Sunday, July 14, 2013

Over-Optimistic Tolerant Christians, Today And In Earlier Eras

There was a time in Europe when homosexuality was considered neither a sin nor a crime nor a perversion nor a shame. Top politicians, including some Roman Emperors, indulged in it without feeling any need to hide it for fear of scandal. The most popular philosopher in ancient Europeeven asserted that every man should engage in it, and people didn't condemn him for it, they barely batted an eye. (He's still the most popular philosopher in Europe, and in the Western Hemisphere, too, but back then more people actually read his works, and his views on sexuality were better known and less liable to startle anyone.)

Then all that changed: Christians took over, and among many other sweeping changes made homosexuality a sin and a shame and a perversion. Gay life, along with many other perfectly normal things, went underground.

Then beginning in the 12th century there was a big thaw in European prohibitions of love -- in Europe itself that is, because many of the Europeans who took Christianity most seriously were in the Middle East, giving grief to other people, and the gay -- by gay I mean happy, but they were happy because of the increase in freedom -- the gay courtiers had a heyday, the "shocking" troubadours sang their songs and even dared to write some of them down, so that we today can read them. It must've seemed to some Europeans as if all of that stern intolerant Christianity was over. Not that any of the goyim dared to go so far as to declare that he was no longer a Christian at all. Not on paper, anyway.

But no, of course, the grim sternness was not gone for good. Around the end of the 13th century the Crusades fizzled out, the Crusaders returned home, gay court life and troubadour songs declined and the Inquisition began. Suddenly, many parties were over in a very big way. But the forces of tolerance and freedom -- of LIFE, as Nietzsche nicely puts it --fought back again in the Renaissance. Not only were some tendencies asserting themselves in culture which were quite un-Christian in their sensuality and openness of philosophical speculation: such tendencies were promoted, even embodied, by many churchmen -- even by some Popes. The Popes who in later eras have commonly been referred to as the "bad" Popes.

Then came the Reformation, a period of great confusion which shows that the confusion of SBNR is nothing new. Luther, the greatest of the Protestants, was protesting against the un-Christian character of Rome and the Vatican in that era, which Nietzsche and I admire so much. But some people thought at the time, and for a long time afterward, and apparently many still do today, that Luther, rather than objecting that certain traditional Christian rules seemed not to be applied any more, was himself overturning all of society's rules. Somehow they mistook, and even now mistake this grim authoritarian fundy who insisted on stricter Bible interpretation -- his own interpretation and not the Vatican's, and that was the whole essence of his conflict with the Vatican -- who saw ghosts and witches and told noblemen to put down rebelling peasants with the greatest possible severity, peasants who thought they'd been following him -- somehow people mistook and mistake this Bible-thumper for Leon Trotsky.

But things happen they way they do and not always in a way which makes sense, and so some freedoms Luther never wanted to say were achieved in his name, while on the other hand we got things which were more his speed, such as Puritanism.

And the Catholics, unfortunately, instead of strengthening the un-Christian tendencies to which Luther objected, and which many overly-optimistic Renaissance artists and philosophers must've thought were here to stay, went 180 degrees the other way and attempted to out-Christian him with the Counter-Reformation.

And now many progressive Christians are celebrating their recent turn toward tolerance and pro-gay-rights positions and are acting as if they think these changes are somehow guaranteed to be permanent, and that there's no cognitive dissonance involved in being a progressive Christian. They've been so pleased with themselves and the way that they've pruned a few branches of intolerance off of some of Christianity that they're giving no thought to the roots from which that intolerance grows, again and again. If the core intolerance is not dealt with -- and ignoring or denying the history of Christian intolerance is not dealing with it -- then it has not been eradicated.

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