Augustine, #MeToo, and the church

Augustine, #MeToo, and the church September 1, 2018

Saint Augustine Meditates on the Trinity when the Child Jesus Appears before him, Vergós Group – Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons

On October 16, 2017, I shared some words on my Facebook regarding the #MeToo ‘movement,’ if it could be called that, with the requisite problems eloquently stated by Yasmin Nair about it. The only folks who took offence to it, surprisingly, were not Byzantines who might have disdained by quoting from a Latin father, but evangelical feminists who found my reading of De Civitas Dei insufficiently feminist. However, one of them did say that it was a consolation prize that I’d be willing to be caught dead quoting Augustine.

Upon reflecting on this perversely liturgical moment in the Latin Church, it occurred to me that I might share these words here on my blog. After all, Augustine’s writings on the Eucharist deeply shaped my journey to Catholicism, and though I am Eastern Catholic, I am not averse to quoting him, especially as a philosopher infused with soul and jazz.

These were my words:

It can be said perhaps that a post about the ‘me too’ posts on my news feed is now obligatory and that I should say that I am sorry about my complicity. I am indeed sorry and am very moved, but it should be noted that this is not a contemporary problem. In the opening books of De Civitas Dei, Augustine points out that Roman civilization – from which I suppose it can be said, at least in a lazy way, the ‘West’ traces its genealogy – is literally founded on rape. The true tragedy in the ‘me too’ posts is that while Augustine posits a contrast between the rape culture of the city of the pagans and the chastity of the city of God, many who are posting experienced sexual assault in the context of the church. In this way, as St Peter – the rock upon which the church is built and against which the gates of hell will not prevail – says, judgment always begins in the house of God. What is at stake in the Church’s response to ‘me too’ is thus severe indeed; its own status as Church is at stake.

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