Origen of Love

Or, "Why Do Christians Hate Sex?" (part 2)

There's a lovely song from Hedwig and the Angry Inch called "Origin of Love." It's a retelling of the Platonic myth of the genesis of human sexuality. That myth tells of a time when mortals were once whole creatures until the gods cut us in half and we became what we are now, divided selves striving to be made whole.

It's a beautiful story, a beautiful expression of longing and desire and love. It's an ancient story, but you can hear its echoes today when, for instance, Jerry Maguire whispers "You complete me" (and you realize that, yet again, Cameron Crowe has made a chick-flick for guys).

But Plato's story can also be, depending on how much Neoplatonism one swallows with it, a pernicious bit of hokum. The problem with it is that it designates human sexuality as a consequence of a fall, or of the Fall. It suggests that human sexuality is evidence that the world is not how it ought to be.

Origen bought into this idea of human sexuality and that didn't end well.

Poor Origen was probably the greatest theologian of the early centuries of the Christian church. Then he kinda sorta went nuts. His problem was that he had a physical body, which his Neoplatonic idealism told him must be bad. His body was also, as bodies tend to be, equipped with genitalia, and he figured that was really bad. Mix in a zealously literal reading of Matthew 5:29-30 and, like I said, that didn't end well.

St. Augustine came to Christianity carrying the same Neoplatonic baggage that had led to Origen's troubles. On his good days, he knew better, but on his bad days he couldn't seem to help reading St. Paul through the eyes of Plotinus. And since Augustine is the inescapable, insurmountable, Most Important Christian Theologian Ever, he managed to imprint a good bit of this Neoplatonism on the church he helped to shape.

That hasn't ended well either.

People come with physical bodies and those physical bodies come with genitalia and it's neither helpful nor healthy to start thinking that these things are, in and of themselves, evil.

I studied in college under a modern day Origen, a Yeats scholar who was a brilliant poet and interpreter of poetry. He kinda sorta went nuts too, although he never quite took matters into his own hands the way Origen did. He slowly, then less slowly, withdrew from the physical world. Clinically, I suppose, it was a form of OCD — the obsessive handwashing and the can-a-day Lysol habit — but I've always suspected the real problem was he was climbing Yeats' Neoplatonic tower and Crazy Jane couldn't talk him down.

All of which is one reason why, I suspect, so many Christians nowadays are so obsessed with — and so negative about — sex.

It might seem a bit unfair to blame Plotinus, who died in 270, for things like the recent enthusiasm for abstinence-only sex education. Particularly since most of the puckered proponents of abstinence have never heard of him. They may have never heard of Plotinus, or of Augustine for that matter, but that doesn't mean they haven't inherited the influence of his ideas.

I think it would be difficult to underestimate the influence such thinking has had, and continues to have, on Christian thinking about the physical world in general and sex in particular. I've been trying to avoid too bookish a tone here, but I feel a big quotation coming on. Here's Reinhold Niebuhr in The Nature and Destiny of Man:

One must not claim that Christian thought and life have consistently preserved the biblical insights on the basic character and the essential goodness of the finiteness, dependence and insufficiency of the self. On the contrary Christianity from the very beginning incorporated some of the errors of idealism and mysticism, including their mistaken estimates of the human situation, into its own thought; and has never completely expelled them. The greatest of the early Christian theologians, who dominated the centuries before Augustine, Origen, combined Platonism with Christianity by interpreting the myth of the Fall as pointing to a pre-existent defection of man from God, the punishment for which was his involvement in mutability and finiteness. For him therefore sex, as the consequence of this mutability, was the particular symbol of sin.

Sex as "the particular symbol of sin." That's not a conclusion you would reach sola scriptura, but scripture + Plotinus will get you there.

Augustine is, as I said, inescapable. His influence still is such that on nearly any topic, Christian theologians even today can either agree with him or disagree, but you can't easily ignore him. And contemporary theologians ought to disagree with Augustine, emphatically, wherever his never-fully exorcised Neoplatonism leads him to suggest that the physical world, our bodies or our sexuality are, in and of themselves, evil.

That influence needs to be cut out and cut off. Otherwise you can end up, like Origen, cutting something else off.

  • Lucia

    Sorry, Fred, but at “puckered proponents of abstinence” I got totally lost in a giggle fit. It might take me a while to read the rest of your post.

  • julia

    You know, I swear I tried with Augustine, but every time I got to the part where he kept righteously sneaking out on his mother and the mother of his children and they kept sinfully tracking him down and making him forgo perfect holiness by guilt tripping him in to keeping them alive, I kind of lose steam.

  • pharoute

    I’d guess that greater minds than mine have directed themselves to answering a question I’ve had for a long time: Was all the Hellenistic thinking in Early Christianity just a natural product of being born in a Hellenistic world or was it a conscious rebellion/turning away/what-have-ya from it’s Jewish origins?
    My own hunch is it was due mainly to a certain early convert (*coff*paul*coff*) I mean there was all the debates about Gentiles/Jews, kosher/not kosher, sabbath/no sabbath, etc. Was it “If Gentiles can be saved we have to talk to them in terms they get ie. Aristotle/Plato” that got out of hand? Jesus said precious little about the movement of the stars in crystal spheres.
    If anyone has a title of such a work it’d be much appreciated.

  • Toby

    It’s a retelling of the Platonic myth of the genesis of human sexuality. That myth tells of a time when mortals were once whole creatures until the gods cut us in half and we became what we are now, divided selves striving to be made whole.
    Just for the sake of pedantry: that myth comes from the mouth of Aristophanes, who is one of many who tells a tale about the nature of Love in Plato’s Symposium. One ought to hesitate to attribute that myth, or any moral drawn from it, to Plato.
    Anyway, if Aristophanes’ myth about love is a source of all this moralizing about sex, maybe more attention should be paid to passages like this: “People who are split from a male are male-oriented. While they are boys, because they are chips off the male block, they love men and enjoy lying with men and being embraced by men; those are the best of boys and lads, because they are the most manly in their nature. … When they’re grown men, they are lovers of young men, and they naturally pay no attention to marriage or to making babies, except insofar as they are required by local custom. … In every way, then, this sort of man grows up as a lover of young men and a lover of Love, always rejoicing in his own kind.”
    There is indeed the idea here of dirty, fallen sex. In particular, sex between a man and a woman is taken to be base and low, in contrast to the pure love between a man and a boy.
    (Incidentally, that word up there is ‘pedantry’, not ‘pederasty’.)

  • nieciedo

    I’ve always thought it interesting how similar the Symposium story is to the second creation story in Genesis.
    The Rabbis concluded that “Adam Qadmon,” the primordial man, must have been some kind of composite being similar to the one Plato has Aristophanes describe. They debated the exact meaning of the word “tzela’” which is erroneously translated as “rib” and concluded that it must mean “side,” and in one side of a two-sided being.
    The differences, though, are striking. Zeus splits the composite primordial humans out of fear, resentment, and a desire to humble them and put them in their place. Hashem splits the primordial man out of love and compassion for a create that is lonely and cannot find a suitable partner among any other creature in the world.
    Given that the separation is supposed to have occured before the expulsion from the Garden, it cannot be a symptom of the alleged “fallenness” of the world. Rather, it is an act of compassion and loving-kindness that enhances human life.
    That, combined with the commandment to “be fruitful and multiply” — and how can one do that except by sex? — a commandment given to all living things before the expulsion from the Garden, is the foundation for the very sex-positive ethic that Judaism has always maintained but Christianity apparently rejected after the Gentilization of the Jesus-movement after the fall of Jerusalem in 70 CE and the loss of the Jewish Christian church.
    Only someone with serious psychological hangups over sex could read the creation story as suggesting sex is inferior and a symptom of a fallen world.

  • Sammy

    It’s an ancient story, but you can hear its echoes today when, for instance, Jerry Maguire whispers “You complete me” (and you realize that, yet again, Cameron Crowe has made a chick-flick for guys).
    That’s funny – I thought that Jerry Maguire was a chick-flick for chicks.

  • Steve

    Great post in general, but I have a couple questions about how far back this tendency goes.
    What about Saint Paul’s admonition to remain single if one can? And what about Jesus’ claim that there will be no marriage after the resurrection? The founders of Christianity were Neo-Platonic, I assume?
    I personally am a Christian who believes that sex is essentially good, but I honestly have a hard time believing that it was Origen and Augustine who first imported such a view of sex into Christianity.

  • hapax

    Thanks for posting this — I been arguing for years (most recently over at Echidne of the Snakes, who asked the same question) that the Christian attitude towards sexuality is very ancient, very widespread, and derives from Neo-platonic speculation. But the revulsion towards sexuality is more than just a dismissal of our “lower” “animal” nature, as opposed to our “higher”, “rational/spiritual” nature. Since sexuality is necesarily tied to corporeality, it is subject to change (and, in Platonic thinking, inevitably to decay); since sexuality is necessarily linked to fertility, it is inescapably linked to death (the two being flip sides of the same coin in most ancient philosophies). Neoplatonic writers Christian, Jewish, Muslim and Pagan all drew the same conclusion and expressed explicitly in passage after passage — to enjoy physical sexuality is to willingly embrace death.

  • hapax

    Steve, Neo-Platonic philosophy was “in the air” throughout the entire area influenced by Hellenic civilization. People of all levels of education would be steeped in it, just like almost everyone talks about Freudian concepts like “subconscious motives” (with about as much understanding) today.

  • rashomon

    “The very sex-positive ethic that Judaism has always maintained but Christianity apparently rejected”, I guess it was the Romans and the Babylonians who stoned whores in the bible and had laws that said women were unclean. Of course, I should have realized this after all you can’t help but turn on comedy central and see a Jewish comedian or Catholic (or Half Jew/Half Catholic like Bill Maher) talk about how sex positive their life has been. I mean how many times have you heard the Seinfield bit that starts out, “And whats the deal with the gentiles being all hung up about sex?..”
    You might consider changing that “has always maintained” to “was sometimes” or “can be”.

  • nieciedo

    Rashomon:
    You seem confused. By “sex-positive,” I meant that “sex is a good thing,” to be enjoyed. Not a necessary evil, a filthy act that needs to be repressed.
    Your examples of adultery and “uncleanness” are irrelevant (and in the second part one, incorrect). A negative view of adultery has nothing to do with a negative view of sex. Jewish culture was (and unfortunately very much still is) a patriarhal culture. Marriage meant that the man legally owned the right of sexual access to “his” woman, and no other man could use her sexually. Otherwise, bloodlines and tribal lineage — and with it the ownership of land — would be in question, and that’s just not on! So, the death penalty was instituted for adultery.
    But here’s an interesting note: capital punishment was pretty much almost never implemented because of the extremely complex rules of testimony and jutisprudence that were developed to prevent the death penalty from being implemented. If capital punishment was dealt out more than one in 70 years, it was an egregious situation.
    Furthermoe, during the Roman occupation, the rabbinical courts didn’t even have the authority to inflict capital punishment, even if they wanted to. The story in the Gospels about the mob and the adulterous is egregious, because the mob were not going through proper channels: they were, apparently, acting out of patriarchal rage.
    As for “uncleanness,” you’re wrong that WOMEN were viewed as “unclean.” The issue is “tum’ah,” a kind of spiritual energy charge that persons and objects were believed to acquire when approaching the boundary between life and death. This is an ancient, ancient superstition based originally on the belief that certain places, things, times, and bodily functions were under the control of “demons” while other forces were under the control of “gods.” And it was then reworked in the context of a monotheistic religion to refer to spiritual energy charges. Something that was “tamei” (erroneously translated as “unclean”) carried a “negative” charge: this included dead bodies of humans and animals, menstrual blood, semen, childbirth, the disease called “tzara’at” (erroneously translated as “leprosy”), and disease discharges from the genitals. Things bearing this negative charge could not come into contact with thing bearing the “positive charge” of “qedushah.” “Qedushah,” or “holiness,” was spiritual charge acquired by transcending the barrier between the human and divine worlds — the main sources of this being the Altar (which symbolized man’s sacrifice ascending to God) and the Ark (which symbolized God’s covenant coming down to man), and their associated places and uternsils.
    A person or object that was “tamei” had to be purified and made “tahor” before it could approach the Sanctuary.
    It has nothing to do with sex.
    Rather, as I was trying to say, Christianty tends to view sex as necessary evil, a compromise with the baser instants of the body. Judaism sees sex — between a man and wife — as a commandment, a mitzvah.

  • chris y

    What about Saint Paul’s admonition to remain single if one can?
    Christians of Paul’s generation probably still believed that Christ would return in their lifetime, and therefore raising a family was a distraction from the task of preparing for his imminent appearance. Origen and Augustine can’t still have supposed any such thing, so their dislike of sex, whether it originated in their neo-Platonist backgrounds or just in the fact that they were very screwed up people, was simply that. Also, Paul was surely Jewish, whatever that meant in the first century, regardless of where he was born. So even if he was as Hellenised as all get out, this wasn’t his only formative influence.
    I don’t like Paul, and I’m not especially anxious to defend him, but then I doubt I would have liked very many people in the early Roman empire. And I think it’s a little harsh to treat him as equivalent to the dessicated fathers of the 2nd and 3rd centuries.

  • rashomon

    I didn’t misunderstand you; I was just making fun of your statement.
    (Note: sex between man and wife is a mitzvah and a sacrament for Catholics.)
    I see its not that women are unclean, it’s that they have bodily functions that are negatively charged in the same way that death and disease are negatively charged. But that’s not to say they are dirty, although they must be purified. Another case of poor word choice, if they need to be purified then they are impure. Another word for impure is?
    I understand your point, being negative doesn’t make you bad; anymore than a proton is bad. And just because the women must sometimes be avoided because of that negativity, nobody would use that as a justification to control women and sex. But that is more about patriarchy and not directly about the sexual experience or enjoyment and your point is perfectly clear here as long as a man has lost all his juice (no sperm and all that negative charge) and the women is way past menopause (no possibility of menstrual blood or childbirth needing to be cleaned uu..ahh..I would go with neutralized) then orgasm away. If only more Jewish couples understood this as clearly as you, they would have so much more fun after all it’s a fiesta, I mean a mitzvah!

  • Scott

    …Neo-platonic speculation. But the revulsion towards sexuality is more than just a dismissal of our “lower” “animal” nature, as opposed to our “higher”, “rational/spiritual” nature…
    You see the same “anti-materialism” hiding in Sumptuary Laws and the fear of the merchant class and their private material consumption on the part of govt that dates back thousands of years and goes across cultures, and is a big part of, ahem, the other half of the political spectrum:
    Autocratic control of clothes and customs has been practised since the beginning of civilisation. Today, what would be viewed as a gross infringement of personal liberties, then, was part of keeping the ruling class separate from those being ruled. Sumptuary laws were passed in England and Europe from about the middle of the 1300s to the middle of the 1600s. They were devised to control behaviour from wearing of certain apparel to the consumption of particular foods, beverages (usually alcoholic nature) and other miscellaneous products. Sumptuary laws also related to gaming and hunting. The laws often prescribed what prices could be charged for various consumables, from clothing to food. Clothing styles and fashion remained unchanged for long periods of time due to sumptuary legislation. However as trade and commerce increased and towns became more centres of wealth, the feudal lords found competition in the wealthy middle class and as a consequence were forced to set a new standard of differentiation. This meant merchants who were princes in wealth, rather by birth, were able to outstrip true nobility. Extravagance became so universal that the church and crown thought it necessary to put a check on the ostentatious display of the newly rich. While these laws were aimed primarily at extravagant expenditure on dress they were not limited to it….
    Another quote
    At various times through history, civil and religious bodies in different societies have laid down “sumptuary laws,” which are essentially limitations on the amount of material goods any class of society may own or use. Conquering peoples have used this device to make all the good stuff theirs after a conquest, decreeing that the losers must forfeit everything over a certain amount. Often it’s the church that sets a limit on conspicuous consumption, either for the good of its flock’s souls or the fattening of its own purse. Sumptuary laws can be used to try to stop inflation and waste during a time of rapid economic growth, or to keep the newly wealthy merchant class from trying to outdress and outlive the king and his court. …

  • Scott

    Obligatory Left Behind reference from the Christian Century:
    Novel faiths
    …Yet these two publishing phenomena share more than success in the marketplace. As Rodney Clapp suggests (see p. 22), both trade on a fundamentally gnostic premise: that most of the church has been duped and that the real Christian belief is a secret that will now be divulged to the privileged reader.
    Even though Dan Brown’s novel has sold some 40 million copies and Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins’s series some 60 million, their respective “secrets” still have the sexy smell of novelty and of being a threat to established ecclesial and political views. Both also update the dusty old gospel of the churches with action-packed stories that move so fast that readers tend not to notice the problems in the stories or the mediocrity of the prose. All the authors insist on the absolute plausibility if not veracity of the events they narrate. All they have done is lay a fictional story over the truth, they claim—as they smile all the way to the bank.
    The early church rejected gnosticism and its purveyors (as in the case of the recently rereleased Gospel of Judas) because the gnostics were telling a fundamentally different story from that narrated by the texts that became the New Testament. The gnostics denigrated such fleshy things as the goodness of creation, the election of Israel, the humanity of Jesus and the resurrection of the body. (That is why Judas was a hero to the gnostics: he helped liberate Jesus from his body.) …
    …Our age has some of the same unease that the gnostics had with the goodness of creation, the particularity of Israel’s election, and the flesh of Jesus. It is also uneasy about the body (a discomfort that lurks behind The Da Vinci Code’s ostensible effort to affirm the body). …

  • Mary Jones

    What of the possiblity that mixing the homoerotic Greco-Roman culture with the Old Testament created a lot of self-loathing Neoplatonic Christians? Couldn’t that have something–even if it’s a small thing–to do with it?

  • Mary Jones

    I see its not that women are unclean, it’s that they have bodily functions that are negatively charged in the same way that death and disease are negatively charged. But that’s not to say they are dirty, although they must be purified.
    Yes, but it also says that a man who has nocturnal emissions is unclean. So it’s not only women’s bodily functions which were considered unclean. (Deuteronomy 23:9-11; Leviticus 15:1-18)

  • mds

    And what about Jesus’ claim that there will be no marriage after the resurrection?
    Well, Billy Graham has speculated that this means simply that there will be some bond of a higher order to replace marriage and sex. The sexual act is just a foretaste of what awaits us in Heaven. Now, he’s definitely not basing this on Paul’s philosophy, nor is there any such elaboration present in the Gospels. But I couldn’t resist throwing in how Billy Graham thinks sex (within matrimony, natch) is great, and had better be replaced by something even better if it’s abolished in the Sweet Hereafter. And for all I know, the Gospel account meant that the old rules go out the window in the afterlife. Certainly seems a bit more fun than the traditional clouds and harps.

  • rashomon

    You would think that because of the semen, men and women would some what be equal on the uncleanliness scale but that’s not how it worked out. Women were forbidden from going to the temple at certain times, forbidden from teaching, from coming close to priest or touching anything sacred. Men had to be purified, as they also must in Islam, before they approached the sacred but there wasn’t the same emphasis that they must be forbidden from approaching the sacred or the thought that a regular Hebrew man might give you a “negative charge”.
    Of course, there are a lot of innate differences in our bodies that make it necessary to have different rules for men and women like if a women (I believe because of the PH balance in their skin) wears a cloth of nylon and cotton, she must be put to death but a man is okay.

  • nieciedo

    Rashomon:
    What’s your problem? Why the negativity?
    I’m not saying the ancient society depicted in the Bible was perfect (although it was a damn sight more egalitarian than the capitalist exploitation we live in today).
    I was just correcting you on the issue of “unclean.” Women were treated as inferior because that is the way things were in ancient cultures: but women under the laws of the Torah had rights and freedoms that women in other ancient societies would have killed for: significant rights over property and their own marriage that were a tremendous improvement over the culture of the day — and provide the impetus for greater and greater reform and freedom through history. If a husband doesn’t provide for his wifes material and sexual needs to her satisfaction, she can divorce him. That’s a major revolutionary step!
    But this word that gets translated as “unclean” or “impure” only means one thing: the person in this state could not enter the Temple precincts until that state was removed. Some forms of tum’ah were believed to be more powerful than others and could be transmitted by contact to varying degrees.
    It was believed that if anything bearing tum’ah came into contact with any of the holy spaces or objects of the Temple cult, it would be like combining matter and antimatter. “The wrath of the LORD” would burn out and consume the trespasser, or rain plague and pestilence and destruction on the whole community. At the very least, the offended would be “cut off from his people.” That’s why is was so important to be careful.
    Sex, birth, and death are three things that have confounded and obsessed people forever. These are real “life and death” issues and are mysterious, incomprehesible. It’s only natural that people would approach them with a sense of awe or uncertainty.
    A dead human body was the most powerful source of tum’ah. Anyone in a house with corpse became contaminated, and could pass that on to anyone they touched, and that person could in turn pass it on to anyone they touched. The family of the deceased needed to stay secluded in their house for 7 days and be sprikled with a purification water lest the tum’ah from the corpse contaminate the Sanctuary, and that would be a Very. Bad. Thing. (This is the origin of the custom of “sitting shivah” for 7 days after a burial).
    It’s the same with a woman who is menstruating or had borne a child. The same awesome life/death issues are in play, and the same fear of contaminating the sanctuary.
    It’s the same for a man who has a discharge from his penis. It’s the same as a person suffering from the disease called tzara’at (erroneously called “leprosy.”).
    Other forms of tum’ah were not as severe and thus did not require seculsion. Semen transmitted this charge of energy: whenever a man ejaculated, he became tamei (unclean/impure). Whenever a man and woman had sex, they both became tamei. But this tum’ah wasn’t powerful enough to be passed on to others, but they still needed to bathe in a mikveh before entering the Temple.
    But the Temple is gone, so all of this is essentially moot. The only remaining issue is that there is a direct commandment for men and women not do have sex during her period, and so observant couples still need to stay apart during that time of the month and observant women still need to go to the mikveh.
    But women are not “impure” in themselves, no more than men. In fact, women and men — both made in the image of God — are the greatest source of holiness and purity in the world.

  • nieciedo

    Rashomon:
    Where are you getting your information?
    You would think that because of the semen, men and women would some what be equal on the uncleanliness scale but that’s not how it worked out. Women were forbidden from going to the temple at certain times, forbidden from teaching, from coming close to priest or touching anything sacred.
    Wrong.
    Both men and women were equally forbidden from entering the Temple when they were tamei. There was no moral value to being tamei: it was not a good or bad thing, it was just a fact of life.
    There is nothing that forbids women from teaching, and there have been many great female teachers in Jewish history, even in Orthodox communities today. But because the world is not perfect and because patriarchy and sexism are so powerful, many generations of men have forbidden women to teach. But that nothing to do with them being “unclean.”
    And there is no prohibition of a woman approaching a priest. Priests needed to remain tahor because of their service in the Temple, but a woman who was herself tahor was not an issue. Priests were generally married and had wives and daughters. And women, just like men, needed to bring sacrifices at certain times.
    As for women not being allowed to touch holy objects, only priests were allowed to do that.
    Men had to be purified, as they also must in Islam, before they approached the sacred but there wasn’t the same emphasis that they must be forbidden from approaching the sacred or the thought that a regular Hebrew man might give you a “negative charge”.
    Everyone, male or female, needed to be tahor before entering the Temple. Everyone.
    Of course, there are a lot of innate differences in our bodies that make it necessary to have different rules for men and women like if a women (I believe because of the PH balance in their skin) wears a cloth of nylon and cotton, she must be put to death but a man is okay.
    This is totally incorrect. You’re thinking of sha’atnez, the prohibition of making garments made from a combination of wool and linen. This is a ritual commandment binding on both men and women. Why? Two reasons: the priestly vestments were made of wool and linen, and it was to distinguish between the secular and the sacred. Second, it was to maintain the distinctions established in creation.
    In any event, sha’atnez was never a capital offence. It was a transgression of a commandment, but no one — male or female — would be executed for it. The only man for whom it was OK to wear a mixture of wool and linen were the priests.
    And they didn’t have nylon in ancient Judea.

  • mds

    And they didn’t have nylon in ancient Judea.
    Another illusion shattered.

  • jackd

    mds: And for all I know, the Gospel account meant that the old rules go out the window in the afterlife.
    See the B.Kliban cartoon “Anything Goes in Heaven”

  • Bruce Garrett

    I first encountered that myth of Plato’s back when I was a gay teenager looking for something…anything…that explained how I was feeling better then the ignorant claptrap that was passing for knowledge about sexual orientation back in the early 1970s. I was very much in love, and I instantly recognized that feeling of completedness, that sense that I’d found my other half.
    In its way it’s a beautiful myth, but I’d come over the years of trying and failing to see a dark side to it as well: that there is one and only one “perfect” mate out there waiting for us to find them. It isn’t like that. You have to cultivate a romance, grow into it together. Yes, you need a good match…but I wonder how many people who go from one lover to another to another to another are at some level searching for this mythical perfect other half, expecting lifelong romance to just happen one day when they find them, instead of cultivating and growing one together.
    I hadn’t noticed, until you pointed it out to me in this post, the other problem with it: that it’s saying to us that our sexuality is evidence that the world is not what it should be. I have never felt so blessed, so full of joy, so at peace, then when I was in the arms of someone I loved. Shame at my fallen state was the last thing on my mind, or in my heart. I couldn’t have thanked my maker enough.

  • rashomon

    Actually, I am thinking of the bible. Leviticus 19:19, My bad about the death thing and I read with the following verses to come up with the punishment. The women gets caned (scourged?) and the man makes a sacrefice. Later in Leviticus it says that menstral blood can contaminate an area and infect other people making them unclean, so you must wash and remain unclean for a certain amount of time.
    You might want to take a look at the following link on shaanetz, it has a slightly different explanation. They say it stops prays from reaching heaven and some other stuff. Didn’t know what it was called, thanks for the info. http://www.jewishgates.com/file.asp?File_ID=1112
    The reason I am giving you a hard time is that patriarchy and sexism was often legimatized by reading Jewish law one way rather than your way. Switching unclean to negative charge doesn’t really change that. You may say that Jewish law is sex positive but thats not how it was always used and not what it meant to a lot of people.
    During a course on the history of Islam, a local Iman came in and explained that Islam liberates women and gives them rights. He was right, the Koran can be used to liberate women and give them rights but thats not what its always used for. People also use the koran to deny women rights. The same is true with the Bible. People used the Bible to both justify and denounce slavery, genocide, women’s rights, etc.

  • Isabeau

    The basic problem is that life kinda sucks. Life in a well-designed fantasy would be much more satisfactory.

  • mds

    You may say that Jewish law is sex positive but thats not how it was always used and not what it meant to a lot of people.
    I think that this was actually addressed by nieciedo, and a lot of this is a case of talking past one another. “Sex positive” does not mean that Judaism was not patriarchal. In the context of Mr. Clark’s posts, it could simply refer to the fact that there is very little tradition in Judaism of hangups about sexual activity itself. No mass tradition of total celibacy, nothing even remotely like Paul’s exhortations to remain unmarried if humanly possible, etc. Could it still be lousy to be a Hebrew woman? Sure. But even in the least flattering formulation, women were only filthy and disgusting for a certain portion of the month, not all the time as Saint Benedict and his peers would have it.
    As another illustration, as far as I know, there has been no Jewish objection to Deborah being a Judge over Israel. Yet many Christian fundamentalists list Barak as the actual judge, with “help” from Deborah. Because otherwise it would mean that a woman was in charge, which is impossible. Too bad Niels Jackson hasn’t shown up in this thread, or he could explain to all of us how denying what the Bible explicitly says in this case has nothing to do with deranged misogyny.

  • pepperjackcandy

    You have to cultivate a romance, grow into it together. Yes, you need a good match…but I wonder how many people who go from one lover to another to another to another are at some level searching for this mythical perfect other half, expecting lifelong romance to just happen one day when they find them, instead of cultivating and growing one together
    This is kind of like my problem with using 1 Corinthians 13 (verses 4-7, specifically) as a wedding scripture.
    They seem to think that love is some kind of magical force that makes one be patient, kind, etc. And when the patience and kindness “run out,” the love must be gone, too.
    Instead, if you love someone, it’s worth the *work* to be patient, kind, etc.
    I do, actually, kindasorta believe in “soulmates.” Most of the truly well-suited couples I know had multiple opportunities to meet:
    One couple attended summer camp at the same time when they were kids.
    Another attended the same small women’s college for three years (they were one year apart). Their social circles overlapped, in fact.
    My own hubby and I met through my mom (his preschool teacher), but if we hadn’t, we would’ve met through my best friend from high school, whom he met in college.
    Once you’ve found a “soulmate,” though, there are still going to be times when you have to work to keep it going.
    Now, for the on-topic portion of my comment. When I read the title, Why do Christians hate sex?, my immediate answer was “St. Augustine.” In English-speaking culture, at any rate. 8-D

  • rashomon

    Paul wasn’t created in a vacuum (or by a mop).
    If you’re society is a patriarchy, you can’t be really sex positive. If women are subordinate to men, that subordination must be justified and ultimately distorts sexual relations.
    Perhaps it is my definition of sex positive that is the problem. Sex positive to me is Sex is normal and not just for procreation, everyone is allowed to have and enjoy sex with the partner they choose, freedom to associate with members of the opposite sex when and how you want. Sex positive seems to demand equality between the sexes. Maybe that view is too extreme and not the definition everyone has.
    I will throw in a link here:
    http://www.chabad.org/library/article.asp?AID=3246
    Read the article and look through the site then compare it to any conservative Christian website (well, not any be reasonable.). Maybe this site.
    http://www.breakawaymag.com/Girls/A000000152.cfm
    They don’t seem very different to me.
    Elijah, Jeremiah, Essenes and people married or bound to the Torah are examples of Jewish celibacy but it is not an ideal meant for everyone.

  • lbb

    This discussion is all very nice, but really, what on earth does it have to do with modern-day Christianity, particularly of the sex-negative fundamentalist stripe? It seems to me that the most violently sex-negative of modern Christian sects are radically revisionist in their outlook. What does such an organization care about historical theology?
    IOW, although the influence of Plato and Augustine on paleochristianity was profound, I think you need to look elsewhere and more recently if you want to find the why of sex-negativity in modern Christianity.

  • rashomon

    Sort of like saying, “The walls are all interesting but really I want to know why the roof is so high.”
    But anyways, a lot of the no sex stuff currently going around is a backlash to feminism and changing sex roles. If you look at a group like Focus on The Family, you will notice they don’t stop at sex but continues into the roles of men and women. Anything that destabilizes the previous order is considered a threat and must be contained; this includes sex but isn’t limited to sex. You also have women at work (they are against; I don’t want a partner, I want a wife. Give it up for American dad), Divorce (against even after infidelity, why did you make him cheat?), Gay rights and Marriage (like you didn’t know, I mean because that lifestyle is too much of a temptation?!? If you’re gay.), Sex outside of Marriage (Why buy the cow when you can just meet it at a bar and have sex with it?), shared housework (it confuses the kids, Dad washes dishes and next thing you know Junior is wearing dresses and Missy has a crew cut.), Female drivers (actually that’s just Saudi Arabia. I get confuse because I sometimes listen to Focus on The Fatwa.). The same people who go to purity balls (come on that’s just funny and you would think there would at least be some sort of gilded testicles in the ceremony) also probably go to promise keeper events (“I know honey, you have been sad because you haven’t been as subordinate to me as you should be. I promise…*weep*…to make you my Bi@t actually that language probably won’t fly here.). So sex is a means by which to get people to do what is right and maintain the social order but that only
    Works if it is controlled. I made fun of the whole cow thing a second ago but think about what that saying means. Sex is the fee men are paid to get married. No sex, no marriage and free sex, no marriage. (I need to stop writing about sex here, beginning to sound like a women’s studies major and I don’t even own a pair of Birkenstocks.)
    There are also people who believe that they must deny life (sort of like the Essenes) because it distracts from worshipping God. Keep your eyes on the sky, good thing God is their co pilot because otherwise they might hit a tree.

  • mds

    Paul wasn’t created in a vacuum (or by a mop).
    Firstly, hee. Secondly, no, he wasn’t, but neither were the actual Apostles, and they didn’t express the same hang-ups as Paul did. And that’s the curious bit. Did Paul look to the Essenes as his model? Essenes practiced celibacy and communal living; that certainly sounds like Paul’s guidelines for churches.
    If you’re society is a patriarchy, you can’t be really sex positive. If women are subordinate to men, that subordination must be justified and ultimately distorts sexual relations.
    That’s all true. I would not call it absolutely “sex positive.” But this is all supposed to be evaluated in terms of the Christian views of sex. By comparison to the modern Christian fundamentalists or the thinking of Saint Benedict, historical Judaism is less hung up on sex.
    It seems to me that the most violently sex-negative of modern Christian sects are radically revisionist in their outlook.
    Yes, which is why there are two posts :-). There certainly seems to be a long gap between the misogyny and emphasis on celibacy of numerous church fathers and the practical, day-to-day attempts to impose highly restrictive sexual mores on everyone in the culture. I too would presume that this is tied into the rise of Christian fundamentalism, especially in America. Which is the sort of thing that I believe Mr. Clark was getting at with his initial post, Mr. Jackson’s deliberate obfuscations notwithstanding. But remember, this is the neoplatonism and ancient Judaism thread, aka “the walls.”

  • Victor Savard

    Ladies and Gentleman,
    Please forgive me for interrupting your section but I must reply to Wintermute at this time because I did promise that I would get back to him. I had planned on writing a very detailed article explaining all his concerns but there just would have been no end to it. I was planning on dividing my answer into a three third part circle; sinner Vic would take the first turd, I would take the other one and my flesh would have taken the last third. For the ones who have read some of my writing, they might understand what I mean when I say that my explanation would have been way too long and might just have sent some who tried to follow, over the deep end because this one would have been at least ten time deeper than any of my other writings. Please don’t be jumping to conclusion cause I’m just an average man with about grade ten education and Our Good Bishop has a lot of my writing. I’m sorry but I won’t be giving his name here because he’s got enough problems already. (lol)
    What I will do is try to explain a little of how I was going to SET UP my Heading. Sinner Vic would take up one part of my brain and I would take up the other part while skin would just be observing.
    Wintermute, you would have been very proud of Sinner Vic and although he’s taken this kind of approach in some of my other writing, what was planned this time would have been way to deep and personal. While I listened to Him, I was becoming a legion in my own mind and he was very good at it and I might add, very very funny (lol) To tell you the truth, if he hadn’t been picking from my brain, I would have probably believed him. I don’t think he was lying so he must have had unbelievable faith in what he thought. He started off by speaking of actual event of my childhood and he brought out all of my sins and the comedy that he used almost made me proud that I had done them all. He was telling people that I had stolen his identity plus his body and was asking all of the readers to help him get it back and if any of you did, he would be rewarding you. If I wasn’t laughing so much and knew of his final plan, I would have started to believe him. He refreshed my mind about what I had done in the pass that I started to remember things that I had forgotten. Boy when he was bad, he was very good at it and with Jesus’ permission, I would have bought a ticket to his skit. He went on and on about there being absolutely nothing wrong with the blessing of same-sex-marriages; Woman in the priest hood; Any form of birth control was ok as long as we were having fun and the taking of our life was ok as long as we really were in pain.
    He continued telling about how he could travel in time and that his master was the real one in charge. He tried to explain that all these different groups had their own world with billions of followers and that they were not afraid of my so call god. (Good Old Dad) cause he really didn’t exist. He went on saying that this was really my world and that all I had to do was give permission for his spaceships to come and visit and they would give us all kinds of gifts. A good ten pages could be written about what took place later and actual names were being given of all the injustices that were done to me and how he was going to correct them all.
    Eventually I could take no more because enough was enough and I guess them who know me know that it would have taken more than ten pages to tell sinner vic what I really thought of what he was talking about. My thoughts said that it was sinner vic’s way and he was only using trip. reverse psychology in order to convince everyone. Ya he was really trying to trip me up and what an L.S.D. trip it would have been if I had continued!(lol?) Anyway he really tried to kiss all the way up by saying that I should use his approach cause these sinners will never ever be persuated my way. I told him that I also won’t be persuated and I was not going to argue with my sins any longer because it was my way or the highway so there’s no telling where sin is now! (lol)
    Let’s just say that I told him in so many words that Our Heavenly Father sent His Word and His Word returned to tell Him what was really going on. For the one’s who don’t know His Word is for everyone no matter what our faith may be. Is Word was His Only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ and that whom ever truly believes in Him would be saved.
    For what it’s worth, I believe that The Judgement Day started just before Christ was crucified and a billion years is but a moment for Our Heavenly Father. I told sinner vic that Our Heavenly Father made the last first and that he was my weakest link and it was my identity because he was my worst sin. In so many words I told sin that it was last and it was not going to get my identity. All of my sins have been forgiven but everyday I start sinning again and there’s no excuse for that except that I’m human. I could go on and on but to make a long story short sinner Vic came back out and said that he was just playing with you people and really had not planned to make slaves of any one even if he could.
    To make another long story short, I still have the body of this story who wants to have a say but my heart is saying, It’s ok Victor cause all members of this body are willing to wait until the Will of your GOD is done.
    The closing wants to say this which is, Victor remember this morning, you got up at six. Your wife asked you why so early cause it was her day off and I didn’t need to drive her to work to which you replied because you want plenty of time to relax and get ready for work. You’re only a simple school crossing guard and a few minutes before you got out of your car, you started thinking of how special you really were and that if your heart of heart ever called you to go out and tell sinners to stop you would get out there and really give them a blast. A thought that you should look into the mirror came into mind and you did and you said to yourself, “Dammit I forgot to shave!” The next thought said, Victor, given the right time and the wrong circumstance, you would be one of the soldiers who would be putting nails in my hands and feet. I remember what happened to Pierre so I’m not going to argue with Our Lord but I honestly believe that if He did call me that I would go crazy for HIM. I guess the tears in my eyes at the time believed otherwise and who am I to argue with them cause I really am GOD’s cry baby.
    I just wait until He thinks that I’ve finished this kindergarten and then I’ll go to grade one with the rest of His Angels. Hey! If we are truly made in The Image of God it’s a long course because our thoughts become reality so we do need a lot of training cause we would be destroying ourselves, Don’t you think?
    Call me a dreamer but I believe that we have the potential to become one Big Happy Family and Our Big Brother Jesus Christ is there to show us the way but just like any other Supper Star if the other siblings don’t want His Help what is He to do? The secret is in every innocent child so let’s not let Satan sneak in and clown any of Our Loved Ones for US. Remember Mom’s The Word.
    Here is Wintermute’s comments and I hope he accepts my reply cause I’m
    not going to argue about it any more.
    > Our Heavenly Father would never bless same-sex marriages or woman as priest without telling His entire Church.
    First: Define “His entire Church”. Do you mean “all Christians”? Or “all Christians, and all Jews”, or “all Catholics”, or “all Protestants”, or “all Free Reformed Scottish Rite Methodists (Synod of 1812)”?
    Once we know which people are in The Church, we can start to address the central idea: That anything that is true Christian doctrine must be revealed to all members of the church. Does “His entire church” have to agree unanimously on every point in order for an idea to be considered doctrinal? What methods of revelation does God use to achieve this unaniminity ? Does He reveal Himself to every individual Christian, so they all wake up one day saying “You know, I don’t think that priests should be celibate”? Or do we have to limit our knowledge of God’s blessings to scripture, meaning that there can never be any changes in doctrinal thought after about 300AD?
    I suppose the question is, why is there any theological debate at all? Unless you take an incredibly narrow definition of “His entire church”, as in “the 20 people who agree with me exactly, on every point”, then we are faced with the situation where different groups of people earnestly believe that God has told them contradictory things. Are works or faith most important in determining who goes to heaven? How many of the books of Maccabees should be considered divinely inspired and included in the Bible? Is Revelations a literal prophesy of the End Times? Is it OK for parents to beat their children to death?
    If God hasn’t revealed the answers to these questions to “His entire church”, why should we expect him to speak unambiguously on any other topic?
    Posted by: wintermute | Apr 24, 2006 at 02:22 PM
    It’s my wife’s day off and there’s a few things that she would like me to do so I’ll say good bye for now.
    Thank you for your time and attention.
    GOD Bless all God’s Children and deep down inside, I believe there’s Good in everyone.
    As usual please keep your prayers coming my way.

  • Duane

    I was becoming a legion in my own mind
    LOL!

  • Dean

    While I don’t dispute the influence of Neoplatonism on the development of Christian doctrine, I think it’s important to remember that early Christianity evolved within the context of the sexual ethics and ascetic tendencies of first-century Rome. The strong current of asceticism in Rome (for example among Cynic, Stoic, and Epicurean philosophers) combined with Jewish thought to produce a climate that was not sex positive.
    But that was then. Do Christians today hate sex? I’m not sure this is true. I suppose one could look at Catholic teaching on sex and its critique of recreational sex and birth control (i.e. sex is for procreation only), but I suspect most Catholics explicitly reject this as part of their “cafeteria” pick-and-choose practice of their faith. As for Protestants, liberals are certainly not opposed to sex. Evangelicals, on the other hand, are a bit harder to understand, but even they are hardly puritans when it comes to sex. Most evangelicals, unlike Catholics, are not opposed to birth control. While they do emphasize monogamy, I don’t think that could be construed as being sex negative. Of course, that all changes when one brings gay sex into the picture. It seems that almost all of the above (even some liberal Christians) would be hostile to the idea of two guys fucking or two girls gettin’ their freak on.
    Besides, can one even talk about Christians as a unified group? There’s really no such thing as Christianity, only Christianities. And it’s pretty much always been that way.

  • wintermute

    Victor:
    First, note the lack of capitalisation in my name. There is only one Wintermute, and I am not It. Normally, I let it slide, but recently, it’s been looking really odd to me with the capital. Especially when used repeatedly ;)
    Still that aside, I certainly appreciate your response, though I’m not sure it counts as a “reply”. I’ve read through it several times now, and I still have no idea exactly what organisation you’re referring to as “His entire Church”, which was the primary point of the question. The secondary point was “how is God’s word transmitted to that church?”, which you seem to have provided more detail on, but not in any way that I can make sense of.
    I have to say that what little sense I can eke out of your comments sounds markedly schizophrenic, though I could well have misinterpreted everything you’ve said. Is (was?) “sinner vic” you? Did God speak to you directly? Frankly, I’m very confused and slightly scared.
    Even if I wanted to argue, I really wouldn’t be able to, but I would be very appreciative, if you were able to rephrase your post in a way that I could make sense of.

  • PK

    On a slight tangent, here is a transcript of this morning’s John MacArthur GTY broadcast.
    He’s got a somewhat harder line on gender roles than the averge Evangelical.

  • hapax

    [i]It seems that almost all of the above (even some liberal Christians) would be hostile to the idea of two guys fucking or two girls gettin’ their freak on.[/i]
    Hmm. Except for Jesus’s opinion on cell-phone use in restaurants, few topics have been LESS discussed in the history of Christian thought and morals than lesbianism. The (very few) references to male homosexuality are usually condemnatory (although not unambiguously; the topic is mostly addressed in the context of celibacy, and there are a few indications that some did not consider male/male sexual expression to contravene laws of celibacy, and that others considered chaste homosexual bonds to be acceptable). The references to female homosexuality are virtually non-existent. (I say “virtually”, because there are scattered references to “unnatural” or “excessive frivolity” that some interpet as condemnations of lesbianism, but YMMV).
    As for the reasons for this silence, I leave it as an exercise for the reader. I will note, though, that I live in a very conservative area, constantly bombarded by political advertisements and sermons whipping up hysteria about the possibility of gay marriage. Without exception, these always depict two *men* kissing or holding hands, with a scary caption like “DO YOU WANT TO SEE THIS IN YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD?” I very strongly suspect if two *women* were shown kissing, the overwhelming response would be “HELL, YEAH!!”

  • cjmr’s husband

    Judging by the conservatives I have to deal with on a regular basis, the acceptability of public lesbianism is inversely proportional to the weight and age of the women involved.
    Not that this is a real surprise to anyone.

  • Axiomatic

    14 year old anorexic lesbians for the win!

  • mds

    There is only one Wintermute, and I am not It.
    Imagine an ad campaign, showing Wintermute and Neuromancer merging into one entity, with a scary caption like “DO YOU WANT TO SEE THIS IN YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD?”
    And the fact that Republicans keep cutting funding for AI mental health programs means that the resulting breakdown into loa is worse than it could have been.
    the acceptability of public lesbianism is inversely proportional to the weight and age of the women involved.
    I really hope that the origen (sorry) of that graph is not at zero.

  • mds

    Whups, sorry, Axiomatic; I waited too long to hit “Post.”

  • wintermute

    > the acceptability of public lesbianism is inversely proportional to the weight and age of the women involved.
    I wonder if there’s also a correlation with the difference in their ages and weights? Is a lesbain couple consisting of an anorexic and someone overweight more or less acceptable than two women with the same body type, where both couples have the same combined weight? How acceptable is Ann Coulter tongue-wrestling a 12-year-old?
    Bah. No I have that image stuck in my head, so you’re all going to ahve to suffer, too.

  • Duane

    Alright folks, let’s move this conversation over to “Teen Cheerleaders” comment section.
    Thanks for your cooperation.

  • rashomon

    Traditionally, women were not viewed as sexual beings (unless they were whores, in which case they didn’t count.). When I say sexual beings I mean that they could want sex as sex on their own. Women could be corrupted into fornication or whatever but not want it on their own. Women were thought of as only wanting love and marriage (unless they were dirty, dirty, Paris Hiltons) and put up with sex to get those things. It wasn’t until recently that people started to believe that there was such a thing as a female orgasm (The lady who supposedly popularized the idea was on the Colbert Report recently. So if you’re a bad lover, you can blame her.). Anyways, to more ancient minds, how were women supposed to have sex? They didn’t have a member to penetrate anyone and how could you have sex without penetration? (If you don’t eat you’re meat, you can’t have any pudding, how can you have any pudding..).

  • cjmr’s husband

    I normally don’t do spelling flames, I consider it extremely rude, but I must apologetically point out that in this context
    “If you don’t eat, you’re meat.”
    has a VERY different meaning from
    “If you don’t eat your meat…”
    especially in this context!

  • rashomon

    Damn it spell check you’re supposed to be smarter than me. Curses!
    I’m sorry. But.
    In my defense, I would like to blame the machine and the man.

  • Urizen

    Rashomon, your idea of “traditional” views on women’s sexuality is a bit oversimplified.
    Restricting ourselves to the tradition of the West, specifically the United Kingdom (the States aren’t really old enough) we find that 150-200 years ago the view of women as asexual may have been dominant, at least on the surface in polite society. There, indeed, women were considered uninterested in and incapable of enjoying sex. Sexual interest in a woman would be considered freakish and abnormal in such society.
    A few hundred years further back, however, the picture is almost the opposite – to many late Medieval or Renaissance thinkers women were far more “sexual beings” than men. Their sexuality needed to be controlled precisely because they were so over-sexed that they couldn’t be trusted to remain chaste and faithful. Though a woman “chaste as snow” might have been the ideal at this time, it was an ideal precisely because real, actual women were (considered to be) quite the opposite.
    The “traditional” view of female sexuality has thus essentially undergone a 180 degree turn over the last couple of centuries. There seems to have been depressing agreement on the important bits though: Women’s sexuality is different and alien from male, “normal” sexuality, and needs to be subject to extensive social control.

  • cjmr

    It wasn’t until recently that people started to believe that there was such a thing as a female orgasm
    Actually, if you peruse older erotic fiction, like Lady Chatterley’s Lover (written in 1928), you’ll discover that not only did women know about the female orgasm 80 years ago, so did men. There was also this ‘ancient’ (pre-WWII) sex manual in my parents’ basement that had a lengthy chapter on it, from which I learned a lot when I was 12 or 13…
    Shere Hite, the aforementioned sex expert recently seen on the Colbert Report, published her first book in 1974, which is in my lifetime, but hardly ‘recently’.

  • none

    Aside: A History of the Vibrator with some pictures of interesting Victorian hardware.


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