May 17th, 2006


"A ghost with an erection"

I've been dwelling on our culture, particularly its rampant promotion of all things sex-related. To deny the increase in promiscuity, sexual commercialism, pornography, etc., in the last three hundred or four hundred years since the Enlightenment is to deny rather well-documented historical phenomenom.  All one must do is watch television for an evening or listen to a stand up comedian, analyzing the percentage of his work that focuses on sex.

Reading through Walker Percy's Lost in the Cosmos I stumbled upon this quiz.  It asks the simple question:  Why has sex become the be-all, end-all of our Western culture?  The sentences in italics are my own emphasis.  My answers?  E, F and a little bit of G. 

From the Book (italics are mine):

The sexual revolution has occurred, which is nothing else but the overthrow of the unnatural repressions and taboos of 1,900 years of Christianity and the exploration of the free and healthy practices of a sexually liberated society.

Humans are biologically as promiscuous as chimpanzees. It is only the cultural constraints of society, probably imposed by the economic necessities of an agricultural society, which required monogamous union and children as a reliable labor source.

No, man is by nature monogamous, as ethnologists have demonstrated in most cultures. It is Western society which is disintegrating, to a degree remarkably similar to the decline of the Roman Empire in the fifth century, when similar practices were reported.

No, Western man is promiscuous because promiscuous sexuality is the obverse or flip side of Christianity and is in fact specified by Christianity as its opposite. Thus, pornography is something new in the world, having no parallel in ancient, so-called pagan cultures. Accordingly, there is little if any difference between present-day promiscuity and that of say, the Victorian era. The so-called sexual revolution is nothing but the legitimizing of the secret behavior of the Victorians and its extension to women.

Western man is promiscuous because something unprecedented has happened. As a consequence of the scientific and technological revolution, there has occurred a displacement of the real as a consequence of which genital sexuality has come to be seen as the substratum of all human relationships, of friendship, love, and the rest. The displacement has come to pass as a consequence of a lay misperception of the physicist’s quest for establishing a molecular or energic basis for all interactions and of what is perceived as Freud’s identification of genital sexuality as the ground of all human relationships.

The self since the time of Descartes has been stranded, split off from everything else in the Cosmos, a mind which professes to understand bodies and galaxies but is by the very act of understanding marooned in the Cosmos, with which it has no connection. It therefore needs to exercise every option in order to reassure itself that it is not a ghost but is rather a self among other selves. One such option is a sexual encounter. Another is war. The pleasure of a sexual encounter derives not only from the physical gratification but also from the demonstration to oneself that, despite one’s own ghostliness, one is, for the moment at least, a sexual being. Amazing! Indeed, the most amazing of all the creatures of the Cosmos: a ghost with an erection! Yet not really amazing, for only if the abstracted ghost has an erection can it, like Jove spying Europa on the beach, enter the human condition.

It’s not that complicated. It’s simply that people nowadays have too much money and time to spend and don’t know what to do with themselves and so will try anything out of boredom.

Why go further than the orthodox Judaeo-Christian belief that monogamous marriage was ordained by God for man’s happiness, that the devil goes about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour, and that as a consequence modern man has lost his way, has not the faintest notion who he is or what he is doing, and nothing short of catastrophe will bring him to his senses…

No, the explanation is biological. Man is undergoing a mutation in sexual behavior which will in the end, like the tooth of the saber-toothed tiger, render him extinct. Since most of the emerging varieties of sexual expression-homosexuality, anal and oral sex- do not reproduce the species and therefore have no survival value, the species will become extinct.

None of the above. It has always been so. That is to say, the sexual behavior of humans has not changed. Therefore, there is nothing to explain.

They'll take our land...

We're sorry.  It's not us.  It's the monster.  The bank isn't like a man.

Yes, but the bank is only made of men.

No, you're wrong there-quite wrong there.  The bank is something else than men.  It happens that every man in a bank hates what the bank does, and yet the bank does it.  The bank is something more than men, I tell you.  It's the monster.  Men made it, but they can't control it.

-From The Grapes of Wrath


Orthodox Evangelism

I post this from a Catechumen's Walk Blog:

What does traditional Orthodox evangelism look like? Well, it’s nowhere near as easy as knocking on doors, handing out tracts, or clever advertising. St. Herman went to Alaska not with a band of missionaries, but with a group of monks. They did not take evangelism classes, but they took their prayer ropes. They did not bring tracts, but they brought ikons. They did not come willing to meet the world on the world’s grounds, but they came to transcend this world, and to bring others with them.

This is incarnational evangelism. The salvation of the world came when God was born of a Virgin and was made flesh. This general salvation of our flesh becomes individual when we in community struggle to save ourselves by likewise becoming as God is. We are saved by reincarnating Christ in ourselves. This means that the Kingdom of Heaven is here, the Second Coming is happening, and the world is being saved --- all in the present tense. If Christ is truly incarnate in and is in our midst, then we live in the Eschaton: this is a what a saint does. No, it is not easy to be crucified with Christ, to struggle daily to confess him as Lord, to live out the beatitudes, loving your enemies and praying for your persecutors. But the world is saved by Christ coming into it, and we are the Body of Christ, then the world will be saved by us becoming Christ; literally, the world will be saved as we become saved.

Yes, it all sounds ideal.  And possibly even correct.