Monday, February 07, 2005

Spiritual Journey: Part Four

A Message to All Those Who Call Themselves 'Christians'
(Which Is To Say, 'Followers of Christ'), while at the same time being

A quasi-review of Peter McWilliams' book, "Ain't Nobody's Business If You Do," in the form of a discussion of Jesus' attitudes and teachings on sexuality, according to his statements and example, as found in the four gospels.


Jesus advises celibacy for all people, in order that they may attain the 'realm of heaven', which, for Jesus and the early Gnostics, was an inner condition of spiritual grace and union with the Divine; but he advises this particular status ONLY for those who are ABLE to be celibate (Matt. 19:10-12). As McWilliams reminds his readers, the concept of celibacy as a means toward spiritual enlightenment and/or ecstasy was a common one in the ancient Near East, so Jesus' advice here ends up coming across as not so very unusual after all.

Jesus says that those who get married and commit to each other should STAY married and STAY faithful. He says that those who break marriage vows are guilty of adultery, and--according to then-current Jewish law--should be put to death. The aggrieved partner in the broken marriage is then free, he says, to remarry with no stigma of adultery, etc. (Matt. 19:3-9, Mark 10:10-12).

Nonetheless, Jesus STILL refuses to personally condemn persons found to be guilty of adultery: when confronted with a woman caught in the act of adultery, he verbally and formally upheld the validity of the (Jewish) law (for those for whom it was written, and to whom it applied), but in an actual, practical way, he personally IGNORED that law by REFUSING to condemn her in any way, merely telling her, in stirring words of compassion and love, to "go and sin no more"--effectively telling her not to commit adultery again, and thus reiterating his earlier advice to LIVE UP TO all the commitments one makes (John, Chapter 8).

Jesus refused--by all the evidence--to condemn pederasty (or 'boy-love')--and this will surprise and be hotly disputed by many, I know--apparently (once again) so long as true love and commitment are present: we recall the Roman centurion whose boy-slave was deathly ill, and who sent to Jesus so that Jesus might heal the boy. The centurion, by his concern for the lad's health and safety, evinced a special love for him, and showed moreover an especially strong faith in Jesus' ability to heal the boy (so strong that Jesus particularly commented thereupon, saying that not even among the Jews had he seen such strong faith). As McWilliams (once again) points out, the Greek word which Matthew used was PAIS, which of course means 'boy', whereas Luke used the word DOULOS, meaning 'servant' or 'slave'. The intended meaning here is glaringly obvious, to anyone with sufficient knowledge of ordinary facts of life in Roman times: the boy was in fact a 'body-slave', quite common in the Roman world, a slave who attended to all of his master's intimate and personal needs, including (perhaps especially) SEXUAL ones. Living in the Roman world, and aware of Roman mores as well as Jewish ones, Jesus would naturally have been aware of all this when it was staring him in the face; however, he not only refuses to negatively comment on this manifest fact, but (upon demonstration of the centurion's powerful faith) even tacitly APPROVES of (or at least ignores) the loving relationship by healing the boy via long-distance (Matt. 8: 5-13, Luke 7:1-10).

Jesus refuses to condemn either effeminacy or homosexual behavior: he tells his disciples on one occasion to seek out a "man carrying water" to lead them to the chamber where the 'Last Supper' was to be held. This act of 'carrying water' was definitely womens' work, and--for a male, then as now in the ancient and modern Near East--a sure badge of effeminate homosexuality. Since effeminate males were--and still are--outcasts in Middle Eastern society, Jesus' act of telling his disciples to have any association AT ALL with an effeminately homosexual man meant beyond all doubt that Jesus was completely OBLIVIOUS to such socio-sexual differences or concerns. What really mattered to Jesus, as we see, was having an open, pure and contrite heart, full of love and compassion toward one's fellow human beings, and having a faith and humility like that of a child. Jesus apparently never was worried about any of these other matters that we mere childish humans keep on making such a horrified fuss about.

Jesus refused to condemn fornication (sexual relations between unmarried persons): he met a Samaritan woman once at Jacob's Well, who was, as he divined, a five-time divorcee who was then living in a sexual relationship with a man who was--like her--not then married. Jesus not only SPOKE with her (which was against all Jewish and Samaritan customs), and took water from her (which made him ritually unclean according to Jewish law), but he even went so far as to reveal his Messiahship to her (which he had not yet done even for his own disciples), and moreover STAYED with her and her neighbors (all Samaritans) for TWO DAYS. All of this alone--not to mention all the other things Jesus did to infuriate the Pharisaic Jewish leaders--would have made him an unclean outcast to the ritual-and tradition-minded Jews back home in Jerusalem. But was he bothered by it? NO! He merely preached his 'good news' of love and tolerance to them, and went nonchalantly on his way, as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened (John 14: 17-26).

Jesus refused to condemn any other types of social outcasts: he sat at dinner in the house of Levi (also known as Matthew), who was at that time a tax collector, a type of person despised by the Jews as collaborators with the Romans, and therefore traitors (Mark 2:14-17).

He refused to condemn party-goers, revellers, dancers, gluttons, and "wine-bibbers" (alcoholics): plenty of these were in attendance at Levi's house that night. Jesus offers not one word of condemnation against them. In fact, one can even imagine that perhaps Jesus may have betimes joined in the festivities and thus shared with others his joy of living. What we do know for certain, though, is that Jesus forever gives toward all (except money-changers in God's holy Temple ...) only his unconditional love and toleration. He urges everyone to be the best people that they CAN be, but then never, NEVER faults them when and if they may 'fall short'.

Did not Jesus also advise everyone to "love [his] neighbor as [himself]" (Matt. 5:43-48, Luke 6: 31-37)? "Who is my neighbor?" the lawyer asked him once, trying to entrap him. Jesus answered with the story of the 'Good Samaritan'. Who is our 'neighbor'? Just who is it we are supposed to love with unconditional love? Jesus' surprising answer is, EVERYONE, and ESPECIALLY the person you consider to be "YOUR ENEMY" (Luke 10: 25-37). Did not Jesus also advise everyone to not judge or condemn in others what YOU THINK are their faults, unless you are ready to be condemned for YOUR faults? This is love and tolerance in the very highest degree, and Jesus' life and example amply show that he PRACTICED what he preached.

Jesus' ideal of love was supremely SELFLESS, wholly dedicated love: to love another person to the point of being willing to give your ALL for that person--even your own LIFE if necessary (John 15: 12-13). This was also the standard he set for those who wished to emulate (or be like) him--"As I have loved you, [even so should you] love one another" (ibid.). I find it noteworthy, in passing, that several of the (pederastic) classical Greek authors placed exactly this same value on self-sacrificing love: it was their supreme standard also, even (and especially) in the pederastic and homosexual senses.

In other words, the message here is that it is love--faithfulness and devotion to one's beloved--that really matters, NOT where, how, or toward whom that love may be directed. Remember this--if you take yourself to be a follower of Christ--that Jesus showed himself to be oblivious to those considerations. "How many times must I forgive my neighbor," Jesus was asked? "Seventy times Seven," was the answer. In other words, FOREVER AND EVER (Matt. 18: 21-22).

I would here gently suggest, that by virtue of the almost universal condemnation which so-called "Christians" heap upon the above classes or categories of persons, they may not really know so very much about the message and example of the man they claim to follow. As so many before me have said, they seem rather to be following St. Paul (or the modern version we have of him), and the many medieval and modern churchmen who followed HIM, who grossly perverted and re-interpreted Jesus' peaceful, healing message of love and tolerance to suit their own narrow, repressive 'moral' agenda. Thomas Jefferson was not alone in decrying the resultant loss to the world; many others have echoed his words. Said he:

They [the priests] have perverted the purest religion ever preached to man. ... Had the doctrines of Jesus been preached always as pure as they came from his lips, the whole civilized world would now have been Christian.

(Letters, to Horatio Spafford, March 17, 1814, and to Benjamin Waterhouse, June 26, 1822.)

T.J.White, January 23, 1995.