St Augustine and his mother, Monica
I recently read an article by Stephen Greenblatt in the New Yorker about St Augustine, who fomented the worst turn in Christianity. He came up with the idea that all sexual urges are sinful, all sex is somewhat sinful, and the only people who were born without sin were the two who were born without sexual intercourse: Adam (and Eve) and Jesus. Along the way he had to invent original sin and predestination to make his theology work.
St Augustine has probably done more to tear down real Christianity than any other church father.
St Augustine was born to Patricius, a pagan father, and Monica, a Christian mother, about 300 years after Jesus. His father was unfaithful and sometimes mocked Monica’s belief. Patricius took Augustine to the public baths one day when Augustine was around 16 years old, and was thrilled to see his son’s boner. He brought his son home and announced to his wife that his son had a wonderful man’s boner and would soon be using that boner to produce children, and wouldn’t they be proud of their grandchildren? (First of all, was Augustine traumatized by his Dad pointing out his boner at the public baths?) Augustine’s mother was horrified by the prospect of her darling son having carnal sex. Augustine writes that his mother, “in whose breast God had already started to build his temple…endured a violent spasm of reverent, tremulous trepidation.” (Augustine seems unaware of how much sexual energy he attributes to his mother’s chaste attitudes toward sex.)
Monica impressed upon her son that sex was evil, carnal and ungodly. “She made a considerable bustle,” Augustine writes in his Confessions to God, “to insure that you, my God, were my father rather than him.” Patricius died the following year, and Augustine does not sound sad when he records his passing, even though his father and his father’s mother had converted to Christianity that year.
Augustine was split between his mother’s view of sex and his father’s view of sex. He began studying to be a lawyer at the university of Carthage, had a series of affairs (he describes as “putrid rutting”), and took a mistress. For the next 14 years he remained faithful to his mistress, and had a son, Adeodatus.
His mother Monica, was upset that he had studied Manichaeanism, the belief that there are two opposing forces in the world: good and evil. She cried and wept as if Augustine had died. When he prepared to leave for Rome and Milan for a promotion as a university lecturer in philosophy, she wept: “She was hanging onto me coercively, trying to stop my journey or come along with me on it.” He told her a lie to get away from her. Augustine describes her longing as “carnal desire” or “physical longing”, the curse that Eve had to bear after tempting Adam with the fruit in the Garden of Eden.
In Milan Augustine listened to the sermons of Ambrose and began to soften in his view of the Biblical stories, beginning to see them as stories of profound mysteries. And his mother moved in with him. She arranged a marriage to a suitable girl of status, who would be marriageable age in two years, and arranged for Augustine to send his mistress and son away.
Augustine writes, “My heart, which had been fused with hers, was mutilated by the wound, and I limped along trailing blood.” His mistress vowed never to take another man. He sent the mistress and son back to Africa where she came from, never to support them or hear from them again, and quickly took another mistress as he waited for his fiancee to become old enough to marry. He expects the reader to understand the difference between a legal marriage for the purpose of bearing children, and “a deal arising from lustful infatuation.”
Within a year he converted to Catholicism, broke off his engagement, took a vow of chastity and determined to go back home and found a monastic community. He was diving headlong into his mother’s dreams.
The day before Augustine and Monica sailed for Africa they concluded that their joy was much greater than anything carnal, this was the joy of the saints and nothing carnal could compare with it. Then they experienced a physical feeling of climbing higher and higher, “stretching upward with a more fiery emotion,” “while we were speaking and panting for it, with a thrust that required all the heart’s strength, we brushed against it slightly.” When the 32 year old Augustine and his 55 year old mother were done, they sighed. (Notice the sexual wording Augustine uses in this description.)
A few days later, Monica died. Augustine’s Confessions then move on to discussing how evil sex is, and how everyone is born with the original sin that sexual intercourse implants in each one of us. Augustine dissects and re-dissects the story of Adam and Eve until he can get it to say that sex is evil, and no sex happened before the Fall.
Augustine broods for decades over the fact that we don’t have logical power over our sexual desires, and we can’t just command our sexual parts to procreate at appropriate times. He acknowledges that sex is the greatest physical pleasure, but insists, “surely any friend of wisdom and holy joys…would prefer, if possible, to beget children without lust.”
Augustine is horrified by the “very movements which it causes, to our sorrow, even in sleep, and even in the bodies of chaste men”.
The biggest voice that disagreed with Augustine was the British born monk, Pelagius, who believed that we are all born innocent. We are free to serve God or serve Satan.
Augustine said that was hopelessly naive. that we are in a mass of sin.
Pelagius countered that Augustine was just repeating the old Manichaean belief that the flesh was evil. This could not be, because clearly Christ had become flesh and dwelt among us, yet without sin.
Detractors of Pelagius said he was teaching salvation by works, or earning one’s salvation. Salvation by grace and forgiveness are the cornerstones of Christianity. Pelagius maintained that he was in no way teaching salvation by works, but his detractors won the battle.
Augustine said that Christ was born of a virgin, conceived of “not flesh but spirit, not lust but faith,” therefore without the original sin of Adam stamped upon his spirit, “lust being utterly absent.”
So Augustine delved deep into the story of Adam and Eve. After the fall they knew that they were naked and felt ashamed. That was the dawn of lust, as far as Augustine was concerned. That is when the first sinful boner occurred. His mother had been proved right and his father had been proved wrong.
Pelagius was eventually excommunicated for heresy, believing that we have the power to obey God of our own free will. This “heretical” doctrine is still in practice with the Churches of Christ, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Eastern Orthodox, the Coptic Church, Judaism, and others.
Illustration from John Milton’s Paradise Lost
Augustine shows all the signs of emotional incest. Parents who are split in their childrearing. A mother who is horrified by sex (probably having been sexually traumatized as a child). A son who tries to rescue his mother from her trauma, but who only reinforces it. A son who is taken over by his mother as an emotional spouse, sending his mistress and his son, whom he loved dearly, away, and vowing never to have sex again.
Augustine is histrionic: overly dramatic and easily influenced by his mother. Histrionics usually are ignored by the same-sex parent and made into a mini-spouse by the opposite sex parent.
The Christian world has been duped by sexually traumatized people. John Calvin based his theories of predestination on St Augustine’s: Humans, born in sin, cannot of their own free will choose God, they have to wait for God to choose them. God knows who he will choose before they are born, therefore we have been predestined to heaven or hell before we are born. Nobody can complain about this because we all have fallen short of the glory of God through our progenitors, Adam and Eve. Truly one of the most evil doctrines ever foisted upon Christianity.
Sex is exactly the way God designed it. (Yes, we live in a fallen world. Yes, nobody has a perfect sexuality). But to decide that sexual desire itself is evil? Only a traumatized person could come up with that theory.
Our spirits are housed in a physical body. We have only to look at animals to see what natural human bodies function like. We have spirits that live inside animal bodies.
“You will realise that doctrines are the invention of the human mind, as it tries to penetrate the mystery of God. You will realise that scripture itself is the work of human recording the example and teaching of Jesus. Thus it is not what you believe (in your head) that matters; it is how you respond with your heart and your actions. It is not believing in Christ that matters, but becoming like him.”