L.B.: BBC 3

Left Behind, pp. 239-247

One more brief note on Nicolae Carpathia's dazzling performance at the United Nations.

This was the young Antichrist's coming out party and certain aspects of it seem familiar. He stands before the U.N. where "they were all together in one place," people "from every nation under heaven." And when he spoke, "each one heard him speaking in his own language."

The quotations in that paragraph are not from Left Behind, but rather from St. Luke's account of Pentecost in the second chapter of the book of Acts. So maybe that's how we should read this, as a kind of anti-Pentecost.

But alas, these allusions seem merely accidental and incidental. And Pentecost, in any case, is the wrong event for such a parallel. Pentecost was the day in which the apostle Peter spoke to thousands of God-fearing people "from every nation under heaven" and each of them heard him as though he were speaking in their native language, a miracle enabled by his being filled with the Holy Spirit who appeared as "what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them." (A vivid image, but one that unfortunately inspired some rather silly looking ecclesiastical hats.)

If Nicolae were the Anti-Peter or the Anti-Spirit, then a scene paralleling Pentecost would make sense. As the Anti-Christ what we should be reading, instead, are scenes paralleling Jesus' baptism and annointing by John, his calling of his disciples, and his miraculous healings, feedings and celebrations.

In particular, we ought to see Nicolae's mirror opposite replay of the temptation of Christ (see Matthew 4), with the difference being that Carpathia would be unable to reject the devil's offers of earthly power. At some point Nicolae should have been taken to "a very high mountain" and shown "all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor," at which point he should have said, "Yes, please, give them to me."

The Gospel accounts of the life and ministry of Christ offer a wealth of possibilities. Rather than having him spout endless trivia about the history and organizational structure of the United Nations, the authors could have had him offering an upside-down version of the Sermon on the Mount, complete with anti-Beatitudes.

Replaying the familiar Gospel scenes in an "anti-Gospel" of Nicolae Carpathia would have allowed our authors to explore the character and meaning of both Christ and Antichrist. Such an approach might have proved both entertaining and edifying, which is what LaHaye and Jenkins say they intended these books to be.

The reason we don't see such scenes, I'm afraid, is that our authors are not terribly interested in the character and meaning of either Christ or Antichrist. To L&J, both figures are simply plot devices. And the plot, as they see it, has very little to do with the kingdom of heaven described in the Sermon on the Mount or with the Christ who spoke those words.

Ultimately, for L&J, the only significant difference between Christ and Antichrist is this: Nicolae tries to slaughter all of his enemies and destroy the world, but he fails. Christ succeeds.

Jesus Christ.

  • Alex

    Since reading the account of Capathia’s speech, I’ve come to realize what the true message of LaHaye and Jenkins.
    The antichrist is Yakko Warner.

  • Bugmaster

    Lit-crit-wise, I like Cyrai’s version best. It has a certain poetry to it, and it’s very inspirational, if you’re into that whole “crushing the opposition” thing. But, I still think that a modern Antichrist would disseminate his message not by speaking in verse on some mountain somewhere, but simply by appearing on Oprah.

  • Jos

    The antichrist is Yakko Warner.
    Can’t be. Yakko didn’t sing in the almighty Alphabetical Order and he certainly didn’t leave any room for applause.
    Also, Yakko’s likeable.

  • Jessica_Guilford

    Pardon the blogwhoring, but I did some anti-Beatitudes elsewhere, last October. As well as some other pieces of an anti-Bible. Except not entirely anti-.

  • Angelika

    Amanda: How do you parse divorces that don’t come about as the result of “sin,” though? People who just don’t communicate well?
    You mean in a couple who basically respects each other and has a serious disagreement about something? But none of the partners had been frustrated enough to adopt a habit of emotional/verbal/physical abuse, induldges in frequent daydreams about the blessings of widowhood, or has withdrawn into an adulterous relationship? – Well, I can’t see then a reason, why such a couple should divorce. Communication skills can be learned, and compromisses can be found even in difficult questions, and counseling is available. Being too lazy to work out differences doesn’t strike me as a valid excuse to break a marriage vow.

  • Skyknight

    The reason we don’t see such scenes, I’m afraid, is that our authors are not terribly interested in the character and meaning of either Christ or Antichrist. To L&J, both figures are simply plot devices. And the plot, as they see it, has very little to do with the kingdom of heaven described in the Sermon on the Mount or with the Christ who spoke those words.
    Ultimately, for L&J, the only significant difference between Christ and Antichrist is this: Nicolae tries to slaughter all of his enemies and destroy the world, but he fails. Christ succeeds.
    From what little I know of the later books, I’m not sure if outright destruction of the world is Nicolae’s scheme. Rulership, yes. Utter destruction, no. For those of you who are wondering, the Christ’s “destruction” of the world basically involves (after all the seal, trumpet, and chalice judgements) reshaping the world physically. Mountains? Seas? Gone. Anybody anywhere (who’s still left after the sonic disruption of Nicolae’s hordes) can actually DRIVE to Jerusalem. I think I got the feeling that the new swaths of plains and grasslands are most fertile.
    So I don’t think LaHaye’s thinking of this destruction as destruction per se, but rather a total remaking. Which, he genuinely believes, is a most noble thing for God to do, since the remade Earth isn’t tainted with death or decay…
    Not then presently, anyway.

  • Jeff Weskamp

    “I think there was an early Church father, cast out as a heretic, who taught that Christ would, eventually, save everyone — up to and including Satan — and that anyone who behaved justly would be considered his worshiper. ”
    That early Church Father was Origen.

  • Jeff Weskamp

    “Mountains? Seas? Gone. Anybody anywhere (who’s still left after the sonic disruption of Nicolae’s hordes) can actually DRIVE to Jerusalem. I think I got the feeling that the new swaths of plains and grasslands are most fertile.”
    Hmmm…. no mountains and seas. So the planet Earth will be recreated as a smooth, flat plain covered with grasslands and cities. Sounds a bit dull to me.

  • MM

    You mean in a couple who basically respects each other and has a serious disagreement about something? But none of the partners had been frustrated enough to adopt a habit of emotional/verbal/physical abuse, induldges in frequent daydreams about the blessings of widowhood, or has withdrawn into an adulterous relationship? – Well, I can’t see then a reason, why such a couple should divorce.
    Well, that’s certainly an interesting POV. You think fundamental disagreements about whether or not to have children, what kind of lifestyle the couple should live, or falling out of love and no longer wanting to spend the rest of one’s life with someone are all a matter of being “lazy”? I’d have to say that should the relationship get to the point you’re describing as sufficient to justify a breakup, the couple has already gone past incompatibility and started hurting each other. Call me funny, but I’d much rather see a calm divorce where they part as friends rather than two people driven to “daydreams of widowhood” or abuse. I’ve seen people have both types of divorces; I’ll let you guess who ends up happier with the final result.
    /off-topic

  • Jos

    Hmmm…. no mountains and seas. So the planet Earth will be recreated as a smooth, flat plain covered with grasslands and cities. Sounds a bit dull to me.
    Sounds a bit lifeless to me. If there are no seas, the entire planet will be covered in earth. Unless there are lots of rivers everywhere, most of this single continent will be barren and I don’t think Rozensweig’s Miracle Gro will do much to help.
    Also, it may be that most of the northern hemisphere will be covered in ice (or would be covered in ice if there was surface water). I’m not certain about this point, but I believe that the northern hemisphere is as liveable as it is because the gulf streams in the ocean (or whatever they are called) continuously bring in warm water from warmer climates down south. Take away the ocean, take away the warm water, and the climate will shift for the colder.
    Furthermore… no rain. Or very little rain. That can’t be good.
    No mountains means no tectonic drift. I’m not actually sure if there are downsides to that, but there are bound to be. True, no earthquakes, but… I wonder what would happen to wind speeds?

  • none

    hypocracy is a very hard word here.
    Try hypocrisy

  • mcc

    I have to admit though, this ‘mirror-opposite’ Antichrist thing seems pretty confusing. His ‘ghostly’ father would be Satan, not God, right? So if he’s the mirror opposite of Jesus Christ, the faithful, humble son who always put his Father’s will above his own, wouldn’t he be always in rebellion against Satan? And if not, if he’s faithfully doing his father’s will, wouldn’t that make him a sort of a tragic figure? The Good Son, condemned from birth because of a lousy father?
    See also

  • mcc

    I have to admit though, this ‘mirror-opposite’ Antichrist thing seems pretty confusing. His ‘ghostly’ father would be Satan, not God, right? So if he’s the mirror opposite of Jesus Christ, the faithful, humble son who always put his Father’s will above his own, wouldn’t he be always in rebellion against Satan? And if not, if he’s faithfully doing his father’s will, wouldn’t that make him a sort of a tragic figure? The Good Son, condemned from birth because of a lousy father?
    See also

  • mcc

    And, uh, sorry, I don’t know how that posted twice.

  • Jesurgislac

    mcc: And, uh, sorry, I don’t know how that posted twice.
    Original sin.

  • Jeff Weskamp

    “Sounds a bit lifeless to me. If there are no seas, the entire planet will be covered in earth. Unless there are lots of rivers everywhere, most of this single continent will be barren and I don’t think Rozensweig’s Miracle Gro will do much to help.”
    Well, Jos, L&J would tell you that all your scientifically-based doubts about the upcoming Christians-Only New Earth (pat. pending) are based upon the research of dirty, heathen, secular-humanist scientists. The same wicked scientists who claim the Earth is four billion years old, that all living things evolved from earlier lifeforms, and that the sun revolves around the earth. Oops, I guess the Fundies have accepted that last evil scientific idea. I’ll bet Gallileo is pleased.

  • Jeff Weskamp

    OOPS: Dirty, evil scientists like Galileo claimed that the *Earth* revolved around the *Sun*! Not the other way around. *That* mistaken belief was held by the Christian authorities of the day (inlcuding the infallible Pope).
    Or, L&J would simply state the Jesus would sustain all life on the planet through his personal Grace. The laws of physics and geology are subject to dvine power.

  • A. Kennedy

    OOPS: Dirty, evil scientists like Galileo claimed that the *Earth* revolved around the *Sun*! Not the other way around. *That* mistaken belief was held by the Christian authorities of the day (inlcuding the infallible Pope).
    Wow. Oversimplify much?
    First of all, the idea of papal infallibility you are cleaving too is just plain wrong, from anybody’s point of view. The pope is infallible (from the Roman Catholic point of view) only when i)the Pope ii)speaks ex cathedra iii)defining iv)a doctrine of faith or morals v)held by the entire church. Sheesh. Sometimes I think people bring up “papal infallibility” simply because they are anti-eccleisiastic, and the words sound like they could be used in an argument, without caring what they really mean.
    Secondly, the Pope of the day (Urban VIII) did not explicitly hold to either side of what was then a great controversy. In fact, he was (originally) a great friend of Galileo’s, but he was trying to balance a very difficult situation. I’ll quote from the Wikipedia article on Galileo:
    He revived his project of writing a book on the subject, encouraged by the election of Cardinal Barberini as Pope Urban VIII in 1623. Barberini was a friend and admirer of Galileo, and had opposed the condemnation of Galileo in 1616. The book, Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems, was published in 1632, with formal authorization from the Inquisition and papal permission.
    Pope Urban VIII personally asked Galileo to give arguments for and against heliocentrism in the book, and to be careful not to advocate heliocentrism. He made another request, that his own views on the matter be included in Galileo’s book. Only the latter of those requests was fulfilled by Galileo. Whether unknowingly or deliberate, Simplicius, the defender of the Aristotelian Geocentric view in Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems, was often caught in his own errors and sometimes came across as a fool. This fact made Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems appear as an advocacy book; an attack on Aristotelian geocentrism and defense of the Copernican theory. To add insult to injury, Galileo put the words of Pope Urban VIII into the mouth of Simplicius. Most historians agree Galileo did not act out of malice and felt blindsided by the reaction to his book. However, the Pope did not take the public ridicule lightly, nor the blatant bias. Galileo had alienated one of his biggest and most powerful supporters, the Pope, and was called to Rome to explain himself.
    I’m not trying to say that the majority ecclesiastical view of the time wasn’t geocentric. In fact, it was. So what? Authorities can be mistaken. Besides that, this is one of those issues that becomes a hobby-horse for anti-religionists.
    Also, as a Physics teacher, this infuriates me, because it is equally incorrect to say that the Earth orbits the Sun, for two reasons: i) the Earth and the Sun actually co-rotate around their shared centre of gravity, which is found 1% of the distance from the centre of the sun to the centre of the Earth, and ii) Galileo himself initiated the chain of understanding of relativity which tells us that any reference frame (including accelerating ones, per general relativity) can be deemed to be the reference frame, so that ecclesiastics were, in a very essential way, just as right as Galileo when they said that the sun moved around the Earth (but the equations are prohibitively complicated in that way: it’s “simpler” to have the Earth orbit the Sun).
    Finally, as a student of Zen, I must paraphrase Huineng (badly) “Neither Sun nor Earth, but it is your mind that rotates.”

  • Brian

    Fred and others,
    I was wondering if you had ever read Y–The Last Man published by Vertigo Comics. The plot revolves around the mysterious death of every male mammal on the planet except for one man and his monkey. It’s a tale about what it’s like to be the last man on earth, and also what the world is like after the tragedy.
    The authors did not a half bad job envisioning the world after the disappearance of a massive segment of the population, including a lot of very important people.
    Suggested for reading and comparing to LB.

  • hapax

    MM: “Call me funny, but I’d much rather see a calm divorce where they part as friends rather than two people driven to “daydreams of widowhood” or abuse.”
    I think you’re being unfair to Angelika’s point of view here, although I’m sure that she can defend herself. From *my* point of view, marriage isn’t about being “in love”, or agreeing about “lifestyle”, or about “children” (and it certainly isn’t about having someone to sleep with.) Marriage is about the commitment that two people make to each other, that they each consider the relationship to be more important than either of the individuals involved. Sometimes that involves compromising or even (gasp!) GIVING IN on a particular lifestyle choice, or doing without the perpetual hormonal rush of being in love.
    I realize that isn’t a popular notion nowadays, when what’s good for an individual invariably what’s good for the community, but honestly, if divorcing couple are truly friends — as I understand the word “friends” — that means that at least one of them put his or her own wants and needs above the relationship. In that case, that person has indeed committed a sin — either in breaking a commitment, or in entering the marriage without the commitment in the first place.
    I’m willing to concede that in a large number of divorces, the fault is indeed of the latter type — people getting married without due consideration and seriousness. And in many cases, the harm of divorce is, as you correctly note, much less than the harm of remaining in a marriage that isn’t really a marriage, as I understand it. But just because something is a lesser evil doesn’t mean it’s a positive good. (Oh wait, didn’t we already have this argument on the abortion thread?)
    It would help a LOT if we could disentangle sex from marriage (not that sex within marriage isn’t very nice, and in my experience preferable). Not only would that eliminate the whole “He makes me so hot, but it’s a sin without a ring, so we’d better get married”, but also the far too frequent “She just doesn’t do it for me anymore, time to trade her in for a new model” (note: genders randomly assigned)

  • ako

    I was wondering if you had ever read Y–The Last Man published by Vertigo Comics. The plot revolves around the mysterious death of every male mammal on the planet except for one man and his monkey. It’s a tale about what it’s like to be the last man on earth, and also what the world is like after the tragedy.
    Yeah, it’s one of the things that gets brought up for comparison a lot, along with Children of Men and World War Z. They’re all vastly better, and Y – The Last Man’s a good example of how a globe-trotting adventure story full of spies, assasinations, and secret societies can still do a decent job of showing the implications of a global disaster and the radically changed world that ensues.
    The real challenge now is to find someone who did a worse job writing it. I took a peek at a Left Behind fanfiction page, and most of the teenage Left Behind readers who post their stuff on the internet for free are writing better stories. Not always great, in fact not usually good, but better. Noticeably better.

  • Amanda

    From *my* point of view, marriage isn’t about being “in love”, or agreeing about “lifestyle”, or about “children” (and it certainly isn’t about having someone to sleep with.) Marriage is about the commitment that two people make to each other, that they each consider the relationship to be more important than either of the individuals involved. Sometimes that involves compromising or even (gasp!) GIVING IN on a particular lifestyle choice, or doing without the perpetual hormonal rush of being in love.
    I think we may be talking past each other. One of the situations I proposed is something I see happening now to a friend, and isn’t all that uncommon: they did get married with “due consideration and seriousness.” At the time, both of them mature adults who weren’t going into things frivolously, they both thought they wanted to eventually have children. Now, years later, the husband has changed his mind — again not trivially, but as the result of years of thinking, self-development and what have you — and decided that no, he doesn’t want to have kids. Ever. While the wife still very, very much wants children in her life.
    What do you do at that point? Do you force this person you love into a lifestyle they know they will hate? — do you force upon those children a father who doesn’t want them and never will, or force upon the woman a life without those children she would love and give all their due care? What is there to “work out” here? We have an irrevocable split, two people who want very, very different things, despite being in sync on most other important issues. What do you do?
    What they are doing, right now, seems to be “waiting it out.” Seeing if one or the other will change their mind (again), I guess. The husband’s mother is pressuring them for children, well-meaning enough, but it is causing them both a great deal of pain — and neither of them is really blaming the mother, or their partner, for it; they’re handling it graciously, adultfully (is that a word? now it is), but…
    Is there “sin” here? They’re both treating each other entirely respectfully and lovingly. But it seems their lives are beginning to move apart in that respect, and the question is, what do they do now? Part peacefully, knowing that there is no fair way to work this out? Or try desperately to force together two puzzle pieces that don’t really quite fit, knowing that it just isn’t right somehow?
    I think this particular point of view is just too simple. It’s just too easy to say that, well, if this is going on, and they aren’t “sinning,” well then they just rushed into marriage “without due diligence and seriousness.” But they didn’t — this POV ignores an inevitability in life: people change. Marriage isn’t the merging of identity, of personhood. There are still two individuals there, working together for the betterment of themselves, their family and their community — but still two individuals. With luck, and with work, as they both change, they will change together — or at least, any “changing apart” will not happen on these very important, basic issues in the relationship. But some of those changes do happen on those very important, basic issues in the relationship. And sometimes, failure to “work it out” is due to lack of work, but — sometimes, failure to “work it out” is far more attributable to chance than to lack of effort. Failure to realize this is, to me, failure to realize the necessary complexity of human interaction.
    I’m posting this without reviewing it because my fiance wants to go watch some Arrested Development — apologies in advance for any imprecise wording, typos, etc. :)

  • A. Kennedy

    It would help a LOT if we could disentangle sex from marriage (not that sex within marriage isn’t very nice, and in my experience preferable).
    Oh, very much so! You can do things with a long-term trusted partner that you never would with someone you don’t know well.
    And that’s all I’ll say about that.

  • Jesurgislac

    hapax: It would help a LOT if we could disentangle sex from marriage
    When I read comments like yours, I’m actually not at all clear why anyone, thinking like that, would ever want to get married. If the purpose of marriage is purely and simply to be and stay married, then why ever get married in the first place? It’s all very tautological – you get married to be married to stay married, and what on earth is the point?

  • Skyknight

    Weskamp: I’m pretty sure that LaHaye’s idea is precisely that God can rewrite the laws of physics (and perhaps even metaphysics…{gulp}) as he wishes. I have a suspicion that he regards today’s current entropy-ridden physical cosmos as a direct consequence of the Fall (after all, DEATH is certainly entropic…).

  • A. Kennedy

    hapax: It would help a LOT if we could disentangle sex from marriage
    When I read comments like yours, I’m actually not at all clear why anyone, thinking like that, would ever want to get married. If the purpose of marriage is purely and simply to be and stay married, then why ever get married in the first place?
    First of all, I think Hapax meant to disentangle the expectation of sexual happiness from marriage… because many people use that as a reason to behave badly / uncharitably in marriage. E.g. the husband who says he’s going to “trade in his 40 for two 20′s.”
    Second, I don’t think that anyone disagrees that the purpose of marriage is to be with the one you feel pulled by destiny and / or love and / or companionship and / or family requirements to be with. It’s just that a successful marriage will at some point experience a flagging in desire (which many mistake for love), so if you go at marriage with anything other than the understanding that some days, you will wake up with a terrible urge to “be free,” your marriage will not be a success. It is surviving through those times that makes a marriage strong — and only caring about “my happiness” that leads to no possibility of a successful marriage.

  • cjmr’s husband

    I have a suspicion that he regards today’s current entropy-ridden physical cosmos as a direct consequence of the Fall (after all, DEATH is certainly entropic…).
    The idea that there was no death before the fall always irks me. Creationism always does, but this is worse: Genesis directly refutes it. (Gn 3:22-23)

  • A. Kennedy

    The idea that there was no death before the fall always irks me. Creationism always does, but this is worse: Genesis directly refutes it. (Gn 3:22-23)
    Well, of course I see these passages as metaphorical, but simply to be pedantic, is it not possible that the fruit of the tree of life kept Adam and Eve alive, but did not make them immortal? So that if they left the garden then, yes, indeed, they would die of old age (and also, newly, be succeptible to death through misadventure).

  • Jesurgislac

    A. Kennedy: Second, I don’t think that anyone disagrees that the purpose of marriage is to be with the one you feel pulled by destiny and / or love and / or companionship and / or family requirements to be with.
    Loads of people disagree with that: you can read their arguments – if you can stomach them – on any website devoted to arguing that same-sex couples can’t be allowed to marry.
    Amanda’s comment to Hapax was a much better/more thoughtful one than mine, and I’m more interested to see how Hapax responds to that.

  • Fraser

    The theory of Origen referred to above actually relates to whether or not damnation is eternal. Origen believed that it didn’t have to be, that if Satan knelt, repented and sought to atone, even he could return to heaven in time (for a good take on this, Larry Niven’s Inferno is excellent). This was eventually ruled a heresy (Origen drew his conclusions long before the church had any formal thoughts on the subject).
    For an interesting Antichrist figure of sorts, Robert Bloch’s “Strange Eons” has Nyarlathotep (in his avatar of the “dark man”–here a black preacher) deliver a spellbinding speech or two when recruiting for Cthulhu.
    The anti-beatitudes remind me of Qward from the Silver Age Green Lantern comics: In addition to being an anti-matter world, it’s morals are reversed so “evil” (murder, theft, interplanetary conquest) is considered socially positive while people who refuse to steal are persecuted.

  • Technomad

    And here _I_ always thought that the purpose of marriage was to keep the manufacturers of stress-relief drugs in business…
    Having no taste for _Sturm und Drang_ or _Grand Guignol_ in my personal life, (I had more than enough of THAT growing up, thankyouverymuch) I’m not as wistful about my friends’ married lives as some people seem to expect.

  • hapax

    Umm, I should have prefaced my comments above (I thought that it was clear in context) that “this is what marriage means TO ME. Once again, I have neither the desire nor the competence to declare Moral Truth for anyone but myself.
    Jesurgislac: ” I’m actually not at all clear why anyone, thinking like that, would ever want to get married.”
    I’m not surprised. From other comments on other topics, it seems (forgive me if I am wrong) that you invariably privilege the rights and needs of individuals over communities. (I’m not saying that either of us is right or wrong; it seems to me to be one of those core bedrock principles that people never consciously choose, but colour everything esle in their worldview. And it’s darn difficult to explain ANYTHING in a way that makes sense to people who view things the other way.)
    But in answer to your question, I chose to get married because I thought that a committed lifelong relationship between this particular person could and would be the most beautiful, joyful, beneficial, sacred, and necessary part of God’s universe that I would likely ever have the privilege of helping to create. Of course, that was before I met my children. :-)
    Amanda: ” it seems their lives are beginning to move apart in that respect, and the question is, what do they do now?”
    I haven’t a clue what they should do now. I don’t know the people, I don’t know the situation, I don’t know all the alternatives available. I would hope and pray that there is some way to reconcile individual needs and desires in a way that preserves the relationship and is acceptable to all parties involved.
    But please observe that I never said that divorce should be forbidden. I said that, in my point of view, when there is one there is sin involved somewhere. Sin doesn’t necesarily imply malice, or selfishness, or laziness. *Sin is falling from God’s ideal for the human condition.* Unless you want to argue that it is God’s plan for your two friends that they should be suffering in this distress (I’m afraid that I do not recall your stand on the nature of God’s involvement (if any) in human affairs), it would of necessity be present. That doesn’t mean, however, that there might not be greater distress, suffering, what-have-you, in forcing a reconciliation.
    Far too many times, there is just no GOOD solution, just a choice between greater and lesser evils. If it is inevitable that “people change”, it is JUST as inevitable that “people fail.” That’s what it means to live in a fallen world. It’s not an occasion for guilt, or blame, or punishment. But it is an occasion for sorrow, and determination to minimize the evil choices that people will have to make.
    A Kennedy: “I think Hapax meant to disentangle the expectation of sexual happiness from marriage… because many people use that as a reason to behave badly”
    Yes, for that reason, but even more because I don’t want people to enter into ill-advised marriages as the only option to find sexual happiness.
    But really, once again, this is what *I* believe about marriage. Of course I would be pleased if everyone saw the world exactly as I do — or wait, no I would’t. Then I would miss out on all these interesting online conversations.

  • hapax

    oh, and addenda to the above: I don’t think that people just “change” by pure chance, flotsam carried about by the whims of circumstance. People change because of the choices that they and other people make.
    Now, a person may change entirely due to someone else’s choices — say, severe brain damage from being hit by a drunk driver (to choose an extreme example). But generally speaking, it is the choices that I make in response to circumstances that change me. They may be good choices in the specific cases, that lead to unforeseen consequences. But I cannot disclaim responsiblity for their effects on others by simply shrugging my shoulders and saying, “well, you know, stuff happens.”

  • Amanda

    hapax (and by association, possibly Angelika): Again I think we may be talking past each other, because I don’t really take exception to much of what you said. Of course I recognize that you weren’t advocating the abolition of divorce or any such thing, and realize that you’re only speaking for yourself. I’m just arguing back, in that internetty way ;) And now I’m about to ramble on again in that internetty, off-topic way.
    I take “sin” to mean, essentially, committing a wrong — and in this particular case (and it’s by no means the only case that could illustrate my point, but just one that I felt I could actually explain well enough) no one really committed a wrong against the other. Also, I tend to feel that in this sort of situation, it would create more pain to attempt to force one’s partner into something they so fundamentally do not want. We aren’t talking about what color upholstery to choose for the new living room set.
    And, in that situation, I really, truly believe that no one who really loves their partner would want to force their partner into something like that. (An aside: It baffled me when an acquaintance tried to fight a divorce his now-ex-wife instigated, claiming he loved her too much to lose her — here I go judging other people, but if he really did love her, how could he fight so hard to force her to stay, when she wanted so desperately to leave? — that kind of thing: again, this isn’t upholstery patterns, these are fundamentals to a continuing relationship [like, uh, whether you want there to be one], something one can’t truly just change their mind on because they were guilted into it.) When the disagreement here is so fundamental, and it causes so much pain to try to force oneself into a position one doesn’t want and never wanted to be in — how can the partner’s partner (p^2?) observe that pain, and think it’s the right thing to do? But then knowing how much pain that p^2 would go through if things were the other way around, knowing that partner would feel pain to know of p^2′s pain, how could p^2 support reversing the situation? (Hopefully that made some small amount of sense.)
    However, you sort of addressed that in saying, That doesn’t mean, however, that there might not be greater distress, suffering, what-have-you, in forcing a reconciliation.
    I don’t know — again, I don’t take exception to a lot of what you say. I think we’re pretty much of a similar mind, except when it comes to divorce pretty much by necessity happening due to some sort of sin. You seem to assert it, and maybe I’m just missing part of the argument (very possible), or maybe there’s pretty much just a POV issue here. I’m going to defer, mostly because I’m sure you are far, far more studied in your view than I am in mine (I’m an inexperienced young’n myself :)).
    Yes, for that reason, but even more because I don’t want people to enter into ill-advised marriages as the only option to find sexual happiness.
    This is part of the problem I’ve come to have with the churches I’ve attended: they talk up the sanctity of marriage (even before that became a national catchphrase), but don’t seem to regard it quite so seriously — they claim they would rather young adults marry ASAP than burn with lust — because apparently it is better to enter into marriage inadvisedly, marriage that mind you is rich in symbolism and is in their mind the most serious commitment a person can make second to that person’s commitment to God, than it is to have premarital sex, or even thoughts of it
    I loved my youth pastor in high school, but I hated that he taught exactly this. Not that one should be teaching sin at all to one’s audience, but really, if we are weighing which is the greater evil, which is worse: losing your virginity, or creating a lifetime of issues by entering into a very deep spiritual commitment with someone you probably hardly know, when in fact you hardly even know yourself, and probably believe that “divorce is not an option”? — down the line, either divorce will (oops) become an option, or there is going to be a whole lot of pain and suffering in two people’s lives — possibly more — because they wanted to avoid any of the potential “pain and suffering” due to some extramarital friskiness.
    It just seemed so utterly wrong to essentially be condoning that, on the hopes that since they’re faithful churchgoers (while mommy and daddy are dropping them off, anyhow), their relationship will somehow turn out splendidly.
    Meh.

  • A. Kennedy

    I take “sin” to mean, essentially, committing a wrong — and in this particular case (and it’s by no means the only case that could illustrate my point, but just one that I felt I could actually explain well enough) no one really committed a wrong against the other.
    I actually find this very, very interesting. If you had asked me six years ago, I would have agreed with you about the meaning of sin. Now, I think I’m beginning to share more of Hapax’ view… or indeed the view that sin is almost as mysterious in its nature as virtue. Just as I think that rightness or wholeness or virtue or health or what have you is found in a dynamic between us and God, I think that sin is found in a dynamic (or, more properly, a frustrated dynamic) between us and God. We want to believe in a “moral” sin because we use morality as a helpful crutch… but really, morality, as we use the word, is what we use because we are fallen and unable to directly sense the way of righteousness. We want written rules, a program we can follow, so that we can abdicate our power as participants in nature and become observers of our own existences… in fact, it may be this very abdication that is the nature of our fall (although I’m just supposing, and I’m sure that not everyone would agree on humanity’s fallen state). Morality is a kind of medicine that allows us some reprieve from our collective sickness… but if true health is to be found, the medicine must be transcended.
    What does this have to do with marriage and sexuality? We have traditional regulations for these aspects of our lives, but if they are ever to become suffused with the divine grace that makes our human creations live, we must move beyond these rules. Here’s the big problem, though: many people would like, not to transcend, but to break these rules! Many would like to have premarital sex, not because they actually see the inherent healthiness of the sexual act and devoutly wish communion with their lover, but because they want sex without consequences. In this, as in many other things, a pure heart is a vital ingredient.
    Well, that’s enough blathering for now…

  • Angelika

    Amanda: I’m totally with you what you said about young people being ushered prematurely into marriages. – I really wish, like Hapax expressed so eloquently, that sex and marriage would be seen as different issues. Not in a way that encourages adultery (which tends to be very hurtful for the betrayed partner), but definitively in a way that prevents premature marriages.
    The case you describe is difficult one. I was not claiming, that finding compromisses would be easy in any case, but I’m convinced, that if the two partners are committed to their marriage and love and respect each other, they can find a compromise. (I know a couple who run about ten years ago in the same issue, argued for a long time, used counseling, but finally reconciled. They compromised on a single child and are now in a very functionable way back together. – I hope the best for your friends.)

  • Bugmaster

    I don’t really buy the argument that marriage is good for society, so what everyone should do is get married and stay married, even if they feel miserable, for the Greater Good. It seems to me, instead, that this policy will only lead to a society where everyone feels miserable.

  • Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little

    I think a lot of the resistance that some people have to the idea that “people change” comes from a mistaken belief that “growing up” is something that culminates at a certain age, probably and coincidentally at the age at which the US allows you to vote, or maybe drink, and then stops.
    I think “growing up” is something we do all our lives. I was a much more mature person at 21 than I was at 16; I am vastly more mature now than I was at 21; I expect that I will have learned more lessons such as how to be more patient and less selfish and jealous by the time I’m 40, at which time I’ll think wistfully of how maybe I’ll be a better person at 50 (but grateful that I’ve come so far since 16).
    But not all of “growing up” is necessarily maturing into a better behaved person. Some of it really is a change of person. Our priorities can shift drastically in a decade. Our ultimatums can, too. Things we thought we’d never put up with, we come to understand. Things we wanted very badly, we come to terms with living without, or we even discover that we’re damn glad that wish was never granted.
    I can totally see that a man might at one point want children, but some years down the road realize that, for whatever reason, he wants not to have children. Maybe the intervening time has shown him what a huge commitment child-rearing is; or maybe he already knew that, but has since come to know himself better and realizes that he is not up to that challenge; or maybe he has discovered a strength, interest, or focus in his life that is incompatible with children.
    Where is the sin here? Using hapax’s def., the sin is in falling away from God’s view of the world. Where did that happen? When he married a woman who wanted children, honestly thinking he wanted them too–he sinned by not seeing that in the future he’d come to not want children? Or has he sinned by not keeping himself frozen in amber from the moment of the wedding vow? What did God want that he didn’t live up to? Or has his wife sinned by not changing with him?
    More and more, I realize that a key component to my converting away from Christianity was my fundamental disbelief in the concept of sin except as it coincides with the concept of unnecessary harm. I don’t know God’s plan. I certainly can’t tell a person to divorce or not divorced based on it. I can only trust two adults to be adult enough to find the solution that best minimizes detectable harm–to each other, to potential children, to their families.
    As for prioritizing individual happiness over that of the community–I truly don’t see how two people making themselves individually miserable over a marriage vow made when they were radically different people benefits anyone at all.

  • Jesurgislac

    Hapax: From other comments on other topics, it seems (forgive me if I am wrong) that you invariably privilege the rights and needs of individuals over communities.
    Yes. Because when a community starts taking away people’s rights and depriving them of what they need because their community requires them to be deprived of rights and denied what they need, that community has just lost its point: it has ceased to be a useful community. Of course a person may voluntarily join a community, aware that membership of the community will deny that person rights and deprive them of what they need, but then they must be allowed to leave the community if the community’s demands change or become more than the person is prepared to put up with.
    (There are exceptions, of course: but none of them apply to marriage.)
    I chose to get married because I thought that a committed lifelong relationship between this particular person could and would be the most beautiful, joyful, beneficial, sacred, and necessary part of God’s universe that I would likely ever have the privilege of helping to create.
    And, while omitting God and sacredness from this, I think that’s the best reason to get married… but Amanda’s still right. ;-)
    Of course I would be pleased if everyone saw the world exactly as I do — or wait, no I would’t. Then I would miss out on all these interesting online conversations.
    But you’re right about that…. cheers! *passes you a cup of coffee* Milk or sugar?
    A. Kennedy: Many would like to have premarital sex, not because they actually see the inherent healthiness of the sexual act and devoutly wish communion with their lover, but because they want sex without consequences.
    You say that as if there’s something wrong with that. Sex without consequences seems to me to be something to be aimed for, when you’re having sex with someone you know you don’t want to be with in any permanent way. And, if both people involved care for each other in an ordinary human way (as, sadly, so many heterosexual men do not care for women they have sex with*), and have access to condoms/contraception, this is an achievable goal. Doing something purely for pleasure without long or short-term consequences is an active good.

  • Jesurgislac

    *There was a footnote attached to this, but it was getting discursive and longer than the comment, and I deleted it, forgetting to delete the * in the main part of the comment.

  • A Texan in Bavaria

    Here in very (culturally) Catholic Bavaria, I find myself explaining why my boyfriend and I do *not* live together. Since I don’t know how to convey that it’s not even a notion we’d had because we seem to each be too attached to our own space, I tell inquisitive Germans that my rather conservative Baptist parents would have a stroke if they found out we did.
    Bavarians seem to be more religious than most Germans, but living together for a few years before getting married is the norm, no matter what age or social class. Most of the ones I’ve met went to university and are, at age 26-35, living with a long-time partner and vaguely entertaining thoughts of marriage, but don’t actually plan to go to city hall until children look imminent.
    Most of them will have a church wedding after the required city hall one, but often the two ceremonies are months apart. City hall wedding – mid-pregnancy, so that there is less hassle (paperwork) when the baby arrives. Church wedding – once the baby weight is gone, sometimes involves a christening (“Bavarian wedding”)

  • movablenu

    “Where is the sin here? Using hapax’s def., the sin is in falling away from God’s view of the world. Where did that happen? When he married a woman who wanted children, honestly thinking he wanted them too–he sinned by not seeing that in the future he’d come to not want children? Or has he sinned by not keeping himself frozen in amber from the moment of the wedding vow? What did God want that he didn’t live up to? Or has his wife sinned by not changing with him?”
    I’m not sure that’s what hapax was saying, but I’ll put forward how I would understand this problem. Genesis 3 talks about the Fall. That involves the entry of moral sin, and interpersonal conflict, into human relationships, but also a disordering of creation so that things don’t ‘work’ quite right. The fact that life contains this sort of frustration is a result of that disorder. For instance, one of the ideas behind resurrection is that a renewed body will enable a perfect concordance between our will and our actions, whereas currently we often have to fight our desires in order to do the right thing.
    I’m not saying that I could tell what specifically ‘went wrong’ in that relationship, but it’s not necessarily sin, just a fact of the world like the fact that the couple will eventually get old and die. Trying to lay blame in such a situation is silly, but we do sense, I think, that it’s not supposed to turn out that way. This is where virtue, not sin, becomes the issue – given this crappy situation, which is not our fault, are we still going to live with love, patience, and hope?

  • Jesurgislac

    Nova: This is where virtue, not sin, becomes the issue – given this crappy situation, which is not our fault, are we still going to live with love, patience, and hope?
    I certainly hope so, but what makes you think that love, patience, and hope are incompatible with divorce?

  • Izzy

    Kennedy: It’s just that a successful marriage will at some point experience a flagging in desire (which many mistake for love), so if you go at marriage with anything other than the understanding that some days, you will wake up with a terrible urge to “be free,” your marriage will not be a success.
    Which is one of the reasons I’d rather not get married.
    I mean, yes, the flame eventually dies down a bit as you get used to someone, and “this person is the hottest thing ever” becomes something more comfortable, and that’s something I’ve accepted even if I don’t particularly like it. But if there’s ever a time when comfortable isn’t enough, or when my partner and I grow apart–as even friends do–or when patience and trying new things just doesn’t leave either of us satisfied, I want him to be able to leave. No obligation; no guilt–if he doesn’t want to be with me, he shouldn’t.
    Because–and I mean no insult here to anyone who is married and enjoys it–I can’t think of anything more humiliating, or anything I’d want less, than having someone stay with me because he promised. I don’t want to be an obligation. Seems like the Matthew-type view of marriage would make me one.

  • A. Kennedy

    but because they want sex without consequences.
    You say that as if there’s something wrong with that.
    There’s nothing wrong with sex without consequences, it’s just that it’s an impossible dream. Cannot happen (at least, such is my opinion). Sex is too powerful a thing not to have consequences, regardless of what people want (or so is my opinion).
    So the “sin” comes in not so much in wanting sex without consequences (I’m not sure that want without action can lead to sin), but in actually trying to get away with the impossible… as so much sin is! After all, the adulterer usually believes that he or she can get away with it without hurting their partner, that the adultery is a necessary imperfection, but that everything will be OK.


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