Hatred and persecution

Scott L Jacobsen in his blog The Wittenburg Door asks plaintively,

I guess you would have to define “hatred” clearly. Sin is not, in my opinion, something to ignore, accept, redefine, allow, promote, teach, advocate for, etc…

Is it hatred to say, with the Catholic bishops, that “homosexuality is fundamentally disordered?” Is it hatred to say that the norm for families should be two parent, monogamous, and heterosexual? It is hatred to say that anything else falls short of God’s standard?

The reason I am also interested in hate is that it is almost illegal to say anything contrary to very current opinion on these matters….Because I dissent, I have been labelled a hater, although I have never advocated the abuse or mistreatment of anyone guilty of a particular sin. I do not seek to withhold human rights from any individual. I do find that most of the suppression of fundamental human rights today, in Western nations, are coming from the liberal-homosexual/lesbian/transsexual/bisexual (etc) side of the aisle.

Then he asks a useful question.

So what is “hate,” and who are the “haters?”

Well, Charles Worley, the “pastor” videoed calling for concentration camps so we could die out is a hater. Many people feel disgust when they think of gay people, especially gay lovemaking, just as in past times many people felt disgust when they thought of black people. Evangelical Christians tell each other that condemning gay lovemaking is righteous, and so express such disgust and anger freely. I think they are haters, expressing those feelings. Disgust, fear and anger do not bring God’s children to God.

I accept the argument that the prejudice of the powerful is most pernicious, and the resentment of the less powerful is not the same. The problem is that Scott Jacobsen believes the LGBT folks are the powerful now, the Evangelicals are the victims. So, what else is “hatred”?

“Defending traditional marriage” is hatred. Married straight people in the US have tax and immigration privileges gay long term couples do not share. In the UK, a “civil partnership” is “separate but equal”- the Government recognises that that is discriminatory, and the difference will be removed. Traditional marriage until the late 19th century meant a man owning his wife’s property, and in the UK she was not allowed to refuse sex until the 1990s. Traditional marriage subordinated the wife to the husband. The idea of marriage as a love match between equals is modern. Any act supportive of subordinating women to men, or refusing the privileges of straight people to gay people, is hatred. That includes speaking for or voting for “defence of marriage” legislation.

What of stating that the Bible states gay lovemaking is a sin, and that the person believes gay lovemaking is a sin? I call that hatred too. Usually, it is married people like Scott Jacobsen stating it. He is referring to a “sin” to which he has no temptation. Why? What business is it of his? Look to your own sins, Scott. How much time do you devote to condemning those who have divorced and remarried? It is the emphasis, the time wasted, on this, that makes it hatred. Keep your belief to yourself. Its validity does not depend on whether others agree. If you really believed it, you would know that.

What of a Christian running a hotel, who wants to refuse a double room to a gay couple?  The European Union, the European Convention on Human Rights, and increasing numbers of US states say that he should not. If he wants to keep sin out of his hotel, the only way is to keep humans out. Does he ensure that all straight couples staying there are married? No? Then why the emphasis on gay people?

Being gay is innate. Hatred for it is like hatred of people with a particular skin or hair colour. Being Christian is a large part of many people’s identity, but belief in the sinfulness of gay lovemaking need not be as important in it as it is in some churches.

So, who is the hater, Scott? You are. Stop obsessing about gay people. Think about something else.

This site says that the icon, above, is of Sts Sergius and Bacchus the Great Martyrs. This site says that it is the Emperor Basil I and his companion John, getting married.

Adam and Eve

They saw that they were naked. They hid, because they were afraid.

That is the result of eating the apple of the knowledge of good and evil: self-consciousness. Before, the sinless natural man does his thing, at unity with himself.

Or, before the natural man obeys God, doing as God sees fit, though capable of disobedience; disobedience breaks the bond with God, creates fear and separation.

A wonderful story, dating back to the exile in Babylon, 2,500 years ago- probably not to the time of Moses. Bibliolaters dishonour it by taking it literally. We have two ideals to strive for in the religious life: a life of obedience and submission; or a life of simply doing my own thing, without over-thinking, without internal conflict because it is Natural. Perhaps, they are both the same.

Saint Anna

Here are some more icons.

From Mount Athos: John the Evangelist, from the 11th century. The gospel writer’s body is turned towards his scribe, but his eyes are towards Heaven, which is dictating to him. I could say that textual criticism shows a link between certain chapters, showing that other chapters have been interpolated later; and I still think that the idea of taking dictation from God directly is beautiful.

From Patmos: The Mother of God enthroned, 15th century.

From Bulgaria: Saint Anna. So the child on the lap is female, rather than male: Mary is with her mother.

 anna-mary-jesus

Here is St Anna again, with her daughter and the Christ child. I found the three together fascinating.

Blessed Christmas

I wish you a Merry Christmas, with these Nativity scenes from great art galleries:

Moscow School, 16th century, The Hermitage

Botticelli, The National Gallery

Martin Schongauer, Berlin Gemaldegalerie der Staatlichen Museen

Jean Michelin, The Louvre

Petrus Christus, Washington National Gallery of Art

May your God bless you and keep you and make God’s face to shine upon you, and give you peace.

Pantocrator

Here is a sixth century encaustic icon from St Catherine’s Monastery, Mount Sinai. Encaustic involves adding pigments to heated beeswax. How wonderful to have an image in colour, without the limitations of mosaic, from the sixth century!

Pantocrator means Ruler of All, God Almighty, El Shaddai. The two different eyes are thought to symbolise the divine and human nature of Christ. The hand is raised in blessing, as in almost all images of Jesus. The left hand holds the Word of God, as in the image below.

In the Rublev Trinity, I have read that the red symbolises Jesus’ humanity, and the blue his divinity, and the golden robe of God symbolises that the Father is hid from our sight. At Hagia Sophia, is blue humanity and gold divinity?

I wrote of wanting to own a Pantocrator icon: but why should I wish to, when I can look at these representations and others, on any computer, at any time, and visit galleries or churches and see other beauties?

Image of Christ from Hagia Sophia

Andrei Rublev

Given that among the best searches leading to my blog are “agios oros” and “Pefkis Ikonen”, I present to you my other icon.

father-pefkis-the-angels-at-mamre-trinity

It is of the angels at Mamre, who represent the Trinity: the Greek transliterates as “Hagia Trias”, Holy Trinity. Again, it comes from Mount Athos. I bought it in the cathedral at Le Puy en Velay, where a pilgrim offered to pray for me (it is always good to know someone is praying for me).

For those looking for icons, I recommend Icons Explained, a voluminous site including details of hagiographers (icon painters) from all over the world. The link from there to Fr. Pefkis no longer works. When I came home, I did some Googling but could not find a source for the Mount Athos icons, and it seems to me that, possibly, these handmade icons are sold for far less than they might fetch as a service to God and the community; that they are devotional tools seeking devotional use, not the home of the collector or even the connoisseur. In my last flat, this icon hung at the end of the hallway, visible as I came in the front door or went to the kitchen. I sat meditating on it. Now it is on my shelves, and I glimpse it when I look up from the television.

It appealed to me because the figures look so feminine, and so reassure me that I, too, am made in the image of God.

I still want a Pantocrator. I think it is worth the search. Perhaps in some cathedral shop I will find something so beautiful: or perhaps see one in a church somewhere, and find that seeing it is enough, I do not need to possess it.

Ikon

father-pefkis-icon-madonna-and-child

The photograph does not do justice to the thing itself. It is lustrous. It is an “Exact copy of the strict Byzantine style created by Father ‘Pefkis’, qualified hagiographer of the Athoniados Ecclesiastical Academy in Agion Oros at Athos, with the genuine traditional colours with gold sheets on canvas on aged wood”. I got it at St John’s, at the west end of Princes St. They tell me they are at the mercy of their suppliers, they can sell only whatever the suppliers send. It is far more beautiful than the other pictures they have, which are prints.

Fr. Pefkis’s Christianity and mine appear very different. How do I approach this beautiful thing? First, by delighting in its beauty. The gold, the wood. Then, by considering it from a place of appreciation rather than denigration. Do people have haloes? Well, yes, some people have such force of character shining from them that they might appear to. Here is a mother, with her cheek pressed to the cheek of her child, an archetypal image which will move almost any human being. The child’s head is out of proportion, a baby’s is far bigger: this, for me, only serves to emphasise the vulnerable humanity of Jesus. I love the clear, limpid gaze. I want to know more. What is the symbolism of the colours in the clothes, covered in black for the mother, exposed in the child?

Tony Castle in his book “Gateway to the Trinity” tells of a Roman Catholic priest who commissioned an icon. He expected the Orthodox monastery to put it in the post, but instead they sent a nun to deliver it, who fasted while she was out of the monastery. I am not sure about showing such respect to an object: but I am convinced of the value of showing respect to something outside ones self. And the respect shows the belief in the object’s ability to mediate God to the person who sees it, if that person’s heart is open.

Roger Scruton writes in this month’s Prospect magazine, “icons stand at the border of forbidden things”. I do not know God. Contemplating this icon may allow my mind to roam free among the ideas of God my species has had, glimpsing reality.

Searches for “Pefkis Ikonen” and “Agion Oros monastic” have reached my blog. If anyone can provide a translation for the Greek, I would be grateful.