Thursday, May 26, 2011

Vacation Notes

I promised myself I wouldn`t post anything while I am on holidays but I happened to have a few moments free.

On my flight down to Orlando I happened to bring Morton Smith`s 1973 book.  It is amazing to look at Agammenon Tselikas`s report and see how the same arguments are already anticipated in Smith`s Clement of Alexandria and a Secret Gospel of Mark.  I used to wonder why Smith spent so much time developing this cumbersome book.  It is as if all of Tselikas`s objections are handled by Smith thirty years ago.  I will spend some time demonstrating this when I get home.  The amazing thing of course is that Tselikas never bothered to read Smith`s book.  In fact I don`t think Tselikas read anything that has ever been published on Mar Saba 65.  Very strange.

And as it is my vacation, I happened to have had a strange experience occur to me while standing at a water spraying station at Magic Kingdom.  I was standing at a water spraying station (you know one of those things which is designed to keep kids cool).  My son was running around pretending he was the Incredible Hulk when he started to play with a girl about the same age as him.  I looked up to see that her mother was something else.  So beautiful and my favorite type - black, about twenty five years old, a single mother who had the gait of an Amazon.

I have to tell you, while I was standing around thinking of ways not to start a conversation with her I had the deepest longing for her.  Seriously I haven`t felt like that since before I was married.  Nothing happened of course.  Her daughter eventually got tired of my son and they went away.  The point is that it was the furthest thing from being sordid.  I just happened to have lived in Florida for a brief while and I knew this girl who looked exactly like this woman with an identical profile (single mother etc.).

I can`t explain the feeling.  It might have something do with sexual longing.  Let me correct that - of course it did.  But I want to say at the same time that what I was feeling wasn`t limited to sexual desire.  There was a lot more going on my head.

The whole trip here brings back memories.  I can remember living in Orlando and wanting this woman to always be available for me.  I certainly would have thought that would have been the ultimate accomplishment to spend the rest of my life with her.

The point is that I couldn`t help but think that Clement of Alexandria attacks the Carpocratians in Book Three of the Stromateis for their interpretation of Jesus`s commandment `Thou shalt not lust`(likely from Secret Mark).  Clement didn`t want to define lust as meaning “sexual longing” per se. It would seem then that the Carpocratians did. My question of course is why is it that Christians as such see sexual longing as something bad.

At its most basic it would be impossible to make a child without having these sorts of feelings. I mean, I have been there before. I remember joking holding my son after he was born that I spent most of my life trying to avoid making exactly something like this. The truth was that I can remember how the thought of this woman getting pregnant was actually getting in the way of sex with her. I had to be in control of everything and there are simply some situations in which it is impossible to retain sufficient control to prevent an on foreseen circumstance.

In any event I have been seriously wondering ever since how it is that Christians can have such a harsh view of sexual longing. When it is said that Jesus attacked even lusting after a woman I really don`t understand what the crime is here. I can`t believe that someone who finds his wife attractive and wants to make babies with her could possibly claim not to find other women who look sort of similar to her.

I acknowledge of course that the early Alexandrian Church undoubtedly encouraged ritual celibacy and I can even see why it is that ritual celibacy might even be desirable in its own right (at least intellectually). The difficulty I have is how was the idea that `sexual longing` was evil ever justified? Moses might have abstained from sex to meet God on the mountain, but can anyone really make the leap of logic from this to the alleged position of the Carpocratians?

I can`t even imagine a world where sexual longing was finally eradicated. I don`t even see how this could have ever been seen as desirable or divine. And then we read in other of Clement`s statements about the Carpocratians that they were sexual libertines. Something just doesn`t add up here.  There is something inherently problematic about the Carpocratians being described as both libertines and ascetics.

In the end I want to say - the original historical justification for Christian asceticism has never been written.

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Stephan Huller's Observations by Stephan Huller
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