When Same-Sex Marriage Was a Christian Rite

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When Same-Sex Marriage Was a Christian Rite

Post by Wes on Mon May 14, 2012 2:04 am

A friend on Facebook shared this article which can be found, along with a few hundred comments, at:

http://anthropologist.livejournal.com/1314574.html

In view of recent comments by President Obama and the ongoing debate in Australian politics, it posits an interesting perspective.


When Same-Sex Marriage Was a Christian Rite

Contrary to myth, Christianity's concept of marriage has not been set in stone since the days of Christ, but has constantly evolved as a concept and ritual. Prof. John Boswell, the late Chairman of Yale University’s history department, discovered that in addition to heterosexual marriage ceremonies in ancient Christian church liturgical documents, there were also ceremonies called the "Office of Same-Sex Union" (10th and 11th century), and the "Order for Uniting Two Men" (11th and 12th century).

These church rites had all the symbols of a heterosexual marriage: the whole community gathered in a church, a blessing of the couple before the altar was conducted with their right hands joined, holy vows were exchanged, a priest officiatied in the taking of the Eucharist and a wedding feast for the guests was celebrated afterwards. These elements all appear in contemporary illustrations of the holy union of the Byzantine Warrior-Emperor, Basil the First (867-886 CE) and his companion John.

A Kiev art museum contains a curious icon from St. Catherine's Monastery on Mt. Sinai in Israel. It shows two robed Christian saints. Between them is a traditional Roman ‘pronubus’ (a best man), overseeing a wedding. The pronubus is Christ. The married couple are both men.

Is the icon suggesting that a gay "wedding" is being sanctified by Christ himself? The idea seems shocking. But the full answer comes from other early Christian sources about the two men featured in the icon, St. Sergius and St. Bacchus, two Roman soldiers who were Christian martyrs. These two officers in the Roman army incurred the anger of Emperor Maximian when they were exposed as ‘secret Christians’ by refusing to enter a pagan temple. Both were sent to Syria circa 303 CE where Bacchus is thought to have died while being flogged. Sergius survived torture but was later beheaded. Legend says that Bacchus appeared to the dying Sergius as an angel, telling him to be brave because they would soon be reunited in heaven.

While the pairing of saints, particularly in the early Christian church, was not unusual, the association of these two men was regarded as particularly intimate. Severus, the Patriarch of Antioch (AD 512 - 518) explained that, "we should not separate in speech they [Sergius and Bacchus] who were joined in life". This is not a case of simple "adelphopoiia." In the definitive 10th century account of their lives, St. Sergius is openly celebrated as the "sweet companion and lover" of St. Bacchus. Sergius and Bacchus's close relationship has led many modern scholars to believe they were lovers. But the most compelling evidence for this view is that the oldest text of their martyrology, written in New Testament Greek describes them as "erastai,” or "lovers". In other words, they were a male homosexual couple. Their orientation and relationship was not only acknowledged, but it was fully accepted and celebrated by the early Christian church, which was far more tolerant than it is today.

Such same gender Christian sanctified unions also took place in Ireland in the late 12thand/ early 13th century, as the chronicler Gerald of Wales (‘Geraldus Cambrensis’) recorded.

Same-sex unions in pre-modern Europe list in great detail some same gender ceremonies found in ancient church liturgical documents. One Greek 13th century rite, "Order for Solemn Same-Sex Union", invoked St. Serge and St. Bacchus, and called on God to "vouchsafe unto these, Thy servants [N and N], the grace to love one another and to abide without hate and not be the cause of scandal all the days of their lives, with the help of the Holy Mother of God, and all Thy saints". The ceremony concludes: "And they shall kiss the Holy Gospel and each other, and it shall be concluded".

Another 14th century Serbian Slavonic "Office of the Same Sex Union", uniting two men or two women, had the couple lay their right hands on the Gospel while having a crucifix placed in their left hands. After kissing the Gospel, the couple were then required to kiss each other, after which the priest, having raised up the Eucharist, would give them both communion.

Records of Christian same sex unions have been discovered in such diverse archives as those in the Vatican, in St. Petersburg, in Paris, in Istanbul and in the Sinai, covering a thousand-years from the 8th to the 18th century.

The Dominican missionary and Prior, Jacques Goar (1601-1653), includes such ceremonies in a printed collection of Greek Orthodox prayer books, “Euchologion Sive Rituale Graecorum Complectens Ritus Et Ordines Divinae Liturgiae” (Paris, 1667).

While homosexuality was technically illegal from late Roman times, homophobic writings didn’t appear in Western Europe until the late 14th century. Even then, church-consecrated same sex unions continued to take place.

At St. John Lateran in Rome (traditionally the Pope's parish church) in 1578, as many as thirteen same-gender couples were joined during a high Mass and with the cooperation of the Vatican clergy, "taking communion together, using the same nuptial Scripture, after which they slept and ate together" according to a contemporary report. Another woman to woman union is recorded in Dalmatia in the 18th century.

Prof. Boswell's academic study is so well researched and documented that it poses fundamental questions for both modern church leaders and heterosexual Christians about their own modern attitudes towards homosexuality.

For the Church to ignore the evidence in its own archives would be cowardly and deceptive. The evidence convincingly shows that what the modern church claims has always been its unchanging attitude towards homosexuality is, in fact, nothing of the sort.

It proves that for the last two millennia, in parish churches and cathedrals throughout Christendom, from Ireland to Istanbul and even in the heart of Rome itself, homosexual relationships were accepted as valid expressions of a God-given love and committment to another person, a love that could be celebrated, honored and blessed, through the Eucharist in the name of, and in the presence of, Jesus Christ.


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Wes


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Re: When Same-Sex Marriage Was a Christian Rite

Post by Admin on Mon May 14, 2012 3:01 am

Fascinating piece Wes thanks
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Re: When Same-Sex Marriage Was a Christian Rite

Post by Wes on Mon May 14, 2012 3:33 am

Even more fascinating are the hundres of reader comments on the linked website, some of which seriously question the accuracy and integrity of the article and its source material. Others take the viewpoint that if something's in the bible then it is true. One reply to that point of view was:

I agree. We shouldn't take things out of context to suit our own agendas. The Bible "clearly" states many things. Help me out on the following:

1. Leviticus 25:44 states that I may possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased from neighboring nations. A friend of mine says that applies to Mexicans, but not Canadians. Can you clarify? Why can't I own Canadians?
2. I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?
3. When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrafice, I know it creates a pleasing odor for the Lord (Lev 1:9). The problem is my neighbors. They claim the odor is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them?
4. I have a neighbor who insist on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 31:14 clearly states that he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself, or should I ask the police do it?
5. Lev. 21:20 says that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wear reading glasses. Does my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle room here?
6. Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair around their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Lev 19:27. How should they die?
7. I know from Lev 11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes me unclean, but may I still play football if I wear gloves?
8. My uncle has a farm. He violates Lev 19:19 by planting two different crops in the same field, as does his wife by wearing garments made of two different kinds of thread (cotton/polyester blend). He also tends to curse and blaspheme a lot. Is it really necessary to go through all the trouble of getting the whole town together to stone them (Lev 24: 10-16)? Couldnt we just burn them to death at a private family affair, like we do with people who sleep with their in-laws (Lev 20:14)?

Just asking. My personal favorites are:

"“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you."

John 15:12 ESV

"Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you."

Ephesians 4:32 ESV
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Re: When Same-Sex Marriage Was a Christian Rite

Post by KatyKing on Mon May 14, 2012 10:37 am

Spiritualism has always been at the forefront of equality and diversity. We'e surprisingly radical compared to the iage the general public has of us via the media of being a fusty Edwardian throwback.
Same sex marriage is a hot potato in the UK where we have civil partnerships with the same legal ststus as marriage but its not called marriage cos the churches opposed that.
Moves are afoot to permit same sex marriages in churches. The usual suspects are up in arms about this and the issue of the right of refusal by Catholic adoption agencies for gay couples to provide a family for orphans currently on their books.
All human life is there in the Bible,relationships we' term gay today as in David and Jonathan. Women ministers like Lydia the seller of purrple dye and related goods.Nice people,stinkers,hose in between,mediums,bogus PM merchants [Simon Magus from whom we get the term Simony] It's all in there plus much more in the Bible. It's human nature to pick out the chocolates from the box that we personally prefer and Xtian religionistas have been doing that via dogma from day one as recorded in said Bible. I do think that ethical considerations should always over rule subjective morality and that sauce for the hetero geese must equitably be the same as that available to the non hetero ganders.
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Re: When Same-Sex Marriage Was a Christian Rite

Post by KatyKing on Mon May 14, 2012 10:45 am

Paul had any amount of trouble planting churches amongst the non Jews. SNU compliance committee type wonks from HQ in Jerusalem kept turning up insisting that everybody must have a Class B membership like circumcision in order to be accepted as a full member with voting privileges at the AGM.
Plus ca change..
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Re: When Same-Sex Marriage Was a Christian Rite

Post by Wes on Mon May 14, 2012 9:46 pm

I suspect the old testament was so anti-gay because the Jewish race was in danger of extinction, so therefore it couldn't afford to have any males opt out of the procreation process, for whatever reason. You would think that now no longer applies so there's no need to be anti-gay.

If the "eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth" morality of the old testament can evolve into the "turn the other cheek" morality of the new testament, then can there still be an argument against anti-gay morals evolving into gay-friendly morals?
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Re: When Same-Sex Marriage Was a Christian Rite

Post by mac on Mon May 14, 2012 10:12 pm

nothing new under the sun....

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Re: When Same-Sex Marriage Was a Christian Rite

Post by KatyKing on Mon May 14, 2012 10:25 pm

You'd think not but logic doesn't feature high in dogmatics.
Seven Principles are a case in point. Any organization using such gender exclusive language in its media would be taken to task and rightly so but because they are doctrinal statements somehow it's OK.
RCs are anti Gay [not the individuals but the concept and active expression of gay sexuality] but there must be as many gay folk if not more amongst RCs as there are in the general population.
It' that M word innit? We can no more adopt a common morality than we can wear a collective overcoat. One size does not fit all. Morality is subjective one person's moral choices can be another's taboo. Ethics on the other hand we can all abide by, maybe reluctantly in some cases but ethical considerations outweigh moral choices.
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Re: When Same-Sex Marriage Was a Christian Rite

Post by KatyKing on Mon May 14, 2012 10:35 pm

Or should do, as in....

For you vicar it may be morally repugnant for Aam to marry Steve in a church. Ethically Adam and Steve cannot have fewer rights than anyone else.
Ergo sum Adam and Steve must be free to marry in church should they wish to do so.
Given that we claim to live in a just and ethical society.

Seems easy enough but try getting that reasoning past the House of Bishops.
No chance!
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Re: When Same-Sex Marriage Was a Christian Rite

Post by hiorta on Tue May 15, 2012 9:23 am


For you vicar it may be morally repugnant for Aam to marry Steve in a church

This seems to be the unspoken core of the debate, with 'gay' or whatever else it is called, being a strawman.

To the Christian mindset, all Life has to be filtered through some church or other, to allow a wee guy in a frock do a party piece.
The difficulty with promoting a 'god said so' approach is that ultimately it becomes very, very obvious that this is not so.
The banner of Christianity gets increasingly tattered as time passes and Reason (generally) expands.
Christianity claims that total death of the individual is a 'given' unless they profess an idea to be factual and now 'resurrection' will take place.
Spiritualism claims that, if there is 'no death', there can be no resurrection

Once that is grasped, the real work begins.
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Re: When Same-Sex Marriage Was a Christian Rite

Post by KatyKing on Tue May 15, 2012 1:22 pm

Aye.
Onwards and Upwards.
sunny
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Re: When Same-Sex Marriage Was a Christian Rite

Post by MsEVP on Wed May 16, 2012 7:51 am

Thank you for this most interesting and illuminating article, and so well written.

MsEVP


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Re: When Same-Sex Marriage Was a Christian Rite

Post by obiwan on Wed May 16, 2012 11:08 am

Very interesting article. It will have some choking on their communion wafers. lol

obiwan


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Re: When Same-Sex Marriage Was a Christian Rite

Post by hiorta on Wed May 16, 2012 11:42 am

obiwan wrote:It will have some choking on their communion wafers.

it sure has.
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Re: When Same-Sex Marriage Was a Christian Rite

Post by eirefox on Wed May 16, 2012 2:21 pm

A very interesting article. Thanks for sharing it.

eirefox


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Re: When Same-Sex Marriage Was a Christian Rite

Post by eirefox on Wed May 16, 2012 3:13 pm

I've been thinking about this post all morning, and decided to comment on it before I left for work today.
The problem with the subject of homosexuality, is that society has made it an ‘us against them’ issue. I think there is a lot of ignorance regarding homosexuality. However, I don’t think that we can change the general public’s mind about it simply by beating people over the head with our liberal ideas. I don't think that beating one over the head with a Liberal Idea works any better than beating someone over the head with a Bible.
This is one area that I probably disagree with most people on this board: I think that spirits manifest in the flesh at different levels of progress. I’M NOT SAYING IN THIS STATEMENT THAT GAY PEOPLE ARE AT A LOWER LEVEL OF PROGRESS. I’m saying that those who are judgmental, intolerant, hateful and aggressive towards ANY group of people are not as progressed as those who practice the Law of Love.
And, I don’t believe that we can just Willy Nilly change people’s perception of homosexuality. Here in the USA they have ‘sensitivity classes’ for police officers or government officials who are perceived as being ‘insensitive’ towards gays, minorities, etc. Do these 'sensitivity classes' work? Do they really change how one feels about gays, minorities, etc? I doubt it. People tend to ‘cover their butt’ so to speak. They will go along with what they are told to say and do, simply to keep their job, or simply to not be confronted.
The truth is, you can’t necessarily change how a person thinks about ANY subject if they are not ready yet. They have to spiritually progress; they have to pull themselves up by their own boot straps. They have to learn moral lessons on their own. We can't force a spirit to progress.
It’s amazing to me, the results we get when we try to teach children to accept others. The public schools, television, popular culture, etc. all teach children to accept gays, minorities, women and different cultures. Yet, what I see coming out of the public school system (here in Oregon and Washington) are individuals who are thinking for themselves. One would expect that these children would be cookie-cutter images of what they are being taught. But they aren’t. Why? Because of their individual spiritual progress. My conclusion is that ‘one can change appearances, but one cannot change the spirit.’
One can observe a family where there are 7 children. They will all be raised in the same way: same schools, same church, same parents, etc. and yet there will always be at least on 'black sheep' in the family. Why? Because of the different levels of spiritual progress manifesting through the children.
I would like to point out one more thing. We tend to put the Church down for anti-homosexual teachings; and the Church does tend to teach against homosexuality. However, on the flip side, history has shown that political groups, and even other religions besides Christianity can be just as intolerant of others. Look at the Cultural Revolution in China for an example. Look at the radical Hindus in India who currently go into the homes of Christians and beat them and burn down their homes. Or, look at the militant secularists who are extremely intolerant of others; so militantly opposed to Christianity, Christ, etc. that they think it’s their right to personally tramp on the rights of Christians. It does happen, even here in my own area. So, just to be clear, it’s not Christianity that is intolerant of others, it’s those in power (of the Church) who are intolerant of others (as Katy pointed out).
I believe that Moses was used by God to give the 10 Commandments. It was the 10 Commandments which Christ re-iterated as the Law of Love. These others laws that Moses claimed to be inspired by saying “Thus sayeth the Lord” were created by him (Moses) to keep the Children of Israel in line, and to create order in their society. I recently read that it was a common practice back then for Chieftains to claim divine inspiration. After all, if the people though that their god was speaking through you, they would listen. The anti-homosexual texts in the Old Testament may have come about because some pagan religious practices used homosexual rites. Moses was desperately attempting to cleanse the Jewish people of pagan thinking and practice.
These are just my thoughts on this subject.

eirefox


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