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IRISH CHANGES (A poem in a time of endangered free speech)

   

[On 16th July, a distinguished, award  winning investigative journalist, Gemma O ‘Doherty, who had been highlighting disturbing levels of crime, corruption and cover-ups in modern Ireland, had two youtube channels permanently removed by Google – its European headquarters are in Dublin’s docklands – including  for alleged  “hate speech”. Prose  comment on the issue follows the poem  along with Notes]

IRISH CHANGES

By a city’s black pool where lodged
The unbanished raven of Morrigan, who,
Doom’s queen, cast dark shadows on Erin,
Will and fancy would choose for avoidance ]1].
And Dublin, against what centuries
Dealt it as fate, would achieve that. It became,
Despite all, a theatre of life, half rococo,
Ironic, where, like mistress and flunkey
Arriving to further a turn in the plot,
Each dweller would add their own story
Would bespeak some new sign, at best
Gifting by chance an epiphany’s light.        [2]

Greece, Rome, Middle Ages, Baroque
Aren’t strongly evoked by symbol or relic,
(The feeling for these is near wholly absent),
And no force of invasion would quite
Leave its mark…Unless you’d insist that
Through love of pure abstract opposed
To the real, the inhabitants joined with
Colonial power to let Georgian angles
Direct lines of sight. Such might seem a reply
To the circles of Kells and a natural motion
Still central, essential, embracing the all. [3]

Between the lure of sea and bay and
Sight of cloud-swept hills beyond,
So little fixed by monument and time,
The city set more store elsewhere: in thought
And myth, the last self-made, divided up,
Renewed by who within themselves became
The tales and most points in between to find.
No calm and darkened sanctuaries
With altars and their candle flame
Preserving mysteries of eternal kind,
Could quite engage to stop or slow
A circulation of ideas with images,
Some from afar, Formation’s sphere,
Some local only, near as terrace door. [4]

James Joyce, I never liked you much
But take for truth you understood the
Genii loci of your home, its formed and
Re-formed mysteries, their darting motions
Of exchange. But little more you grasped
Because, to speak in tongues – which was your aim –
You were not aerial enough to raise
Even your Talmudic mind above
The barren Qlippoth zones of earth,      5]
The tar black pool. You wanted matter
Meshed with spirit, strove for union of
Midden heap with air; you hoped for
End to boundaries, borders, tribes.
It can’t be done, a reason why
At night in dream it’s always done
Replayed forever with the same result,
And plain to see no washerwoman cleans
The linen’s stains in waters of your riverrun.

But woken in the realms of day (where
Bloom selves would be better left
To liminality of gays), the nightmares     [6]
Leak their poison out. It falls on free society
Where dislocated characters of dream assume
Real life; and they undo what lies between
Howth’s Giant Head and Castleknock
And lands beyond the monster feet with fields
You thought were lasting, but are not.    [7]
You should have known, you maybe did,
Your Daedalus maze leads but one way. It goes
By secret path direct to Babel’s tower.
Delusion-ridden, proud and doomed.    [8]

It’s true this time the imperial plan         [9]
Rules fields go last, not first. Already towns,
And suburbs wither, seedy in decline.
And though a Liffey bridge now bears your name
Near towers of sleek modernity
(Prime centres of the censors too),
Essential unities are lost. It’s said
The rural parts (that bear tradition, but
At cost too great) will follow suit
Its populations must depart, make way;
In time replacements will arrive,
Already in the towns they do, sometimes
By stealth, if need be, night – it’s justified,
It’s unopposed. If voiced, a people’s pain,
A nation’s right, will stand condemned as
Merest race, or border-conscious sin,
At best an ignorance that should become
More generous, more pleased to “share” [10]

Long centuries which denied the name
And land too many gave lives to reclaim,
Are in brief years ignored, dismissed
And near erased supporting aims of
New imperialists, the bureaucrats and
Mediarats that oversee a holocaust
Of inclusion. Acceptance too for even those
Without intention to belong or learn, the
Unappeased, the mad enraged, all judged
As equal with the rest, new sudden inheritors
At law, of land and place that some
Would even spit at while – near
Dispossessed and drowned in debt –
The new despised scarce dare complain.
But then, why bother to resist
When all from priest to media,
As though a basilisk rose and stared,
Can offer only silence or more lies
When vandals strike a sacred place?     [11]

Fit for a Finnegan’s list but little else
There’s hardly more than names remain. There’s
No Sinn Fein, (ourselves alone), nor is there
Fianna Fail for warriors, (they’re nowhere found),
Nor Fianna Gael, tribe of the Gaels, (they’ll soon
Be a minority), all names like these
Are meaningless in light of day;
When crime gains hold across the land
And many who rule, or so pretend,
Do so through only lies and from amid
Enlarging swamps of rank corruption.

It once was said that Albion gnawed
At Erin’s flesh, a planter where he’d
Neither owned nor sown. Now prisoned again,
At first unwittingly, to new plantation lords
Europa’s progency sucks Erin’s blood,
This time it’s likely to a lingering death.
She is too limited, too almost delicate
And new remade to bear the rude
Attentions of a ravening beast.
But lulled by bribes and blandishments
She still consents, sleep-walking to extinction,

Indecent from the first, Europa’s line,
Which birthed the monster widely feared
Awaits to snatch the maiden for its
Nimrod’s plan of babbling building Babel’s
Tower of artificial unity again.
So, here at last from nightmare steps, Yes, HCE
That’s Mr “Here Comes Everybody” himself
With Mrs ALP, this time a shambling, ambling,
Trousers only Deutsche Frau, a Washerwoman
Smacking stains, flip flap, flap flop, who wants
To talk, to be familiar, put up welcome signs
To one and all at your expense for your own good. [12]

Ireland you could resist, you maybe will, but,
Like a Noah’s generation, one who                         [13]
Eats and drinks and lives the usual way
Right to the end, heedless of darkening skies
And thunder’s roll, you may accept to hear
The lies, put off the day, prefer deceptions
Of a dreaming sleep to revelations of
A risen wake…. Whatever’s chosen and
Is done, there’s no eternal round to trust,
It’s but a fable for the blind; the truth is
What is gone is gone and neat avoidance
Has its term. Your utter end, so Patrick                 [14]
Thought, is drowning flood. But whether that’s
For near or far, meanwhile from Dublin
To remotest field you’d need to wake
To ban the raven and reclaim a name.

 

NOTES

[1] Dublin is literally Dubh Linn, Black Pool. Morrigan is goddess of doom, death and chaos. One of my Ireland-related articles theorizes this goddess is an important archetype for Ireland, never quite confronted or exorcized. Her depiction in a central Dublin sculpture is meaningful, albeit she is not expressly Dublin-related in myth. See “Ireland’s   Old/ New Spirituality problems” https://wp.me/p2v96G-126  especially sub- sections, “Who owns the Sovereignty of Ireland?”  and “Soul and Face”.
[2] James Joyce had a theory and aesthetic of “epiphany”, explored especially in his Dubliners stories.
[3] Kells i.e. the Book of Kells illuminated manuscript which contains not only circles but swirling patterns which embrace human and natural
[4] Even where Ireland has been dominated by Catholicism there has always been an alternative thought mode, close to native temperament and imagination. It is mystically independent of Catholicism and similar to the likes of Jewish mystical Kabbalah. The latter  imagines reality in spheres like the Sphere of Formation joined to a whole tree of life scheme by lightning flash.
[5] Qlippoth is the lowest of spheres or the evil reverse of all the spheres in mystic Kabbalah, a sort of earth hell.
[6] In his Ulysses and Us, critic and doyen of Irish studies, Declan Kiberd, supplies an account of Bloom’s character as an experience of liminality almost gay. However, an authentically gay character along these lines (and arguably the value and meaning of homosexuality is involved with a socially needed liminality) might  produce something more poetic and affecting as in the case of Jamie O’Neil’s accomplished novel in Joycean mode, At Swim Two Boys.
[7] Finnegan’s Wake envisages Dublin as a giant spread out between Howth to Castleknock, suburbs of the city.
[8] Babel and its associated tower is associated with Nimrod (Gen 10:10) whose name means “rebel”. Babel was built to prevent the spread and formation of people and nations (Gen 11.4)  which God then insures by imposing the variety of languages. A distinction of nations is assumed to the last page of the bible. Anything other than nations is an imperialism, something  which belongs only to God. The “broken” half finished design of the  Parliament of Europe building (see image above) is variously seen as modelled on the tower of Babel, either suggesting an incomplete work of unity awaiting fulfilment in our days, or as (unconsciously at least)  symbolizing  the traditionally recorded judgement upon such efforts. But the point is that any New World Order risks becoming like conquering Nimrod a species of human imperialism. See next note.
[9] This stanza is much involved with journalist Gemma O’Doherty’s expose of  various aspects of social and political life in Ireland. According to Michel Gorbachev, March 23rd in London, “the EU is the new European Soviet”. What critics of the EU like O’Doherty maintain is suggestive for  this idea, is not least the censorship and ideological labelling which renders all dissenters, “far right” enemies of state, “racists”, or something negative. Such  labelling aimed at suppression of free speech and regardless of plain facts  is characteristic of the communist systems in the  initial stages. O’ Doherty regards Ireland as a chief zone of experiment in this direction being small enough to impose upon and exploit.
[10] The extremely pro-Europe, Soros friendly Irish President, Michael. D. Higgins, has made clear in a recent Leipzig speech that Ireland iexists simply to “share”. But who shares what with just whom and why? Why should Ireland, long exploited and colonized suddenly be a still more invaded home for the world”?
[11]  Echoes of events in especially the cathedral city of Tuam, (often called the most Catholic town in Ireland), and its surrounds. Churches have suffered attacks on their images and in the Cathedral square the elevated statue of the bishop who helped found the cathedral, has had its head sawn off. If reported at all, such events are improbably dismissed at the work of drunken louts ignoring for example that the bishop’s statue would require a  planned midnight operation with tools and ladder while a pattern of decapitation bespeaks a specific ideology and a warning to religion in Ireland. But fear prevents the truth being spoken.
[12]  HCE or Humphry, Chimpden Earwicker, alias Here Comes Everybody,  and ALP or Anna Livia Plurabelle are main all-embracing, all -inclusive symbolic if not always quite archetypal characters in Finnegan’s Wake to the point of dissolution of identities. But in fairness to Joyce’s dissolution of things to the point of chaos  and his basic rejection of any conventional patriotism,  the linguistics of his vision are still to be seen as a revenge upon a form of imperialism Joyce did question, namely, the  imposition of the ultimately alien English language. As  regards ALP, and because archetypes are real, Mutti Mummy Merkel is well and truly a Great Mother Washerwoman with natally five planets in water, four in mother sign Cancer, the sign most associated with chaos.
[13]  Noah’s generation. “As it was in the days of Noah….”Matt 24: 37/8
[14]  Re St Patrick’s supposed forecast of Ireland’s end, see “Is the Patrick Prophecy for Ireland Encoded?”  https://wp.me/p2v96G-MR

GEMMA O’DOHERTY, CENSORSHIP  and a “HATE SPEECH” CHARGE

You don’t have to endorse everything Gemma O’Doherty says to be appalled at the action taken (16.7.2019) at Google Ireland to close down the two youtube channels of this veteran, award-winning investigative journalist. Over the years O’Doherty has researched numerous issues and exposed too many crimes and abuses to merit quite this kind of treatment. Ironically the charge against her includes “hate speech” against gays, i.e. homophobia.

I happen to be gay and published on gay issues and I don’t buy it. I am not so thin skinned, easily offended and needing protection as to dismiss all O’Doherty says about crime, corruption and cronyism in today’s virtually Mafia Eire merely because she finds LGBTQ rather “silly” and potentially dangerous if pushed on young children in schools. These are anyway ideas that many people have. Gemma could be said to have a blind spot and/or information gap as regards gays, but it’s hardly a major subject with her in the first place, and should not justify a case against otherwise important work. Providing it’s decently enough expressed, best leave contentious matters, anything from gays to immigration open for debate rather than automatically censor them out on some PC basis. The decline of free speech of all fronts is currently a great problem of our times as O’Doherty  has often had occasion to declare.

What like many people O’Doherty fails to understand when she generalizes on sexuality issues, is that there is considerable difference between gay and queer theories and identities as I recently stressed in an article. (“Rainbow questions in a gay month” https://wp.me/p6Zhz7-66 ). Moreover, if there is a connection between LGBTQ and globalism as O’Doherty now suspects (which may sound mere conspiracy theory alarmist to those totally unacquainted with these matters), it has something to do with highly politicized, basically hard left Queer theory. This, while it talks individual rights and may get called liberal progressive, can entertain more radical agendas many would baulk at if they were clearly acknowledged. As it is, there is increasingly ’s a hard left tendency to use all and any sexuality issues,(along with exaggerated talk of “racism” and “patriotism”), as a pretext to accuse society and individuals of prejudice. They then employ the laws rather than the wider democratic system to alter society’s direction, early moving to close down consensus politics  and free speech as in Communist societies,  and tyrannizing over what are matters of conviction for people.

An  example would be the recent UK sacking of a doctor for refusal to accept as a woman and address as “madam”, a six foot tall man retaining  a full beard,  (the refusal was deemed infringement of equality laws). This, belongs with the kind of social revolution entertained by Queer’s Cultural Marxist agendas. It does not belong with gay theory nor the opinion of the average gay person.

As someone who carries no card for left or right but votes according to whatever strikes me as the best in policies and persons at the time, perhaps I should look to be suing people if they opportunistically judged my poem guilty of one or other PC failure.  Would I be supported? It’s most unlikely and I would be wasting my time to protest. Today’s political talk is very one-sided, considerably media supported in what is altogether an increasingly serious situation about  which people  need to be more aware. Whatever…if Google (its European headquarters are in Dublin and O’Doherty and supporters have been demonstrating outside it these last few days) dislikes “prejudice”, then I dislike the censorship of free speech….. And if anyone cares to be aware of the kind of censorship from the Irish establishment I have myself suffered and for issues quite removed from O’Doherty’s concerns, see the final  section (“To lay my burden down”) of my article “Staging Sweeney Frenzy: Irish parable or problem” https://wp.me/p2v96G-1b2

 

 

 

 

 

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Posted by on July 22, 2019 in culture, current affairs, Poetry

 

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CAN ANY GOOD COME OUT OF AMERICAN RELIGION?

AMCH

CAN ANY GOOD COME OUT OF AMERICAN RELIGION?

The title could seem overstated, even impertinent directed upon such a large phenomenon as a nation’s predominant religion, but especially in its more conservative and evangelical wing American Christianity can itself be remarkably given to the overblown, aggressive or emotionally intrusive statement. Thus it’s not possible for some to maintain Obama has been wrong  or misguided about, say, marriage equality, rather it has to be he has “blasphemed God!”! Even for a believer (or even the Pope) to be just concerned with welfare and poverty issues could cause him or her to be judged and dismissed as “a Marxist”.

Because despite everything I believe American Christianity does represent and preserve a few beliefs and ideas in danger of being forgotten or overlooked elsewhere, I shall first define what I mean by “American Christianity” and before pointing to some good things catalogue the  real, sometimes major blemishes. This is needed because one notices how inside and outside America, most admirers of the positives seem in their enthusiasm to find it too easy uncritically to absorb, even cheerfully export, the negatives. (Asian and African churches particularly have not been helped by that tendency).

Granted if one is to generalize, American Christianity is highly diverse. Its Catholicism alone is of a unique, sometimes quasi-Protestant or very protesting variety. However, my main concern is what is covered by what broadly descends and from the first from Calvinism and Presbytery or else is close in its “evangelical” belief system to the widespread Bible-believing Baptist tradition still much represented in the South. Together these streams often combine in what gets labelled “the Religious Right”. Both these traditions, though increasingly questioned or abandoned by the young, remain widespread in terms of influence and to the extent both have things too unexamined about them, for a toxic influence.

SOME NEGATIVES:

THE CALVINISTIC ELEMENT

Together Calvin and Calvinism are almost what was most controversial about Reformation Protestantism. Calvin instituted a mini inquisition in Geneva teaching people to spy on one another. Calvinist Americans (originally from Scotland where Calvinism took strong root) retain a questionable habit of labelling, judging and testing fellow believers ( and wider society) while themselves chasing respectability and success to the point they are St Paul’s men-pleasers (Eph 6:6). But worse, overturning the beliefs of centuries and ignoring that Christ taught riches could be a stumbling block to attaining the Kingdom, Calvin taught that prosperity and success were the mark you belonged to the righteous elect and enjoyed divine favour.

The consequent emphasis upon material success has sown the seeds which would flower in contemporary prosperity gospel, a kind of legitimized religious materialism and even greed recently obscenely symbolized by preacher Creflo Dollar’s 69 million dollar private jet to help him bring people the gospel. There is something in all this that recalls the condemned Church of Laodicea which declares, “I am rich, I have prospered and I have need of nothing” (Rev 3:17). In reality, however, even Calvin’s prosperous children need something and it’s to support or to be supported by the traditional party of the wealthy in politics, the Republicans, in order to impress their beliefs and agendas upon the masses. The irony of this is just not seen.

THE BAPTIST INPUT

Despite some liberal policies – support of separation of church and state, women preachers, some reasonable scope for divorce – the Baptist/evangelical strain which in modern times has produced the archetypal Billy Graham, has been hamstrung upon its Koranic style treatment of “God’s Word”. Here the Bible becomes an inerrant authority, an authority which can assume the role of a Paper Pope and almost more infallibly. Any human quirks or weaknesses in the record are simply not seen. St Paul and others don’t write inspired documents, they simply repeat what God says much as Mohammed claimed to receive the Koran. References to “God’s Word” at least implies complete direct dictation.

It follows that the mainstream of Baptist/Evangelical churches read the bible at face value literally. Poetry and ambiguity, cultural and historical filtering don’t count (who cares about poetry in America and a day means 24 hours only doesn’t it?)…..unless and until by selective reading it suddenly does count. Thus today there are evangelicals of the plain sense school prepared to preach that “as in the days of Noah they were marrying and giving in marriage” (Luk 17:27) has to mean Noah’s contemporaries were pushing gay marriage. How? Why? Remind  these same people that the “covenant” David and Jonathan had was a berith which can mean marriage or inform them that one of the ancient meanings of “eunuch” that Jesus said some are naturally born, was the nearest thing to the modern “gay”, and you would be accused of special pleading or worse.

Biblical literalism excused or justified the South’s slavery historically, but selective reading still abounds. Paul gets suitably ignored about women covering their heads or men obeying political authority (American independence was born of ignoring St Paul!); but whatever the apostle may have meant in Romans 1 about Roman morals it’s living proof “homosexuality”, (though the bible knows no such word), is the final barometer of morality and national life. Tolerate marriage equality and you go the way of Rome and divine judgement falls! Making your gay offspring homeless is perfectly OK. The long history of bullying and violence directed against gays or those thought not masculine enough everywhere from schoolyard to high street  has never been protested but even been deemed inevitable by those same literalists who will scream like stuck pigs about persecution and diminution of their rights under secularism.

Hawthorn’s Scarlet Letter might as well to be attached to every gay or seeming gay in those corners of the land where heteronormative Christianity rules and regards the disposition not as an inspiration for the likes of Michelangelo but a living curse. (Gay is envisaged as nothing but drug and alcohol fuelled sex addiction around bars or perhaps a demonic  possession). Besides which, sinners have no real rights in democracies, only conservative Christians should own democracy…or just rule the land. But that’s only one issue.

Despite Jesus’ relative pacifism and “put down your sword”, religious rights for literalists include carrying guns according to the constitution. (You might need to fight an evil government or the  forces of Antichrist!). The connection between gun laws and America’s internationally exceptionally elevated crime and murder rates is just not seen; such connections are only made by evil unbelievers! Disciples of Jesus are as good as gun-toting soldiers. Again the irony, even eccentricity of all this is not seen.

THE RULE OF “GOD’S WORD”, A WEAKNESS OPPOSED TO THE SPIRIT

Even given a less face value, more consistent reading of scriptures which educated conservatives do allow, should the Bible ever assume the almost Paper Pope authority evangelicals give it to the point they will almost hit people over the head and dismiss them and any contrary  argument with what the inerrant “Word of God” declares? Even for those of us who consider scripture precious, we must say, no.

I always cite how the apostle Peter denies vision itself to protest to God what he is shown is against scripture (Acts 10). Long before him the daughters of Zelophehad successfully petition against what they deemed unjust to them in details relating to the (revealed) Law (Num 27). The fact is one cannot adequately read and apply scriptures to absolutely all people, situations and times always, especially not without some illumination. Try it and you may finish up with policies like the most rigid rulings of conservative Catholicism whose guide is less scripture than philosophical formulae according to Thomas Aquinas and scholasticism.

It is hardly surprising that in recent ecumenical decades evangelicalism has become almost Catholic on abortion. It used to be some exceptions like rape were deemed permissible. Now for pro-lifers every women is supposed to preserve life at all costs as though before modern times the number of women and foetuses who died in childbirth was not truly enormous in the course of just nature. If God could allow so much infant mortality that medicine alone has diminished, God is surely capable of excusing termination of life in the case of the traumatized, the life threatened, or those who feel contaminated by sexual abuse whose effects may well be lasting for the future child anyway. Is it Christian charity to want to jail doctors or victims for doing the practical or merciful?

This irrational absolutism has prevented true and just laws being instituted because the whole subject becomes polarized into  either/or, “murder” against life alternatives rather than a matter of proper exceptions. (I accept that abortion on demand and for convenience is against life but that’s another matter).

Given that the Spirit (who is said to lead into all truth, Joh 16:13) is not a vivid part of the evangelical’s Trinity, it follows that we will often find conservative believers absent from common sense or charity not to say any exalted Truth. Many conservatives would even deny the Spirit any place in the life of the church and are vehemently opposed to charismatic trends of whatever sort. It can even be heresy to assume the Spirit is present beyond the times of the apostles.

And so we have the contradiction of “born again” Christians dubiously claiming colourful conversations with Jesus yet without aid from the Spirit or hearing God’s voice (memorization of bible influences the substance of many “conversations”). I, like many, was (unnecessarily given his background) surprised to learn that even Billy Graham denies having ever heard God’s voice. While I don’t believe anyone, short maybe of extreme saints, will hear from any member of the Trinity on a frequent basis, as per my Cosmic Father (https://goo.gl/o7YqtJ), I do believe one can and even should hear from God….now and again and with real communication, not just repeating a believer’s remembered scripture verses.

So here one touches on the blindspots, contradictions and even cruelties which American Christianity can manifest. But rather than continue as one could, to change the subject, what about the positives?

SOME POSITIVES:

EVANGELISM

America of the adverts is also  the America of evangelism. Beyond all the potential abuses, caring enough about people and beliefs to go out and preach to strangers and argue for one’s convictions is to a degree commendable. It’s because some churches like The Church of England seem incapable of persuasion, apologetics, dynamic preaching that they cannot recoup their massive losses and confront indifference. Even a former Archbishop of Canterbury has recently opined his church will be extinct in around a generation. This isn’t good enough, including because to preach the gospel, to make disciples, is part of Christ’s own parting commission to followers (Matt 28:19 ). Not everyone can evangelize any more than they have a voice to sing a hymn (St Paul calls evangelization a gift) but many could and can reach out and they should make some effort if they are to call themselves Christians.

A SENSE OF SALVATION

It may be expressed and described in different ways, but what is preached by many American churches, especially the more traditionally revivalist, is a form of “salvation” which involves a deliverance from potential damnation. This means that if persons aren’t sidetracked into prosperity gospels and even if and when believers need to recall a few social and political issues, still the religious issues will remain primarily spiritual and visionary. They need to be that whether to make a real impression or to be at all close to the gospel as originally preached. Social and political gospels may satisfy for a while, but ultimately people want and expect to deal in ultimate issues, life, death and the beyond.

Like it or not,Jesus referred to loss of soul and the threat of hell quite frequently (45 gospel verses refer to it). Not of course in the style of the hell fire sermon of James Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist which is morbid/obsessive, but nonetheless succinctly and firmly. Quite how and why hell could and should exist at all and if and how it belongs to justice is a major issue. I explore it in my Cosmic Father (https://goo.gl/o7YqtJ ) not always supplying regular answers and not Calvinistic ones; the subject is beyond present scope but I would say this much here. Ideas and attitudes essential to Christianity begin to weaken outside of a view to an eternal loss. It is for example more possible and just reasonable to forgive to the uttermost if absolute hell is the prospect of your worst enemy. It is at the time that American Christianity is beginning to weaken and youth abandoning it that you will read books like “evangelical” Rob Bell’s Love Wins which preaches a certain universalism and disposes of more dire possibilities around the soul.

A SYMPATHY FOR ISRAEL

Far from universal among American churches though it is, and sometimes exaggerated into a kind of Zionism where it appears, nonetheless few national churches have as much feeling as America’s whether for the Jewish origins of Christianity or the importance of modern Israel in the larger spiritual picture of things. It is as though American Christianity had to make up for the history of western Christian anti-Semitism. Certainly somebody needed to make up for it because it was never acceptable and was a serious heresy when it swerved with Augustine and others into what is called supersessionism or replacement theology. This makes out that OT prophecies regarding Israel are either invalid or apply to the Church instead.

Surely nothing could be further from the intended truth. If replacement were the case Jesus would have rejected more than date setting when, for example, he is reported in Acts 1:6 as refusing the disciples’ question about when he would see to the re-establishment of Israel, i.e. political Israel, the messianic kingdom, the Millennial reign he had not set up during his ministry.

Christians are not obliged to agree with everything modern Israel says and does, but they should perceive history and providence, prophecy and the turning of the ages in the establishment of modern Israel. Anything else risks becoming, as it has done among some Eastern Orthodox Christians and others, a kind of unacceptable anti-Semitism with refusal of a proper witness to God’s purposes in history.

In certain respects some traditional churches are closer to the Muslims (whose Koran is strongly against all Jews) than Christian doctrine and it may be their fate is to be swallowed up by Islam if they can’t distinguish themselves more in some areas of belief. (Let’s not forget that Pope John Paul 11 astonishingly, perhaps just ignorantly, kissed the same Koran which often declares against the Jews with whom, like Christians, one should never be friends and [according to Surah IX, v. 30] Jews are simply “perverse” so that Allah is opposed to them.

A SENSE OF IMMEDIACY AND APOCALYPSE

Americans have little sense of history, but less anchored to tradition and the past they are more open to the possibilities of the future. This includes embracing the much misunderstood, too little considered issue of apocalypse and Second Advent. Again it is anyway supposed to be only Christian to be awaiting the Advent which is awaited two ways, first archetypally in a state of general readiness (because there is a sense in which the divine is always coming to us and we are to be ready for it) but, more literally, there is a point in time in which God absolutely intervenes in history and returns.

Although liberal scepticism has it Jesus wrongly expected to return within a generation this is not really so likely, especially not if he told his disciples on leaving he would be with them till the end of the aion (era). What era? For American Christians it is the end of “the Church age”, but for some of us (inevitably charged with heresy, divination or whatever!) this could plausibly alternatively or additionally be the end of the age of the current age of Pisces with whose beginning the birth of Christ and the arrival of the Magi (astrologers) corresponded. Accordingly, though plainly some people keep date setting, dreaming Second Advent and rapture (itself a rather American obsession but with surely some basis in otherwise incomprehensible or ignored claims of Jesus and Paul about a sudden disappearance), it is not wrong per se to look at world events and ask questions about where we may stand in terms of history and possible last things…. Which leads me to a related point which is re “prophetic” perspective.

A “PROPHETIC” OUTLOOK

There are always two kinds of prophecy, the prophecy which seriously foretells (this tends to be rare and is a gift and vocation) and the prophecy which is more like commentary on events from the religious/biblical standpoint and there is not enough of that in the churches. Whether one agrees with what was said or not, an interesting recent example has proceeded from Billy Graham’s daughter Ann Lotz Graham who has been saying that God “allows” – not the same as positively wishes and wills – terrorist attacks and natural disasters because they are also wake-up calls for people.

The point is an important one, (again reaching into theology beyond present scope) but believers and even the world do need to be told, and in a way that voices for the traditional and liturgical churches rarely if ever do, that spiritual forces are at work in events and must be engaged. In an evil world God’s so-called “wrath” is more like his withdrawal of a degree of protection that must always be prayed for and sometimes earned by suitable personal and social reform (repentance). “Ah Assyria, rod of my anger” (Is 10:5) says Isaiah about what is to occur for a faithless Israel. This kind of discernment needs to have a greater part in contemporary religious discourse.

It is of course something that risks misuse and ironically Ann Lotz’s less imaginative brother Franklin Graham can be a leading abuser. He works a bully pulpit which doesn’t seem to have understood the kind of principles his sister refers to. For example, instead of being open to the possibility that Obama is a rod of God’s anger and that the shocking Christian American history of violence and discrimination against gays is being allowed, judged or repaid when Christians defending their business rights against gays now get (unjustly) treated in the courts, nothing is ever seen except insults to God and Christians who are being or who will be shortly persecuted.

But supposing God will be deaf to conservative prayers until real repentance and changed outlooks are evinced? Franklin G’s perspective has been shockingly, inexcusably wrong when he can even praise Putin of Russia’s treatment of the gay issue (fascist gangs freely roam the streets attacking and torturing those who might be gay). Could God possibly approve Graham’s wrong minded, ill informed bully pulpit nonsense? Addressing every issue, hurling threats in all directions, his poorly disguised egotism should relent and let others prophetically speak about any judgement God might intend upon America.

EXPERIMENT AND DEMOCRACY

Not all experiment works and not every novelty is valuable, but we should be open to the new or at least not be stuck in a rut. The gospels constantly challenge to new and radical perspectives, to ongoing self and social criticism. One would hardly imagine so to judge from the appearance, style and practices of much Christianity, some of which is even stuck into the Catholic motto, semper idem (always the same). It is the American churches which are really prepared to experiment, change and adapt, and not just to obtain more funds but at least sometimes to discover what spiritually works, what occasions success, influence, a change to lives, a healing of mind or body. Such things matter or they should do to churches. Religion is not just about eternal security but a few temporal risks and what I would call “spiritual efficiency” and letting faith work.

In certain respects tradition, so valued in some churches, is almost religion’s greatest enemy preventing the church from hearing “what the Spirit is saying to the churches”, that refrain in the early chapters in Revelation, and meaning. what the Spirit is saying now and into the future, saying without only quoting previous scriptures or repeating familiar prayers and chants of the centuries. While main traditions of the faith may not be wholly disregarded or excluded just as the bible cannot be denied in the general direction and essence of its meaning, some variation on a theme and development is also required. The openness of America religion can be risky but is meaningful. Of course it needs to be part of and interact with a degree of democracy too, and here we come back to a potential American weakness.

Yes, the people and culture are democratic but not quite so much as they imagine. There is something polarizing and polarized about American society as in its history of race relations and there is something which seems to encourage situations in which, as the wife of someone in politics in America once said to me, “everyone persecutes everyone else in the end”.

So, I admit the possibility that such as the new secularism and emphasis upon gay rights may create a situation of discrimination for Christians (who once reckoned to discriminate against all and any sexual variation). I touched on this in McCleary’s Additions and the article, Something Wrong with American LGBT http://wp.me/p4kNWg-8a . True democracy must always go a fair way to tolerating what it doesn’t particularly like, want or approve. Otherwise it’s not democracy but sharia or fascism under another name. But to the extent American Christianity is able to find the grace to tolerate, then, as against the increasing cynicism and dismissal that American religion is generating around the world, I do think it still has some lessons to teach us.

 
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Posted by on July 4, 2015 in religion

 

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COMING TO SYRACUSE (A Poem: Epyllion not Epic, Urblogues not Eclogues, in Six Parts)

COMING TO SYRACUSE (A Poem: Epyllion not Epic, Urblogues not Eclogues, in Six Parts)

COMING TO SYRACUSE

(You Tube film versions of parts and eventually the whole of this poem available at
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vv3fmsaxDBU and
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lIV1JtM0Bp8 )

After three months we sailed in an Alexandrian ship whose
figurehead was the Twin Brothers…And landing at Syracuse
we stayed three days
” Acts 28:11

PART ONE: A CITY, ITS ISLAND AND ITS MUSE

Sing of arms and of the man no more
The human person can suffice, and then
A city and its island’s life. [1]  While wars
Still rage and rumours of the same escape,
Instead relate the struggle of cultures and
The soul with which as lengthy ages pass
Each day and century are filled, driven
Onwards by strong forces little grasped
And rarely seen, whose impulse shapes
The mystery and course of fate, their truths
Concealed within an implicate order.

Syracuse, great Syracuse, arisen besides
Ionian waves that anciently Tenians and
Corinthians braved, like Athens born anew
You shone, for wealth, trade, theatre, science and law
And all as if to rival a later Rome
While yet the glory of a larger Greece.
As though Athena’s second child you thrived
And from afar, some said, were joined to fields
Of blest Arcadia from which a river
Flowed beneath the ocean’s depths. Still others
Then devoutly claimed you housed the spring
Of Arethusa by a legend famed which tells
How on Ortygia’s isle that nymph poured forth.

A victim of the river god’s lust
She’d tried to flee; yet even hidden
By Artemis, first in a cloud then
 

Fountain

Caverns of the sea, she learned that haven
And safe place from Alphaeus there was none
Unless as water. And even with that
The cruel pursuer found a way
All suddenly to merge with her until
The earth itself was opened up, when
Artemis had given means so that
The nymph in freshest salt free jet
Emerged in new found freedom, all alone.

Oh light of Sicily whose sainted patron
Too was light [2], where went the freedom and
Your knowledge with its widespread beaconing,
And then the wealth of fields beyond
Whose grain fed Rome and Italy itself?
Since Alphaeus forced illicit claim
And Verres stole from land and shrine, what street
And parcel of your earth has not known loss
And fear through Carthage, Rome, Byzantium,
From Norman lord and Saracen and violent
Clan, all this bound fast by a colonial curse
So multiplied, so like the sea nymph’s mergence
Much renewed, each person’s left to wonder
“Who am I?” and “Who are you?”. Thus all
Become like characters without, yet striving
Still, to find the pattern and their author [3] ,
Step children of Pythagoras round whom
Biography dissolves in myth, though history
Receives his theories and his numbers.
Yet theirs remains the blessed ground of
Idyll and the elegy whose being rests
With inner landscapes of the mind, bucolic
Scenes lit by the eternal and ideal
In which through fancy and through reverie,
Hopes of the soul and its regrets speak quietly
As you of Syracuse, Theocritus [4] ,
First did and with such art that even as male
Some hailed in you another muse. Though
In our times main streams of inspiration
Fail, be now if not a muse, a guide
To help our tales and teachings flow through
Lands and pastures rich as Arcady’s.

PART TWO: A SICILIAN CURSE

CERES

Begin with Ceres and her loss and how
From out the earth all of a sudden evil rose
And Etna had its part in this. Enkelades was
The titan’s name or some said Typhon;
Either way, amid the struggles of
The gods Athena caught and pressed
Him down beneath the weight of
Etna’s heights. Desiring still to rise to
Heaven, the demon struggled in his bonds [5]
And raged and screamed so fire and smoke
And tremblings deep beneath the earth
In what was also Vulcan’s forge, at
Unexpected times broke forth. Within
Tartarian depths and far remote
From sunlight and the fields above,
Upon his throne of darkness now and then
Even Hades took offence and felt alarm [6]
Enough to draw him up to inspect
The pillars and balance of the earth.

It was at Enna in the spring that
Earth being shaken, opened up
And steeds of wrathful Hades galloped
Forth, nor did they stop until the god
Who drove his dusky chariot alone,
Glimpsed from afar a radiant maiden,
Proserpine, carefree, at play and
Gathering violets in a grove. She,
Although herself divine as Ceres’ child,
Was not yet strong against the will
Of Venus and her son who bore
His arrows and, as ordered, shot the girl
To leave her victim to those powers
Of love till then it seemed she might reject
Or else she was too young to know.
And so it was that Hades snatched the
Maiden’s innocence and thought it love.
His victim screamed in terror and she called
Repeatedly for Ceres’ aid and yet,
Though she resisted, due to Cupid’s dart
She somewhat loved her rapist too
And passed below where soon she would
Be honoured as the hell king’s queen.

proserpine2

But not before the Underworld’s mad steeds
As though enraptured by the violence
Still rushed across and round the trembling
Isle and by a pool where Sicily’s nymph,
Cyane, in vain protested at the crime,
And wept. So great was Hades’s wrath at that
He threw his sceptre in her pool returning
To his home from there, while she dissolved
Into her tears and her no longer sacred place
Until she was but silent water. Meanwhile and
Soon, Ceres to whom no child returned
Began to fear, to grow in anger and to mourn
And, tossed like waves at sea in her distress,
Set out to search the whole wide world, first
Sicily then that island last. And at the pool
Where now Cyane was only voiceless water
She saw, just as the sorry nymph intended,
The maiden’s girdle floating free. Here
Was the proof the island held her daughter still.
But Ceres while she quested on grew more enraged
And bitter at the Sicilian earth. With no child found
And seeking vengeance ever more, in grief
And comfortless this Mother caused all
Natural gifts of fruit and grain to be
Withheld so round about whole deserts spread
As fields were wilted, blackened and a
Blighted earth fell barren of its previous life.

At Arethusa’s fountain, there alone
It was that earth gained some reprieve.
The nymph, who now loved Sicily as her home,
Made plea to set harsh punishment aside,
Assured the troubled mother that the
Very land opposed the crime to which it was
The sad reluctant witness, and, from what
She’s glimpsed beneath the earth where Hades
Bore his bride away, there was no doubt
It was the dark Lord surely did the deed.
At first struck dumb, the anguished mother soon
Resolved to take her outrage to the courts
Of Zeus, rose there in haste and stood upon
Olympus’ heights. But Zeus was torn between
The claims on him of his own sister and
A brother too; and what his sister called vile theft,
To him seemed more like love gone half astray.
But witness to so great distress with consequences
For the world, his will allowed his niece could
Be returned to the maternal home. Except
This boon was now impossible. Within
The realms of hell its king had given his spouse
To eat; and once a soul, even one divine,
Had taken of food outside the world,
There they must stay and there belong. So
Zeus decreed a compromise that half the year
The girl might spend some time on earth
And every spring she could return.

Which is what many have believed. And
It is true that every spring the sun
Gives light and heat and violets blow
First and more early in Europa’s fields
In Sicily than anywhere. But even so
Some curse still lurked and whispered to the land
And that same sun that spreads on Enna’s walls
Would see the challenge to that city’s rule,
Conflict repeated and oppression too
Where it now stands athwart the island’s centre.
And to the north still Etna groaned and
Spat and had no mercy on a man
Except its slopes at rest gave honey [7].
It swallowed up even Empedocles who,
The last philosopher to write in verse,
Defined the fundamental elements
And thought all change results alone from
Strife and love in their perpetual motion.
Strife with gods and elements he met
When, seeking proof for his divinity,
Into a fiery crater of the mountain’s side
Himself he flung and was consumed. It is
As though in Etna’s shadow lie heaven
And hell, there sky and earth cannot agree
And from their violent colours, violent ways
Like poisoned flowers; and out of Vulcan’s
Forge and from the Titan’s jail arise
The retribution that lays waste…. But
To the south rose Syracuse whose bays
Face eastwards to the sea and Greece and
Do not look to, nor are overseen, by
Any mountain or dread Typhon’s place.
There, even if a tyrant ruled, the light
Of day could still be hailed like so much
Radiance of Reason’s rule, the blessing
Of Athena’s aid on every thinking citizen.
But darkness hides in many forms,
Sometimes even most and longest in the light.
And always there is love and strife.

PART THREE: TOURISTS AND VISITORS TO SIRACUSA

Arethusa

Alex:  From Dionysius’ Ear to Arethusa’s fount
And other places in between I have a feeling
That you’re following me. What’s on? You’ll
Make me think you want, I’ll not say what.

Cori:  Mi dispiace Sir, Signor, Mein Herr,
You make me feel confused, the route we take
Is all coincidence; but what you sense
Is that I’m looking rather hard at you
Because I’d say we’ve met before,
Somehow, somewhere…Could that be true?

Alex:  If not met seen, that is the likelier thing,
I’ve been so many places near and far
Where were you last? Half choked in Beijing’s fog?
To rest and breathe try Taormina or Tahiti’s shores.
Today all travel’s much like work.

Cori:  I’ve been in Europe, not much past Italy, I find
It’s good enough for me, from Mantua’s plains
To Etna’s height all’s fine, even Rome and all
The crowds – I’ve just come here from there
But Taormina, that I like, it’s heaven,
So even Goethe said when he could stop
Examining varieties of Sicily’s soil.

Alex:  You sound like Verdi who declared
The universe is yours if Italy’s for me.

Cori:  Well, I’m not Verdi but wherever I go
I write some songs or poems for each place .

Alex: You have them here? I’ll listen to them
If you wish. We should sit down,
It’s rather hot to keep on walking in this sun.
Let’s find the nearest tree – beech, oak
Or cypress, willow or plane. [8] Let poets
Find them different meanings, what’s certain
Is trees offer shade.

Cori:  Just there is fine, things aren’t so certain with
My words. On Syracuse they’re very new
With some of them I must admit, still rough,
They’re all a bit impromptu. More than
Description of a place I write of people
Native here or those who visited and stayed.

Alex:  I’ll listen anyway when you begin.
.
Cori:  Born in Eleusis where in Greece the cult
Of Ceres flourished most, the father of
Stage Tragedy was raised. He was familiar
With the Maiden’s fate, indeed according to
The Stagirite [9] the plays of Aesychlus – most
Now are lost – betrayed some secrets of
Initiate rites. Save but for bravery at war
At Salamis and at Marathon in which
The playwright lost a hand, he would have forfeit
Life itself. Even so he was attacked with
Such degree of violence by a crowd
It’s likely why before too long he took
To sea and Syracuse. At Demacopus’
Theatre there his tragedies could be
Performed (first The Persians which had won
A prize), but though among all ninety plays
We’re ignorant what depth his Women of Etna
Plumbed, in Reason’s cause the playwright wrote
What sounds like homage to Athena’s power
And then the benefits of rule by men.
Which would not have been clear to all – the
Play which most affirmed it was the same
At which a pregnant woman died in shock
At sounds too supernatural. Even so
It must be said that though in youth it was
The vine god told the dramatist to write,
With age and Syracuse he grew more like
Apollo’s devotee, a lover of the local light.

Dramatist

At Gela not at Enna Aeschylus died,
His end, alas, was all too tragi-comic.
Due to a forecast he had heard he feared
To stay too long indoors, but outdoors
Proved no safer. An eagle thought his head
A rock and on it dropped a tortoise.

Alex:  That must be myth. I’d guess the last act of the
Playwright’s life got written by his enemies.

Cori:  I think…. I’ll let you read the next piece
If you choose. Philosophy’s more serious.

Alex:  As though for life’s experiments Sicilia
Was the Promised Land, Pythagoras once
Settled there, in Croton where disciples
Learned new simple ways and diet too –
None caught or ate an animal. Perhaps
Recalling the example shone, great
Plato sailed to Syracuse three times.

Plato

With politics corrupt in Greece then
Hearing how across the sea within
The largest colony that gluttony
And debauch were rife, the best solution
Seemed to be to educate some leaders.
Indeed he would feel honour bound
And working for the good of all.
With sober Dion, an admirer, he began,
(He was the local tyrant’s brother in law)
But fears of too great influence at court
Had Dion placed beneath a ban and
Plato flee the hostile shores. And later
Visits ended much the same. Once come
To power the tyrant’s son, at Dion’s urge,
At first submitted to the Sage’s way, but
Wearied soon and once again intrigue
And violence arose. Dion, long cheerfully
Exiled abroad and pupil at the Academy
At last returned and being Reason’s child
And thus an enemy to mere anarchy,
Placed rule and order on his home
But by recourse to sword and force.
The island slid towards new chaos.
And thus with age and grave experience
The visitor from Athens learned that
Teaching can’t alone suffice; the maybe
Necessary second best is rule by Law,
So what he’d deemed the Good might need
Assistance from strict rules and greater
Limitation. And so, O Syracuse, alas,
Your world and history helped to shape
Ideas for later generations of
A state less democratic than policed,
All poetry suspect or simply banned
And gays – the sage now changed his mind
And allowed for laws against them.

Cori:  Now me again. Next in my line is
Someone born in Syracuse….

archimedes

Archimedes found out many things in
Physics, maths, in pumps and screws, and managed
Too to map the heavens. But even so
His fame lies chiefly with his bath,
Where inspiration in a trice revealed
How he, beyond whatever science knew,
Could judge the buoyancy of water.
Up from his seat within the tub he
Jumped, screamed but one word, “Eureka”
And then while still a-drip ran out
Stark naked through the streets
To share the thrill of his discovery.

Alex: How fortunate police weren’t there,
The type to think him criminal!

Cori:  No, it was a Roman called him criminal
And killed him with a sword for studying
Maths with Carthage at the city gates…
But clothed or nude he was so little
Loved and lost to public memory soon,
It was alone the brave and gold mouthed
Cicero, when not attacking Verres’
Crimes, discovered and restored his tomb.

At this point there’s an interval, a tuning
Of the instruments let’s say, in which
We introduce some other themes that follow.

When, because he would look back
Sad Orpheus lost a wife to Hades’ realm
His interests turned, and, so it’s said
He taught and loved young men instead.
But his own magic lyre, the legend goes,
Had floated down from Thrace to Greece
And stopped at where fair Sappho dwelled….

Alex:  With that did someone wish to imply
That love and lyric verse are gay
And maybe even music too?

Cori:  Perhaps, or possibly they thought bisexual,
For some say Sappho had a child. Consider too
King David loved to play a harp and he had
Wives and sons; but then, as scriptures tell,
He loved and entered – sort of – marriage
With a man – the word they used was berith.
In Sicily no doubt things were more free
As long before Von Gloeden had a camera
Trained on charms of local naked youth,
Greek Diocles who admired just such, once
Dead was honoured and at his own grave
With competitions in the spring for boys
To meet and greet and in the grandest style
To kiss in harmony with vernal gusto[9].
(Just what they did in Syracuse remains unsure
We only know Theocritus approved).

Gloeden Faun

Things weren’t so easy
For the other sex, but nonetheless…
Your turn. Pull the stops out for a great Poet

Alex:  To Siracuse from Lesbos Sappho came
In flight from Pittacus, a tyrant and intrigues
Back home. The citizens were so agog
That she whom Plato called tenth muse
Inventor of new music and poetic forms
Should seek to make her home with them, that
Even before they saw her face, as welcome
To their refugee, Silanion was engaged to carve
A statue in her honour. Before the town hall
It was raised but then, like Archimedes tomb,
This too was doomed to disappear
– only the pedestal was left – another of
Those victims to gross Verres’ thefts.
And yet, how like the symbol of a fate
That was. One poem from nine volumes
Is what now remains, and for the rest, like
Marble chips, we own but scattered fragments
And they’re unclear – the dialect in which
The Lesbian wrote itself died out –
And like her image fades away as when
It’s said this poetess was fair and tall while
Others think her dark and low, so in the end
It is the name and fame alone endure.

Sappho2

Such was the fate of one who wrote, alas,
As she herself would once admit, despite
Her social and erotic themes, chiefly
To be recalled when she passed on and not
Be lost to night within the Underworld.

Cori:  I’ll come back again, I represent Italia…
The centuries passed but then, as though
He had to pursue the Lesbian (as surely
Later fathers would to hell), the apostle Paul
Sailed into harbour with a companion Luke –
A doctor, (though there’s legend claims a painter).
An unlikely pair they might appear
One strict, the other generous, the
Apocalypse of one, some deem indeed,
Half gay with two men sleeping in a bed [11] ;
But anyway, even twins affined can be
At odds and disagree and of the
Heavenly twins beneath whose sign
The two embarked at Syracuse, we know
That Pollux was a boxer as was Castor too
Though he was more disposed to sleep.
As to St Paul, (I cannot speak for Luke)
He maybe liked to box, but not the air….. [12].

PAUL

Alex:  I’ll interrupt you there…I want to say…
With no church founded nor epistle
Written and just three days Paul was
Ashore, could time here be significant?
A small church only, not a cathedral
Or cathedral square exists in town
To commemorate his stay, and that stands
Close beside some ruins of Apollo’s shrine.
Which some might feel was almost right
Because if mildly, quietly in its way
This place is somewhat pagan still.
It’s transformation is its style and not
I think conversion. In centre town,
With little change, the Virgin’s cult
Now owns Athena’s temple.

Cori:  No, once again I think this is symbolic.
Three days Christ lay within the tomb and
On the third day he was raised. Recall Paul’s
Company was tossed about and nearly died
Devoured by fiercely angry waves until
They ran aground in Malta. A pattern of
Pure woe indeed, one much akin to storms
And tempests of our lives. When three months later
They could leave, safe harbour lay in Syracuse
As well as calm and brief serenity
Three days before the apostle sailed to Rome,
To judgement on his life and work,
His final days and execution. Thus say
That Syracuse is the sacred pause,
The moment of vision and of rest,
Maybe a fork within the traveller’s road,
Almost a place of heaven’s door, as
Have not others said before, this island
Stands a portal to heaven as to hell?…..

Escaped from out a prison cell above the bay
Of Malta, that artist Caravaggio,

Caravaggio

The same who claimed – he was no Paul – that
All his sins were mortal, found home awhile
In Syracuse. His goal was Rome and
Pardon there, though he met death along the way.
But in this harbour city he still gained
Some favour with its leaders. These all were keen
He turn a hand to make fine image
Of their patron saint – he showed her dead
And ready for her burial. Her story goes
She had been dragged towards a brothel where
Her throat was cut because she’d wished to
Sacrifice both life and chastity to God. The image
Shows….

Alex:  Oh, something morbid I dare say
But then that was that painter’s way
He loved the shadows more than light
But Lucy stands for all that’s bright
So white is doubtless in the picture…
Enough of history and the town
Let’s follow sunlight to the beach
I’ll put the sunscreen on your back

PART FOUR: THE COMING AGE

ROMAN

Now for a higher theme, its flight ascends [13]
Above all trees and forests that give shade
And beats strong wings to fly beyond firm
Harbour walls of ancient Syracuse,
Its aim to reach into our larger world
Beyond even noble monuments of Rome.
As to its seeing, may that be with vision
Like the eagle’s eye which looks upon both
Heaven’s sun and earth beneath as though
Those two could be the same.

Sicilian muse, soon is again the time
For which now dreamers dare to yearn
When through the circle of celestial signs
There dawns a new age for humanity.
Yet can it savour of that Golden Age
And be the crowning era of all prophecy
Once sung so hopefully but only spied
Through darkness of a glass where rose those
Images combining true and false amid
A too great trust of Caesar as a god
And reverence for Pan in every field?
For prophecy indeed is hard and harder
Than all poetry (even though those two
Are much allied), for in it farthest futures
Show as though a virtual present, and this
Because main words of prophecy derive
From outside time, their usual frame and
Speech being symbol and their working out
All bounded by the round of stars,

For no, throughout the world wars have not
Ceased, nor fear, nor is wild nature purified
So that a fertile land grows to support
Itself with no fields harrowed, no vines pruned
And even the ox  and lion reconciled [14].
But though you grasped how for redemption and
The age the sign of Jupiter was core [15]
And though from heaven the First Born came so that
Past evils could erase, most that was forecast
And desired did not occur and that
Because true alteration knows two kinds,
One gradual, the other born of crisis.
Within the time that cycles and their symbols
Shape, freewill exists to choose a higher
Above a lower way of the same thing,
And thus to learn and change as persons
And societies. When that’s refused
So evil thrives, it’s God and Nature bring
An end and introduce the new by force.
For when the Good is little taught or learned
How could your Golden Age be realized
Or Nature form new harmonies when amity,
Forgiveness, love are rarely settled in
The heart? Relentless hatred must be
Swept away, and will, with all confusion
Of the names of God lest poison through belief
That’s false and misnamed vision keep its
Hold, prolonging strife with every wrong.

Then only does the monarch of this world,
No more a mother’s child, but even now
Awaiting and prepared within the light
Bring near the justice of a longed for reign.
For this come soon, the world is impatient
To rejoice, the gate of welcome is unbarred,
None may resist the sceptre of your rule…..
And yet, before the new age can begin
And when within the heavens the Water Bearer’s
Sign lets freely flow the healing springs of
Spirit beyond the lightning flash and sudden
Fear and wakening towards new dawn [16],
Some years a weary earth must suffer still.
Whole multitudes, alas, must die as seas
Will rise and mountains fall and many
Cities be destroyed and even Rome itself
Fall once again beneath barbarians.
And all these things shall be because the world
Must be renewed and those who cannot
Live aright must learn instead how well
To lose what’s theirs, and even maybe
How to die, to perceive that life alone
On earth is not the sum of all that is.

It’s only then and following the years
Of strife and loss, of false beliefs and none
Another world, one wholly new, can rise,
All history and life such as was known
No longer there except as records read,
Or told as tales, by which fresh offspring of
The age will be amazed, sometimes amused.
Though travelling less, within their lands
And in their minds they’ll travel more
As with all cities rare, villages and groups
Combine, communication being total,
While on its mountain Zion rules above
All peoples and beyond all memory of
Terrors past, the division and confusion.
Each person shall be free, at last more free
Than all before and their own leaders,
Who’ll be few, will – much as once in Plato’s
Dream – be guardians of a single Law with
Wisdom and philosophy empowered and
Knowledge of most things divine, an absolute.

Then, what remains of Italy in which
No more a pontiff reigns to speak of deity
Or take its place, the beasts of field and forest
The  hunters slew, and slew to desolation,
These now as nature soon revives, return
Not to devour but roam in greater harmony
As centuries long all life itself
Will lose much of it that was entropy –
Even age extends, a hundred years like
Infancy as time grows closer to eternity.
And then, those fortunate of the coming age
Beneath the shade of beech and elm
Again in midday idleness they’ll sing
And speak of love that’s everywhere and everything
And under clusters of the vine, breathe in
Deep peace and view all Being as benign.

PART FIVE: OVERHEARD AT THE THEATRE

GKTHEATRE

He:   It’s really quite a mystery. This theatre
With the largest stage this island holds, the
Birthplace of so many plays, and many
Now deemed classic, has least to show by way
Of natural vista. We’re even told that sites
Like these were chosen for their setting, it’s
Integral to the drama. Segesta shows
A pure sublime; there’s nothing here to rival it
Or Taormina’s majesty. See… just a tiny
Sliver of the bay, its distant blue half lost
To clumps of cypress – the tree of death
So Virgil wrote. But then I’d say these plays
Are guilt and death-filled first to last.

She:  So deaths are all we’ve come to see?

He:  It must be said the action is quite minimal
It’s mostly chorus plus much commentary,
On serious actions little seen whose outcomes
You evaluate.

She:  If this is Greek and philosophical I’d think
We might need help with that.

He: ……Well, rather as Plato once dismissed
The Homeric gods so as to affirm
Some higher principles of good or God
Beyond those poor Olympian morals,
So Aesychlus evokes a holier Zeus.
He tries to make existence seem more
Sane and tangled fates more rational
By teaching Zeus one time decreed man learns
Through suffering alone. While things this poet
Does with myth can be ingenious and
Original, the messages may not convince.

She:  What messages are those? I’m sure to miss
Them for the spectacle and sound!

He:  To understand and two millennia on
I’d need to give the Oresteia storyline …
Be patient if you can, it’s this:

Oresteia

The Trojan war being at its end, King
Agamemnon now heads home. However
There’s some guilt on him. To appease a goddess
And to help the Greeks he’s sacrificed a daughter.
Clytemnestra who’s his wife and queen
Resents this death and, having suffered a
Ten year absence of her spouse has taken
A lover, though of course she hides the fact
Declaring strict fidelity. So guilt’s on her
(as on Helen who began the war). The king
Himself has not been faithful (what king is?)
And guilt of sorts is on his mistress too
Cassandra a prophetess and true
But whom a god, Apollo, cursed to
Never be believed for any oracle made.
– he took offence at her because she
Was unwilling to return his love.
The unfortunate girl foresees that if she
Enters in her lover’s house she will be
Murdered as he will be too. She prays the sun
In vain to be delivered. At palace entrance
King and queen might just be reconciled
Again except – it’s maybe fate –
There’s something makes them disagree.
The queen plans welcome on a tapestry
All purple where she utters praise that’s
So extreme – more suited to the very gods
Her husband feels – that he recoils, in both
Humility and fear. But then, reluctant still
He gives consent and enters in though later
Resting in his bath he’s murdered by the
Ambitious queen abetted by her lover.
This spouse, condemned by Chorus members
On the stage, rejoices in her evil deed
Whose fatal blow she offers to the god
Of Earth. She feels no guilt; it helps her lover’s
Party to the crime and he, Aegisthus,
Can declare it’s just and even proof the gods
Are good because he now sees vengeance on
The death the father of the murdered king
Had put upon his brothers. Thus retribution
Vengeance, guilt seem all combined and likely
To continue, the Chorus left with little choice
But to concede whoever acts must suffer.

She:  Yes, that’s exactly how it seems,
Should gods and men do nothing? So far, so bad
What is the next part of the Trilogy?

He:  It’s all the worst fears of the queen come true.
Fate intervenes when out of exile in disguise
Orestes, the king’s son, makes his return
He with a cousin, Pylades, goes to the tomb
And there, both for his father and a nurse
Sets down two locks of his own hair. Elektra
His mourning sister soon appears with bearers
Of libation, themselves arrived because
The queen now seeks to appease the dead
Due to her suffering from dreams by night.
To Hermes, god of dead souls in the underworld
Elektra prays for vengeance and on seeing
Both the locks of hair and certain footprints
In the ground suspects at last her brother’s
Near. This he can prove when he presents
A robe his sister helped to stitch. Rejoicing
At reunion the pair invoke high Zeus
For vengeance which Orestes now reveals
Is highest duty and a need since in an oracle
Even Apollo told him blood needs blood
And that ignored more curse and sickness
Follows. At which the Chorus calls
On Zeus for justice and is free to reveal
What dream it is haunts Clytemnestra in
The night, though not before declaring (at some
Length) the madness of all women’s passion.
The queen dreamt that a snake would suckle
At her breasts but then draw blood, and this
Orestes feels assured is forecast of
The matricide he must pursue once he
Has entered in his home and readied it
For vengeance. Requesting shelter but disguised,
Orestes meets his mother telling her
That he himself is dead abroad. Distress
Is feigned but he’s admitted and Aegisthus told,
Then with the Chorus’ aid, Orestes’ nurse
Will lead the lover of the queen to
Where he’s all alone so that Orestes
Is left free to strike. He does this and the
Dying screams bring Clytemnestra to
Aegisthus’ side. Now all is clear, mother and
Son are face to face and against the queen’s
So desperate pleas the son is deaf
Refusing mercy to fulfil quite other laws
As he sees fit. Although the deed once done
Both Chorus and the prince rejoice,
No sooner has the matricide declared his right
Than he falls victim to gross torments,
Visions and pain avenging ancient Furies
Place on him. In agony he flees the scene.
The Chorus is now left to ask, can deliverance
Exist or must there be another death?

She:  I must agree it’s getting worse and what
The Chorus asks makes sense.

Orestes

He:  Now comes the final episode, Part Three
Of this most dire Trilogy.

No longer Argos now the scene is Delphi
At Apollo’s shrine. Its prophetess appears
And terrified. She flees at sight of hag-like
Furies fast asleep sprawled in a circle round
Orestes, still a hunted, haunted man.
But soon Apollo, newly lord of earth
Appears with soul guide Hermes at his side.
Apollo’s promise is the curse must end
But not before Orestes makes appeal to
Athena in the city that she rules.
As Hermes leads the matricide away
The ghost of the dead queen appears and
Rouses the vile Furies to pursue their prey
And they, enraged to see their quarry gone,
Renew their curse and rail against all
New gods on the earth and Apollo who
Is firm to order them away. In Athens
Its own goddess will appear to declare
Orestes and the Furies, both, must be
Submitted to her rule which will include
Trial by a citizen’s jury. Still vehement
And unsubdued, the Furies rage against
All thought of any process and the law
Which might curb warning terrors and
All retribution of their kind which is
True justice, so they claim, which once denied
Expose even parents to all crime. But
Athena and Apollo too know that
The Furies rise from earth and hell and
Speak for earlier ages and for women.
Apollo who is witness and an advocate
For the victim now his protégé,
Maintains Orestes did a deed once
Forecast by his oracle itself made
With the authority of Zeus. He also
Rules true parenthood belongs not to
Mothers whose wombs can only nurture seed
But rather to Fathers from the first.
The court holds session and the count
Is equal save that Athena casts her vote
Through which the haunted prince is freed
And it’s agreed henceforth the city
Will have trials and be a seat of justice.
Again the Furies rage but seeking peace
Athena promises them a noble home
Within the city’s bounds to which
At last with hesitation they agree.

She:  And so, despite the misery and gore
The story isn’t quite a tragedy.

He:  How much of misery and gore could
Any audience hope to stand, even if, as
Aristotle held, such drama gives catharsis?
But for myself I’d say there’s tragedy of
Another kind and hidden on another plain.

She:  What’s that I’ve missed?

He:  In essence there’s no formula for good
Nor any real redemption

She: Not even with Orestes freed?

He:  Well, think of it. The Furies may be loathsome
But they have a point, or almost so, because
What flame is it the new gods bring to justice?
Apollo was cruel to Cassandra
And to Marsyas too, his rival in music
Whom he skinned alive. Compassion never was
His style. Orestes is quite right to plead
Compassion of him, and though we hear his
Father Zeus stands closer to true mercy,
Why would that Father then endorse
The crime of matricide Apollo gives
To Orestes as an oracle?
And why does that same god of prophecy
And truth maintain that blood needs blood
In what, if taken as a rule, which
In the dramas it can be, might run to
Unending tolls of sacrifice and vengeance?

She:  It doesn’t make much sense I must agree.

He:  The friendlier Athena will declare
For practice of a noble mean and peace
But only for her city. All war that’s
Made abroad to garner fame or win
More land she can approve. Her stated “mean”
Is scarcely something rational, more like
A shaman’s trick in primitive societies
Which holds the forces of the night at bay
By admitting just sufficient light. It’s

Athens

Much the same for what’s approved for life
Within society, its rule by men, a point
On which even gods can be agreed
But it’s the poor name for or an alternative
Form of Hellenistic Reason. Hence,
Practically, and faced with problems that
The Furies pose, it’s change is the redeemer
Its cure a lie akin to how – although
Apollo claims he could not lie – The Furies,
Pacified, will be renamed the Kind Ones.
In sum, there’s never exorcism nor
Is there banishment or blood of final
Sacrifice. Like Lucifer as angelic light
The new gods, greatly idealized, could hide
New rule by demons. But what is plain –
The gods themselves admit it – is how
Even cutting bonds and granting boons
It’s life they do not and they cannot give
In either this world or the next; no years
Once lost, as lost they were beneath Troy’s walls,
Can find their recompense and be restored.
Those few in fields of bright Elysium
Are wraiths who have no body and no home
And thus the only prospect for mankind is
Endless night in Hades. From Acheron’s
River none return because the family of Zeus
Though worshipped widely and still more appeased
Don’t deal in life as resurrection. And
Reason as a path to Truth and peace is
What the sages offer for this life
And then Gods utter versions of the same;
But it’s the fact that purest Reason
Never is entirely of the intellect,
Nor is it wholly male or something men
Alone may guard. Its thought is for this
Middle earth and really, truest Knowledge
Has a span encompassing the heaven above
And hell below, the visible with
The invisible. When that’s ignored
The human mind Is too divided, vision split
And, never reaching true control, our thoughts
Fall prey to forces not quite understood,
Misnamed, misused and so we walk to death
Alone  in blindfolds and in ignorance.

She: Well, something I now understand is why
The natural scenery as a setting counts.
It’s like a counsel to enjoy this life
As being your nearest to the world of
Gods before your brief hour of existence
Ends. In which case I’m inclined to say
I’d rather sit and contemplate this world
From Taormina than from here.

He:  But here the stage is sacred for its drama.
In Taormina Romans changed the theme,
No longer tragedy but combats of the
Gladiatorial kind, fights to the death
As entertainment. With such the memory
Of its stage is stained. Recall that
Syracuse rose faced away from Etna’s
Height. Maybe it has more light, less curse,
There’s just less past to exorcise.

She:  No curtain rises but the play begins
All light and sound, I’m ready for this tragedy.

PART SIX: EVENING, NIGHT AND GOING HOME

EVENING

 Alex:  You should finish our journeys with a song.

Cori:  I’m not so sure I really can. It might be
That the problem’s you.

Alex:  What’s wrong with me? What words or tunes
Do I prevent?

Cori:  I thought I knew, but now I feel less sure
Just who you are, from where or why?

Alex:  You must think I am secretive!

Cori:  More like just strange. You sometimes visit
In my dreams and always it’s so long ago
Though vivid as true memory; but often too
You disappear and manage to escape me.

Alex:  Oh such imagination! What ages past
Did we call home?

Cori:  It was whole centuries ago and then
At times we talked of poetry and Rome
Of distant futures and of love.

Alex:  So long ago and serious? Well, certain is
We never had a life before. If we made
Poetry and talk then think when
Certain stars are in the skies
That people much like us return
And say things that are similar
Which some repeat and may recall.
It’s really nothing more than that…
Well, as it seems you won’t perform
Now maybe I should be the poet.
But since I don’t profess to own your
Kind of special talent, I may be left
To work with scarcely more than what
Are merely borrowings from others…
“Now I am wearied with the day”
My longing happily receives the starry night [17]
(That fits, the sky tonight is clear enough
And I’ll admit I’m rather tired)

Cori:  I know the verse, what follows is..”And then
My unfettered soul desires to soar,
Freely into night’s magic sphere to
Live there deeply and a thousand fold”
Don’t say you’re trying to escape again! [18]
It’s very “north” and sounds too like those
Hymns to Night Novalis wrote in hope
That night’s eternal. I never understand it.

Alex: No need to try. It has a lot to do
With mood and time or simply place…..
Another poet of the sunset wrote
“Soon it will be the time to sleep…
Let’s not lose our way within this solitude
O vast and tranquil peace,
so deep within the evening’s glow!
How weary we are of wandering..”. [19]
(And don’t you think by now we are?)….

Cori:  Weary of wandering here and now
Or wandering simply everywhere?
Well you, I know, have seen the world,
And yes we’ve gone quite far today
But that’s not how the poem ends…
Don’t repeat it, you might trouble me.

Alex:  No, nor is there need to ask what’s next,
Or where. The sun’s gone down.
I feel, and so may you, a special radiance
As much from earth as from the sky
The peace, that glow; they are enough;
They join what has been and will be
With or without our journeys or our songs
Think we are here and we have paused.
Right now there’s nothing to complete
Say only that we came to Syracuse.

[This poem is now available in a second edition of New Poems and Two Celtic Dramas, http://amzn.to/1tKdkJr ]

NOTES

[1]  Arma virumque cano….”Arms and the Man I sing” opens Virgil’s Aeneid , the epic of Rome’s conquest by survivors of the Trojan war.
[2}  St Lucia, a saint associated with light and vision, is patron saint of Syracuse (Siracusa)
[3] Six Character in Search of an Author is a classic play by Sicilian dramatist, Luigi Pirandello
[4} Theocritus ( d.260 BC ) was a Greek poet born in Syracuse whose original Idylls and Elegies influenced the work of especially the Roman Virgil
[5} The Demon…….Here the Titan sent to Tartarus and effectively all titans are identified with fallen angels of biblical account. This somewhat influences the theory and theology of this account of spiritual influences.
[6} Hades. Strictly speaking, if one keeps to Roman names and myth it was Pluto, not the identical Greek Hades who raped Proserpine (Gk Persephone),
but Hades is not just a name but a place and concept. It thus  works better and more widely for meaning in the poem, but any reading could substitute the Pluto name since both names have two vowels and similarly Zeus could be substituted with Jove..
[7]  During Etna’s dormancy its slopes can be very fertile and the best honey in Sicily derives from there.
[8] The mentioned trees feature extensively in the poetry and symbolism of Virgil’s Eclogues.
[9] The Stagirite was a title for Aristotle who defined the aesthetic rules of Greek drama.
[10] Baron Von Gloeden (1856 -1931) settled in Taormina for health reasons and became famous for some early homoerotic art photography. It’s hard to tell whether in Idlyll 12 Democritus means that the spring male kissing competition took place in Sicily or not – he refers to Diocles as the Athenian “stranger” (visitor in this case?). We know he was born in Megara on the Greek mainland and went to Athens where the competition was celebrated by his tomb, but whether also he went to Democritus’s Sicily is not clear. He may just have influenced it.
[11] Two Men in a bed. See Luk 17:34. Although their sleeping together in not condemned and probably only refers to the fairly common ancient custom of shared beds (albeit Luke’s gospel does include the story of the centurion and his boy), what is implicitly condemned is the spiritual  unpreparedness of one of the men who is not taken  at the end of age Rapture.
[12] 1 Cor 9:26. “So I do not run aimlessly, nor do I box as though beating the air”
[13] “A higher theme”. Eclogue 4 concerning the Golden Age, describes its theme as more important than tamarinds and shrubs and hopes it will be worthy of forests.
[14] Virgil’s Eclogue 4 speaks of lion and ox being reconciled. It is like a echo of Isaiah’s prophecy of the Millennium from earlier centuries and is one of several features that makes one wonder how much the classical world was aware of biblical prophecies.
[15]. Jupiter is core because Jupiter is traditional ruler (Neptune is modern co-ruler) of Pisces on the cusp of whose era Virgil was writing, but also because Jupiter would be the Bethlehem Star that stands at the entry of the New Age with the messianic birth Virgil, I think, dimly foresees. Virgil’s coming child of the gods is the representative of Jupiter. Modern criticism in its easy sceptical rationalism dismisses the Eclogue as any kind of prophecy such as by tradition the churches regarded it as paganly being. I feel however that despite its misses and confusion it was intended to be prophecy and mixes current events with future developments dimly seen.
[16] The Water Bearer is Aquarius. As Aquarius is the sign of any Utopias and idealistic group work, it is closest to the idea of any Golden Age and Millennium of harmony, freedom and new Law.. The New Age is inaugurated in, or its inauguration is like, lightning which is a symbol of Aquarius (Matt 24:27).
[17] “Now I am wearied with the day….” from Hermann Hesse’s Beim Schlafengehen
[18]  In Eclogue 2 the shepherd  Corydon suffers frustrated passion feeling that Alexis is ignoring and avoiding him.
[19]  From Eichendorff  Im Abendrot   Both this poem and Hesse’s are set to music in Richard Strauss’s Vier Letzten Lieder, Four Last Songs 

 

 
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Posted by on August 6, 2014 in culture, Poetry

 

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GOD AND THE GAY GAPS IN MATTHEW VINES’ VISION

GODVINES   VINESTALK
[In the wake of the Sochi Winter Olympics’ gay controversies and a week before Sydney’s Gay Mardi Gras parade and with renewed expectation of draconian anti-gay legislation being imposed in Uganda, this seems an  appropriate time to air the following thoughts………..Readers of this article may also be interested in my related article of 24th April, The Fatal Flaw in the Matthew Vines, Albert Mohler Gay Debate  at  http://bit.ly/1mHDclQ ]

GOD AND THE GAY GAPS IN MATTHEW VINES’ VISION

No matter what Matthew Vines says in his much anticipated God and the Gay Christian, (due out April 26th) and no matter how well argued to the satisfaction of gay Christians and their supporters, it won’t get much beyond arguments favouring acceptance. Gay theological biblical exegesis does not normally, if at all, answer certain charges that conservative Christian critics and homophobes continue to level at gays like the Spanish Cardinal who recently insisted that being gay is like having blood pressure, a curable “defect”. Uganda’s president has now signed in the most extremely oppressive homophobic laws happily convinced that since homosexuality is purely behavioural it is curable and therefore apparently  uncured persons are culpable.

THE CURE OBJECTION

As long as there is only just a handful of individuals who feel able to describe themselves as “cured” of homosexuality (or at least able to bear offspring and manage the heterosexual family life) it will continue to be said that having chosen a ‘lifestyle’ gays can choose to get out of it. And, then, like some devil’s curse shadowing gays and undermining their theology, there is the postmodern, amoral or morally indifferent queer theology which looks to the queer theory inaugurated among bisexuals and that emphasizes precisely choice.

One doesn’t need to be religious to point to the negative effects of queer thought for gays and their situation globally – Gilles Herrada’s The Missing Myth (2013) written from a humanistic standpoint regards it as “crippling“ and a disastrous denial of authentic gay consciousness. The related theology, as in the case of the late bisexual shock-jock theologian Marcella Althaus-Reid’s Indecent Theology or The Queer God, can produce statements so recklessly, blatantly profane, (chapter and section headings like “Leading God by a Dog Collar” and “God the Sodomite”) that Christian conservatives are inevitably confirmed in their worst fears and prejudices. And if sex imagery isn’t the problem, then the theological one is that a limitless queer inclusiveness leaves you with a Jesus who either is, or is best friends with, Krishna, Kwan Yin, Buddha etc. (Althaus-Reid privately revered the Egyptian cat goddess Bast).

I even find it a trifle intellectually dubious, (though it’s PC enough), that Vines titles his forthcoming book God and the Gay Christian at the same time as he claims to be representing and helping to improve life amid intolerance for LBGTI people. Though gay is by far the largest constituency of the sexually marginalized to consider, it will never be possible fully to accommodate the claims, needs, worldviews, spiritualities etc of those not gay to any gay theology. The others will need to establish their own theologies and some have, and in this connection and before proceeding I will add another non PC statement that should be mentioned and got out of the way.

Whether or not the famous and notorious statements of St Paul in Romans 1 about same sex engagements (of whatever sort) owe more to pre-scientific notions of sex or refer to the recreational bisexuality of the Roman imperial decadence – Paul speaks of persons “exchanging” the natural way – there is no question that bisexuality will always present the biggest problem theologically. It does so not simply because its claims could entail effective right to adultery by any other name, but because it’s just possible that a misread bible anyway always had its main sights everywhere from Sodom to Rome on a distinct type of bisexual. One cannot entirely ignore for example how one theologian who passes for gay but admits to bedding various women, has written at some length of having the hots for various saints and angels (he’s always been especially keen on the Archangel Michael) which even if he’s only half serious about it, is nonetheless the sort of thing according to Jude 1:7 the men of Sodom were said to be guilty of in lusting after “strange flesh”. (I only know this because one sickened gay Catholic gave me a relevant book thinking I might be interested for at least reference purposes. The frequent disconnect between gays and bisexuals is a non PC subject, but it’s real enough).

So, the core questions are:

  • Who or what is a homosexual – someone born or made?
  • If born, what is a homosexual for? Which invites the question
  • If the bible is said to defend, or at least not single out “homosexuality”, why does it not provide (or does it?) what’s most needed. This, as Gilles Herrada’s The Missing Myth demonstrates, is the equivalent of a necessary “myth” which cultures always require if they are to be gay tolerant. (For Herrada a myth is supplied, but only negatively, by the Sodom Story).
  • And what about Jesus? Did he really teach and believe there was only Adam and Eve, not any Adams and Steves to be married? What about gays and ethics?

These are not easy questions, but I will briefly supply some meaningful clues of a kind which deserve consideration yet which despite my qualifications don’t have it due largely to an almost jealous, exclusivist American domination of the gay spirituality field. As half America knows, a conflicted Matthew Vines left Harvard degree studies to explore the bible on gay issues for himself (for two years!) and has set up The Reformation Project to help render churches gay affirming. Over a decade ago I obtained a world first doctorate in gay spiritualties from any religious studies dept anywhere, subsequently described on publication (as A Special Illumination, see http://amzn.to/17b8z1b)  by Professor Martyn Percy of Cambridge as including perhaps the best work on gay theologies to date. But from the assumed backwater of Australia I have remained as unheard and unanswered by Christian theologians and gay Christians, Vines included, as is on the other side of the fence America’s leading anti-gay theologian, Robert Gagnon. He likewise complains of being unanswered. (In my own case, only three or four publically committed gay Christians have ever contacted me!).

“Blow blow thou winter wind… ” as Shakespeare has it. But I have long ago got over the personal feelings of exasperation and resentment about this to the point today I rarely even concern myself with gays and their issues, but I still regret the situation relative to the kind of abuses that need to be known and protested. Today we are faced with the prejudices and campaigns that are rampant from Africa to Russia (where neo-Nazi vigilantes seize gays or even those who look like gays to torture, film and abuse them as paedophiles) and now in China (where electroshock and porn  are being used on gays to cure them) and all to an astonishing degree influenced by beliefs or campaigns of originally American evangelical inspiration (bit.ly/1aS92pe)   one of whose false teachings is the identity of paedophilia and homosexuality.

While American gay Christians, (like American gays and American Christians more generally) expect to take centre stage, they can be parochially minded when it comes to the real needs and situations to be addressed internationally. The Family Research Centre is even defending Ugandan policies on the hysterical basis homosexuality is worse than murder (one of their justifications for this deriving from  ideas of the fourth century Bishop St John Chrysostom, the almost-single handed inventor of Christian anti-Semitism and the secret engine behind much of the tyrannies and pogroms of the Russian Orthodox churches over the centuries). If secularists reined in the FRC people, doubtless they would scream persecution, the kind of thing which, as stressed in my recent article Christo-Fascism or Christo-Humanism? (wp.me/p2v96G-kB ) doesn’t help the internationally, genuinely persecuted churches one bit.

What is crucially needed today is really powerful theology, not gestures like a Cambridge University flash mob same sex kissing to protest Russian attitudes and Sochi, the sort of action that variously inflames or trivializes major issues. So to repeat..the questions are:

1. What is a homosexual? The question is theologically vital if, as might seem according to some Bible translations, St Paul declares no “homosexuals” will enter the kingdom of heaven (1 Cor 6:9). It’s a debated, technical question just who and what Paul referred to (male prostitute may well be implied since beyond all questions of etymology he may well have had in mind the Leviticus ban whose primary reference was to sacred prostitution); but not only did the ancient world have no catch-all expression like “homosexual”, but even today there can be misunderstandings around the word. So the verse as popularly cited is not as meaningful as some imagine. And even if improbably it were, one would need to ask why conservative Christians aren’t pursuing, or as in Russia letting violent vigilantes  pursue, others Paul mentions in his list echoing the vice lists of pagan moralists, like thieves, idolaters, drunkards etc.

If Christian conservatives and modern homophobes insist gay/homosexual equals “sodomite” and hence only chosen acts and “lifestyles” rather than psychology, then they have to answer persons like entertainer Stephen Fry who, as in his TV inquiry into homophobia Out There, insists that gay is about same sex love and that he and many gays never even practiced sodomy and by and large even ancient Greece didn’t. (It is however a staple of porn, something Fry conveniently ignored but shouldn’t have since unfortunately Ugandan churches and politicians have been showing and judge “homosexuality” almost wholly by precisely porn).

So let’s say “homosexual” means a person mainly or exclusively same sex attracted both as regards feelings and spontaneous eros. This obviously is not the same thing as being a male prostitute and if, as gay theologians claim with some reason, Jesus was confronting a same sex relation in the case of the centurion and his “servant ” or “boy” (doulos, pais) then their kind of homosexuality wasn’t like prostitution. Accordingly no one need find a contradiction in the fact that Jesus could be accepting and Paul not since they were not dealing with the same persons or issues in the first place.

2. Is homosexuality innate? For conservative Christians there is no justification for homosexuality because it’s not innate but only a choice. Of course there has been a choice of sorts, namely to accept as fundamental for the self what is known or suspected, and most gays vaguely sense their orientation from their earliest years. Pro and con on the born gay issue has however become largely reduced to finding an elusive gay gene or tracing the effects of certain patterns of rearing. As regards genetics, things are not conclusive (though just this month report from Illinois’ North Western University is that scientists have found two stretches of DNA they think are linked to homosexuality and suggestive for a gay gene). Studies on rearing are not conclusive either, but even without looking at too many statistics, one must absorb how eccentric mothers dressing their sons as a girl during infancy as happened for Oscar Wilde and the Austrian poet Rilke, only had contrary effects if one assumes nurture should have effect, since one turned out a homosexual and the other a Don Juan. Vines like most gay Christians has emphasized there was no abuse or anything wrong with his upbringing. But for conservatives, if homosexuality can’t be explained by known science or defective rearing it must be an illusion if not a devil’s lie itself. But should bible believing Christians be so demanding of proof in this way?

If they bothered to listen to what Jesus actually said, they would know he assumed some persons were “born” different, such as eunuchs from their mother’s womb (Matt 19:12). What did he mean and how should he or we be allowed to know what he meant without evidence of a “scientific” kind? It happens that by Jesus’ times among Jew and Gentile alike, the eunuch word was the nearest expression to being born different, out of the family way and hence the nearest thing to our gay word. It was an ambiguous, fluid term used in many writers but apparently rather as “confirmed bachelor” once indicated unmarried while also being widely used as a polite circumlocution for gay. Eunuch could include celibate, but it didn’t automatically mean either that or castrate (and would one be castrate from the mother’s womb?). And why would Jesus emulate the eunuch status? If one allows the psychological dimension, then one good reason would be for the outsider consciousness that attaches so strongly to gay people. The disciple is meant to be an outsider to “this world”. Ideally believers should all be slightly gay! And this is meaningful since I would maintain the innately gay person is so for primarily spiritual rather than physical reasons anyway.

But if people are born gay because the condition is primarily spiritual, then “proof” for that difference might be expected to belong more to the spiritual/esoteric order that few know or care to examine, a point I can return to. In passing however I must concede that even accepting a born gay principle, one might have to allow it is still possible the trauma of especially child abuse could function as a gay imprint. Drug and alcohol addictions by dissolving normal boundaries may also drive people in gay or bisexual directions not necessarily desired by them. I have noted that persons extremely claiming gay cures seem to be people with a traumatic past or serious addiction problems. Some ex-gays may be bisexuals opting for one side. Also lesbians appear a little more open to cure than gay men if only because women have always been more sexually adaptive than men. Whatever….”cure” is rare and attempts at it can prove quite harmful; but something like cure may apply in special cases–well conducted therapy may be little different from assistance with sex addiction and addictions of any kind. But none of this argues against the innateness of “average” homosexuality.

3. Assuming the condition is spiritual, where is the myth/symbolism/story that would justify it biblically? Where is there even any given purpose to being gay anywhere in the bible? Vines maintains authentic gay relations though not forbidden are not addressed either. What for Herrara is the crucial biblical myth, but negatively, is the Genesis Sodom story which, however, only assumed its popular negative status under the influence of the Alexandrian philosopher Philo in the first century just in time to distort many Christian attitudes with its poison. Philo reinterpreted Sodom against Roman and Egyptian society in which gays were (somewhat, sometimes) accepted – albeit study will show that pagan moralists could be dead set against such as “effeminates”, one even sure they deserved to be bashed in the streets which sounds like a familiar problem. Formerly the Genesis story was not read in Philo’s bad almost paranoid gay way (he even believed the infection of sodomitical desire would depopulate cities!) and it can never be read his way with any integrity. The men of Sodom lusted after “strange flesh” (angels) according to Jude and were plainly rapists of bisexual potential if Lot reckoned to offer them his daughters. Ezekiel doesn’t even mention the gay theme.

It is often felt the story of David and Jonathan who made a covenant berith (word interchangeable with marriage) represents biblical gay interest, though it is almost more by way of a bisexual idyll. As I suggested in Cosmic Father: Spirituality as Relationship (bit.ly/14UK5r6) which includes examination of the oddness of the leading prophets, the true if hidden biblical gay story belongs rather to Jeremiah.

ABOUT JEREMIAH

Against all social expectation this prophet is forbidden to marry (and doubtless as well for him and women since he can hardly be said to celebrate women anywhere!). He lives with his secretary Baruch and is delivered from his prison by a palace eunuch favourable to him. Like many gays his psychology is evidently dominated by the Puer archetype – he originally tries to avoid the divine vocation by declaring  “I am only a boy” (Jer 1:7), a youthful self-image out of harmony with the world of tradition bound rabbinical grey beards. The prophetic sign and image of the undergarment representing Israel which should cling to God as the garment does to the loins (Jer 13:11) can only be considered, daring, controversial and homoerotic from a prophet who relates to God rather homoerotically, even at one point accusing God of as good as raping him (Jer 20:7).

Jeremiah is classically gay in being radically futuristic – he alone teaches the advent of a new covenant (Jer 31:31). About the only thing that’s ungay about Jeremiah is that he isn’t given to celebration but to lamentation, but then in the ancient Middle East ritual lamentation was itself a gay/eunuch function. Jeremiah is a depressive, a depressed figure from an age of widespread major tragedy. His life nonetheless exemplifies what gays are for. Precisely to be outsiders, protesters, witnesses to what occurs and prophetic in relation to what will happen. Gays are well known to be trend setters in many fields. The trouble with America’s gay Christians is they are too often outsiders craving to be insiders. The drive to marriage somewhat belongs to this. (The refusal to consider any “esoteric” perspectives on homosexuality such as I sometimes propose, may itself belong with the same respectability urges directed upon realms of academe!). The fact however that homosexuality is innate and a purposed destiny for society is even suggested in the case of Jeremiah that God had consecrated the prophet before birth (Jer 1:5), suitably a eunuch from the womb theme again.

ABOUT JESUS, MARRIAGE AND THE CHURCH

What about Jesus (who was compared to Jeremiah by his contemporaries)? What were his opinions about homosexuality? It is often said that he never  mentioned the subject, but quite apart from the likely encounter with the gay centurion who wants his lover healed (Matt 5: 8-13), there is the Sermon on the Mount which arguably confronts homophobia. In the section on anger as this leads to violence and murder, Jesus says that those who say “Racah, You Fool” are in risk of the hell fires (Matt 5:22). Why so – doesn’t everyone call someone fool sometimes?! Fool is however the Aramaic Racah, something like slang for “effeminate pervert”. In short, it looks like the gay person is Jesus’ representative symbol of all the racisms against all the outsiders hatred of whom can lead to murder itself. And the fact that the potential anger/murder engendered by the attitude is deemed unacceptable by Jesus, tacitly cancels out, or at least undermines, any traditions and Levitical laws which would support precisely anger, prejudice and even judicial murder for those involved. Capturing the sense without referring to Matthew’s text, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin reflecting a growing split in the Catholic hierarchy towards African style policies to gays has recently stated “anybody who doesn’t show love towards gay and lesbian people is insulting God” and that they are in fact “Godphobic”..

My recourse to this perspective marks a revisionism some would not even consider because they believe Jesus declared for marriage as being for one man and one woman according to the Edenic model (Matt 19:3-9). Such an interpretation of the text nevertheless amounts to little more than proposing no variation upon any main theme should ever be divinely or humanly permitted (something a species of American conformism does tend to  assume and which if universally accepted could destroy the life of the arts everywhere!). But although American evangelicals like Africans seem to work on some “Me Tarzan, You Jane” notion of sex and gender not countenancing what the French call a “third sex”,  plainly some kind of variation is possible and was manifest in even Jesus’ ancestor, David, who was (perhaps for political reasons) a polygamist and bisexual too. Plainly the bible does not limit everyone to single partnership in every possible instance. What it disapproves is swapping those same partners around (i.e David’s concubines wouldn’t have affairs on the side with his friends) or divorcing someone specifically to take up immediately with the latest attraction.

Jesus himself is surrounded by images of marriage to the Church, yet that same “marriage” will be to both sexes, while he himself is identified with both Logos (Word, masculine) and Sophia, (Wisdom, feminine). Then too, the classic relation of master and disciple/believer as traced in John’s gospel is, to be frank about it, like a Christian variation upon the classic Greek/Platonic outline of the relation and ascent to truth of the younger to the older lover into whose being the disciple is incorporated. And need I state that certain Jewish Christians like Bishop Hugh Montefiore and Canon Paul Oestereicher have proposed that by some definitions and obviously primarily psychological ones, humanly Jesus himself might today be thought gay. Centuries ago St Aelred of Riveaulx, bolder than many modern theologians who won’t touch the subject as I well know – I should perhaps start to out all the theologians too  inconsiderate even to acknowledge any comments, theories and inquiries in this vital area! – maintained that Jesus lived with John as though in a state of marriage.

Aelred was of course thinking in highly spiritual terms and we do have some grounds to question whether the Jesus of even John’s love gospel would think the “marriage” word entirely suitable for same sex relations whether referred to himself or others. Wouldn’t fellowship or union do? (It is debated quite what certain medieval marriage of brethren ceremonies meant and whether, and to what extent, they covered for homosexuality; but evidently some churches were once more flexible around marriage and unions than they would become in more recent centuries). “Marriage equality”, currently the mantra and driving force for change, is a secular concept, its claims furthered in the context of the operation of contemporary laws it wants to change and benefit from, but which don’t necessarily take the gay difference seriously enough. The centurion and his boy, like Jeremiah and Baruch, are simply persons who live together and perhaps across a major age divide not akin to that of most heterosexual marriages and less likely to last a lifetime.

On the other hand, within the Hebrew bible, but influencing all Judaeo-Christian ethical perspectives even down to Paul on prostitution, a person can be deemed “married” to another if they have had sex with them regardless of any formal celebrations of union and regardless of whether they even think of themselves as married or not. By that standard one might need to assess and define the ethical and marital status of gays according to the kind of sex they engaged, (like was it fully penetrative?), and whether, whatever was done, it could have the same esoteric/spiritual effects as heterosexual contacts anyway. (Esoterically and as far as especially Asian mystical traditions are concerned, promiscuity leaves traces that muddy the aura or soul body which is what blends with the other and “becomes one”, and it’s just possible Jewish purity laws and attitudes to marriage imply assumptions of this kind).

GAYS, PLEASURE AND PORN

Matthew Vines wants lifelong committed relations for gay (Christians) and essentially discounts any other contact or relation. Many heterosexuals, Christian and other, would think he was asking for the moon especially as they regard gays as merely promiscuous and recklessly so. And there is sometimes truth in that even while, to their discredit, American Christians ignore how much their historic and ongoing marginalization of gays has helped promote a situation in which common standards and social rituals are easily ignored.

If the reader of this article, who probably doesn’t follow porn, cares to go to such as ecody.com, which has been in the news because an 18 year old college boy, Robert Marucci, was suspended, and then over protests reinstated because he had appeared on that site and in a porn film to pay family bills, they can have an education in gay porn in a nutshell from just still shots.[Since I wrote this the site appears to have been closed down in the wake of the scandal]. Sometimes there are just college boys smiling but also pix of orgies, threesomes, easy sodomy (with controversially some barebacking which is hardly a good example to the young come out!). It will seem to many, especially straights, the effect is merely loud and crass, lewd and crude, even if according to Marucci and his supporters, his own contribution was “nothing but a job” (something sex can never quite be short of degenerating into prostitution).

I am not against ideals of fidelity, and unlike some more radical gay and queer theologians I am not about to speak for promiscuity and porn as such, but I do aim here to draw one or two possible conclusions from and about them that are outside the range of common (heteronormative) assessments.

Especially if they are Christians the (heterosexual) response to images of gay abandon  – some even find just gays embracing abandoned! – is that in the same way as straights should restrain their impulses and avoid adultery, so should gays. Since however straights are not gay this can amount to an imposition of values based on sex relations almost universally and spontaneously experienced as a proverbial “war of the sexes” with men being from Mars and women from Venus. And this “war” leads to certain agreements with a sense of mutual possession with which infidelity cannot easily cope.  Much hetero sex is moreover necessarily about achieving or avoiding procreation. Gays are at least potentially and, beyond love, about sex as just pleasure.

Gay sex generally is confronted with objections akin in spirit to those that impose genital mutilation upon women in homophobic Africa and because the clitoris has no function except pleasure. (The fact of the clitoris, like the fact that foetuses in the womb have been observed to masturbate, is an indication that sex need not and cannot be defined solely in terms of procreation). But the heteronormative attitude is that because straights wouldn’t and shouldn’t do certain things, absolutely gays musn’t. Yet if gays are genuinely different, differently wired (and often operate in different social situations) should not ethics be centred on who they are and what they can be? On the basis that most gays will not be enjoying benefits and pleasures of family life and offspring, should not straights be willing to concede something to any alternative gay pleasures or arrangements?

Though gays would be wiser to reject a merely pornographic abandon (even safe sex is not wholly safe and there can be long term psychological consequences to just using people and sex) if they are not strongly feeling types the reality is that gays more than others will be able to celebrate sex as just pleasure and usually be less possessive about it. I believe moreover that if gays play on the boundaries and in often exhibitionist ways, paradoxically that could be because gay is primarily a spiritual condition. As such it will often be compensated by an emphasis upon the originally half-doubted body plus, because it seems so many gays will have been adverse to sports in childhood, there may be some adult compensation in terms of physical play. Even at that, I still believe it would be advisable, whether for Christians or others, to contain and perhaps almost ritualize what depends on a gay difference and like even ancient Greece accept that not just anything goes. But I still think we must question the kind of judgements heteronormativity so easily directs upon the spectacle of homosexual activity and relating.

THE ESOTERIC PERSPECTIVES

Matthew Vines was inspired to study gay theology because he sought to justify gay relations and marriage. The inspiration of my own studies was to understand gay spirituality the better to understand what it would mean if, as I already suspected was the case, Jesus himself was actually by at any rate some definitions, gay, indeed even needed humanly to be so to be more incarnationally, humanly representative for both sexes, Logos and Sophia together, a female soul in a male body. (I have of course never suggested nor ever would, as one vulgar Australian newspaper years ago had it, that Jesus incarnated to have sex with his disciples!).  The “homosexuality”  of the historical Jesus would obviously substitute for any missing but toleration necessary myths!

Although I believe the question of Jesus’ orientation humanly could be certified from just the bible itself properly read, I have compelling reasons more esoteric to support that. I have not  so far emphasized  this point which I only add by way of conclusion because of the hostility surrounding the evidence just as it stands, let alone anything it might tell us about Jesus’ orientation. The data involved nevertheless combine in a way so millions to one against chance improbably to support a gay Jesus thesis that the evidence cannot and should not be too lightly dismissed.

In the earliest days of gay rights in nineteenth century Germany, gays were called Uranians after the newly discovered planet Uranus that astrologers observed to be variously emphasized in the birth patterns of gays as of anyone seriously different and unusual (consider “crazy” solo-ascent rock climber Alex Honnold. b.17.8.1985 with Uranus fortunately trine his Mars) and paradoxically notable homophobes – the mentioned theologian Robert Gagnon (b.31.7.1958) has Uranus conjunct his sun, so that gays or opposing them belong with his identity! Gays are not heterosexuals from Venus and Mars as per some bestselling pop psychological writings on sex. The nature of Uranus just by itself will help explain many facets of gay  behaviour and attitudes, and since the affinity of Uranus is with Aquarius, the era on which we border, homosexuality and its rights have naturally become a subject and will increasingly be accepted no matter what conservative Christians think, say or do about it.

It’s true we stand at the end of the age of Pisces that  Christ’s birth introduced, but the new more “out” gay/Aquarian trend is not, or certainly not negatively, the “apocalyptic symptom” that the overbearing head of the Russian Orthodox Church, (who should instead be condemning neo-Nazi gay bashers), has recently called it. And though I don’t really go along with ideas of a so-called Lukan “gay apocalypse” (which as at Luk 17:34″  appears to speak of two men being in one bed, not an unknown situation in traditional societies), I suppose one could – just – argue against the likes of Patriarch Kirill and conservative Christians that Jesus assumed the aion‘s (era’s) end would be one in which it was accepted men would be in bed together. If so, one would note Jesus doesn’t object to that, only to spiritual unpreparedness – after all, if one partner is not taken by the Rapture, the other is not so innately gay sinful he can’t be taken!

Whatever…one of the more “esoteric” ways that help define the gay fate and soul is the astrological. My blog of last December explains and justifies what I am saying and doing as regards that subject (wp.me/p2v96G-kB)….or it will to those who can actually permit the study any place in theological discussion, which despite Magi associated with Jesus’ birth many can’t do. It’s liable to get placed along with homosexuality as another abomination! Anyway, if you haven’t read and considered that material, for the moment suspend disbelief about the idea that Jesus’ true birth data, and still working for Jesus events to this day, are discoverable and ponder only a few things which, at least cumulatively, the data points to. Consider too that outside some kind of strong argument for the alternative nature of Jesus himself, the experience of years would suggest conservative religious prejudice can scarcely be broken or even addressed……

JESUS FROM BIRTH.

1)      Mercury (“ruler” of Jesus’ birth pattern) conjunct Saris (Eunuch) and Born. Yes, Jesus was himself born a eunuch from his mother’s womb – he tried to tell his disciples that, but like most Christians they weren’t listening (except perhaps Peter who saw Jesus looked on a  young man and loved him Mk 10:21).

2)     San Juan (St  John) in the house of relationships. Yes, St Aelred wasn’t far wrong.

3)     The Part of Homosexuality conjunct the Part of Spirit and the asteroid Boda (Sp. wedding). Again St Aelred was more or less right and it’s unlikely Jesus would be too hostile to gay marriage even if he were to define a different rite and values for it.

4)      Isa (Jesus) trine The Part of Homosexuality.  Yes, Jesus was likely gay in some fashion.

5)      The asteroid Raca in affliction (adjustments to be made) aspect to The Part of Homosexuality. Yes, Jesus was offended at the kind  of homophobic abuse so often dealt out to people including and especially by religious people.

6)      The asteroid Centurion conjunct the gay asteroid Gaily.  Yes, the centurion and his boy was  a gay relation.

I could go on, but instead I will add just one crucial fact from my Pentecost chart for the birth of Christianity in AD 30. Again it’s something millions to one against chance, but it constitutes a datum that in its awkward, peculiar presence seems to carry both a message and a warning.

7)      Asteroid Uganda opposed by of all things Kato. David Kato, a Christian advocate of gay rights was murdered in his home after he threatened to sue a paper for issuing personal details in a way liable to invite violence upon him in the wake of church inspired vigilante attacks upon gays in his fanatically homophobic country. (Its president in the very week scientists think they are on the track of the gay gene vows finally to sign for draconian laws against gays that he said he wouldn’t do if scientists could prove homosexuality was innate – like many African Christians he also wants to please and appease a gay intolerant Muslim lobby who want sharia directed upon gays. The most recent news this weekend is he is still waiting for more scientific evidence) .

But the heavens are pointing an accusing finger long term and anyway the Sermon on the Mount gave due warning about the kind of hate-filled and violent behaviour American Christians have been giving Africa and Russia excuses to pursue. (Ironically – and the criminally silent and now neo-Nazi tolerating Russian Orthodox Church hypocritically ignores it – it was precisely the Russian church which for centuries was almost notorious in Europe for the extent of  its toleration of gay relations among priests and laity, while the African churches peddle the rank lie any anthropologist can explode that homosexuality has never had a part in traditional African life).

I am not suggesting all gays are martyr-victims or saints or always right in what they say and do, (and I could  wish the kind of San Francisco gays who engage the likes of profane Hunky Jesus contests at Easter could be made to see how much they sin against thousands by increasing and justifying religious fear and prejudice  worldwide with their completely  unnecessary behaviour). But instead of automatically sending all gays to hell, let the fanatics consider there could be more risk to themselves. It is they who are fast becoming the “abomination”. Their attitudes are displeasing to God and badly need revision. Many feel that the Church of England says too little and gets much wrong, but its new Archbishop is surely not incorrect, biblically and just humanly, to declare that Christians must repent homophobia.

PS.  REGARDING  Robert Gagnon, AND GETTING  CRUCIFIED

I feel bound to comment on a couple of quotations from Robert Gagnon getting cited on Twitter this week of  writing my article when  I chance  to have been troubled by information sent me regarding a gay African in a violently homophobic society. He is now frightened even to attend church because of the ridicule and accusations directed at him and  – obviously in bad need of counselling – declares he feels utterly confused and like garbage God should have destroyed rather than have permitted to be born. He wishes he could meet Jesus to ask why people are born gay.

In his reasonable and academic enough Introduction to The Bible and Homosexual Practice (2009) Robert Gagnon declares he deplores attempts to demean the humanity of gays and opposes any kind of violence against them (even though in fidelity to his faith as he sees it he also maintains homosexual behaviour as an “inexcusable rebellion” against God’s created order). However, quotes of Gagnon  available on the Net for everyone  include: “Jesus would be the person you would not want to gravitate to for an argument about  ‘I was born that way’. He really does not care whether you are that way because he’s asking you  to die to yourself, to crucify yourself and lose your life”.  He also says “Human passions are notoriously unreliable indications of God’s will”.  Undeniably the African gay has been so well crucified with Christ and Christian theology of Gagnon’s kind he can’t think why  he’s alive. Is that what Gagnon wants and Jesus intended?

Jesus’ statements  about being crucified are couched in the absolute and very  physical terms typical of his native Aramaic which had expressions like “cut off my nose if I lie”. I accept believers cannot merely avoid the message of Jesus’ severer words which most essentially is that the Old Adam, the merely selfish self is to be denied. However Jesus also talks about giving the life abundant and there is no abundance where the self cannot begin to flourish because it lacks meaning, centre and  direction. For mental and spiritual health there must be some self-esteem and even self-love (does not Jesus himself also state, “love your neighbour as yourself”?).

More vital than even social acceptance such as gay theology à la Vines desires, is gay self-acceptance. Our passions can indeed be unreliable, but not wholly. What and who we love will, like the aesthetic sense, always be some indicator of our nature and so it is dangerous to just pluck up and dismiss the root of the gay self which can entail  a “Uranian” gift of perception affecting many aspects of life, a vocation in itself to be understood and even cultivated. If there is a wound in being gay, there is or can be also a joy. (Perhaps we should speak of “the agony and the ecstasy” of being gay?!). Unless and until the churches can realize this beyond mere toleration and acceptance,  no matter what some may say and  how much they try to wash their hands of certain responsibilities, the bullying, the violence, the draconian laws and the intolerance which we see sweeping across parts of the world will continue unabated as will also a certain contempt in the West for a religious faith that can’t manage basic issues in any positive and charitable way. A profound revolution of consciousness and theology is required.

[For a lighter, satirical treatment of the gays and religion theme in especially the American context but with a meaningful gay theological conclusion, see my poem a Songs of Puritania on a Gay Theme at: http://bit.ly/16ybdts]

 
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Posted by on February 23, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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