Tuesday, October 26, 2010

October 26, 2010

Perhaps a scroll exists somewhere linking the Akkadian moon deity Sin with worship later forbidden by faiths commanding greater armies.

Lunar veneration as wrongdoing? Who's to know?

Beyond the reach of memory, the moon is still a magical place, the sun remains majestic and life-giving, and the earthbound beetle is still heavenly.

There is in a word a universe of worlds, a doctrine of cosmic ambivalence offering revelation in minutiae and difference.

We embrace what we cannot grasp, and therein lies the evidence of mystery, and for many it is enough.

When the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines asked for mercy from aboriginal peoples in the country, many applauded the act despite the announcement's tardiness of a few hundred years.

"[W]e ask forgiveness for suppressing their spirit as a people," said CBCP Episcopal Commission on Indigenous Peoples chairperson Bishop Sergio Utleg, for "the moments when we injured their personhood as they took on a new identity as Catholics." (1)

"We ask forgiveness for moments when we taught Christianity as a religion robed with colonial cultural superiority, instead of sharing it as a religion that calls for a relationship with God and a way of life," Utleg said.

The pronouncement gave hope that a few centuries thence, say, the year 2400, the same institution might ask for clemency from women denied the pulpit -- equating such interest currently with priestly pedophilia, and from women who professed unordained love for other women, and all those who have received the artillery of scripture and the ecclesiastical cudgel. (2)

Merciful god, are others really fated to live lives of foregone trespasses? The past, a garden of piety, is of little comfort.

There is Arnald Amalric, Cirstercian monk and Papal representative tasked  in the first decade of 13th century France to convert or crush the Cathar heresy. When asked by holy soldiers how heretics were to be distinguished from good Catholics among the thousands of men, women, invalids, infants and priests praying and holding crucifixes and chalices cowering in the city of Beziers, Amalric replied "Kill them all. God will recognize his own." (3)

Annihilated, only fragments were left of the heresy, some existing as stains. Because Cathar envoys often travelled in pairs of the same sex -- both men and women -- they were accused of "unnatural practices," and since "from the Western perspective, the main source of the heresy seemed to be Bulgaria, the heretics were often called Bulgars -- bougres in French, thus buggers in English." (4)

Before the 14th century, Daniel C. Maguire tells us, "many Christians did not share the view that marriage was a reward for being heterosexual, nor that a same-sex union was objectionable." (5)

Maguire, a Professor of Moral Theology at Marquette University, a Catholic, Jesuit institution in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, points to an icon from St. Catherine’s monastery on Mount Sinai as an example.

The image, wrote Maguire, "shows two robed Christian saints getting married. Their pronubus (official witness, or “best man”) is none other than Jesus Christ." Both saints are male, the 4th century Christian martyrs "Saint Serge and Saint Bacchus, close friends in the Roman army who were purportedly singled out for their secret adherence to Christianity before being tortured and killed."

It's quite interesting, but there will be those of course who will insist that the picture is just an image and that different readings of an ancient representation is possible. Unlike injunctions in the Bible which state unequivocally that homosexuality is evil.

And goodness, they would be right, for biblical passages on proscribed affection do exist. But to what purpose?

Are believers today truly expected to take everything in the sacred Book as hallowed prescription? What if some are mere descriptions of life at the time of the writing of chapter and verse instead of the absolute edicts that legates of temporal authority would have believers today obey?

How should Christians respond to Ephesians 5:22-24, which orders wives to obey their husbands as if their spouses were God?

Was not stoning a Christian penalty, according to Leviticus 24:16?

And what should believers do with Leviticus 25:44-46 , which sanctions the purchase, ownership and permanent use of slaves?

What about Leviticus 11:9-10, which prohibits the consumption of shrimp and shellfish?

Discernment is a gift; unless used it stays a package wrapped with ornate ribbons.

To substitute literal text for the example of generosity, a life of grace and spirituality -- the very tenets by which the divine Christ is supposed to be embraced -- is to live on the littoral of conviction, unable to plumb what the ocean of faith has to offer. It is to push the faithful to a reality moons away, articulated in deep space by Star Trek's Lieutenant Commander Worf, who was asked by Col. Nerys to explain Klingon Theology:

"Our Gods are dead," said Worf. "Ancient Klingon warriors slew them a millenia ago. They were more trouble than they were worth." (6)  #

1.  Roy Lagarde, "Church apologizes for sins against IPs," CBCP News, 10 October 2010.
2.  Mary E. Hunt, "Vatican equates women's ordination with priest's pedophilia?" ReligiousDispatches.org, 12 July 2010.
3.  Paul Kriwaczek, In search of Zarathustra (Vintage Books, NY: 2002)
4.  Ibid.
5.  Daniel C. Maguire, "Christian Right Bigots Are Hiding the Truth -- Early Christians Condoned Gay Marriage," AlterNet.org, 22 August 2010.
6.  Deep Space Nine, 11th episode, fourth season (1996).

Photos by redster, 2008. The grand Geghard Monastery, in the Kotayk province of Armenia. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, extremely beautiful, carved onto and into the mountain, delicate, haunting and breathtaking. The main chapel was built around 1215 but themonastic complex itself was founded in the 4th century by Gregory the Illuminator, who discovered a holy spring inside one of the caves.



Gerald said...

Thanks for the etymology of "bugger." I'll be sure to share this with my U.S. history students when they encounter references to people being charged with buggery in colonial North America.

Redster said...

Happy you found the piece useful. Thanks for dropping by.