Thursday, June 30, 2016

From Dreher's Sex After Christianity

The entire essay is here. 

It is nearly impossible for contemporary Americans to grasp why sex was a central concern of early Christianity. Sarah Ruden, the Yale-trained classics translator, explains the culture into which Christianity appeared in her 2010 book Paul Among The People. Ruden contends that it’s profoundly ignorant to think of the Apostle Paul as a dour proto-Puritan descending upon happy-go-lucky pagan hippies, ordering them to stop having fun.
In fact, Paul’s teachings on sexual purity and marriage were adopted as liberating in the pornographic, sexually exploitive Greco-Roman culture of the time—exploitive especially of slaves and women, whose value to pagan males lay chiefly in their ability to produce children and provide sexual pleasure. Christianity, as articulated by Paul, worked a cultural revolution, restraining and channeling male eros, elevating the status of both women and of the human body, and infusing marriage—and marital sexuality—with love.
Christian marriage, Ruden writes, was “as different from anything before or since as the command to turn the other cheek.” The point is not that Christianity was only, or primarily, about redefining and revaluing sexuality, but that within a Christian anthropology sex takes on a new and different meaning, one that mandated a radical change of behavior and cultural norms. In Christianity, what people do with their sexuality cannot be separated from what the human person is.
It would be absurd to claim that Christian civilization ever achieved a golden age of social harmony and sexual bliss. It is easy to find eras in Christian history when church authorities were obsessed with sexual purity. But as Rieff recognizes, Christianity did establish a way to harness the sexual instinct, embed it within a community, and direct it in positive ways.
What makes our own era different from the past, says Rieff, is that we have ceased to believe in the Christian cultural framework, yet we have made it impossible to believe in any other that does what culture must do: restrain individual passions and channel them creatively toward communal purposes.


Ilíon said...

It is?

JaredMithrandir said...

The Christian hostility towards Sex came from Gnostic influence and Augustine reverence for Plato. Same as many other heresies.

Chris said...

What about the Carpocratians?

The term "Gnostic" can mean just about anything.
According to Eric Voeglin, even modern progressivism is gnostic.

B. Prokop said...

I read recently on one Catholic website (I think The Catholic Register, but don't quote me on that) that the modern craze for tattoos is a sign of an increasing Gnostic influence on contemporary culture.

Jacob McNeese said...

I don't think it is...

JaredMithrandir said...

What makes GNosticism heretical is it's rejections of the Physical World.

Victor Reppert said...

I included the link, which I didn't have time to put in before.

Ilíon said...

^ Somehow or other, I had read that essay about the time it was published.

It does a very good job of describing the sort of (horrible) culture that Christianity fixed ... and the horrors that are in store for us all because most of us willingly swallow the lies of "the sexual revolution".

Joe Hinman said...

I think it's just too mature for a lot atheists to cope with, look at the gang on SOp theyi talk like middle school kids who have discovered Daddy's collection of playboy,

B. Prokop said...

Here is an article that is quite apropos to this discussion.

Note this passage:

"The sexual revolution has given rise to something new in history: a secularist faith that sees itself as a rival to the traditional faith of Christianity. Contrary to the opinion of the new atheists, today’s antagonists of the faithful do indeed believe something. They are faithful to a well-developed quasi-religious system of their own, in which sexual liberty has been transvalued as the highest good.

The struggle between secularists and traditionalists isn’t one of faith vs. non-faith. It’s instead between competing faiths: one in the Judeo-Christian moral tradition and the other in the evolving secularist doctrine born of the sexual revolution.

Followers of the new secularist faith may not be conscious that it is a faith. But for religious believers seeking to understand what Christianity is now up against, it helps to know that today’s anti-Christians fight to defend an orthodoxy of their own."

Jezu ufam tobie!