castrating our boys for a pretty song

castrato cartoon by nakedpastor david hayward

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The church, like all institutions are tempted, will harm people in order to achieve its goals.

Have you heard of the castrato? It is a man who was castrated before he reached puberty in order to keep that special high voice unique for boys in church choirs. As an adult, now with unusual lung capacity due to elongated bones and ribs from the lack of testosterone, as well as intensive training, the voice of the castrato is incomparable. You can read its history here, and even hear a recording of a castrato singing.

Adhering to the Pauline injunction that women keep silence in the church, the church figured out a way to get around it with the castrati. As early as 1748 Pope Benedict XIV tried to ban castrati from the churches, but they were so popular that he feared a ban would cause a decline in church attendance.

In 19th century Europe, threatening your misbehaving sons with castration or harming their genitals was not unheard of. Circumcision and even castration were sometimes seen as a permanent cure for sexual sin and other misbehaviors. This of course gave rise to Freud’s theories of the Castration, Oedipus, Electra and Penis Envy complexes.

I can hear people say, “Ew, that’s so medieval!” Yes. But we are still capable and actually still do this kind of thing, only in modern ways.

I would like to pose the question: How have men been harmed by their oppression of women in the church?

Women are to keep silence in the church, so we harmed boys in order to get a pretty song. We aren’t just harming women, we are harming men. We are harming ourselves. By denying women the full expression of their power, we are denying that of men as well.

The mind is powerful. Once it imagines a utopia, it will shed blood to achieve it. The visionary thinking of an institution often costs lives. The goals of an organization can harm people. Like the many lives that were sacrificed to the railroad, churches will run over people in order to achieve its ends. Since we’re talking about music: how many people have been harmed for the sake of the worship music industry?

The castrato was mutilated for the rest of his life for the sake of sacred music. Countless have been spiritually mutilated for the sake of the church’s desires.

Have you?

About David Hayward

David Hayward runs the blog nakedpastor as a graffiti artist on the walls of religion where he critiques religion… specifically Christianity and the church. He also runs the online community The Lasting Supper where people can help themselves discover, explore and live in spiritual freedom.

  • klhayes

    I put nothing past the Church. Nothing.

  • tom sellier

    “The Church” of Jesus Christ that has the Holy Spirit as Lord does not do such things. To imply it does is as evil as the practice of castrating young boys.

  • Ashley

    I’d love to hear this thought developed a bit more. It’s an interesting parallel. How would men become more powerful? I agree women should be given full expression of their own voices-how do you think men would become more potent? Intriguing premise…flesh it out!

  • Gary

    LMAO – Right.

    BTW – Individuals may have the “Holy Spirit as Lord”, not collective groups. That is unless individuals are no longer a part of the church.

  • http://religiouscomics.net/ Jeff P

    IMO, it is a messed up theology when “incorrect” words or thoughts are considered as “evil” as certain atrocious physical acts. Your castration comment is case in point number one. Believing people are destined to hell for all eternity for not believing the “right” things is case in point #2. Anytime an idea becomes more important than physical existence, there is the risk for abuse. Anyone (or church) can claim they are listening to (or following) the Holy Spirit. Who are you to say that one group has the Holy Spirit while another group does not? Are you God?

  • Al Cruise

    One thing I have personally witnessed in Church is poor people being manipulated into tithing money and then having to go without proper food or clothing for their children. They were told they were building up treasure in heaven.

  • http://lotharlorraine.wordpress.com/ Lothar Lorraine

    I would like to pose the question: How have men been harmed by their oppression of women in the church?

    Women are to keep silence in the church, so we harmed boys in order
    to get a pretty song. We aren’t just harming women, we are harming men.
    We are harming ourselves. By denying women the full expression of their power, we are denying that of men as well.”

    Hey this a very interesting thought, I never thought about castration that way.

    The apostle Paul was bound to the Zeitgeist of the Jewish culture he grew up in, but once we realize that, I think a good case can be made he was progressive in his theology.

    Greetings from continental Europe

    Lothars Sohn –Lothar’s son

    http://lotharlorraine.wordpress.com

  • klhayes

    Those are the people that the church should be helping.

  • Guest

    I think if there were more women in the higher levels of church clergy, then priests who molested little boys might not have got away with it so easily. At least I hope not.
    I think the ban on contraception harms men, because it means women want less sex and it leads to more children that the parents have to work to support. And it means sexual diseases spread more easily. The ban on divorce harmed men as well, forcing them to stay in unhappy marriages.
    The idea that empathy and sympathy are ‘womanly’ and ‘sissy’ emotions leads to men bottling up their feelings. Of course, that’s more the culture’s fault than the church’s…the old testament presents a very ‘macho’ version of manhood, but Jesus Himself was full of empathy.
    Ignoring rape damages men as well, not just because men also get raped (though of course they do) but because women who are raped are someone’s daughter, sister, wife or friend, and their pain is going to hurt the people who love them too. And if rape is ignored, women are forced to be suspicious of all men, because they have no other defense and the courts won’t protect them.
    Keep women uneducated and banning them from most jobs has deprived all humankind of the scientists, artists and innovators that those women might have been.

  • Guest

    Which one of the thousands and thousands of denominations is that one, then? How can you be so sure?

  • Brigitte Mueller

    Besides the point, maybe, sorry, but watch this guy. He does not look castrated. What a beautiful Bach aria. Just gorgeous.

    “Who ever sins is of the devil because he has brought it about.
    But where its pernicious bonds are resisted with firm devotion,
    it has removed itself quickly.”

    “Wer Sünde tut, der ist vom Teufel.
    Denn dieser hat sie aufgebracht.
    Doch wenn man ihren schnöden Banden
    Mit rechter Andacht widerstanden,
    Hat sie sich gleich davongemacht.”

  • Brigitte Mueller

    At the same time, many people are taught to manage their money properly, to work and save and have something left over to donate to others.

  • Brigitte Mueller

    The visible “Church” can and has done evil things, but the “true church” is invisible. We cannot from the exterior tell who truly is a believer and who is a hypocrite. Thus we teach. The Lord knows his own. And what is wrong needs simply to be repented of. That’s what church is for, a place to repent, be redeemed, be forgiven and try again. But with bringing all this ancient stuff up we are again repenting of other people’s sins… which makes us true Christians or hypocrites?… But what about our own hubris? What about the showmanship? What about… What about there only being women in the choirs nowadays? What happened?

    Even in the schools, there is only here and there a boy in the choir, if music classes are still offered, at all. (Abandoning all the boys to their “men’s caves” with their video games, making them physical weaklings, as is happening now, may be another way to “castrate” them. Sorry, it is running away with me now.)

  • Al Cruise

    That is rare, most Church’s are prone to members bringing in pyramid schemes, investment scams, multi level marketing scams etc. Alberta is quite a hotbed for that kind of Church activity.

    http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/edmonton/story/2012/07/22/edmonton-victory-church-sunday-confrontation.html

  • klhayes

    Al, your statement reminded me of a couple of thing. My mother grew up poor and every week the church would announce who had not tithed. Of course, my mother’s family always came up. It was so humialiating and of course not to mention that she lived in the house with a monster. But her mom was not allowed to get divorce, she just had to figure out a way to be a better wife to the monster.

    I was watching a show about a women who was experiencing psychosis and ultimately killed her infant daughter. She and husband started going to this church where they were spending almost every day of the week. She was dragging her two older daughters to church sick and they were often missing dinner. It was really sad. Manipulation works on many levels.

  • klhayes

    When an institution becomes so powerfulthat no one can question it, this can happen very easily. And if they tell you they are following the Holy Spirit, who are you to question an all-powerful institution.

  • Brigitte Mueller

    I have been and my young daughter has been approached many times by people involved in pyramid schemes. The last one was my carpet cleaner. But never by people from church. Red Deer situation is quite outrageous.

  • tom sellier

    Brigitte, the world can tell who is and who isn’t a believer. And it has nothing to do with appeasing them in their sin. Because you can’t see heaven does not justify you saying you cannot see true believers. That is an Orthodox conclusion. Are you Orthodox?

  • Brigitte Mueller

    I am a Lutheran, and I would call myself also “catholic”, “orthodox” and “evangelical”. We do say that in the visible congregation we have believers mixed with hypocrites, but the Lord knows all things.

  • tom sellier

    Bridget talks about the invisible church and yet calls herself a Catholic, Orthodox and evangelical. Let me tell you a mystery, the church is everyone who calls on the name of Jesus in Spirit and Truth. And none of those are hypocrites. That Church is in all the different denominations and also are seated at the right hand of God in His glorious throne.

  • http://nakedpastor.com/ nakedpastor

    OOOOOOOOO I LOVE mysteries, especially when they use Saint Paul’s voice. OOOOOOOOO!

  • Al Cruise

    Klhayes, what that Church did to your family was abuse. The Jesus I know never taught no such behavior. For many years I saw similar things happen in my Church and I did not speak up against it, knowing in my heart what was happening was wrong. I live that now. I would like to apologize to you, that people like me did not stand up for you when you needed it most.

  • klhayes

    Speaking up is scary and it’s very difficult to go against such a powerful institution. No need to apologize-we are standing up b/c now people can leave. I stand up for my mother whenever I challenge abuse in the home or in the church. We can change things :)

  • tom sellier

    It is a common thread of the non believer, the athiest, the homosexual and the backslidder in heart: they mock what Paul says.

  • Jeannie Boen

    A church I attended for many years didn’t quite go that far, but they forbid people from being part of the choir or teaching Sunday school or anything if they weren’t current with their tithing. When a family came to the church for financial help they first had to prove they were current with tithing. If they weren’t no help would come. Even though they didn’t read the names people were still shamed. If someone asked them why they weren’t singing in the choir they would either be honest and say they weren’t tithing or they could make up a story.

    The church seemed to imply that if you tithed and gave offerings God would bless you. If you were poor that was an indication you weren’t giving enough. So many believed that rubbish for so long. I knew people who sold plasma so they could tithe.


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