Saturday, June 23, 2012

Chapter Two of My New Book

Same-Sex Unions and Jesus

In the beginning there was Jesus, but who or what is Jesus?  There are more cockamamie theories about the 'Son of God and Mary' than you can shake a stick at.  Everyone seems to have a new angle on the familiar story which became the foundation of western civilization.  We've almost grown used to a seemingly endless production of books and articles, designed to shock readership into purchasing their product.  Each claiming to finally reveal the 'true Jesus' of history, inevitably hitting bookstores in the lead up to Easter.

It's now almost impossible to keep track of all the sensational theories.  Previous blockbusters include ‘Jesus the Galilean peasant,’ ‘Jesus the rabbi,’ ‘Jesus the revolutionary,’ ‘Jesus the magician,’ ‘Jesus the pacifist,’ ‘Jesus the Cynic,’ ‘Jesus the Jew,’ ‘Jesus the Gentile,’ ‘Jesus the Buddhist,’ ‘Jesus the hermaphrodite,’ ‘Jesus the sage,’ ‘Jesus the Essene,’ ‘Jesus the Pharisee,’ ‘Jesus the king,’ ‘Jesus the socialist’ and of course ‘Jesus Christ.’ Of course the real question seems to be is how could all these personalities fit into one historical person?  Even the Sybil didn't have this kind of range or repertoire.

The breeding ground of all these crazy ideas of course is the United States of America.  One can make a strong case that the first colonists didn't just come over to the New World to escape religious persecution but to establish ever more ridiculous forms of religious innovation.  Jesus isn't even recognizable any longer in the churches of this land.  Those claiming to be 'conservatives' in this great land inevitably espouse the most radical heretical reinterpretation of traditional Christians beliefs and practices.  It is as if people here no longer even know what orthodoxy even is any longer.

In this crazy and confused religious culture the innovation is the new norm.  It is something of an adaptation from the real religion of America - sales and marketing. So in 2011 an America charismatic pastor named Wendell Smith took things to the next level, organizing a major media campaign essentially saying Jesus can be whoever you want him to be.  As the ‘Jesus is _________’ website spells it out:

Jesus is a lot of things, but the answer is in the Bible. It says that Jesus is the Son of God, who came to earth on a mission to restore mankind to God. By living a perfect life, dying on a cross, and coming back to life, His mission was a success. We can know God because of Jesus. So maybe the reality of who Jesus is remains too big for the blank.

Apparently Jesus can be whoever or whatever you want him to be.  You can turn him inside out, anyway you want.  There is only rule in American conservatism - he can't be associated with homosexuality.  Conservatives are very clearly inflexible about this one 'rule'.

It is utterly unthinkable for most Americans to even consider that Jesus might have had a positive attitude toward same sex attraction and same sex unions, let alone had this as his very agenda for coming to this world.  Yet this will be the gist of this entire book.  Such a doctrine will be presented as true conservatism and it can be demonstrated wholly independently from Morton Smith's discovery in 1958.  All the evidence has been lying around in bits and pieces, unrecognized by the very scholars who were doing their best to ignores the obvious signs of homosexuality in the ancient religion.

The stupidest thing about American conservatism - and there is so much stupidity to pick and choose from - is that it simply has no grasp of the original religious culture it claims to represent.  For most, being like the pilgrims or the founding fathers is 'conservative enough.'  Yet this historical bench mark is still over fifteen or even seventeen centuries removed from the historical events described in the gospel.  The question that has to be asked of these ever angry, ever hateful mobs of under educated people is are they advocating conserving or preserving merely the beliefs of the founders of their country or those that shaped and guided earliest Christianity?  In short are they conservatives only with respect to America, its constitution and its bill of rights or conservatives with respect to Jesus too?

If there are such conservatives out there, who care to find out about what the earliest Christians believed, then the material assembled in this work should be of great interest to them.  For it is surprisingly easy to determine from the surviving historical evidence from the first Church Fathers that Jesus was never 'in favor' of heterosexual marriages in any way, shape or form.  At best, he can be described as tolerating the continued animal husbandry practices of Judaism for the portion of humanity he didn't care about.  Indeed as we will demonstrate in this book, Jesus was understood by his earliest followers to be wholly interested in establishing same sex unions among a spiritual elite.  The evidence is absolutely clear for this.  It has been ignored for the same reasons we manifest with respect to the Letter to Theodore.

American evangelicals simply go back to the example of their parents.  'Marriage has always been between a man and a woman,' they tell us.  'The gospel even has Jesus make reference to topics related to marriage for instance his chastising Moses for allowing for divorce.'  Yet none of this is of any consequence when you go beyond the original potato farmers and merchants that established this country a little over three hundred years ago.  To understand Jesus you have to come to terms with the gospel and to understand the gospel you have go back to the earliest interpretations of the text.  We can't just 'make up stuff' to suit the situation we find ourselves in.  This may be the way that modern American 'spirituality' proceeds but it is not the way to truth.

Christianity had a millennium and a half history in Europe that modern theologians simply through in the wastebasket.  Yet it is precisely here, in the ancient books that no one reads any longer, that we find the grounding for the original understanding that Jesus promoted a new form of same sex unions.  Indeed the truth which shines through from the writings - and the living superstition still held by many of the faithful - that there is something better or beyond traditional human sexuality.  This revelation is the nothing short of the basis to the Christian religion.

The basic understanding here is that when God commanded Adam and Eve to fuck one another, he was establishing something that didn't really work.  The divinely sanctioned carnal intercourse between a man and a woman did not achieve the promise of restoring a divided Adam to his original glory.  Opposite sex attraction was a kind of 'trap' that only served to facilitate production of broken souls and divided people in the world.

There are some historians who will argue that this supposedly 'radical' interpretation was limited to the groups outside the mainstream in early Christianity.  Yet this is again a wholly dishonest representation of the evidence from the earliest theologians of the religion.  The 'be fruitful and multiply' commandment and the related story of Adam, Eve and the serpent were problematic for the first Catholic Church Fathers.  A careful review of the evidence will suggest that the heretics and the orthodox were not as far apart in their interpretation of the meaning of the Genesis narrative as has often been claimed.  'Heresy' often comes down to speaking openly about things which were deemed best left unsaid.

Yet when we pore over the evidence it becomes very plain that in antiquity no less than to day Christianity developed two sets of rules with respect to marriage.  There was what was established for the animal portion of the Church and that which practiced by the spiritual elite.  Indeed, over and over again in the earliest writings of the Church we hear the appeal made to the catechumens - i.e. those undergoing the initiation into the sacraments of the Church - that once they were brought into acquaintance with 'truth,' that is with the amazingly profound understanding of life and spirituality established by Jesus in the gospel, they would lose all interest in having sex with women thus breaking the paradoxical 'trap' set in the beginning by God.  In other words, once the truth is revealed, men will no longer be interested in women, women will no longer seek to have children.

This argument appears in various forms in countless early Christian writers of various denominations, almost none of whom were ever actually married to a woman.  So there must be something to the idea that 'knowledge' somehow dispels opposite sex attraction, unless of course these same writers were already by nature unmoved by the female form.  In other words, perhaps many of the people claiming that exposure to the truth 'changed' them only used Christianity to cover up their natural inclinations.  It is a suspicion which even many of the most devoted Catholics today hold about attractive members of their celibate priesthood.

Our point of course is not to ridicule traditional religion, but rather to expose its barest soul.  Many Americans simply need to be made aware of the original dynamic within Christianity.  Indeed if we were to ask - where did the idea that something better than sex existed in the world came from? - the answer, would seem at least to have arisen with Jesus.  When he said for instance, "I am the way, the truth and the life" what he was really saying to the initiated was "I am the truth and the life without animal sex."  Few conservatives make this plain enough to their readership, yet those baptized into traditional forms of Christianity accept this understanding as a matter of faith.

So let's ask the more basic question - what sort of a man comes up with a formula like "I am the way, the truth and the life without sex with women" any way?   There is nothing about Jesus that screams out 'straight guy.'  There are no ancient traditions about him going on dates or attending his high school prom.  According to the original narrative he was never married, never had children and grew up without a strong male role model.  It is of course dangerous to speculate about things are ultimately insoluble.  Nevertheless at the very least it has to be acknowledged that that there is nothing in Jesus's teachings to support the sanctity of heterosexual unions and their ultimate consequence, childbirth.

It has been suggested by some that our existing gospel material might actually represent a 'softening' of Jesus's original views on heterosexuality.  Indeed many of our earliest gospels transform Jesus from being someone merely attacking marriage and 'family values' into the spokesman for sterility, transgenderism and even ritual castration.  It is commonly assumed that these 'heretical' beliefs and practices are merely representative of later doctrinal 'aberrations,' even 'deviations from the norm.'  Yet where are there examples of married saints in earliest Christianity?

The example of St Peter is meaningless as he is generally assumed to have left his wife behind to follow Jesus. The third century Church Father Tertullian of Carthage was married but isn't recognized as a saint.  In the earliest period, almost all leaders in the Church were praised for their impassibility (Gk apathia) or if you will, that they were 'unmoved' by the seductive charm of women.[1]  A typical example is what appears in the Life of the third century Church Father Gregory the Wonder Worker.  We are told that while engaged in a philosophical discussion in Alexandria, a prostitute came forward accusing Gregory of not paying for their recent tryst.  We hear that when Gregory:

learned from the prostitute how much money she was asking from him, he readily counted it all out, and the plot of the licentious against the wise one came to an end, and the slut's reward was already in her hands. At that moment there came from God a testimony to the young man's discretion, and the refutation of the false charge made by his peers. For as she received the money in her hands she was racked by a demonic spirit, wailed in a loud, inhuman, animal cry and fell face down in the midst of the gathering; an awful and fearful sight to those present, her hair wildly disheveled and torn out by her own hands, her eyes rolled back into her head, and her mouth dribbling foam.  And the demon which was choking her did not cease till that Great One had called upon God and interceded for her.(Life 17)

The point of the narrative of course is that Gregory was incapable of having sex with women.  He was a pure spiritual eunuch who would never married and was a 'virgin' until the day he died.  This is the inevitable context of all the early hagiographies.  The saints not only don't have sex with women, they can't have sex with women because of their inherently 'spiritual' nature.[3]

So in the wildly popular Acts of John written by a certain Leucius in the early second century we hear the prayer of thanksgiving given by John, the disciple of the Lord, before his death: "O Lord, thou who from my infancy until this age has preserved me untouched by woman, thou who hast kept my body from them so that the mere sight of a woman excites abhorrence in me."[4]  To which an ancient commentator notes "O gift of God, to remain untouched by the influence of women! By the grace of this holy state thou canst love what is abominable to the flesh."[5]

Indeed there is a funny story in the same Acts where it is said that some unlucky bride and groom had the misfortune of allowing John to make a toast:

Little children, whilst your flesh is still pure and you have a body that is still untouched and are not in a state of moral corruption and are not besmirched by Satan, the extremely hostile and shameless opponent of chastity, understand in fuller measure the mystery of the matrimonial association: it is an attempt of the serpent, ignorance of doctrine, violence done to the seed, a gift of death, an office of destruction, instruction in division, an office of moral corruption, a tarrying distraction, a sowing between them of the enemy, an ambush of Satan, a device of the malevolent one, dirty fruit of birth, a shedding of blood, a passion of the heart, a desertion of reason, the earnest of punishment, a deed of torment, a work of fire, a sign of the enemy, the deadly malice of eagerness, a kiss of deceit, an association in bitterness, an excitement of the heart, an invention of corruption, a craving for a phantom, a worldly course of life, the devil’s stage-play, an enemy of life, a fetter of darkness, intoxication of the mind, mockery by the enemy, a stumbling-block to life which separates from the Lord, a beginning of disobedience, the end of life, and death. Hearing this, little children, bind yourselves each one in an inseparable, true and holy marriage whilst ye await the one incomparable and true bridegroom from heaven, Christ the eternal bridegroom.[6]

This theme of 'bad guest at a wedding was a popular theme which ran through all of the second century Acts of the Apostles.  Judas Thomas has frequent attempts made on his lives because he has convinced the wives of rich men to stop sleeping with them.  The Acts of Andrew has the apostle come to a wedding to "show the glory of God"  and so "he separated the spouses intended for one another, the women and the men, and taught them to remain holy in celibacy."[8]

Perhaps one of the most ignored resources for learning about the hostility towards heterosexuality in the early Church is the so called apocryphal Epistle of Titus, an eighth century Latin copy of a much earlier but now lost Greek original text.[9]  The material literally takes us into the one of the heretical communities which are frequently bashed by later Church Fathers because of their opposition to heterosexual marriage.  Indeed the Letter from beginning to end asserts that renunciation of marriage is the holy and pure state. The writer’s main purpose is to denounce those who have compromised that state.  For 'Titus' there are two classes of people within the ascetic community.  The text defines 'spadones' or eunuchs as the living embodiment of the 'angelic hosts' or even Christ.  Their proper consorts are called the virgins (Lat. virgines) who are males and who apparently have strong desires to be with other 'carnal men' and are admonished by the author because of it.

'Titus' repeats over and over again that Christ came to earth to establish the 'spiritual marriage' or divine syzygy between virgines and spadones alone.[10]  The purpose of his letter is twofold - to warn the 'virgins' not to leave their union with 'the eunuchs' and implore the 'eunuchs' to stop 'looking back' with longing for women.[11]    Indeed according to the text with the coming of Jesus "the separation of man and woman is ordered."[12]  The author warns the eunuchs not to take women as 'servants' or partners with the one exception being their own sisters "If Elisha served in the house of Elias to comply with the rule of propriety and the boy Gehazi assisted the prophet Elisha as Baruch the prophet Jeremiah in order to leave us an instructive remembrance, why does a man take a woman as servant under a semblance of holiness? If it is a matter of a close relative, then that will do; but not if she is a strange woman. After the flood, the sons of Noah looked for places for themselves where they might build cities, and they named them after their wives. Precisely so do these men now behave who are united to women."[13]

The eunuch must then be united to a male virgin, according to the author of Titus - this is the very command of Christ. "To bear the yoke is then to observe God’s order. And in conclusion the Lord says: Take my yoke upon you. And further, ‘in his youth’ means in his hope. Thus he has commanded that salvation be preserved in solitary unmarried state, so that each one of you may remain as a solitary tower according to the saying of the Evangelist that house should not remain upon house, but should come down at once. Why then, O man, dost thou make haste to build you a ruin upon a strange house and thus to occasion not only your own destruction but also that of the bride of Christ who is united to you?"[14]

Notice of course that the eunuch is already said to have a male 'bride of Christ' united to him.  He is strictly forbidden by Titus to go outside of that religion.  They are to be 'solitary' together as one unity.  The term 'yoke' here goes back to the Greek word syzygia which will keep resurfacing in our discussion.  Syzygia can be translated yoke, pair, union of two or conjunction.  It literally comes from the idea of two things being bound together by a rope (i.e. cattle).  The mystical understanding of the all male syzygy actually derives from the angelic powers who were held by early Christians to have been paired in heaven, most especially the Father and Son or the powers nous (= mind) and logos (= word).[15]

For those who find it strange that a eunuch should be understood to have been the 'male' in the relationship, we should go back to the frequent understanding of the highest God being depicted as a hermaphrodite.  This understanding is common to Judaism as well as Christianity.  It likely goes back to the primitive myths of the castration of El in Semitic lore or perhaps even that of Ammon in the Egyptian tradition.  The eunuch has been made in the image of the highest God.  He communes with the virgin as 'one soul' in two bodies in the same way as Father and Son are understood to represent 'one unity.'[16]

For those who can't conceive of how a eunuch could be conceived of as 'manly' it should be noted that castration has little to do with effeminacy.  Some of the greatest generals in history were eunuchs.  The classic image of the eunuch who guards the harem of a powerful sultan.  The pattern goes back to ancient times.  Eunuch comes from the Greek eunoukhos, originally meaning "guard of the bedchamber or harem," from eune, "bed," + -ekhein, "to have, hold."  It wouldn't make sense to have an effeminate in charge of the most prized possession of a man.  Eunuchs were manly especially in the Christian tradition.

Matthew Kuefler has recently written a book on the subject entitled The Manly Eunuch: Masculinity, Gender Ambiguity, and Christian Ideology in Late Antiquity.  Kuefler traces the development and transformation of notions of masculinity from the early Roman Empire to late antiquity noting that Christianity was able to offer a new and even surprising ideology of masculinity through the idealizing of the eunuch.  He notes that Christians transformed celibacy an act of manliness. He offers forty-fix pages of evidence to make this point. He writes, “[Christians] turned male sexual renunciation into a heroic act and created an intellectual environment in which men might abandon sex and its dangers without jeopardizing their masculine identity.”  To this end "the eunuch served as a symbol not only of the dangers of traditional Roman masculinity but also of its Christian transformation."[17]

These 'eunuchs' were said to be imitating Jesus's example insofar as Jesus was himself an angel - i.e. one who did not have sexual organs.  As the third century Greek Church Father Methodius explains that Jesus came to help those:

whom He no longer wills to be excited by procreations to lust, and to be defiled, but henceforth to meditate and to keep the mind upon the transformation of the body to the likeness of angels, when they neither marry nor are given in marriage, according to the infallible words of the Lord; since it is not given to all to attain that undefiled state of being a eunuch for the sake of the kingdom of heaven, but manifestly to those only who are able to preserve the ever-blooming and unfading flower of virginity." [18]  

We should pay close attention to the two classes of people that again resurface in the writings of Methodius.  The 'eunuchs' not only preserve the 'virgins' but prepare their way to become castrate themselves.  There can be no doubt that the union of eunuchs and virgins was always between members of the same sex.  Despite the many superficial difference in interpretation, the same pattern existed in many different Christian communities.

The third century Latin Church Father Tertullian makes reference to a heretical union "between alien eunuchs and your own grooms."[19]  Yet what separated his Church from that of the sectarians was its toleration of marriage between a man and woman.  Nevertheless Tertullian and his opponents shared the same idea that both Jesus and Paul were eunuchs - "the Lord Himself opens "the kingdoms of the heavens" to "eunuchs," as being Himself, withal, a eunuch; to whom looking, the apostle also-himself too for this reason castrated (castratus) -gives the preference to continence."[20]

Tertullian provides the reader with a most important testimony that in earliest Christianity there were only same sex marriages.  The Latin Church Father acknowledges that a late second century spiritual teacher named 'Montanus the Paraclete' introduced a new rule which allowed men the option of keeping a wife.  Indeed Tertullian notes that only recently 'the virgins' were presented with a choice of direction for their spiritual path - "presenting to your weakness the gift of the example of His own flesh, the more perfect Adam----that is, Christ, more perfect on this account as well (as on others), that He was more entirely pure----stands before you, if you are willing (to copy Him), as a voluntary eunuch in the flesh. If, however, you are unequal (to that perfection), he stands before you a monogamist in spirit, having one Church as His spouse, according to the figure of Adam and of Eve."[21]  It goes without saying that Tertullian's teacher, Montanus was also a eunuch.[22]

Of course as we have already seen, this development of two separate paths - one for homosexuals another for heterosexuals - was a totally new innovation.  In former days there was only the path to perfection through same sex union and self-castration.  Tertullian makes reference to the heretics "castrating themselves like beavers" which in Latin is also a clever play on words - castrator carnis castor.   Two generations earlier the Church Father Justin Martyr cites with approval the story of a young man who sought approval from the governor to get castrated to demonstrate manly virtue to the pagans:

we decline marriage, we live continently. And that you may understand that promiscuous intercourse is not one of our mysteries, one of our number a short time ago presented to Felix the governor in Alexandria a petition, craving that permission might be given to a surgeon to make him an eunuch. For the surgeons there said that they were forbidden to do this without the permission of the governor. And when Felix absolutely refused to sign such a permission, the youth remained single, and was satisfied with his own approving conscience, and the approval of those who thought as he did. (Apology 29)

It was only owing to a ban on castration came into effect in the early second century that Christians had to resort to the practice of self-castration.  The Church Father Origen is said to have poured some chemical on his penis in order to make it wither and 'die.'[23]

If we were to make a list of figures within earliest Christianity who are said to have been eunuchs, it would leave the reader wondering who wasn't castrated in the tradition.  Christians took a special interest in the prophet Daniel whom they were convinced was 'one of them.'[24]  Nevertheless our information about the first hundred and fifty years of Christianity is so utterly sketchy we will begin our story well into the establishment of a kingdom of eunuchs without a home.  The story of Christian origins is was founded on the practice castration (= 'if thine eye offend thee pluck it out') but there was a conscious assault on this bizarre understanding from without.

We will pick up our story in the next chapter with the account of a hostile take over of the gay church and the man who tried to impose 'family values' on Christianity.  It should come to no one's surprise that the villain in this story is going to be straight ...

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Stephan Huller's Observations by Stephan Huller
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