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A SEXUAL MANIFESTO: MODERN ENLIGHTENED THINKING ON HUMAN SEXUALITY

VERSES

TRADITIONAL CHRISTIAN TEACHING ON SEX
AN ORTHODOX CHRISTIAN RESPONSE TO THE POINTS IN THE SEXUAL MANIFESTO
By Monk Andrew


A SEXUAL MANIFESTO MODERN ENLIGHTENED THINKING ON HUMAN SEXUALITY

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Foreword

This Manifesto is an invention only in the sense that this writer has joined together in it many current ideas, using a manifesto format. The contents, however, are no invention. This Manifesto is fundamentally an organized collage of actual quotes from actual people, passionate testimonies of personal faith that I have heard from a large number of clinicians over the past two decades in Florida, New Jersey and New Mexico, and from American clergy friends twenty-eight and more years ago in Puerto Rico and elsewhere.[I have added in brackets a few brief comments, and references to recent public events.] These ideas are repeated continually by myriad counselors, educators, clergy and other professionals. On numerous occasions I have heard many of these convictions, complete with their inherent logical inconsistencies, spouted forth by the same person.

I have heard and read these veritable dogmatic formulas in many different places and they tend to "all sound alike." One gets the strong impression that these beliefs have universal currency in our culture. That impression is confirmed when you discover that every American who has been in our public school system and/or in college has been catechized with these ideas. Anyone who grew up mainline Protestant, and since the late '60s, Catholic as well, has probably been taught some of these ideas in church or at young people's meetings! Many of us have absorbed a number of these ideas into our way of thinking without realizing it. And we have done that in spite of their many self-contradictions and their anti-Christian implications.

Never, before the composition of the following Manifesto, have I seen these widely believed and broadly touted statements of belief set down together in one written profession of faith. Most of us are so inured to these ideas that seeing them in print or hearing them one at a time our emotional reaction is "so what else is new?"' But when the many tiles of this mosaic of conventional wisdom are arranged together, forming a vivid portrait of our cultural values, both their seductive power and their maddening inconsistencies are vividly revealed. The completed image is rather disturbing.

In lectures, classes, clinical staffings, and even in denominational meetings where these fundamental principles are discussed or referred to, and where lip service is breezily offered to consistency, it is assumed that "everybody knows" the apparent inconsistencies are actually illusory. To enable that process of self-deception, the contradictory nature of the material is almost always somehow masked so as not to be as uncomfortably obvious as it turns out to be in an "all-inclusive" format. But when the individual points are mercilessly recorded side by side, their inconsistencies cry out for ridicule. These would indeed be hilariously funny if the consequences were not as tragic as those of children locked inside a burning house!

In spite of the inherent irrationality clearly evident throughout this Manifesto, the following material is today accepted by millions and taken with deadly seriousness, in toto. (Literally "in all." An equivalent English expression is "hook, line and sinker.") These statements are believed dogmatically by millions who themselves delight in decrying dogmas! The contents of this Manifesto function as the creed of many influential educators and writers of textbooks. These doctrines are commonly taught as "gospel" in school. This is the faith of the militant and highly successful religion of Secularism, which in effect is anti-Christianity, and indeed, anti-traditional-Judaism. In spite of its myriad self-contradictions, this secular creed promotes itself as "scientific." It is seen as "caring," "tolerant," "open," and "progressive."

The points in this Manifesto cover a number of issues other than sex, but one soon realizes that they have a strong connection with one or another modern sexual question. They are in fact used regularly to support current views on the subject of sexual liberation. Is modern thinking primarily "mostly about sex"? Does the issue of sex serve in our culture the same function as bread and circuses in the Roman Empire? What a frightening consideration! "You can do anything to us you want. You can even take away our political freedoms, but please don't threaten our precious sexual rights!"

I have frequently heard the anti-Christian remarks found in the Manifesto expressed crudely, as recorded. But more often the expression "religious people" is used as a polite euphemism for "Christians" (to avoid accusations of bigotry?) as if the millions of people who solemnly profess the following confused dogmas do not themselves overqualify as religious people!

We encourage the reader to pay very close attention to the points in this Manifesto. On careful examination, one realizes that very many assertions in the Manifesto diametrically contradict the previous point(s). (That often happens in real-life situations where these statements are recited with religious conviction!) Some of the assertions, in their self-contradiction, condemn themselves, for example, the highly dogmatic statement that "dogmatism is absolutely evil." Similarly, if one seriously espouses several of the views found in the Manifesto, one is thereby guilty of the same fault he accuses others of. For instance, the assertion that "authoritarianism is disgusting" is itself an authoritarian remark! Keep a lookout for others!

A SEXUAL MANIFESTO


The Thirty-three Points
(A Collage of Politically Correct Expressions of Belief)

l. The problem with conservative Christians is that they are dogmatic, and dogmatism is absolutely evil.
--A. Christian leaders tell their constituents how to believe and how to behave.
--B. It is wrong to impose one's values on others.
--C. The Constitutional amendment separating church and state forbids religion to influence or affect public policy. [The First Amendment actually forbids establishing a national church, while insuring freedom of religion, and freedom of speech.]
------(1) Most conservative Christian leaders are white males so what do you expect. White male conservative Christians are typically racially biased and insensitive to gender issues.
------(2) Conservative Christians are not humanitarians.

2. Conservative and traditional-type Christians are all fundamentalists of one kind or another, and fundamentalism is clearly evil.
--A. We don't need light from authority figures in the past [except post-Enlightenment philosophers, and ancient Oriental spiritual teachers.]

3. Prejudice and authoritarianism are disgusting.
--A. If Christians get political power, they will take away our freedom and turn America into a Puritan police state.
--B. Christians will force their views on everybody. ['We sure won't! We stand for total freedom of conscience!']
--C. The very idea that some kind of 'culture war' is going on in our society is stupid and groundless. Besides, it wouldn't be taking place if the conservative Christians would mind their own business, and stay out of the public arena where they don't belong.
------(1) Enlightened Christians who think like us are okay.

4. Conservative Christians stereotype groups, races and genders.

5. Today Science has absolutely proved that there exist no absolute truths. (cf. Nietzsche 1883)

6. Belief in moral absolutes is not only rigid fundamentalism, but also clearly a sign of severe psychological impairment.

7. Deconstruction teaches us that all human principles are merely highly personal subjective constructs.
--A. Since moral principles are merely subjective constructs, therefore, 'There is no black or white, there is no wrong or right.' (Monkeys 1968).

8. No human behavior is discernible by reason and logic as 'moral or immoral by nature,' The Catholics apparently first invented this ridiculous concept of so-called natural law. [In fact it comes from the pre-Christian Stoic philosophers. St. Paul, familiar with Greek philosophy, uses the concept in Romans 2:14-16.]
--A. Logical thought is merely a patriarchal construct typically used by males to oppress females.
------(1) women are not significantly different from men.
----------a. Only sexists see men and women as different except in terms of physical sexuality.
------(2) Clinical studies show that the dynamics of therapy groups differ sharply in relation to the male-female ratio in each group, and whether the facilitator is male or female. (Rosenberg 1992.)
--B. It is obvious to everyone that human rights are a given.
--C. We know now, of course, that all forms of discrimination and injustice are by the very nature of things wrong.
--D. Sexual enjoyment is simply totally natural behavior. It is merely a form of harmless fun. Only occasionally does it have any connection to reproduction, and it is not necessarily linked to marriage.

9. It is obvious there exist no absolute truths or moral principles.
--A. It is also clear that child abuse is totally evil. [But of course, that depends on how you define child abuse.] Preventing the birth of unwanted children before they become human beings is not child abuse. Abortion is instead merely a simple medical procedure, which the highly sensitive majority on the Supreme Court established as a legal solution in heartbreaking situations.

10. Humankind and human knowledge are steadily evolving into better forms and higher concepts. 'Newer is truer.'
--A. The history of the 20th century demonstrates beyond a shadow of a doubt that we have become steadily more and more humanitarian.

11. We all know the Nazi Holocaust was the worst massacre in human history. It should never be allowed to occur again. [The abortion massacre, of course, doesn't count!] Some people feel Stalin also killed a few people. And of course Saddam Hussein. Maybe the Turks also, and some others.
--A. We dislike religious people intensely because nothing causes war and conflict more than narrow-minded Christian dogmatism.

12. It doesn't matter what you believe as long as you are sincere. All religions are equal.
--A. Traditional Judeo-Christian values should be despised, and if possible, eradicated. ['Some animals are more equal than others.' (Orwell, Animal Farm.)]

13. The use of the word should is a form of self-oppression, and indicates low self-esteem. It should be avoided.

14. The Government should be totally neutral in religious issues.
--A. Of course sometimes the state has to take unfortunate severe legal measures against religious groups that teach non-progressive doctrines which scientific studies and public opinion show are contrary to the common good.

15. Opinion polls are one of the most valid measures of democratic public opinion.
--A. Discernment is of the essence. If the polls manifest progressive opinion it indicates grass roots support, but if they don't, the population sample is not representative.
--B. The suggestion is silly that poll questions are often tendentious, i.e., that they tend to bias one's answer.
--C. There is no evidence that opinion polls influence public opinion in any significant degree.

16. Pornography and sexual harassment are absolutely evil and always totally contrary to the well being of women. [Mainstream Feminists have recently tolerated both.]
--A. Whether consensual or not, sexual contact between a boss and an employee is disgusting, demeaning, evil behavior, and should never be condoned under any circumstances.
------(1) Research demonstrates that women victims never ever lie about sexual harassment and rape. (cf. A. Hill, 1991.) We should always believe the woman victim. [But apparently any woman who makes sexual accusations against an ideological 'icon' is clearly not telling the truth.]

17. Children are equal to adults, and their wishes should be respected:
--A. Children have the right to reject their parents.
--B. Children (like adults) have the right to invent their own values, and should be allowed to make their own decisions.
--C. It is discrimination to assume children are limited in their perceptions of how to behave.

18. Freud and other social scientists make it clear that children, like adults, are sexual beings with deep sexual needs. (Freud 1928.)
--A. Children have the right to experiment sexually however they choose. (Ellis 1930. Haeberle 1978.)

19. Freedom of active sexual expression is necessary for healthy functioning in life, and happiness.

20. Autoeroticism is perfectly natural and healthy.
--A. Children should be instructed in school how to engage in autoerotic techniques. (Ellis 1930. Haeberle 1978.)

21. Since children are equal to other human persons, parents should be honest with them, saying, 'This is what I want you to do,' not 'This is what you should do.'
--A. Children should never be saddled with nouns of behavior that are purportedly of 'universal validity,' such as the dogmatic concept that there are things you should and should not do.
--B. It is clearly evil for society, and especially for Christians to impose their personal sexual mores on others, especially children.
------(1) Scientific clinical surveys and other studies indicate that such dogmatism, far from giving children healthy values, actually warps young, people, creating sexual hang-ups in them.

22. There is no fundamental difference between boys and girls when we treat them differently, we promote later adult sexism.

23. The public schools must be kept free from religious dogma.
--A. Moral norms are basically religious and; therefore, have no place in public school.
--B. In order to avoid saddling children with moral prohibitions, we teach that all sexual behavior is okay.
--C. We make certain, that students do not develop a belief in a Creator.
--D. By avoiding the question in class, we imply that even if God exists, he (she) is irrelevant in the real world.
--E. We maintain religious neutrality by assiduously avoiding any discussion of the place of religion, especially Christianity, in history.

24. People are not truly responsible for their behavior -- society and early childhood experiences make them act as they do.

25. All Christian teaching against homosexual practice is homophobic, and causes acts of violence against homosexuals.
--A. Homosexuality is merely a natural product of evolutionary development.
--B. Violent acts against homosexuals are typically perpetrated by so-called devout Christians. (Simply not so.)
------(1) Most abusive males are religious Christians. [This contradicts all empirical evidence.]
--C. It is fundamentalist Christian propaganda that churches which favor law and order promote the protection of all minorities.
------(1) The members of the KKK claim to be religious so that settles the question. [Rabbi Daniel Lapin writing in American Enterprise (1999) says Jews are ''blessed" to live in this country, not in spite of the fervent Christianity of most Americans, but because of it.]

26. The biggest problem with conservative Christians of all sorts is that they [unlike us?] are judgmental.

27. The age of sexual consent for a post-pubescent teenager is merely a question of legal opinion and may be lowered at any time by a majority legislative vote or high court decision. [The English House of Commons voted in January 1999 to lower the age of homosexual consent to 16 and has sent the bill on to the House of Lords for approval.]

28. Rape, the severest form of sexual harassment, is always very wrong, and deserves the harshest punishment. [Except when engaged in by someone special we highly approve of.]

29. Every form of sexual contact of adults with minors, both male or female, is always a type of rape, and as one of the very worst of all evils, it should be dealt with severely.
--A. [This demonstrates that:] We have very strong moral principles. We occupy the highest moral ground. We care about victims. We respect the need for boundaries. We do not believe 'anything goes,' as fundamentalists allege.

30. Some unhealthy people might imagine that 'putting two and two together' there are a lot of liberated ideas about sex today (such as in this manifesto) that can validly be used to justify adult/underage young person sexual activity. They cannot.
--A. Doubtless lurking in this egregious assumption is the Christian rightist/fundamentalist attitude that consistent logical processes lead us to truth. (As noted in point 8.A., insistence on logic is merely patriarchal arrogance.)

31. [One's interpretation of points 28./29./30.A., however, depends of course on how you define 'rape.'] Highly qualified clinicians wonder if Dr. Alfred C. Kinsey's scientific conclusions might not be correct that under favorable circumstances adult/underage young person sexual activity is merely a harmless natural alternative form of healthy sexual expression. (Kinsey 1948, Haeberle 1978.) [Most clinicians today adamantly disagree. In spite of this, they have already 'sold the store.' Rejecting traditional moral principles and logic, they believe values are all based on sincere feelings, i.e., let your authentic feelings be your guide!]

32. 'Claim your truth.' 'Do your own thing.' 'What counts is how you sincerely feel.' [Diametrically opposed views, such as seen above again and again, are felt by many to be all equally valid.]

33. As humanitarians we are totally committed to Freedom of Religion, Freedom of Conscience, and Freedom of the Press.
--A. The Government needs to deal severely with anyone who out of moral or religious bigotry disagrees with enlightened views about human sexuality. Such reactionary attitudes stand in the way of human progress, and threaten all our hard-fought-for gains in personal freedom."

TRADITIONAL CHRISTIAN TEACHING ON SEX

AN ORTHODOX CHRISTIAN RESPONSE TO THE POINTS IN THE SEXUAL MANIFESTO

The Orthodox approach to morality is not legalistic. It is never a question of "a rule is a rule which you must obey, simply because the people in power have made it a rule." Moral standards are understood instead as spiritual prescriptions for healthy behavior, showing us the way of living that promotes spiritual growth and true joy. Moral norms teach us as well how to avoid behavior that is personally and socially destructive. God's moral law, confirmed by centuries of trial and error, is in effect the ultimate "Maker's instructions."

Since World War II it has been alleged on many occasions that traditional Christian sexual morality is sex-negative (i.e., against sex.) That perhaps sounds attractive to modern ears, but it doesn't survive objective research. Closer scrutiny shows that Christian moral teaching is instead quite sex positive. Sexual activity within its God-given boundaries is a good of the highest order, indeed sacred. By the Creator's design, sexual relations between a man and a woman have a twofold purpose: l) to create the next generation; and 2) to signify and celebrate mutual love, and eternal commitment. In effect, sexual relations between a married couple are viewed in the Christian Tradition as a sacred manifestation of the couple's permanent marital commitment. But obviously if such a commitment does not in fact exist; then sexual relations become in effect the moral equivalent of a lie.

From the traditional Christian perspective then, the twofold purposes of human sexual expression, namely reproduction and interpersonal commitment, together foster family life. This perspective provides the foundation of all Christian sexual morality. Christian Tradition teaches that to remove human sexual activity from this life-giving context transforms it into unhealthy behavior, debasing God-created and ordained human capacities. From a traditional Christian viewpoint, common modern teachings about sex are themselves highly sex-negative, for they promote misuse of good human capacities.(footnote 1)

Similarly, the common allegation that Christian sexual teaching is based on a puritanical abhorrence of the body is without historic foundation. The Bible from beginning to end makes that clear, as does later Christian teaching. Modern commentators often mistakenly identify the ascetic teaching of St. Paul, or the Christian modesty of the Fathers, with agnostic disdain for the body. They teach that conclusion by projecting their own agnostic disdain for the realities of nature onto traditional Christian writers. Nor is Christian modesty "sex-negative." It is rather a paramount example of the Christian custom of veiling that which is sacred. For example, in the historic Liturgies of the Church holy people, places, things, and times, are veiled to signify their sacredness. Similarly, although the Orthodox marriage rite is obviously about sex, out of deep respect both the liturgical texts and the ceremonial veil the sacred subject of marital sex.

It is important to add here that in the Church's many centuries of experience the art of long-term sexual abstinence for the unmarried, when achieved, is truly liberating. That is a major reason one finds much serene joy in places like Valaam Monastery in Russia, or among the monks of Mount Athos, or the nuns of Ormylia in Greece. A life of peaceful chastity, even for those who will one day be married, is not unlike sober living for the alcoholic. One may need to struggle to achieve such chastity, but it is not at all impossible. Disciplined fasting, prayer and free obedience to an experienced spiritual guide teach us how to obey our own holiest aspirations. This is the experience of all the spiritual lights of the Church, both male and female.

Many modern authorities in the Orthodox Church view the use of contraception within the bonds of matrimony as permissible. (Although this is now a widely accepted teaching, it remains an open question, having no approval from a General Council.) What is certain, however, is that in the Orthodox Church no advocate of contraception-within-marriage views the practice as anything more than a permitted pastoral economic. (Economia, "household-management," is a Greek canonical term indicating a mitigation of the standards for sufficient pastoral reasons.) Economia allowing contraception is patterned on ancient Orthodox canons permitting a second or even a third marriage (but no fourth) after either divorce or the death of a spouse. The highly penitential liturgical rite for blessing second and third marriages makes it obvious that this practice is clearly a pastoral economia, not the celebration of a "norm." The norm in the Church remains only one marriage. Economia in allowing second, or third, marriages is permitted simply because the Church can envision the possibility of real good and healing resulting from them.

But in the Tradition there is no concept of economia blessing sexual a ctivity outside of the sacramental commitment of matrimony. In her more than three thousand years of existence (in Christian Tradition the Christian Church is understood to be the continuation of the Old Testament Church) non-marital sexual activity has been consistently experienced as potentially destructive behavior, giving birth not only to undesired infants, but also to mistaken beliefs, unhealthy situations, and profound personal tragedy.(footnote 2) Nor has extra-marital sexual activity been found to foster sober and deep spiritual living. All additional discussion of sexual behavior takes place with the Church's centuries of consistent experience in mind.

Monk Andrew

Footnote 1. In Orthodox countries there have been at times stringent secular laws against some forms of sexual behavior, and extreme permissiveness for others. The Byzantine Empire, for instance, tolerated prostitution, but legislated against homosexual relations (probably most often what our culture identifies as pedophilia.) But the laws forbidding certain types of behavior were typically enforced only in cases of public scandal. There is no tradition of "vice squads" in Orthodox Lands. Nor today do we favor secular legal proscriptions for adults. Orthodox Christians are not characteristically "nosy" about what might be the private relationship between two adults. That is considered a matter between them and their spiritual father or monastic mother. It is taken for granted that all go to sacramental confession, and all are struggling to reach the highest standards of Christian sexuality.

Footnote 2. This traditional Christian view finds an echo in some research documents. In them, secular clinicians report evidence of direct links between a "harmless" practice like habitual masturbation, and a variety of later problems. For that reason they consider masturbation to be much more problematic than clinicians commonly assume. Viewing the practice in terms of behavioral psychology, they suggest that masturbation can easily produce a negative example of Pavlovian conditioning in which the intense gratification derived from masturbation is paired with very harmful fantasies. Among the resulting problems they cite cases of confusion about sexual orientation, rape tendencies, and much more commonly, the inability to relate to another person sexually. Masturbation has also been identified on occasion as a "gateway drug." Many adolescents compulsively use it as if it were a drug, thereby gaining perceived benefits which they later discover are more abundantly supplied by much more powerful actual drugs.