because dangerous addiction to sex and sensation has been a problem for some within that community. A surprising discovery of various experiments has been that if one can give the sex addict  big  or “full body orgasm” (which I take it is something closer to what women rather than men typically experience at best)  once achieved, addiction is overcome and generally desire for sex diminishes.

In effect the method is a yin, tantric, Asian one, not a typically yang western one over-represented in  traditional Christianity and influenced by an ascetical strain within prior paganism. In this one fights impulse (and may even increase desire by doing so). By contrast, the tantric mode surrenders to desire in order to overcome and/or transform it.

There are variations upon this (the subject is a large one I can’t pursue here), but even in modern systems of  so-called “mindful masturbation”, it is often recommended to get away as far as possible from person imagery lest it be attaching. The stimulation then serves rather more to increase self-love, comfort and acceptance and as said any sex detached from love can finish problematic..

The idea of sex serving self-love and acceptance may nonetheless sound ungodly to some, but one must concede that even the bible teaches to love one’s neighbour as oneself. Loving the self is almost impossible where some measure of self-acceptance is not included in the package. To hate oneself, one’s body and its desires, the whole diable au corps, ( devil in the flesh) approach as opposed to thanking God for sensation, seems like a good recipe for some of the perversions associated with places of celibate life. Particularly if, for whatever reason, the person cannot hope to find love quickly or be with a partner, a more tantric way could function positively, especially within the context of an almost over-sexed, over-stimulated society where the sex theme is harder to avoid.

It should be stressed that BW, and I would agree with her, admits that there is such a thing as unacceptable sexual drives (such as towards children or animals) that must be cast out of mind ; but as regards sexual images more generally, art, porn or whatever, she opines each person must responsibly follow sense and conscience because, rather as with alcohol, some can do and benefit from what others can’t. As a former alcoholic, she herself  cannot touch even one glass of alcohol.  But she wouldn’t tell other not to; and similarly with many sexual images. If you know they serve only addiction, avoid them. (I would be inclined to add one would wish to avoid what, in the case of porn is a whole industry liable to exploit people much like the prostitution whose services you presumably wouldn’t wish to employ).                       ).

A SOUL ISSUE?

Finally here and despite all my inclination to liberal religious views on sex as attested by various articles on this site and my other McCleary’s Alternatives site, I am still left in disagreement with BW, and in a way that almost contradicts the whole enterprise. Basically, her position (like Althaus-Reid, the bisexual author of Indecent Theology who confessed to affairs with clergy including a bishop) is a “materialistic”, not a spiritual one. The problem with treating sex in total disregard of the so-called purity question, is you don’t just make love to people as bodies but to souls with which you can at some level be joined.

Ultimately the bible doesn’t quite make sense unless an esoteric theory (such as Jewish mysticism as in Kabbalah would anyway envisage) is brought in to explain it. Early Jewish society didn’t even celebrate marriages. Intercourse itself was the celebration. Consummation was the seal of marriage. And since two persons cannot literally become “one flesh” it must be considered – short of a case to poetic language – that understood is that what is mixed and joined by marriage are the soul bodies.

St Paul makes no sense at all, short of esoteric theory, when he tells the Corinthians not to join the spirit that dwells with in them, to a prostitute (1 Cor 6: 16-20). To go to a prostitute amounts to virtual marriage with that person. Where full penetrative orgasm has taken place between consenting parties, no such thing as a casual relation exists.  So far as I can see, what we call an affair or a fling is a form of marriage where biblical tradition is concerned. And if  the esoteric dimension is true then  this would be be a trans-cultural, trans-historical principle.

I am not quite sure how and to what extent this applies to any gay relations, but it may be the same, and this has been claimed .  In  A Special Illumination I cite the case of a particularly devout lesbian conflicted about her status  who was shocked to be told in vision by Jesus that in fact partners to a gay relation can and do become “one”.  The visionary couldn’t understand how this could be, and wasn’t told in what she took as a general warning against gay promiscuity as opposed to gay unions as such, but if it’s an esoteric matter of two souls united, all is immediately clear (2)

Ironically it was an early (Victorian/Edwardian) gay rights campaigner, Edward Carpenter, who was spiritual enough (as gays often are spiritual) to suggest there are never two people in a relation, there is always a third, namely God,  If this is so,  one can’t go where Nadia tends to lead, which is to just follow immediate sensed need, free love style, regardless of where God might intend to be, or , as in divorce, remove from.

Like Luther I don’t consider all divorce is wrong,  but I have to ask if the often reported acute strain on the system suffered by many people in the wake of divorce could well be linked to, beyond psychological effects, more spiritual ones of sundering what has been meshed and melded over time. Some people may be too extraverted and careless to consciously suffer such effects, but that doesn’t automatically signify some degree of joining and then separation has not occurred.

COLOURS THAT SHOW

Even outside Christian religion, persons able to read auras and perceive the so-called astral body would attest to the clouded or distorted auras (often grey or muddy) of those who have lived promiscuously.

At any rate  Christians have to consider the possibility that, short of precisely the kind of “repentance”  Bolz-Weber deems unnecessary to  sex-helpful relating (and is Christianity quite itself without the call to  repentance or self-examination in the face of almost any subject?),  one must pass into the next life with other souls shadowing you. This is  something which may or may not be fortunate – for you or for them. (It might be  bit more painful than any of Nadia’s heavenly seats besides Harvey Weinstein!). That the apostle assumes the believing partner to a marriage sanctifies the unbelieving partner 1 Cor 7:14, itself again implies some doctrine of  purely spiritual effects).

According to the esoteric worldview (which I don’t say we must accept uncritically, but should keep in mind), it is even possible to establish a strong tie of souls by just intent, obsessive looking – a kind of Rasputin effect – a reason some say it is necessary to be careful around addictive porn.

For the nowadays returning tribe of exorcists, the problem, whether with porn addiction or promiscuous relations more generally, is they are said to  open up pathways to spiritual obsession if not outright possession, though this misfortune often comes out in the offspring of the guilty parties. To the extent it is attaching, sex and orgasm, which temporarily makes the aura detach from the body to join with another aura also outside the body, risks opening the body/soul portal to spiritual influences. On this understanding, sex which can be divine can  also be demonic. At best it is a foretaste of the paradise which the lovers of the Song of Songs anticipate from “within the fires of Yahweh”. (Song 8:3) and see my Solomon’s Tantric Song  https://goo.gl/sU21My

Since  however  just about all sex falls short of that high ideal and is never got right, provided it is not morbid, an  element of  doubt, regret and repentance about the whole subject is natural and  could even  protect it and finish more healthy than “shameless” alternatives. What may look like easy adjustment in some individuals  may only be their way station to the next hook-up. And against the argument, one that I understand, that it can help rather than hinder adjustment  if couples live together to be sure they are fitted for greater commitment  (almost essential in borderline cases like persons of uncertain orientation), I have come to believe, what many Christians refuse to consider, namely that marriage by trial is not actually necessary because the  nature and possibilities of the relation  can be foreknown.

If the couple is really sexually fit and suited can be read in their compared birth patterns. Bribery of astrologers and various cheating of data have been known, but in India it is generally felt that the relative stability of marriages in contrast to the breakdown and almost frenetic instability of Western unions, owes something to the ability to read and match natal charts.

Like it or not, no one can have better sex than their birth stars show is possible for them. Many just don’t have the gift of eros and their expectations will fail no matter how much they try.   For example, always disappointed  in love Jennifer Aniston,  could not be encouraged to expect too much given that, as only one  thing within a difficult pattern, separative Uranus is opposite her relational Venus.

It’s a strange  opinion  from a pastor that even if people like her daughter will have numbers of affairs, at least they will have acquired more sexual knowledge and experience towards greater erotic fulfillment later. In theory, and occasionally in fact, this could seem justified, but  things don’t necessarily work out like that because there’s a fate and timing dimension that modifies.

I accept that the pastrix is sincere, has suffered and in her latest book highlights real problems needing attention in the churches of especially America. But I think she is ultimately too “materialistic” about sex and risks being, or making others, blasé about the whole “purity” problem.

That subject may need complete re- thinking and re-statement (it  doubtless  will increasingly receive attention in various ways  –  only  this week there are rumbles from the Sanhedrin  mixed with the expectations for  a third temple, declaring that the world is largely in a state of unacceptable  “sexual impurity” before God);  but whatever one’s take on the subject,  the purity theme doesn’t need  Nadia’s  rejection as something  virtually irrelevant to   management of  the spiritual life. It’s  a position she can only sustain by maintaining everyone is accepted just as they are and saved (as though they scarcely had  the dignity of agency!) and  were thus justified and enjoyed rights with God as much by  their scars and psycho-histories of pain as by faith.

I suspect that what is called “sexual purity” in the biblical tradition is linked to a system of quasi- occult/esoteric soul protection which may hold enough significance not to be too lightly dismissed in an age of rabid competition, experiment. and instant gratification…These days the rejection of this-worldly American values might represent the beginning of wisdom.

NOTES

(1)  See    https://aeon.co/essays/getting-down-and-medieval-the-sex-lives-of-the-middle-ages?fbclid=IwAR0cjXjuhNMP3xg_wjqGDbz9VhLhrMXJ8-LEyzx6PBAVoS_cxLarEqH_lSM         
(2)  Rollan McCleary, A Special Illumination, 2006, p.118  https://goo.gl/sU21My

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NAKED IN THESSALONIKI : RIDDLE AND SIGN

 

      

WELCOME TO THE SPIRITUAL SYMBOLIC LABYRINTH

Religion mostly deals in absolutes. Art, which is often in trouble with religion, deals in the grey areas. But both religion and art are joined in their connection to leading, life-governing symbols. This article will conduct the reader through a veritable labyrinth of symbols towards an unexpected, quasi-apocalyptic message with links past and present to a biblically celebrated  Greek city. Be patient to discover and arrive.

Later this year an arguably misnamed film, The Changing of the Gods, based on the work of Cosmos and Psyche by culture historian Richard Tarnass, should be making irrefutably clear how much events follow cycles. It will demonstrate what’s ignored by scientists and Christians (the latter despite the Magi and all the statements of Ecclesiastes to the effect was has been will be),  namely  that as many  people have long  known, the course of wars, revolutions and social change generally, really does follow distinct planetary patterns. And these engage specific symbols.

Symbols are distinctively one thing  or genus (like the Mars long associated with war and mayhem), but they are also multivalent, not just war but a gun and sword, and then they have  positive and negative expressions too as when Mars is associated with  courage and decisiveness and not just strife.

At this point in history we are moreover on the cusp of two ages – that of Pisces “ruled” by Neptune and that of Aquarius “ruled” by Uranus. Accordingly, if we are at all sensitive to the flow of events, we can observe and are experiencing an often confused, half merged, clashing overload of Neptunian and Uranian symbols and themes.

On the Piscean side we have the Neptunian victim, refugee, suffering, compassion, inclusivism at all costs, a certain domination by film, image and dreams, also lies and corruption, drugs and addiction, permissiveness and mysticism in all shapes and sizes, good and bad.

On the Aquarian side, there is an obsession with personal rights, autonomy, difference and gayness. There is a disposition to shock, to revolution or group action and thus recourse to social media, also to achieve “perfection “ (at least of bodies), a tendency to domination by technology and abstract dogmatism, an orientation to future trends and Utopias (more “perfection”).

There is no need to enumerate the potential for positive and negative expression within the signs and their trends. It should be obvious. Sometimes Neptune and Uranus seem to complement one another as when Neptune is nature and Uranus is society, sometimes they suggest absolute polarities as when Neptune is sleep and dream, and Uranus is wakefulness and inspiration,. It is these polarities, natural and social, sleep and awake, which are also biblically stressed polarities and with an odd connection to the issue of nudity that I shall be stressing here even as reaching into a sign of the times worth noting.

We can return to the point and related matters presently, but here is one of the relevant, symbolically loaded biblical statements which may not mean quite what it seems. And it is  problematic, not just for what it might be thought to imply about sex, shame and nudity, but because of its odd comparison, one we need to understand, of the Christ of the apocalypse with a thief. …… “See I am coming like a thief! Blessed is the one who stays awake and is clothed, not going about naked and exposed to shame” (Rev 15:16).

IT ALL DEPENDS WHAT YOU THINK AND SEE

Nudity is all of a mixed signals symbol. It is what especially postmodernists  might call a floating signifier. To many, even or especially in the permissive west, nudity signifies little more than having sex or being immodest or aggressively exhibitionist (as in streaking). Some laws may still treat nudity under the head of “indecent exposure” or “public nuisance”, a virtual crime (even if victimless) rather than anything that might involve art, a special statement or a lifestyle option. The fact is the condition proves  elusive when it comes to defining quite what it represents and does. Assumed to be sexual, for some it may seem less erotic than the effects produced by the behaviour of  an individual fully clothed.

Sociologically, the nothing-but-sex reaction is more in evidence where there is less gender equality and/or women are – as in Hollywood! – just objects to men. Thus in relatively egalitarian Scandinavia nudity is not a big deal with families sharing naked sauna. In other ages and climes, and famously in ancient Greece, it was rather men than women who had the right to be naked, (though not necessarily as an object for women who could be executed for observing the nude games!). And before the Christian West unexpectedly made something of a standard artistic fetish of the female nude, it was male nudity was more portrayed. Symbolically there was a  sort of natural correctness to this.  As in medieval alchemical art,  the male organ , anyway outside the body and thus quasi exposed,  is “solar” as against  the more hidden, “lunar” female genitals .

Where sex is not the sole association, nudity can symbolize protest and especially freedom from conventional personal and societal  images such as clothes impose. The purely legal or morals campaigner approach ignores that and risks compromising a type of sincerity and signification, including even biblically. St Francis did a holy striptease in the street in rejection of his father’s lifestyle and source of wealth as a cloth merchant and to make a point he  preached a sermon in the nude. The prophet Micah, who sounds like the nearest thing to a Jewish Diogenes (the Cynic Greek philosopher who lived naked in a tub) declares he will go stripped and naked and wailing like the jackals (Mic 1:8). Isaiah went about “naked” as a sign for three years (Is 20:2-4}. Quite how naked he was is not clear, but denying  his aristocratic status, it seems he went about slave-like at least buttocks bared as a warning of  impending captivity.

OPEN TO THE ETHERS AND THE HOLY ?

Signs and protests apart, Isaiah and Micah could hardly go far wrong because it is affirmed we are all naked before God anyway ( Heb 4: 13) and, at least symbolically, are even meant to be perhaps especially in relation to worship. In some paganism like wicca, nudity  is not symbolic but overt and in order, it’s believed, to free connection of the aura/soul body to the elements to increase spiritual power. It’s an idea that possibly obtained among Israel’s early school of the  prophets  given the statement that King Saul was thought to  be like the prophets because he had stripped off and lain naked like them  all night (1 Sam 19:24). The Rev Charles Kingsley (author of The Water Babies) was puzzled by the fact he felt more spiritual when unclothed.

Though most systems and persons are less radical than wiccans and less sensitive than KIngsley, and while nudity may have its spiritual uses, no religious  system outside  the Jains has deemed it essential. Even so and in Judaism, its priests, though dressed for temple service, must still go bare foot. Famously Moses must remove his shoes before the burning bush. Beyond just reverence, this is very likely to signify the humility and honesty of a symbolic nudity because, as any rabbi will tell you, the feet are often a biblical symbol/circumlocution for the genitals. It is even widely believed that Isaiah’s cherubim, whose wings cover their feet (Is 6:2), is circumlocution for covering their genitals….In which case, this begs the question why would God require a symbolic nudity for priests if the celestial realms of the cherubim have no room for an actual nudity  among those perfect, unfallen beings?

Though you could explore this difficult, sensitive subject through Jewish works like God’s Phallus by Howard Eilberg-Schwartz, in brief parenthesis I will supply one answer here and particularly as Christianity with its doctrine of God as Trinity has a special problem with, or clue to, the question if you at all accept as starting point what it took the pornographer Henry Miller to point out.  He opined that the  penis is like a Trinity symbol with its shaft and two testicles (1)  (He didn’t get theological about the female genitals, but one could theorize they represent either another version of the uniplural principle or else they symbolize earth, the  All that receives the divinity). What we do know of God is that, as per Ezekiel (Ez 1:27), below the waist he is pure (creative) fire. Sex and the genitals would always be a reflection of that. The lovers of the Song of Solomon are understood to be in the fires of Yah. And we may assume that in some form or other the angelic orders experience this fire – how else could the fallen angels of Genesis have intercourse with women on earth if they were totally sexless?

It follows that, almost as a point of what one could call erotic etiquette, i.e. from respect rather than shame, angelic beings closest to deity are seen as not presuming to expose themselves as though in rivalry to the prime source  – the likely reason they also cover their faces is not to rival the divine image). Even on the human plain some of the offence or shock of nudity can be involved with the fact the genitals do not so much belong to the principle of beauty with which the body gets identified as with a more alien, numinous element of power. This applies as much to the female as to the male and is presumably what is being conveyed, however grotesquely, by the peculiar medieval inclusion in churches of the Sheela-na-gig carvings, vestiges of ancient fertility goddesses. (But  note that as compared to the more naturalistic depiction of male nudity over the centuries, the Sheelas have, or draw attention to, an exaggerated, unnaturalistic  vulva probably  because the attempted power emphasis runs somewhat counter to what I have called the more hidden “lunar” aspect of female being).

REVISING THE EDENIC SHAME. WHAT WAS AND IS IT?

Biblical Hebrew has a variety of words and expressions for naked and in translation,  sometimes even in Hebrew itself, it is not always perfectly clear what is meant. It could be anything from full nudity to merely being without over garment – situation would indicate.  Sometimes the use of nudity can be a precious circumlocution for having sex as in Leviticus where “uncovering the nakedness” means having intercourse, a fact that reminds us the Genesis curse on Ham who saw his (inebriated) father naked, is almost guaranteed to signify a case of incestuous shame rape.   However, the nearest root meaning if not translation of naked  is usually impoverishment, a certain lack or loss or absence of something, anything from personal power to wealth. Obviously the nakedness of Isaiah was involved with prophetic warning of coming defeat and reduction to slave status.

Yet if there can also be, as in some art forms  or the Song of Solomon, something glorious about the naked body, especially if it’s believed to be any “in the image” reflection of the divine, how can and does our floating significator manage also to be shameful? And is it, strictly speaking, sexually/erotically shameful after all? Obviously age, disease and obesity can ravage the body to the point it recalls the all too human “fallen” condition rather than anything sublime, but I don’t think that the  idea of shame is principally involved with  just that.

In a previous article on my  other site (See: Issues of Love, Sex and Biblical ‘Incoherence’ https://wp.me/p2v96G-111)  I mentioned that the bible implies a belief in the soul/aura – some passages don’t even make sense without assuming it. I suggest that loss of the aura’s visibility, its radiance around the body that a few psychically inclined persons can still observe, is what the original shame was believed to be. After all, without some loss of the kind happening, how would the Edenic couple sense and observe they were naked in the first place? “Who told you you were naked”? is indeed the question to be asked.

The philosopher Schopenhauer may also provide another clue here. He remarks somewhere that the shame of nudity is involved with the sense of mortality (such as the Genesis story very much points to). The genitals are no longer just part of a  bodily whole or a reminder of pleasure, but rather a reminder of the need to procreate against undesired death.

I should say too that if the aura is not observed, it becomes easier for people to forget that one makes love not just to bodies but souls; and then the body without  any apparent radiance is more obviously object and thus easily object of a dissociated lust that can embarrass and more.

LOSS AND GAIN, WORLD AND LAODICEA

So at this point we arrive at paradox. For some people in some contexts to be naked is to gain or regain something –  one’s being, one’s pure self (i.e.freed of social expectations and without the props and often false signals of clothes), and more in tune with a sensed (aurically based) connection to nature and the All. At the same time, this gain still suffers the effects of all that’s entailed on account of the soul/aura’s invisibility.  Even if the naked person may sufficiently reach  self harmoney, others not  appreciating this  may reduce the person to the status of object only or question their honesty, so that in society’s eyes, they are  regarded  as  merely rebellious, eccentric,  exhibitionist, perverted etc.

It is thus  a win/lose situation for the individual. Even so, above and beyond this and on the cultural plain, we almost certainly need to be rid of notions  many easily hold and the bible can be thought to point to, but doesn’t  automatically ,  that nudity is shameful or embarrassing per se, that it equates with sex only and lewdly so. Relevant here are words to the church of Laodicea in the book of Revelation. The church is the last addressed of seven churches of Asia Minor, and although the relevant community did exist and was still active to shape church policy into the fourth century,  the churches are often seen as symbolic and prophetic for church history with Laodicea representing  an end of  age decadent religiosity. Historically, Laodicea was a prosperous city famed for luxury goods including a precious eye salve. The church shared in the general prosperity. It also drank from the well-supplied but tepid, lukewarm waters of the region.

Accused of boasting of a wealth they feel renders them invulnerable “we have need of nothing”  (is it possible  these believers anticipate today’s prosperity gospel advocates?! )  the Laodiceans are told in reality they are “wretched, pitiable, blind, poor and naked”. They are counselled to buy gold from Christ  in order  to be truly rich, “and white robes to clothe you and to keep the shame of your nakedness from being seen and salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see” (Rev 3:18). What is the shame of nakedness best not seen? Plainly it’s what nudity had broadly symbolized in Hebrew, namely a degree of poverty or loss,  a state the Laodiceans fail to realize is theirs no matter how fashionably attired and materially wealthy they are. But why must they acquire white robes to hide the shame of what is their “naked” spiritual poverty in fact?

THE TEMPLE THIEF

  

In Revelation the redeemed who are seen as like priests unto God (Rev5:10)  are said to wear white robes, doubtless because priests of the temple wore white robes. To be frank about it, heaven itself could  be dull and impoverished if the redeemed could never get beyond wearing a single garment, however precious, of one colour for all eternity! So the meaning is virtually guaranteed to be otherwise. The reason the priests wore white while their feet were bare was because their white robe represented the lost and to be reacquired radiance of the original, body-surrounding aura which of course could also be coloured but white is the source colour and light itself.

The bible, not least Revelation and apocalyptic themes, is saturated with temple symbolism and theology, though it is only recently  being acknowledged and studied quite how much so. We can now return to the earlier mentioned thief in the night passage. What does it mean to say Christ comes as a thief in the night (something he surely can’t be ) and so one needs to keep awake not to go about naked?

The answer is that Christ is being identified with the chief of the Temple guard composed of levite priests whose leader was called the thief. It was as good as sacrilege for selected priests to fall asleep on any night of duty. If they did, the shame of their failure risked being marked out by “the thief”, in effect a clothes thief , who set the offender’s robe alight so that to protect himself he would need to fling off his garment and flee the scene naked. All sorts of symbolism is involved here but most obviously fire represents the judgement and purifying force of deity and the priest is symbolically judged, sent to hell. And if we identify his ritual robe with the aura lost at the fall, then a second death or fall is imaged. I reserve to note another important way in which Christ is symbolically “thief” related. (2)

But we must also remember especially the following point of symbolism as regards sleeping and waking. No matter how pure, free, natural or healthy the nudity of any Christian St Francis, pagan Diogenes or poetic Walt Whitman might be at a certain level, symbolically (even or especially for traditional symbolic systems like astrology), nudity still equates as much as for Hebrew with some kind of loss, lack, even poverty (Francis and Diogenes were both devoted to it).

ASLEEP AND AWAKE, NAKED  AND CLOTHED

Symbols are multivalent and like notes they have octaves. It’s thus that, depending on the context, Neptune can signify not only poverty and nudity but film, dream or sleep – recall how much nudity features not only in film but dreams – it’s a commonplace people dream they are suddenly naked in public. It follows that nudity as linked to sleep and dream is also a lack of sorts in relation to its Uranian polarity of wakefulness. The latter can also be identified with knowledge, not like Neptune knowledge  of unconscious nature but conscious “enlightenment’ in relation to being, the more archetypal, utopian, celestial plan of things.

We can now better see what is happening with biblical and especially apocalyptic imagery. The state of nudity risks engaging a shame related less to eros and sex than symbolically the condition of sleep which is oblivious to and unprepared for what is to happen. It is confused slumber as against enlightenment, a kind of sleepwalking confusion that characterizes the end of the Neptunian age of Pisces which will suffer the Uranian shock of the coming Aquarian age (which can be equated with the biblical Millennium)   with its potential to fulfil among much else the Uranian concern with the improved, perfected body, biblically the immortal one  (it is also seen as snatched Ganymede-like to heaven, a thoroughly Uranian and air sign theme in itself).

In the classic, most cited statement regarding the end of age and the so-called Rapture event that precedes the end and disappears the believing prepared, St Paul to the Thessalonians makes the whole subject one of precisely day against night, being awake rather than asleep:

“But you beloved, are not in darkness for that day [the day of the Lord, the Rapture] to surprise you like a thief, for you are all children of the light and children of the day; we are not of the night or of darkness. So then let us not fall asleep as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober” ( I Thess 5:4-6).

Nothing of the naked/clothed polarity explicitly enters in Thessalonians and at one level it needn’t. The omission can  even seem positive  if one questions what is often felt to be a biblical penchant for anti eros and mere body shaming. But life is stranger than fiction and symbolism has almost autonomous powers, works in chains of association enforcing something like the Jungian compensation factor. Try to leave out the clothed/unclothed equation and what among other things does the end of the age produce but….nudity in or from of all places St Paul’s apocalypse-associated Thessaloniki?

URBAN NUDISM

     

Urban nudism names the practice, (or claim to be able to practice) a more public nudity. It is and remains more or less illegal, though laws may not be strongly applied in some places and times especially protests and festivals like the World Naked Bike Ride or Gay pride. In several countries it is more or less legal (Denmark and Netherlands, and actually legal in Spain where the freedom was locally curtailed after it was alleged prostitution in Barcelona was exploiting it – inevitably however it was mostly men were seen about town where they functioned as curios for tourists. Because what is Neptunian insinuates rather than rebels and organizes like Uranus, there never has been nor will be any aggressive or highly organized naked revolution akin to Gay Lib but there can be local trends and movements that favour greater freedom.

Harmonious with the symbolism so far mentioned and which includes the idea of poverty, we find urban nudism, the will or desire towards it, enjoys some association with societies either passing through major economic problems like Argentina, Spain and Greece, or societies more prosperous like California’s, but which include a partly ghettoed, less prosperous, alternative lifestyle minority such as gays in San Francisco or Berlin. I recall a TV interview with a Buenos Aires urban nudist who maintained that as he was anyway poor, unemployed and excluded, why not go naked when he had nothing to lose? In San Francisco the pioneer of urban nudism, Naked Guy Martinez, was a university student with radical leftist interests and little cash.

THESSALONIKI’S LATEST “PUBLIC FIGURE”

In politically troubled Greece and since 2014, apart from a celebration of the World Naked Bike Ride  in that year and the mayor himself posing nude in  support of gay rights and pride,  urban nudism is chiefly the property of the not so impoverished artist and architect, Giannis Maskidis (John Mask to his English language followers). Almost certainly it is under the cover of “art” and helped by something approaching a model’s body, that JM has got away without cover of clothes in a conservative society that nonetheless remembers and cherishes its more body free ancient past.

With events like World Naked Bike Ride and Gay Pride it’s collective and annual only, but with  JM it’s  individual and almost a case of “we see him here, we see him there, he’s mostly naked everywhere” – in parks, under Corinthian columns, draped on statues, posed on balconies, standing on church roofs, in front of altars and icons (though that may be photo-shopped), crawling around art galleries on a dog’s lead (does he want to reproduce  Diogenes the Dog?), riding a fairground carousel, doing just about everything but not riding the public transport  like a German youth in Berlin. GM’s programme started in his home town of Thessaloniki and spread to Athens and the Greek islands.

But  apart from holiday brochure-like suggesting “follow your myth in Greece”, is there any message? Is the chief aim, fame, freedom, art, health, political protest, a neo-pagan campaign, gay pride (JM is gay)? Gayness and its celebration is often accused of precisely exhibitionism or glorification of the body. To the extent that’s valid it would seem inevitable because if the esoteric formula is correct that gays are a female soul in a male body (or a male soul in a female one for lesbians), the body expresses and certifies who the person is more strongly than it does for others. For JM “art” seems the main justification if not quite the main aim. Pictures of nudity often alternate with images of architecture, some of them desolate and almost mournful like some of the comments such as on death being a companion on this or that day or the day requiring one live and suffer.

JM reports the priests hate him (unsurprisingly given that one pic is posed before an altar and extravagantly declares ‘religion spoils everything”!). But given how political, censorious and recently homophobic Orthodoxy – especially its Russian version can be – see my poem Icon World  https://wp.me/p2v96G-cs   – it is surprising, if wise, clergy have remained more critical than litigious. Orthodoxy is a liturgically exquisite but peculiarly static, monolithic,  unprophetic faith that relates almost more to icons and saints than God. And the way its icons deform the human body denying it all Solomonic or Renaissance glories, was perhaps bound by a massive act of psychic compensation, to produce alternatives at the first modern opportunity. But JM’s beliefs are odder than any icon – in one article I can’t and needn’t bother to retrace, he endorses a popular underground piece of neo-mythic philosophy that regards God as by chance excreting human beings rather than making any being “in his image”.

STARTING AT NIGHT

      

Although JM’s “protest” against the norms may have arisen from a walk in the park in 2013, it can be said to have been birthed, trialled and first  filmed for public consumption in 2014 when there were night walks on main roads and past restaurants of central Thessaloniki, evidently to test the waters and loosen up attitudes. Originally we see bag, clothes and camera carrying women supported the venture, something I wouldn’t explain by faghagism towards the two gays involved, but more likely something characteristically  Greek. Greece has never quite accepted contemporary feminism which was not long launched before the then Arianna Stassinopoulos produced The Famale Woman which stressed any reforms would need to be for an equality in difference  she saw under threat (as would often prove true). I suspect therefore that original support for JM has some connection to a local will to (re)assert threatened principles of phallos by the same society that anciently displayed herms at house entrances.

It is however a coincidence of symbols and their timing that I should wish to stress. It was observed that we are currently at the end of an era, the Piscean whose Neptunian range includes and even exaggerates like the last flare of a candle at era’s end, such things as image, film, photography vulnerability,sleep, the dream, what’s natural including nudity. So it is hard not to notice that the nude protest is birthed towards era’s end at night and at a time which due to a tetrad of blood moons of Jewish festivals in 2014 and 15 caused a particular obsession in some circles with precisely end of days, end of era speculations. (Although there was a lot of exaggeration and misinterpretation about this, I accept the blood moons were an element within larger patterns and cycles and considerably involved with the growing movement towards the building of a third Jewish temple, a potentially apocalyptic, end of days subject indeed).

With  so much involved, one cannot usually be either fully for or against nudity. (Unless you are a morals campaigner, solicitation and  commercial treatment of nudity are what seem most legally relevant).  However, “For everything there is a time/ season…..” says Ecclesiastes (Ecc 3:1) in what is almost a statement of astrological theory and its principle of cycles. In line with this  it easier to state  whether the kinds of nudity practiced and portrayed, advocated and tolerated are socially and culturally timely.

TOWARDS WHICH LIGHT?

Curiously enough, what has begun in Thessaloniki, the same city to which St Paul conveyed secrets of the end of days, is in its way very timely, though more by way of a counter sign. It begins at night (“we are not of the night” says the apostle) and it progresses into the light of day when not as a game and  joke, through a struggle with “dog days’ including with thoughts of death and decay and a kind of meaninglessness which disbelief in deity (or any ideal one) engenders. The emphasis is at variance with futuristic  Uranian type concern with the perfected body, the body electric, the body of light or biblically the immortal and resurrected body that gets associated with the Thessalonian teaching of Rapture and the coming age.

As said, neither of the two letters to Thessalonians mentions nudity after the manner of Revelation, but they might as well do so  because we know that the asleep/awake polarity that haunts end of the age teachings naturally embraces the clothed/naked polarity also.

It would  be   misleading to present JM as  some kind of unique anti prophet. He belongs to and arises out of his times  and unknowingly enacts something within the collective unconscious  and between nudity and gayness  undeniably engages  Neptunian and Uranian themes to a degree  as do perhaps the parading and celebrating  citizens of Thessaloniki more generally. The Laodiceans that the Christ of Revelation accuses of a shameful nakedness were not literally naked and their species of nakedness was spiritual  rather than  material.

In the same way, arguably JM’s clerical critics in Thessaloniki and beyond it, could be deemed as naked as he himself is in relation to the times, which is to say both parties are half slumbering, unawakened to, or sleepwalking amid the events and ideals, symbols and beliefs including in relation to the body and attitudes to it that must change with  era’s. change. (If that sounds a  heavy put on  it seems undeniable that JM has  ignored all the big issues of his nation  –  the national debt, chronic unemployment, near destitute pensioners, the migrant flood, the wild fires, the weather  etc and it’s not much different with the highly conservative national church ).

So at one level and in the immediate, JM is the original, norms challenging individual,   sometimes arty, amusing  or just lurid he aims to be. At another level he is a new Everyman who at the end of the era, unconsciously enacts through a key site of Christian origins and prophecy, what is not done,  understood or anticipated  at a time that calls for heightened awareness and engagement.

I have long claimed to possess  the true and still working chart for Christianity (I.e. Pentecost AD 30).  The asteroid Thessalia,  the only possible and surely correct indicator for Thessaloniki  within the pattern is, of all things,  in shocking, surprising, “expect the unexpected”,  next era  Aquarius, and at that in the house of unions which is what the Rapture/Marriage of the Lamb is.  And there it’s  conjunct, as though in some sort of warning recalling the tone and message of Christ’s apocalyptic parables, The Part of Unpreparedness.  All this seems  curiously harmonious with  the apostle’s words  “therefore let us not sleep as others do , but let us watch.” (1 Thess 5:6).

NOTES

1)  Some   would protest the pornographer’s daring symbolism is inexact because the three elements are not “equal”. Ironically I would insist the doctrine of absolute, geometrical Trinitarian equality which is St Augustine’s and which ultimately split West from East, is misleading. Greek theology, more in line with biblical statements, teaches something closer to semi-subordinationism with both Son and Spirit issuing from the One, a position which, as pointed out in various of my books and writings has implications for how deity, creation and sexuality are to be understood.

2)  Another reason that the Christ of Revelation is the night “thief” is because of his associations with Mercury, traditionally planetary symbol of the thief. The occultist Mme Blavatsky was the first to call Jesus Mercury outright and basically because like pagan Mercury he is described as mediator, healer and the go-between in relation to heaven and earth. As it happens however, and despite the fact that messianic Jupiter was “his star”, technically Mercury “rules” Jesus birth because with a Virgo sun and Gemini rising, the ruling factor is necessarily Mercury. These matters are covered in my Testament of the Magi: Mysteries of the Birth and Life of Christ, https://goo.gl/x8KASy . This is the only astrological study, a radical development of the respected D’Occhieppo/Hughes theory of the birth, which proves itself again and again. It still uniquely works to register Christ issues across history to our times – in short, it’s material too hot for many inside or outside religion to handle and is insultingly ignored accordingly.

For further exploration of the theological and sexual see my  Solomon’s Tantric Song    https://goo.gl/sU21My

 

TRUDEAU’S CANADA ISN’T SELLING SWEET 666 ICE CREAM….YET

        

…..For now it’s doing the next best thing. The Sweet Jesus Ice Cream franchise which began life in Toronto in 2015, is doing a roaring trade and expanding. That’s despite what should be warning signs to the wise that its Sweet’s T is an inverted cross while the E of its Jesus is formed in the lightning flash sign employed by the late Anton Le Vey to indicate Satanic associations – Satan fell from heaven like lightning.
The SJ sales pitch is openly profane and mocks Christianity in a way that should not be acceptable in a liberal democracy that proclaims equality, inclusion and tolerance et al for all peoples and beliefs and accordingly is down like a ton of bricks on anyone suspected of “Islamophobia” . (Here’s a Gatestone Institute article on how a much trumpeted ideal can become oppressive abuse in for example national media https://goo.gl/m4sSv6 )
Plainly the SJ team has got a hefty, not so sweet dollop of Christianophobia in its mouth and at the very least fans of its trademark have no loyalty to or respect for the Christian faith and its legacy. Even if some find SJ humorous, unless you have a few problems you don’t compose ads (or buy what they offer) which tell you to eat the ice cream like it’s the Last Supper or suggest that if everyone has their cross to bear it won’t be hunger. Some of the ads with their adultized kids wearing or holding religious or occult symbols have been understandably thought twisted by critics.

I haven’t read of any notable church protests such as would be justified. I dare say in many instances clergy feel protests only give added publicity….in which case and in this instance, so what? Truth and justice must still be defended. But it may be Canadian churches don’t know how to protest, warn, affirm…or do anything much but move sidewards or backwards. The United Church of Canada has been several years debating whether Gretta Vosper (of Toronto like the ice cream) a self- declared atheist, should continue as a pastor. It’s also possible that at least some would-be liberal Christians find the whole thing amusing and too silly to trouble about, though in that case perhaps they should remember the saying, “Woe to those who laugh now”….and also the saying which precedes it.

Be that as it may, it is never advisable to play around with powerful symbols As the old saying goes, “Speak of the devil and he appears”. Those who desire or invoke 666 or just dislike Christians and Christianity enough to work up a dismissive hate vibe, may get just what they want….possibly even this year and later on by food shortages and last suppers too.
666 in 2018?
As widely reported in some circles, in early February (2nd or 3rd according to source ) the NYSE dropped 666 points. Then on the 5th the NYSE suffered its greatest single day crash/correction in history. What could make this occurrence more eerie is something that didn’t get mentioned, perhaps wasn’t known or had been long forgotten. It happens that early February (specifically the 5th ) is the date Washington’s late Catholic Seeress, Jeane Dixon, believed was the birth date of the Antichrist in 1962. She had supposedly witnessed the birth in what she deemed the most important vision of her life.
The Antichrist is one who initiates a new world order linked at some stage to a universal currency. Adding to weird coincidences, back in 1988 The Economist magazine in Britain forecast for heaven alone knows what reasons (I would speculate an astrological forecast was involved as one can’t easily explain it otherwise), that specifically 2018 would see the beginnings of a world currency called the Phoenix.

The name itself was appropriate in its way to the extent that for most of 2018 until into November, wealth related Jupiter is in Scorpio, sign of the phoenix, shared resources and various aspects of finance, and Phoenix is also an asteroid in the heavens. The latter will be transited in the birth chart of Dixon’s Antichrist, if he exists, in May, June and July.
Is it actually possible the signs of early February were like a forecast and warning omen of pending radical economic and other changes this year?
It might actually be that my article  Peace, Jerusalem and a 2018 Turning Point  https://wp.me/p2v96G-14L     has  seen and hit on  something. Whether you fancy ice cream or not, perhaps you should go there and check out what it says.
In any case you should begin to question the hip and hypocritical ways of the elites of Trudeau’s Canada. Though the same charge could be levelled at many in the West, the nation’s feminists are not protesting the various repressions of women in Muslim majority nations and haven’t supported their protests as in Iran recently; their gays are not protesting the repression and torture of gays in Muslim majority lands like Chechnya and Palestinian Gaza and West Bank; their Christians are not protesting the widespread persecution of Christians and minorities in many Muslim majority countries. In Pakistan, reportedly fifth worse persecutor of Christians in the world, Christian children are persecuted in the schools, their parents are deemed filthy infidels fit for only the most menial work and all risk being accused of blasphemy for almost anything, some like Asia Bibi left to rot in prison for years, periodically beaten by vicious guards, the police and laws help almost nothing…..Meanwhile western countries, desperate not to offend  (very) sensitive Muslim feelings, protest none of this but pontificate about “Islamophobia”. And the governments will uncritically fund and grant aid to oppressive societies.
The situation is one of  deception, lies, even cowardice, and should the Antichrist appear, that would be the time of the great and permitted delusion visited upon wilfully deluded people. (2 Thess 2:17). Dixon possibly included Canada in her understanding that  “America” would be largely responsible for promoting the figure of her vision to the world once he appeared. If Trudeau’s Canada wishes to entertain lies while stuffing itself on bad imagery ice cream, then it must do so, but it should be rather ashamed.
PS   The Milan Gucci Fashion Parade – Satan Chic?
If there are such things as omens, adding to 2018’s bizarrely occult  picture, February’s Gucci fashion show for the Milan Spring Fashion Week  has been called  nightmarish and creepy, as it included models carrying replicas of their severed heads, others parading with such as third eyes, horns and baby dragons!  See goo.gl/BMK5K4 

 

CAN YOU BE DR MICHAEL BROWN AND A CHRISTIAN?

THE STAR CHRISTIAN WHO SHOULDN’T BE ONE

Dr Michael Brown – insultingly and damagingly some would say – doesn’t believe anyone ever has the right to call themselves a “gay Christian”. He has written a book Can You Be Gay and Christian? to insist you can’t. He has also stressed the point in a recent (June 28th), much anticipated debate with Matthew Vines, author of God and the Gay Christian on Moody Radio.

My question is can Michael Brown be called a Christian, and should Christians like those of  Charisma News and Christian Post who give him space, interviews and general star billing as some kind of religious authority, despite his approval of even Uganda on homosexuality,  accept him as any voice of and for Christianity. The answer is yes if you care to approve ideas and trends you have no place as Christians to be doing.

THE BROWN/VINES GAY DEBATE

I will briefly review some of the points made in the recent debate. Vines started from the position that while all the Bible’s rare references to same sex behaviour are negative, none are negative towards real relationship, to refuse the possibility of which can be seriously damaging to people. He might usefully have mentioned but didn’t, that the Leviticus ban, the core   issue along with Paul in Romans 1, was understood by the first century Jewish philosopher, Philo, to refer to pagan shrine prostitution (Philo, The Special Laws, III, VII, 40-42). It makes most sense if such is the case, and there’s little question that Paul, much influenced by the apocryphal Wisdom of Solomon in Romans 1, makes a close association of his unnatural sinners (whoever precisely they  are ) with pagan idolatry. Brown of course makes the Leviticus ruling a principle of universal natural law it is not presented as being and which much of the Torah including on sex never is – would Brown wish to campaign for raped women marrying their rapists, a ruling deeply involved with the most ancient  values quite irrelevant to Christians and even Jews today?

Brown proposed there is zero tolerance for and nothing positive said or indicated for same sex relations the length of the bible whose call is simply to deny oneself, not to affirm oneself.

Well, obviously we are meant to affirm and love ourselves (which some gays may have difficulty doing amid hostility) because the commandment is to love our neighbour as ourselves. So plainly there’s denial and denial to consider.

Brown compared the gay situation to that of the gospel’s rich young ruler who sadly denies discipleship to cling to his money. The comparison is false and misleading. Money is something one can be reasonably objective about if one tries. A person’s most instinctive, spontaneous sense of self and ability to relate is something very different, and personally I would say that beyond the romantic/erotic attraction Vines defends, being genuinely gay  engages an entire psychology and world view as any cultural studies can show. It’s not for the denying in the way Brown imagines.

MICHAEL BROWN’S GAY NEGATIVE BIBLE

Brown’s claim there is nothing gay positive the length of the bible is merest opinion. It doesn’t allow anyone else ( myself included as a gay scholar and theologian), their opinions to exist. In various of my books and in the article God and the Gay Gaps in Matthew Vines’s Vision (http://bit.ly/1izBz2C) I refer to everything from the plainly same sex attraction of David and Jonathan who have a covenant/marriage, through the unmarried Jeremiah and his ignored but real homoeroticism, to the more dangerous territory of Jesus and John (it’s Brown’s fellow Jewish Christians like Bishop Hugh Montefiore and Canon Paul  Oestereicher who have suggested Jesus’ humanity was probably “homosexual” by current standards) and Jesus’ teaching about “eunuchs” born differently. In the times of Christ eunuch didn’t automatically refer either to castrates or even celibates. So I don’t agree with even Vines that the Bible is negative about everything same sex.

Brown protests that no goodness of relation could justify the sin involved in anything gay. He bolsters this idea with the claim the Bible offers nothing but an Edenic pattern for sex and relating. Humanity is not created with their “parts” to fit other than heterosexually. And there’s no emotional or spiritual compatibility possible save between opposite sexes.

Even ignoring that many Christians today take Eden more as parable than history, what nonsense! Then, even ignoring as regards gay compatability potential that David’s love for Jonathan was self-declared to be above that for women, what we must affirm is that the design argument is as silly and irrelevant as claiming that because the mouth was made for eating it was not made for kissing also. And homosexuality is anyway not against or unknown to nature generally, it is simply a variation intelligent people should accept. But then Brown also contends that people (properly submitted to the Lord!) have left homosexuality behind. Change is possible.

To the last point Vines protests that Exodus and its former leader Alan Chambers would deny the cure claims though he personally accepts that some people do have a “fluid” sexuality but it should be clear enough most people don’t. He accepts that observed stability of orientation and its implications for relation is a rather modern issue. (I somewhat question this for reasons other than Brown – what were all the medieval church marriages of brethren about?).

MICHAEL BROWN’S GAYS AGAINST GOD

For Brown, to suggest the relationship issue is modern is tantamount to accusing God of writing a bad bible oppressing us for centuries. It suggests Jesus didn’t understand orientation as we do (I would insist Jesus very much did realize there was a gay orientation even if Paul didn’t) and it places sex before all else as an identity in a purely modern way. And what about the claims that the likes of a man fixated on pre-teen girls could make if we concede to gay demands, asks Brown?

Here Brown is getting really ridiculous, though as regards the bad bible idea this is just fundamentalist and pedantic literalism at work. Brown’s Bible gets read like the Koran, every word direct from heaven. As there is no room for any cultural or personal or historical filters to the revelation.  The supposed plain sense is all that matters and interpretation scarcely exists. All that does exist is people defying and challenging the God-dictated Bible with their false opinions and self-affirmations….. But the Taliban could and do bring the same kind of charges against supposedly lax or liberal Muslims!

As to those Brown mentioned who could claim rights for their fixation on pre-teens, paedophiles in effect, let’s note (against the terrible fundamentalist libel that gay and paedophile is more or less the same thing) that paedophiles often turn out to be fathers of families or visitors of prostitutes. They are not fixated on youth to the exclusion of all else but just playing around with an alluring alternative.

Contrary to what Brown assumes, as I pointed out in the article prior to this, we DO have the right to challenge and argue with scripture, not totally dismiss and ignore it but meaningfully question it without being condemned as hopeless egotists or blasphemers. In Numbers 27 the daughters of Zelophehad challenge the justice of a Torah ruling and it is changed in their favour.  ( Rather along these lines, Jewish commentary on Torah I have, says that in the light of what we know and the great complexity of the subject, Leviticus on n  same-sex needs re-assessment, an issue taken to the leaders of the faith for special guidance).  In Acts 10: 14  we have Peter denying the call to change given in vision because it appears to go against scripture. We are supposed as per Revelation to hear “what the Spirit says to the churches (Rev 2:11) not just the bible. I have also pointed out that I believe some evidence of revelation on things gay today exists, but conservative Christianity isn’t even beginning to listen to it. Sola Scriptura mania stops its ears.

THE WEEPING INTRANSIGENT

I won’t go further as regards the (uninspiring) debate. Instead I will comment a little upon the frustrating character of Michael Brown with its deceptive “this hurts me more than you” approach to his theme and which has him saying he has felt pain and wept at the pain of homosexuals….at the same time as he believes in zero tolerance for their opinions.  Facts like for example – and disgracefully to a Christian community – someone Vines knew was in danger even of going out in public once he had admitted to his orientation, still doesn’t leave Brown questioning whether his Koranic, Taliban-style attitude to bible,  (bibliolatry), truly works and makes for justice, righteousness and health. Suicides, breakdowns, depression, nothing moves Michael Brown. His Bible is necessarily as right as was the Inquisition’s Pope and Church.

People tend not to understand such a mentality and Christians who promote persons like Brown tend not to inquire into it, but I’m afraid  I do and must. I can moreover see a few things via that mode of analysis that is as much “abomination” to evangelical Christians as homosexuality itself, namely the astrology that despite Talmudic rabbis and Essenes on the subject they see unilaterally fit to condemn as forbidden “divination”.

Michael Brown who was born a Jew but became a Christian following a youthful career as drug addict, is a Piscean, the weeping “I’m in pain” kind. (Ironically his nadir, Matthew Vines, is also a Piscean as was John Boswell of the ground breaking Christianity, Social Tolerance and Homosexuality. At the end of the Piscean era, whose end Christians should be taking very seriously, Pisceans are having a big day out on the gay theme before the inevitably more individualized and gay friendly Aquarian era fully dawns).

Neptune “rules” Pisces and, afflicted, is major in the charts of addicts of any sign. I rightly guessed I would find Neptune afflicted at Brown’s birth, – the pattern is Neptune square Uranus and quincunx Sun in Pisces. Afflicted Neptune also inclines to muddled facts and major illusions such as Brown tends to display in his shocking lack of awareness of the kind of responsibilities he has for evangelical influences in Africa and Russia on gay issues. He sees himself as Pisceans often do, as kindly, sensitive, helpful.

The fact that Brown just can’t leave gay issues alone is involved with the fact he has the gay planet Uranus in positive trine aspect to his natal sun which could help make him very gay sympathetic….except that there are the Neptune afflictions and on the sexual level fluidity and bisexuality have much to do with these; so he feels a constant need to defend his borders lest the Piscean waters overflow, so to speak.

I don’t like to criticize Messianic (Christian) Jews as they can sometimes have a rough and alienated time of it (which itself might have taught Brown a few things about the gay situation) but Brown belongs to the crazy wing of Jewish Christian. There has been some association with sensations seeking Sid Roth who just recently has been promoting a Messianic rabbi who will improve your prayer efficiency by reciting things in Hebrew. Roth has even promoted supernatural kits to induce greater nearness to God and power while for the height of scandal and presumption which surely no gay Christian could reach, selling CDs to help you manage to speak in tongues properly! In short Roth is not far off Simon Magus himself. One should beware such people and the Browns who associate with them.

There is more one could say. I won’t however say more than I think it’s time Dr Brown either told himself, or the Christian community told him, to find some other subjects than the gay one to engage him. I am far from commending all that leaders of the gay community or even notable gay Christians say and do, but to avoid unnecessary spiritual and psychological damage, contributions like those of Brown should be opposed. It’s absolutely not good enough  to in effect excommunicate gays inside and outside the churches from  Christ and Christianity from the outset by declaring there’s a 100% heterosexual bible which they must accept or else.

It’s not only untrue about the Bible but it’s an offence to some people’s deepest sense of integrity as regards who and what they are. This is not the way of Christ who didn’t turn away the almost certainly gay centurion who wanted his “boy” cured, and it must not be presented as such. Some will never cope, a few from conservative  homes may at worst   go suicidal while Brown  smiles sweetly on and requests prayer support in his spiritual battle against gay “agendas”. But suppose he is himself a part of the spiritual problem,  preventing God’s word to this generation being  heard?

I accept that Brown has suffered some  merely scurrilous attacks from gay extremists that most of us would never approve, but to some extent he is too upsetting a figure not to  have invited  something of this.  The weeping Christian, the avuncular image, the martyr to truth I think Brown sees himself as being, in reality are scarcely more helpful than the Taliban imposing Sharia law for people’s best whether they see it as such or not. The tears don’t excuse the mistakes, I’m afraid. People do  get hurt and confused as Brown rattles eagerly on. And he does speak very fast.

Other gay theological articles and poetry at :

https://gaythoughtsblog.wordpress.com/