HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY, EVERYBODY!
One of the pleasant chores in planning our wedding – and thank you everyone for you good wishes, I really appreciated that – was choosing scripture for the ceremony.
Naturally I was drawn to Jesus’ references to himself as “the Bridegroom.” And they’re in there, all over the place.
There is no question that as a religion Christianity is pretty sex-negative. The question is why. There is surely not much support for it in the Gospels, and there is this almost Tantric reference to Jesus as the bridegroom – not the husband, not the householder, not the “head of the house” – but as a bridegroom. That’s a reference to sensuality and conjugal bliss where a reference to a husband would refer to all the other stuff – presiding over the dinner table, settling fights between the kids, bringing home the bacon or whatever – yeah, maybe not the bacon.
Sex-negativity in Christiniaty – when the Church’s definition of sodomy* is any no-procreative sex, it doesn’t get more heterophobic than that. “You can only have sex with your wife to make a baby” – OMG, how gay is that? “My boy, just turn your head and do your duty.”
It’s about sexual joy in a lifelong relationship, and more importantly the image of a the individual person’s relationship to the Absolute as sexual ecstasy. That is Tantra.
So what happened? Where did this go in the religion that came out of all this? You don’t have far to look. For one thing sexual cult practices had been a feature of religions in the area for about ever, so this kind of thing was seen as pagan. In Greek religion, Pan was the big, raunchy, rutting god of testosterone, as he was considered so pagan that eh got re-purposed as the face of Satan in popular or vulgar Christianity. For another there is a really strong current of distrust of women and contact with women in Greek culture – women were emotional, irrational, chaotic, and could sap the rational, logical virtue of men with too much contact. And then too Gnosticism, with its dualistic opposition of spirit and matter taught denigrated anything fleshly, was culturally influential in that era. Probably strongest of all was a family values kind of uneasiness with sensuality and falling in love and all the damage that could do to normal family structures – arranged marriages, total legal subservience of wives to husbands, in a time when Christianity was desperate to look respectable some way any way.
I understand all the reasons, and the results of acting on those we are all familiar with. They just conflict with scripture.
But popular, vulgar religion usually corrects all these imbalances, and in this case it responded with the figure of St. Valentine, who as a historical saint has not much connection with romantic love that anyone has been abler to identify. Who cares; this is popular culture, not scholarship.
In fact the link is so thin that the Church finally came out and made an issue of it, so now there is no St. Valentine’s Day. Too bad, damage is done. What you boot out the backdoor climbs back in through a window. We have a holiday that celebrates romantic love. I can’t think of another religion that does.
*Which as it happens is the wrong meaning of “sodomite” and the Sodom and Gomorrah story. Go check out Ezekiel 16:49-50.
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