Christian Orgies June 22, 2011Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient , trackback
On rainy nights, when the children have gone to bed and Beachcombing wants to provoke his ultra Catholic wife, there is little he loves more than to quote from the following early third-century Christian text, where some of the first pagan criticisms against the upstart religion are aired. As well as describing how Christians eat small children – almost certainly an imaginative misunderstanding of the mass – there are a series of interesting sexual allegations.
*They know one another by secret marks and insignia, and they love one another almost before they know one another. Everywhere also there is mingled among them a certain religion of lust, and they call one another promiscuously ‘brothers’ and ‘sisters’, that even a not unusual debauchery may by the intervention of that sacred name become incestuous: it is thus that their vain and senseless superstition glories in crimes… And of their banqueting it is well known all men speak of it everywhere; even the speech of our Cirtensian testifies to it. On a solemn day they assemble at the feast, with all their children, sisters, mothers, people of every sex and of every age. There, after much feasting, when the fellowship has grown warm, and the fervour of incestuous lust has grown hot with drunkenness, a dog that has been tied to the candle-holder is provoked, by throwing a small piece of offal beyond the length of a line by which he is bound, to rush and spring; and thus the conscious light being overturned and extinguished in the shameless darkness, the connections of abominable lust involve them in the uncertainty of fate. Although not all in fact, yet in consciousness all are alike incestuous, since by the desire of all of them everything is sought for which can happen in the act of each individual.
Mrs B is naturally indignant at such charges as, indeed, were the earliest Christians. But where do such charges come from? Can there be anything to them?
If charges of Christian cannibalism derive from the mass is it possible that Christian orgies were a misunderstanding of the kiss of peace and brotherly love? These misunderstandings were then amplified by Christianity’s ‘secret and nocturnal rites’ as our author would have it: the danger of persecution being so very great Christian meetings were carried out ‘after hours’.
This is the easy way out.
Another possibility is that there is something true here. This is not to say, of course, that the bishop of Alexandria and the bishop of Antioch were divesting themselves at orgies with their congregations: enough early Christian texts survive to suggest that the Christian fathers were more suspicious of the body and its workings than their more laid back pagan neighbours.
But early Christianity was a broad church. Roman persecution meant that there was no public Christian structure to talk of and around the fringes of the religion ‘gnostic’ beliefs – that certainly included sex magic – featured. According to this theory, it was only in the third and fourth centuries as church discipline was applied that Christianity put its own house in order and kicked the orgy-goers off the porch.
Any other early Christian scandals? drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com
JEC has suggestions for a new avenue of research here and some information that will turn Mrs B’s hair a lighter shade of pale ‘I’m not sure about the provenance of pagan accusations of Early Church orgies, although I would not be in the least surprised to find they were cut from whole cloth. I’m thinking that before Constantine Imperator made Christianity the Official Religion Of The Roman Empire™, many a Mithraist or Vestal Virgins saw the powerfully attractive Christian religion, which had grown despite official prohibition and severe persecution, as a terrible threat to the status quo. Surely the adherents of established, competing religions would have felt no compunction about attempting to libel Christians with tales of their enthusiastic participation in ritual orgies. But, as you suggest, maybe there was something to the tales. If so, might there be any contemporary remnant of such attitudes of the Early Church? Funny I should ask. There’s at least one web site devoted to…Christian swinging. That’s right, ‘wife swapping’, as it used to be called in the 60’s when the subject was a guaranteed circulation booster of American ‘men’s’ magazines such as Argosy and True. The purpose of this site is apparently to enable Christian couples to hook up with similar pairs who want to expand their sexual horizons. Couples spending time there must have an expansive, if non-traditional, interpretation of the scripture about the ‘freedom of the believer’. Now, I’m sorry, but I’m not emotionally strong enough not to make the obligatory denial which so often follows similar revelations, so let me say here I have no personal knowledge of this phenomenon, or even of this website, as I only came upon it for the first time moments ago. My curiosity had been piqued after reading your orgy post. so I intentionally searched for ‘Christian swinging’, This might be no isolated group, and there could be several such websites. As a believer myself, I hope not. I think a Dr B online search and investigation of Christian swinging is absolutely necessary to fill in gaps of the Early Church’s history!’ Thanks as always JEC!