Thursday, July 22, 2010

Of Curses and Deuteronomy

The musings of David Goldman illustrate the mind-warping, life-wasting quality of theology better than anything I've read in the last few hours:

There is a Deuteronomic duality to the sex act, a blessing and curse. Human beings don’t couple like animals. Unlike animals, we know that we are mortal, and that bearing children is the precondition for conquering mortality. The culmination of sexual relations, the petit mort, recalls our mortality, for we produce children precisely because we know we are going to die; the sex act for its own sake is redolent of mortality without the promise of immortality. The subordination of sex to family relations within a faith community whose premise is the conquest of mortality, and the sublimation of sex into romantic love are the means by which civilization links sex to live. Take sex out of this context and it becomes a curse rather than a blessing.

Suppose all this overheated bleating is right and therefore something something sex is "a curse rather than a blessing." So what? I am reliably informed that, under the most orthodox of Christian orthodoxies, we humans are born pre-fitted with a terrible, terrible curse that goes all the way back to that unspeakable fruit crime in Eden. Cursedness is the air we breath, the water we drink, the omnipresent falling short that ensures that all our timbers are crooked and all our glasses darkly opaque. This being so, David Goldman needs to bring something more intimidating than yet another curse to add to the gigantic heap.

Besides which, sometimes we all need a good solid night or two of non-stop curse. Am I right?

It's often been said that sex is like pizza: even when it's bad, it's good. I'll sign on to that, even if signing on to that commits me to something that isn't "Deuteronomic" or Deuteronomickal or whatever. While I'm on that, having read that piece of twisted power-and-torture porn more than once, I have a pretty low opinion of that book. Consider these delightful passages from Deut. 28, verses 20-35:
The LORD will send on you curses, confusion and rebuke in everything you put your hand to, until you are destroyed and come to sudden ruin because of the evil you have done in forsaking him. The LORD will plague you with diseases until he has destroyed you from the land you are entering to possess. The LORD will strike you with wasting disease, with fever and inflammation, with scorching heat and drought, with blight and mildew, which will plague you until you perish. The sky over your head will be bronze, the ground beneath you iron. The LORD will turn the rain of your country into dust and powder; it will come down from the skies until you are destroyed.

The LORD will cause you to be defeated before your enemies. You will come at them from one direction but flee from them in seven, and you will become a thing of horror to all the kingdoms on earth. Your carcasses will be food for all the birds of the air and the beasts of the earth, and there will be no one to frighten them away. The LORD will afflict you with the boils of Egypt and with tumors, festering sores and the itch, from which you cannot be cured. The LORD will afflict you with madness, blindness and confusion of mind. At midday you will grope about like a blind man in the dark. You will be unsuccessful in everything you do; day after day you will be oppressed and robbed, with no one to rescue you.

You will be pledged to be married to a woman, but another will take her and ravish her. You will build a house, but you will not live in it. You will plant a vineyard, but you will not even begin to enjoy its fruit. Your ox will be slaughtered before your eyes, but you will eat none of it. Your donkey will be forcibly taken from you and will not be returned. Your sheep will be given to your enemies, and no one will rescue them. Your sons and daughters will be given to another nation, and you will wear out your eyes watching for them day after day, powerless to lift a hand. A people that you do not know will eat what your land and labor produce, and you will have nothing but cruel oppression all your days. The sights you see will drive you mad. The LORD will afflict your knees and legs with painful boils that cannot be cured, spreading from the soles of your feet to the top of your head.
If you can't feel the love in that passage from the most Deuteronomic of books, it only shows you haven't done enough self-warping via the study of theology.

Ahem. For my part, at the risk of adding another curse to the pile, I will happily embrace my non-Deuteronomickality.

(via Rust Belt Philosophy; image from the superb Brick Testament)


Angry Weasel said...

And yet, throughout that entire passage, not one word of the raping and pillaging taking place at this very moment as I sit in the waiting room of the car dealer to find out what else is wrong with my car when all I came in for was an oil change.

Yes, I feel the love.

Dale said...

You'd darn well better feel the love or prepare for THE LORD to put boils all over you! And so on.