Thursday, September 29, 2016

Man De-Formed: Sexed Identity, Masculinity, and Worship

I wrote two previous articles, which may seem at odds, but I've decided to elaborate on some ideas to connect them in a way that might make sense for thinking about anthropology, gender, and Christian worship. First, I wrote an article about Zinzendorf's theological anthropology that emphasized Christ's full Humanity through His penis, a distinguishing member of His male sex. I wrote another article about the heresy of Bridal Mysticism, a form of piety that changes the biblical figure of the Bride from the Church to the individual Soul.

Now, I have recently been convinced on the anthropological value of a theory of practice. I acquired this from Bourdieu. The concept, in short, is that if we want to understand Human behavior, we need to look at the common and everyday if we want to understand how a particular society functions. This is the kind of stuff that people assume, that takes on a kind of "natural" feel about it. There are assumed rules and values that people hold implicitly and become ingrained through doing. This is incredibly value for my own work, but also useful in analyzing our current world today.

While Zinzendorf's theory is a helpful reminder, and I still fully agree with the main thrust of the article, we need to take it in stride with the much more fundamental fact of Moravian worship. Part of the tragedy of the Thirty Years War was the spread of a hyper-focus on interiority in the Christian life. Comenius represents this through his dual allegory, Labyrinth of the World/Paradise of the Heart. The first part, which is the majority, reveals the corruption and horror of life according to This Age. This is a magnificent critique, and it leaves one totally in horror. But the solution is weak: Christ meets the Pilgrim in the Chamber of his Heart, where a kind of wedding takes place and renewal begins. From this, the Pilgrim now can see the world differently, walk differently, recognize fellow pilgrims, and press on.

Quite frankly, this is a terrible solution. I am not denying the renewal of the interior that Christ effects, but there are some major problems. Firstly, the kind of individualism runs against the social dimension of the Church, which exists beyond the sum of its parts. But secondly, this form of piety invites the homoerotic Bridal Mysticism that I discussed before.

This kind of pious structure went into the Moravians' self construction. Zinzendorf's emphasis on the full Humanness of Christ was a statement, and an interesting one, but Moravian worship practice emphasized a collective individualization, where each Christian was to be wrapped up by the Bridegroom. It was this practice that led to the Sifting Time, which according to recent scholarship was a radical outworking of Zinzendorf's liturgical innovations by his son. This resulted in gender-bending and homoeroticism, as Christian Renatus declared that all the brothers of his settlement (Herrnhag) were sisters. Zinzendorf cracked down on his son, but one ought to contemplate the the chain of events.

Perhaps this turn reflects the problem of Evangelical piety more broadly. Now there were other turns in Evangelical theology, reflecting different errors and problems that have come home to roost in the 21st century particularly, I want to emphasize on the gender element.

Beyond the homoeroticism of Bridal Mysticism, there is a particular gender ideology at work that accompanies this individualizing. The male represents the active and the female represents the passive. Thus, worship represents the ultimate emasculation, a clarion call for men to renounce their maleness before the truly male god who makes women of them in their passivity. To put it crudely, worship becomes a spiritual prison-shower scene.

None of this has to be explicitly stated, but is enacted through particular liturgical forms of worship. A social imagination that sees gender in this way, and the enactment of such through piety can only be the horror of horrors. We see this not only in the absurd "worship" music that sounds like bad pop music with a heavenly boyfriend, but also in a call for a certain passivity in life. Christianity in this form, without Church or a biblical piety, becomes an agent of annihilating masculinity, while simultaneously reinforcing it in the realm of politics. Men avoid worship, but enact the same principles through government and economics. In a sense, these realms become a means for men to become gods over women, while avoiding their feminization through worship. This creates some of the abuses of the American patriarchal system that is meeting its death-knell in the gender insanity of 21st century America.

This American Evangelical Christianity, strangely, became a mechanism that both dominated, but was also disregarded. And in turn, it has been disparaged and hated by the new guard that has taken over America politics. In some ways, I am glad, for it gives space for those who want to think about the future of the Church. The vision of the Christian society has brought about an onslaught on Christ's Church while also entrenching a dominating Babylon.

The Moravians represent one strange example of this phenomenon, and the Sifting Time ought to reveal a kind of prophecy for what was to come. Now a days only strong forms of gendered identity for men come through rigidity and violence, and hence men go streaming into the army, the police, or the gangs, if not some sort of pseudo-martial organization. There's something to this that Christians ought to pay attention to, but suffice to say this leaves men in the Church as either with little place for a masculine existence or one that is hidden or compromised by these other factors.

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