It was a beautiful day to study. I had just settled in on one of my favourite benches near the lost lagoon in Stanely Park, when I had the strange sensation that someone was watching me. I looked up from my books and turned around. There behind me perhaps 15 meters away in the bushes was a well muscled young man standing beside his bicycle, he was looking at me. No worries, I went back to studying. Still my unease remained, so I looked over my shoulder again, he was still there, but this time it appeared as though he was studying me. As I tried to return to my work I realized that I couldn’t. Why was this man watching me with such intensity? I decided I would make direct eye contact and find out. So for a third time I turned around. At that moment the man grinned in a sinister way, lowered his pants, exposed himself to me and began to massage his manhood in plain view. With his other hand, he pointed directly at me, and then commanded me to “Come here!” I was shocked, disgusted, traumatized, violated, angered, and afraid all at once. I grabbed my books and backpack, yelled at him “No!” and ran off.
I kept running until I found another bench far away and in a very public place. I called my wife and as we talked she suggested I call the police. They came immediately, and together we searched in vain to find the perpetrator. As we drove around in the squad car, I asked the officer what the primary crime in our neighbourhood was. Without hesitation he said sexual abuse. People, he told me, are always trying to take advantage of each other sexually and as a result many people feel violated. Since we were only three days away from the Pride parade, (a parade in our neighbourhood which celebrates, among other things, sexual freedom) I asked the officer if during this time of year there was a spike in sexual abuse complaints. He said yes.
That got me thinking. Are we as a society helping to increase sexual abuse or decrease sexual abuse? I think it’s the former. The cry for freedom is a noble one, but maybe not so much when it comes to sex. If we as a society tell ourselves that we are free to experience whatever sexual pleasure we happen to desire then we shouldn’t be surprised when people regularly break through the rather loose constraints of “responsible” and “consensual” to maximize whatever they think will give them the most pleasure. This is exactly what’s happening in my neighbourhood and it’s exactly what happened to me. This man who attempted to violate me, acted upon a freedom principle he has learned from our society. Granted he was willing to break through more fences then most to get what he wanted, but still, if we continue to promote sexual freedom as one of the highest ideals in our society, then we will have to continue to accept sexual abuse as one of it’s unintended consequences.
Perhaps there is a better ideal to strive for when it comes to our sexuality than freedom. As one who has been violated, I am certainly willing to explore other options. What if, for example, freedom was supplanted by faithfulness as our society’s highest ideal when it comes to sexuality? What if faithfulness was the message we taught our children in schools and at home. What if our popular culture began to frame it’s art, movies, and music around this ideal? Would sexual abuse increase or decrease? My suspicion is that it would decrease and humans would flourish.
Gnosticism starts out with a bloody nose, shoved out of the way, covered in dust, an unhappy loser in the battle to explain Christianity. It’s the theory about Jesus that didn’t win, but losing is the genius of gnosticism. Without it’s 2nd place finish it doesn’t exist. Gnosticism comes alive only because it believes that the crude layers of “counterfeit” Christianity must be peeled back to discover the truth.
Gnosticism is all about discovering hidden knowledge. What are some of the discoveries? The hidden truths about God and Jesus are many and varied, but there is a basic story line: The ultimate God is completely transcendent and unknowable, divine emanations proceed forth from him in the form lesser deities. Finally, the God of the Jews, A deity extremely low on the depth chart, discovers that he is powerful enough to create but stupid enough to see the foolishness of creating. The earth is born on the ill-advised whim of a lesser deity. The unpleasant business of matter has begun. The whole plan is a disaster from the beginning. Ultimately the human will need to escape the debacle that is the material world. Jesus factors into the escape plan but not as a human and not in any clear sense. Jesus is divine it is believed, and divinity can never merge with humanity. Jesus’ life on earth is mysterious, ghostly even — not human. He doesn’t do miracles or connect in earthy ways with humans as the four gospels suggest. He teaches secret things to special people. With resentment the gnostic faithful blamed ignorant Jews for founding a church with a Jesus that is both human and divine.
The Gnostic heresy officially lost. The Nicene creed of 325 A.D. was the certified repudiation of it, but it did not go extinct on the contrary strands of it’s influence pervaded the church and continue until this very day. Perhaps the most troublesome impact of gnostic heresy on Christianity was the notion that the soul is good and the body bad. Somehow in spite of official decree this dichotomy remained entrenched in Christian thought with horrible ramifications. For example, sex became a bad thing, because it was this very physical matter oriented act that created more living breathing matter, and matter was bad! The great church father Augustine remarked “nothing turns my thoughts towards darkness quicker then the caresses of a woman.” Women were the collateral damage of this belief system they were of less value because it was their charms that further spread the darkness. It’s no surprise that at the end of the gnostic gospel of Thomas we learn that women will not be allowed into heaven! Its was believed that a Christian businessman could never hope to be as spiritual as a priest or monk, a structure of value based on asceticism and denial of material pleasure began to shape an entire culture. If one enjoyed the simple pleasures of life too much, suspicious glances would be cast in their direction, material pleasure became a dirty thing.
Christians do not believe that the human is a good soul imprisoned in an evil body. A Christian should love his body and the pleasures that go with it because they are gifts from a good God. The human problem is not the body or the pleasures it affords. The problem is how the human manages to take God’s good gifts and pervert them or make idols out of them, choosing to love the gift more than the giver. This is where the real evil resides and why Jesus’ rescue mission had to happen.
In Psalm 141:3-4 we learn that the natural tendency for all humans is to “drift towards evil” like a log drifting towards Niagara Falls. The writer of the Psalm tells us that as humans we find ourselves prefering the “delicacies of sin”. We devour the chocolate cake before us, refusing to consider that it is laced with poison. This is why David says in verse 5
Let the godly strike me!
It will be a kindness!
If they correct me, it is soothing medicine.
Don’t let me refuse it
The writer of the psalm is saying When people have the courage to smack him in the mouth and say “don’t eat that cake!” It’s actually a good thing! Christianity was never meant to be private or solitary. Christians believe they are a community of faith. Instead of being filled with resentment when concerned family members within the community call us to repentance we should celebrate. It is only Pride that keeps anyone from listening to the worthy corrections of another and that’s the worst poison of all! Of course if One has a worldview that shrouds the concepts of good in evil in a dark cloud of unknowable mystery, then I could see how that person could be easily offended when corrected by another — but such is not the case with Christianity.