Sunday, August 15, 2010

The origins of anti-gay sentiment in Western civilisation

A small snippet of writing by one of the earliest Christian writers suggests that many of the modern negative beliefs about homosexuality have a much older provenance than I previously realised.

This excerpt is from the writings of a man named John Chrysostom. Writing in the fourth century AD, Chrysostom reflects two of the beliefs about homosexuality that are a mainstay of anti-gay sentiment in the West even today: that only humans perform this "unnatural" behaviour, and that there is a real danger that homosexuality could realistically displace all heterosexual behaviour in the general public. From the excerpt:
A certain new and illicit love has entered our lives an ugly and incurable disease has appeared, the most severe of all plagues has been hurled down, a new and insufferable crime has been devised. Note only are the laws established [by man] overthrown but even those of nature herself. Fornication will now seem a small matter in the reckoning of sexual sins, and just as the arrival of a more burdensome pain eclipses the discomfort of an earlier one, so the extremity of this outrage [hubreos] causes lewdness with women, which had been intolerable, to seem so no longer. Indeed to be able to escape these snares [in any way] seems desirable, and there is some danger that womankind will become in the future unnecessary with young men instead fulfilling all the needs women used to..

Also of interest is the complaint from Chrysostom, also heard today, that it is the opponents of homosexuality who are the ones that are actually suffering because of the anti-gay stance they have taken:
And this is not even the worst, which is that this outrage is perpetrated with the utmost openness, and lawlessness has become law. For no one fears, no one any longer shudders. No one is ashamed, no one blushes, but, rather, they take pride in their little joke; the chaste seem to be the ones who are unbalanced, and the disapproving the ones in error. If [the chaste or disapproving] happen to be insignificant, they are beaten up; if they are powerful, they are mocked, laughed at, refuted with a thousand arguments. The courts are powerless, the laws, instructors, parents, friends, teachers all are helpless. Some are corrupted with money, and some are only out to get what they can for themselves. As for those more honorable, who have some concern for the welfare of those entrusted to them, they are easily fooled and gotten around, for they fear the power of the debauched.

The contemporary myths and lies about homosexuality that exist in Western culture are very, very old. I had no idea just how old until now.

No comments: