Other Christians (even violently so, from the
- Early Church to the
- Reformation to the
- Civil War and
- more modern times)
- all the way to the ever popular game among Christians of pointing out what “only a true Christian would believe, say, or do”.
Pagans (a derogatory term invented by Christians that they used as a general insult to every Hellenistic teacher, philosopher, worshiper, etc.)
Miscellaneous additional things, Satan, Cats, Forks, Christmas and other Holidays, Plays, The Use of Musical Instruments in Church, The Abolition of Slavery, The Right of Females to Vote, Child Labor Laws, Educational Information About Sex and/or Birth Control, Condoms, Anesthesia & Anesthetics, Cures for Malaria and Syphilis, Gas Lighting and Railways, Beards vs. Bare Chins, Striped Clothes, Split-Breeches, Short Dresses, Long hair (on men), Short hair (on women), Drinking, Dancing, Rock and Roll Music, Playing Cards (or Billiards or Pool), Going to the Movies, Watching TV, Masturbating, Dishwashers, Democracy, Working or Playing on Sunday, Touching Women, and Sex
Interesting information concerning the “Miscellaneous” things:
Satan “And All of His Works”
That includes anything or anyone “connected” in the minds of churchgoers with “Satan,” be they family members, neighbors or foreigners whose beliefs, practices (including items they own, wear or read) are not deemed “Christian” enough. The long list of “doorways,” or entry points for demons, make daily life awkward for some Christians. Members of one North London Church have to avoid, among other things, Care Bears (because they do rituals for healing without invoking the name of Christ), the film E.T., Cabbage Patch Dolls (because they encourage people to treat toys as human), figurines of unicorns (mythological), and frogs (“And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs come out of the mouth of the dragon, an out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet;” Rev.16:13). One woman owned a china tea set, passed down in the family as an heirloom; she was persuaded to smash it by another church member, who noticed there was a Chinese dragon in the pattern. A woman who looked after the church childcare was found to be teaching the children relaxation exercises; she was thrown out. All these things, the church elders suppose, might bring demonic influence into the congregationʼs lives.
--Gareth J. Medway, Lure of the Sinister: The Unnatural History of Satanism (New York University Press, 2001) And see previous posts on Satan, and also, Exorcisms.
Cats “Emissaries of the Devil”
Cats came under suspicion for a variety of reasons. Unlike dogs, they did not behave subserviently toward humans. This was considered unnatural, because it violated the biblical view that humans should have dominion over animals. Also, cats were very active at night and engaged in loud, raucous mating rituals. Though cats had always behaved in this manner, to the superstitious minds of the Middle Ages, cats were practicing supernatural powers and witchcraft. Many accused witches were older peasant women who lived alone, often keeping cats as pets for companionship. This guilt by association meant that cats were burned at the stake, along with their owners, on suspicion of being witches. In the early thirteenth century Pope Gregory IX (1145–1241) declared that a sect in southern France had been caught worshiping the devil. He claimed the devil had appeared in the form of a black cat. Cats became the official symbol of heresy (or religious beliefs not advocated by the church). Anyone who showed any compassion or feeling for a cat came under the churchʼs suspicion. By the beginning of the fourteenth century, Europeʼs cat population had been severely depleted. Only semi-wild cats survived in many areas. [source]
Forks were in use in ancient Egypt, as well as Greece and Rome, but not for eating, just as long-handled cooking tools used for carving or lifting meats from a cauldron or the fire. Most diners ate with their fingers and a knife, which they brought with them to the table. Forks for dining only started to appear in the noble courts of the Middle East and the Byzantine Empire in about the 7th century and became common among wealthy families of the regions by the 10th century. Elsewhere, including Europe, where the favored implements were the knife and the hand, the fork was conspicuously absent. Imagine the astonishment in Europe when in 1004 Maria Argyropoulina, Greek niece of Byzantine Emperor Basil II, showed up in Venice for her marriage to Giovanni, son of the Pietro Orseolo II, the Doge of Venice, with a case of golden forks—and then proceeded to use them at the wedding feast. They werenʼt exactly a hit. She was roundly condemned by the local clergy for her decadence, with one going so far as to say, “God in his wisdom has provided man with natural forks—his fingers. Therefore it is an insult to him to substitute artificial metal forks for them when eating.” When Argyropoulina died of the plague two years later, Saint Peter Damian, with ill-concealed satisfaction, suggested that it was Godʼs punishment for her lavish ways. “Nor did she deign to touch her food with her fingers, but would command her eunuchs to cut it up into small pieces, which she would impale on a certain golden instrument with two prongs and thus carry to her mouth. . . . this womanʼs vanity was hateful to Almighty God; and so, unmistakably, did He take his revenge. For He raised over her the sword of His divine justice, so that her whole body did putrefy and all her limbs began to wither.” Doomed by God for using a fork. Life was harsh in the 11th century. After this inauspicious debut, forks were understandably slow to catch on. But Mariaʼs Byzantine manners did make inroads. By the late Middle Ages the spread of forks can be tracked by their appearance in city inventories and as items of value bequeathed in wills. These suckett forks were used primarily for eating candied fruits in syrup or foods likely to stain the fingers. According to some sources, eating sweets with a fork was a practice common among courtesans, causing the Church to ban forks as immoral. -- Chad Ward, The Uncommon Origins of the Common Fork (See also Feeding Desire: Design and the Tools of the Table 1500-2005 (a book and an exhibit at the Smithsonian); and, Evil Tines: The fork, devilish and maligned, was the last of the utensils to arrive at the table.)
Christmas and other Holidays, Plays
Puritans of Britain and America banned the celebration of Christmas (and other holidays), along with the performances of plays.
The Use of Musical Instruments in Church
Although the Protestant Reformer John Calvin believed in the singing of hymns in church he was set against accompanying such singing with any kind of instrumental music (or of singing complex harmonies for that matter). There was no instrumental music in Strassburg or Geneva so long as Calvin controlled the services. The tubes of the organ in the Genevan church of St. Peterʼs were melted down in 1562 and turned into cups for holding communion wine. Calvin believed he was purifying the western church from recent musical innovations. In his opinion musical instruments and complex hymnody were all part of the corruptions introduced by the Roman Church. Calvin was concerned that love of instrumental music (and the human voice singing complex harmonies) were forms of idolatry and detracted from what was most important, namely to hear the Bible preached. Being Genevaʼs leading preacher (and the theologian with all the answers as he saw it) of course had nothing to do with Calvinʼs decision to ban instrumental music and complex hymnody in church, which he claimed was based purely on the teachings of Scripture (as he understood them):
If we now consider it to be necessary we shall return to our former darkness and obscure the light which appeared in the Son of God. The Papacy was guilty of foolish and ridiculous imitation when it decorated churches and thought to offer God a more worthy service by employing organs and other follies of that sort. By these the Word and worship of God are profaned, for the people interest themselves in these things more than in the Divine Word. Where there is no intelligence there is no edification . . . That which was useful under the Law has no place under the Gospel, and we must abstain from such things not only as superfluous, but as frivolous. All that is needed in the praise of God is a pure and simple modulation of the voice. Instrumental music was tolerated because of the condition of the people. They were, Scripture tells us, children who used childish toys which must be put away if we wish not to destroy evangelical perfection and quench the light we have received through Christ. [John Calvin, 66th Homily on 1 Samuel, as cited in Hugh Young Reyburn, John Calvin: His Life, Letters, and Work, London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1914, pp. 85-86]
But when they [believers] frequent their sacred assemblies, musical instruments in celebrating the praises of God would be no more suitable than the burning of incense, the lighting up of lamps, and the restoration of the other shadows of the law. The Papists, therefore, have foolishly borrowed this, as well as many other things, from the Jews . . . but we should always take care that no corruption creep in which might both defile the pure worship of God and involve men in superstition. [Commentary on Psalms, Vol. 1 (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1979), 539]
. . . musical instruments were among the legal ceremonies which Christ at his coming abolished; and therefore we, under the Gospel, must maintain a greater simplicity. [Commentary on the Four Last Books of Moses, Vol .1 (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1979), 263]
. . . We are not, indeed, forbidden to use, in private, musical instruments, but they are banished out of the churches by the plain command of the Holy Spirit, when Paul, in 1 Cor. 14:13, lays it down as an invariable rule, that we must praise God, and pray to him only in a known tongue. [Commentary on Psalms, Vol. 3 (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1979), 98]
Final three quotations from W. Robert Godfrey, John Calvin: Pilgrim and Pastor, Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Books, 2009, pp. 74-75.
The Abolition of Slavery
Right up till the Civil War, most American Christian denominations in both the North and the South agreed in frowning upon anyone who held strict anti-slavery views or who considered slavery to be a “sin,” since the Bible never declared slavery to be a “sin.”. See The Civil War as a Theological Crisis and Holy War, and A Rational Response to the film Amazing Grace.
The Right of Females to Vote
Many churchmen in the U.S. opposed the attempt by women to gain the right to vote.
Child labor laws
Many churchmen frowned on laws to keep children in school and instead argued strongly in favor of allowing children the freedom to earn pitiful wages in an unsafe mine or factory (or in a church-run work house linked to a nunnery or monastery).
Educational Information about Sex and/or Birth Control
During the last century in America people were fined or sent to prison for disobeying various laws made by Christians (viz., the Comstock Laws) against disseminating educational information about sex and/or birth control. Such information was even forbidden from being sent through the mail in plain brown envelopes when specifically requested.
The Catholic Church continues to forbid the use of condoms (as well as coitus interruptus) no matter how many children a woman has borne, no matter the state of her health, and no matter how many children a family, city, country or planet can afford to safely sustain. (Though in late 2010 the Pope finally issued a statement making it possible to employ a condom not as a contraceptive, but to potentially save a life if the person wearing the condom or the person with whom one was having intercourse had a life-threatening illness such as AIDS.)
Anesthesia (putting a person to sleep during an operation) & Anesthetics (pain relievers of all sorts)
Some devout Christians have argued that God gave us pain to teach us spiritual lessons and we must not interfere with the Lordʼs lesson plan by alleviating that pain. Even Mother Teresa, who founded the Sisters of Charity in India in the late 20th century was averse to the use of anesthetics. She repeated the story of her meeting with a man who was suffering painfully with cancer. She told the man, “Jesus is kissing you,” and added that the man replied, “Then I wish he would stop.” Some Christians were against a womanʼs pain being relieved during childbirth (via anesthesia/anesthetics) because the Bible states in the book of Genesis that God cursed woman by “multiplying her pain during childbirth,” and who were we to defy the Lord?
Cures for Malaria and Syphilis
Protestants rejected early cures for malaria and syphilis because Catholics were the first to come up with them. [See Diarmaid MacCullochʼs The Reformation: A History]
Gas Lighting and Railways
Pope Gregory XVI (1765–1846) and Cardinal Lambruschini opposed basic technological innovations such as gas lighting and railways, believing that they would promote commerce and increase the power of the bourgeoisie, leading to demands for liberal reforms which would undermine the monarchical power of the Pope over central Italy. Gregory XVI in fact banned railways in the Papal States, calling them chemins dʼenfer (literally “road to hell,” a play on the French for railroad, chemin de fer, literally “iron road”).
Beards vs. Bare Chins
“Beards—especially among clergy—were once serious, symbolic matters. They separated East from West during the Great Schism, priests from laity during the Middle Ages, and Protestants from Catholics during the Reformation. Some church leaders required them; others banned them. To medieval theologians, they represented both holiness and sin,” from The Wars Over Christian Beards: Church Leaders Have Almost Always Faced Off Over Pastorsʼ Shaving Habits by Ted Olsen, Christianity Today, August 28, 2013.
Even today you can read about Christians arguing over the question with many conservative Christian seminaries still refusing to let students wear beards. See A Bewhiskered Believer Bewildered by Beard-Hating Brethren. But other Christians support beards so much that they see hints of Satanʼs influence in todayʼs tendency for men to remain clean shaven: “Satan is working overtime to blur the lines between a man and a woman... One way Satan has done this is to make society have a more negative view on beards, as well as other gender distinctions.” But the author adds, “Some men may not be able to grow a beard... Thatʼs understandable, and sometimes youʼve gotta do what youʼve gotta do,” but still, “The Bible makes a strong case that growing a beard is an honor for a man, and glory to God.”
See the book, The Devilʼs Cloth: A History of Stripes and Striped Fabric (Columbia U. Press) that begins with a medieval scandal. When the first Carmelites arrived in France from the Holy Land, the religious order required its members to wear striped habits, prompting turmoil and denunciations in the West that lasted fifty years until the order was forced to accept a quiet, solid color. The medieval eye found any surface in which a background could not be distinguished from a foreground disturbing. Thus, striped clothing was relegated to those on the margins or outside the social order—-jugglers and prostitutes, for example-—and in medieval paintings the devil himself is often depicted wearing stripes. The West has a long history of dressing its slaves and servants, its crewmen and convicts in stripes, thus “marking” marginalized members of society.
The Protestant leader, John Calvin, argued that a popular form of pants known as “split-breeches,” filled people with too much pride, so they were outlawed in Geneva, Switzerland.
Short Dresses, Long hair (on men), Short hair (on women), Dancing, Rock and Roll Music, Playing Cards, Billiards or Pool, Going to the Movies, Watching TV, Masturbating
Many Christians were against them.
Ever heard of Prohibition?
In the 1880s Josephine Cochrane invented the dishwashing machine... From 1913 on there was a dishwasher in every... (no, not even in every grand hotel--just some of them). The Victorian prejudice was strong against denying women the devotional labor to which God had called them. There were clergymen who actually called the dishwasher immoral. [Alistair Cooke, “A Giant Step for Womankind,” Letter from America section of BBC World News, Monday, 29 May, 2000]
John Winthrop, first governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, called democracy “the meanest and worst of all forms of government.” In 1800 the Christian president of Yale University, Timothy Dwight, said: “The great object of democracy is to destroy every trace of civilization in the world and force mankind back into a savage state…We have a country governed by blockheads and knaves. [And after supplying some examples he added] Can the imagination paint anything more dreadful this side of Hell?” Pope Gregory XVI, the head of the Catholic Church from 1831-1846, said, “From the polluted fountain of indifferentism flows that absurd and erroneous doctrine, or rather, raving, which claims and defends liberty of conscience for everyone. From this comes, in a word, the worst plague of all, namely, unrestrained liberty of opinion and freedom of speech… It is in no way lawful to demand, to defend, or to grant unconditional freedom of thought, or speech, of writing, or of religion, as if they were so many rights that nature has given man.” Todayʼs Reconstructionist Christians want America to become a “limited democracy under God [meaning under Old Testament Laws].”
Colonists in early America were divided over whether or not to join a War for Independence and democracy in defiance of Britainʼs rule by God and King. About 1/3rd of American colonists supported British rule, 1/3 supported a revolution, and 1/3rd attempted to stay neutral, because after all, St. Paul commanded that Christians ought to “obey the powers that be,” adding that such powers do not “bear the sword in vain.” Even members of The New England Clergy declared the Declaration of Independence “a wicked thing.” Christians remained bitterly divided on such matters, including the value of having a “democracy,” right up to the second war with Britain in 1812.
Working or Playing on Sunday
In the days of the first Roman Christian Emperor, Constantine, the Old Testament command forbidding “work on the Sabbath=Saturday,” was reinterpreted so as to forbid “work on the new “Christian” Sabbath=Sunday.” James I [who became king of England in 1603 and authorized the King James Bible] thumbed his nose at the wishes of Puritansʼ to keep Sunday a day of holy rest by issuing a Declaration to His Subjects, Concerning Lawful Sports to Be Used, otherwise know as The Book of Sports--a list of the sports and games one could lawfully engage in after church on Sunday. The controversy that followed was so volatile that a 17th-century historian cited it as one of the leading causes of the English Civil War, and modern day historian Alistair Dougall agrees, pointing out that the kingʼs declaration was a key factor in Englandʼs eventual descent into civil war because cultural divisions over traditional revelry played an important role in determining allegiances. [See, The Devilʼs Book: Charles I, The Book of Sports and Puritanism in Tudor and Early Stuart England]. Meanwhile in America (Puritan New England) the prohibition against working on Sunday was enforced with the utmost strictness. A public flogging was the penalty for violation. No food could be cooked, no beds were to be made, cutting hair and shaving were prohibited. A mother could not kiss her child on the Sabbath. Riding on this holy day or walking in the garden was prohibited. Even a sick relative or friend could not be visited if it were necessary to ride to his house. The only thing permitted was to walk “reverently to and from church.” Even as late as the early 1900s in America stores remained closed on Sunday, which was the working manʼs only day off. Also closed were parks, lakes, beaches, museums, theaters, even pharmacies (so you had best stock up on grandmaʼs heart medication the day before Sunday). If you went out sailing heaven forbid a storm should arise and your boat should capsize because there were even laws in America against rowing out to save drowning people on Sunday. [See KEEPING THE LORDʼS DAY “HOLY” IN AMERICA]
It is good for a man not to touch a woman [sexually]... For I would that all men were even as I myself [celibate]. I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, it is good for them if they abide even as I... But if they cannot contain, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn... I suppose therefore that this is good for the present distress, I say, that it is good for a man so to be... Are you loosed from a wife? seek not a wife... The time is short: it remains that they that have wives be as though they had none… He that is unmarried cares for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord: But he that is married cares for the things that are of the world, how he may please his wife. There is difference also between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman cares for the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit: but she that is married cares for the things of the world, how she may please her husband. And this I speak for your own profit... that you may attend upon the Lord without distraction. [Paul, 1 Corinthians 7:1,7,8-9,26-27,29,32-35]
In the first times, it was the duty to use marriage... chiefly for the propagation of the human race. But now, in order to enter upon holy and pure fellowship... they who wish to contract marriage for the sake of children, are to be admonished, that they use rather the larger good of continence. But I am aware of some that murmur, “What if all men should abstain from all sexual intercourse, whence will the human race exist?” Would that all would... Much more speedily would the City of God be filled, and the end of the world hastened. For what else does the Apostle Paul exhort to, when he says, “I would that all were as myself;” or in that passage, “But this I say, brethren, the time is short: it remains that both they who have wives, be as though not having: and they who weep, as though not weeping: and they who rejoice, as though not rejoicing: and they who buy, as though not buying: and they who use this world as though they use it not. For the form of this world is passing away.” (1 Cor. 7:7-8, 29-31) [Saint Augustine [354-430 CE], On the Good of Marriage, Sections 9-10]
In Eden, it would have been possible to beget offspring without foul lust. The sexual organs would have been stimulated into necessary activity by will-power alone, just as the will controls other organs. Then, without being goaded on by the allurement of passion, the husband could have relaxed upon his wifeʼs breasts with complete peace of mind and bodily tranquility, that part of his body not activated by tumultuous passion, but brought into service by the deliberate use of power when the need arose, the seed dispatched into the womb with no loss of his wifeʼs virginity. So, the two sexes could have come together for impregnation and conception by an act of will, rather than by lustful cravings. [Saint Augustine, The City of God, Book 14, Chapter 26]
Nothing so casts down the manly mind from its height as the fondling of women and those bodily contacts that belong to the married state. [Augustine, De Trinitate]
I am aware that some have laid it down that virgins of Christ must not bathe with eunuchs or married women, because the former still have the minds of men and the latter may present the ugly spectacle of swollen [pregnant] bellies. For my part I say that mature girls must not bathe at all, because they ought to blush to see themselves naked. [Saint Jerome, 342-420 CE]
Saint Jerome conquered his carnal visions of dancing maidens by throwing himself in tears before a crucifix, beating his breast with a stone, and fleeing into the desert. [John Dollison, Pope-Pourri]
Saint Bernard of Clairvaux threw himself into half-frozen ponds to free himself from sexual temptation. He also wrote lengthy commentaries on the Bibleʼs Song of Songs (also called “The Song of Solomon”) “to prove it was not about sex”--a feat without equal in the history of Biblical interpretation… for its foolhardiness.
I heard the voice of harpers harping with their harps: And they sung as it were a new song before the throne [of the Lord] . . . and no man could learn that song but the hundred and forty and four thousand, which were redeemed from the earth. These are they that were not defiled with women; for they are virgins. [The Bible, The Book of Revelation 14: 2-4]
Moses said it was important for Israelite men to “come not at their wives” before “meeting the Lord” (The Bible, The Book of Exodus 19:15,17)
Jesus said, “Some have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven.” (The Bible, The Gospel of Matthew 19:12)
Some Christians reject having sex for any reason, from Catholic priests, monks, and nuns, to Protestants like the Shakers (who only remained a viable sect for about 200 years via adopting children) to the Skoptze, a Russian Christian sect from the 1700 and 1800s and the most radical of all. Male Skoptzies cut off their testicles and scrotums. Female members mutilated their vulvas, breasts and nipples. (“For the days are coming, in the which they shall say, Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bare, and the paps which never gave suck.” Luke 23:29) They taught that if you also removed your penis (or removed both breasts if you were female) you would be granted the highest honors in heaven. Apparently with the aid of a perfect holy book like the Bible and with the promise of the Holy Spirit to “lead believers into all truth,” this was the truth that the Skoptzies came up with. Bodily sexual temptations could lead to hell, so if mutilating the body aided a person in denying those temptations, it increased oneʼs chances of avoiding hell and attaining heaven. Some individual Christians even today have been known to cut off their “offending members.”
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