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From Shame to Sin: The Christian…

From Shame to Sin: The Christian Transformation of Sexual Morality in Late…

by Kyle Harper

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As of the time of this writing, only 21 out of the millions of members on LT have this book in their library. It's such a shame that more won't learn how the filth ridden anti-pleasure, anti-sex mentality entered the western world. Read how the peace loving Christian's rounded up all the male prostitutes in Rome in 390 and forced the population to watch them be burned alive...apparently their excremental god doesn't love gay men. The author dispels any notion that early Christians were not anti-gay.

I tried to discuss this book on one of the discussion groups here on LT, but none of them had actually read it nor had it in their libraries. All I got was some pious pontification about how my exegesis of biblical passages was erroneous even though they were based on world renowned scholars' views. Apparently, only fundy spittle drooling Christians understand the 'true' meaning of the bible because they have a personal relationship with a character in a book. The human mind has this wonderful ability to empathize with fictional characters...that is why we like reading novels....but please...I am not mentally ill enough to confuse fiction with reality and believe that a dead Jewish terrorist came back to life after three days and I can have a 'personal' relationship with him...read Festinger's When Prophecy Fails to learn why this happened.

Read the Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2014.01.52 at http://bmcr.brynmawr.edu/2014/2014-01-52.html for more information on this book. ( )
  ElectricKoolAid | May 24, 2014 |
I cannot really add anything to Peter Brown's review in the New York Review of Books, Dec 19,2013 (http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2013/dec/19/rome-sex-freedom/) and Kristina Sessa's review in the Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2014.01.52(http://bmcr.brynmawr.edu/2014/2014-01-52.html), so I'll just add a few personal highlights.

What was shameful to an aristocratic Roman became sinful under Christianity. As Pascal Quignard points out in Sex and Terror(http://www.librarything.com/work/1062367/book/107834499), Christians invented Christian morality about as much as Christians invented the Latin language. The discontinuity lies in the vehemence of the condemnation and rejection especially the complete rejection of sexuality - which they later had to begrudgingly backtrack from when it became clear that Jesus' prophecy that he would return in their lifetime wasn't fulfilled. According to Augustine, before the fall, having an erection was no different than raising your finger. It involved no passion or sexual desire. It was only after the fall that evil erotic feelings (concupiscence) entered the picture. Celibacy would forever remain the ideal however.

Another was pointing out that Justyn Martyr invented the concept of free-will ( or at least was the first philosopher to unambiguously use the term). Most think that Augustine invented it but it was actually Justyn. See Chapter Two, 'The Will and the World in Early Christian Sexuality'. Of course, Christianity requires free-will because without it, there was no point to Jesus' supposed sacrificial death. It would also make god evil. If you have no free-will, it makes no sense to punish a person for their deeds. For Augustine, this was a theological nicety because he believed that all were predestined to heaven or hell, so our behavior was ultimately irrelevant to our eternal destiny. It's only required to leave god blameless...I' ve never understood this logic, but then again, I'm not a Christian.

The author highlights the absolute condemnation of same-sex relationships by the early Christians. For example, the good Christian Emperor Theodocius I (who declared Christianity the only tolerated religion) rounded up all the male prostitutes in Rome and had them burned alive while he forced the populace to watch. Of course the heterosexual prostitutes weren't touched and the brothels stayed open.

In the Roman world, sex and love were two distinct things, which may or may not go together. Christianity certainly accepted this distinction but completely eliminated sex from the equation. We're only now shaking off this anti-human, anti-world legacy and fully accept same-sex relationships, non-procreative sex and sex outside of marriage as positive behaviors that are healthy and good.

If you are interested in this topic, it's worth a read. ( )
1 vote PedrBran | Apr 30, 2014 |
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I wish that I had had a book as clear, as cogent, and as intellectually responsible as Harper’s From Shame to Sin before me when I began to write on similar topics in the early 1980s, some third of a century ago. One can only envy the good fortune of those who can now embark on their own work with such a book in hand.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0674072774, Hardcover)

When Rome was at its height, an emperor’s male beloved, victim of an untimely death, would be worshipped around the empire as a god. In this same society, the routine sexual exploitation of poor and enslaved women was abetted by public institutions. Four centuries later, a Roman emperor commanded the mutilation of men caught in same-sex affairs, even as he affirmed the moral dignity of women without any civic claim to honor. The gradual transformation of the Roman world from polytheistic to Christian marks one of the most sweeping ideological changes of premodern history. At the center of it all was sex. Exploring sources in literature, philosophy, and art, Kyle Harper examines the rise of Christianity as a turning point in the history of sexuality and helps us see how the roots of modern sexuality are grounded in an ancient religious revolution.

While Roman sexual culture was frankly and freely erotic, it was not completely unmoored from constraint. Offending against sexual morality was cause for shame, experienced through social condemnation. The rise of Christianity fundamentally changed the ethics of sexual behavior. In matters of morality, divine judgment transcended that of mere mortals, and shame—a social concept—gave way to the theological notion of sin. This transformed understanding led to Christianity’s explicit prohibitions of homosexuality, extramarital love, and prostitution. Most profound, however, was the emergence of the idea of free will in Christian dogma, which made all human action, including sexual behavior, accountable to the spiritual, not the physical, world.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:14:01 -0400)

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