Monday, May 31, 2010

Lionel Tiger Trashes Christian Church on Sexuality and Eden

In his book, The Manufacture of Evil, Ethics, Evolution and The Industrial System (1987), Lionel Tiger writes the following:
The core of my argument is that biological evolution produced the real beginning of real ethics, in part because throughout most of our history we lived in small groups of 25 to 200, many of whom around us were near or distant relatives--"familiar." Hence the importance of the genetics of human altruism, and of what people think is good or bad.
This point of departure here may even be a comfort. It implies that the ethical passion and the sexual desire are linked, that the very act of categorization and the process of thinking itself are inevitably rampant on an ethical field. It implies that the very basic fact of human gregariousness is a reflex of some moral knack. So if the circumstances of our time lead many people to doubt the reliability of this capacity, perhaps we must look to the circumstances, not to ourselves. Even if we produced the circumstances, we may with T.S. Eliot's Prufrock lament, "That is not what I meant at all. That is not it at all."
It is possible that we have been systematically misled about our morality from the very beginning. Why should God have interfered with Eden as he did, evidently for the dual offences of sexual awareness (sexual anxiety again!) and empirical scepticism, that forbidden fruit? And why blame poor Adam, whom after all God made? And why was what happened in Eden the "Fall"? And why were Adam and Eve so harshly and disproportionately ridiculed for their sexual frisson? Were not those perplexingly pleasureable nerve endings in their genitalia there for a purpose? Was orgasm an accidental spasm, which happened to be so mightily pleasing that (later on when churches got going) its occurrence or not could be held up as a measure of obedience to God?
This is mad. No wonder practitioners of the morality trades have so enthusiastially separated man from animal, culture from nature, devotion from innocence. If morality is natural, then you don't need priests as much as you're likely to enjoy being informed by scientists. If morality is a biological phenomenon, then it is merely insulting to harass mankind for its current condition because of an historic Fall in the past and a putative Heaven in the future. When spirituality became a special flavour and ceased being fun, when mystical congregation and speculation became instead a matter of bare knees on cold stone and varying renunciations; when involvement with the seasons and the other subtle rhythms of nature became formalized into arbitrary rituals governed by functionaries, then the classical impulse for moral affiliation became translated into something else: into a calculation of ethical profit and loss supervised by an accountant Church and a demanding God. A new tax was born. The tithe. Ten percent for the first agents.
(p.32-33)

Part 2
The subject of sexual morality arises once again with the dismissal (firing and perhaps even court-martial) of the Commander of Canadian Forces in Kandahar, for having a sexual relationship with another soldier, persumably another Canadian soldier, a female. The argument being put forward for the seriousness of the offence, and for the "zero tolerance" approach is that, if the leadership is breaking the rules, then how can those rules be enforced at the lower ranks.
And yet, everyone knows that the rules are being flaunted by all levels of the Canadian military, as they are by all the other western forces, with condoms being in plenty and public supply throughout the encampments.
So why is there such a policy?
Is it because the military believes that women of whatever rank are unable to take care of themselves, when approached by a male in uniform, irrespective of his rank? If that is the case, such a view is exceptionally patronizing of the women in uniform.
Is it because of the abuse of "rank" when the male is of a higher rank than the female? We do know, for example, that in the U.S. military, many incidents of sexual abuse are not reported by females whose rank is lower than the male participant, because they fear reprisals. If "rank" is an issue, is the same policy in effect when the incident involves a female of higher rank than the male participant? And just how much deference should be paid to rank anyway? It is a highly illusive, even delusionary concept, providing authority to keep control, when fair and just treatment would accomplish the same goals, without all the play-acting.
Is it a matter of playing out the same morality as the church has inflicted on the western world, as an act of obedience to God? Is the "terrible Fall" in Genesis, and the interpretation given those events by the Christian church (starting with the Roman Catholic church, and being followed by the "protestant" churches, some with even more vigour and venom than the Romans)the paradigm for the policy of "no fraternizing" between military personnel in combat. The Roman Catholic church continues to insist that its priests in the west at least, remain celibate, as an act of obedience to the church and to God. And look at the trouble that church is in, partly as a result of their misguided policy.
Ask yourself, dear reader, a simple question, "What kind of God worth worshipping and honouring and commanding both respect and discipleship, would reduce human sexuality to a forbidden fruit?" And the only reasonable answer is that S/He would not?
Humans, especially those who "fathered" the church, and its systematic theology, are responsible for this mis-interpretation of scripture, and the fall-out from such an approach will infect our civilization for centuries, mostly negatively. (More about the negative fall-out in another blog! Please stay tuned.)

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