I am afraid that too many people on either side of the Kavanaugh confirmation fiasco are going to continue to ignore the far deeper problem in our society than who sits on the Supreme Court. Our culture of “boys will be boys” is deeply embedded in America to a point where even many Christians are tolerant of sexual immorality. I have mentioned the words of the late educator Benjamin Mays a couple of times before in my blog articles, “The problem is not failure. The problem is low aim.” While we can have all of the proper laws against rape, extend the statute of limitations to a hundred years, and permit every DNA and polygraph test in courts of law and public opinion; unless we aim for purity and repentance in our minds and souls we will have many more Cosbys and Kavanaughs to come.
In the Greek translation of the Old Testament (Septuagint, LXX canonized over 200 years before the birth of Christ), we read in the fourth Psalm Have remorse in your beds for what you have said in your hearts (1) and As you lie in bed, repent for what you say in your heart (2). The context of the scripture addresses the sin of anger. However, the sin of lust should also be expelled from our hearts and be repented of as we go to sleep. The New Testament era writing The Shepherd Hermas warns us, Or do you suppose it is not an evil thing for for a righteous man if an evil desire arises in his heart? It is indeed a sin, and a great one (3). Jesus Himself confirms, But, I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust after her has already committed adultery with her in his heart (4). Please note, no actual physical sexual assault has to take place. The sin begins in the mind. And in the case of Hermas, the desire for the woman was in the context of marriage. If our society taught remorse and repentance for lust while it is still in the mind and soul, rape (like any other sin) would still happen. But, it would happen far less than it does now because the root of this horrible and obvious sin is being addressed and corrected at the root.
Because the writings of the Apostolic Fathers are not in the Bible, it was easy for modern Christianity to ignore Hermas and other ancient books (no matter how highly regarded they were to early Christians). Biblical translators from the Maseoritic Hebrew text of the Middle Ages exchanged the words remorse and repent with less challenging terms like commune (King James and Revised Standard), meditate (New Revised Standard) , and ponder (New King James). As the reader feels less of a need to correct himself, he will make excuses for his thoughts. I can’t help it, I’m a man. She shouldn’t have been dressed like that. Those girls deserve it. She really wants it. She really wants me. Ain’t no harm in thinking. Since lust is such a difficult sin to overcome, making excuses for it seems to make common sense. If the mind is set in the wrong direction, it only takes opportunity for thought to turn to action. This is true even for clergy who proclaim the teachings of Jesus Christ. While most men do not become rapist and molesters, the atmosphere of sexual violence is upheld when we make excuses for ourselves and others who aren’t “as bad as _______________.” We give Satan a foothold everytime we do not use quiet moments outside of worship to be remorseful and repentant for our “little” sexual sins. As long as he knows his foothold is unchallenged, he can be content for years and decades. Sometimes the devil brings us down with a hurricane or tornado. He is just as happy to rot us out like fungi and termites making our holiness and morality an empty shell. To have a society full of judgemental and tolerant excuse making empty shells causes the demons great rejoicing.
The call to be remorseful and repentant on our beds is not a time of fearful condemnation and self hate. If anything, it is just as much a time of rejoicing as it is a time of tears. We ought to be mornful of our interior wickedness and consider ourselves to be chief among sinners (5). But, God has given us this opportunity for self correction. It is far less destructive to cleanse our hearts and minds than to have sexually violated someone (men get raped too). We are much better off taking the treatments of healing our soul than letting them rot until we die. Mourning over our sins brings about the promise of Christ to comfort us (6). Repentance gives us that peace in mind that we can enter the kingdom of God (7). Our Lord taught that if we clean the inside of a cup or dish, that the outside of it will be clean as well (8). If we continue to make excuses for lust in our hearts and minds, people will see past our apperances of righteousness and despise us for the hypocrites we are; especially if we call ourselves “Christians” (9).
Among the Desert Fathers, Macarius the Great was once accused of impregnating a young woman (10). Instead of passionately pleading his case, the monk (badly bruised and beaten by an angry mob) returned to his hut to sell off and make even more baskets to support the new wife that he resigned himself to be bound to. When the time for her to deliver came, she couldn’t until she confessed that Macarius was not the culprit. Rather than wait to gloat before his embarassed accusers and tormenters, the saint left the area so he could continue a life of undistracted prayer. If this father can trust God in the midst of such an obvious and false accusation, we can do the same in confessing our private sins that we know we are guilty of. Let’s do it now before accusers and tormenters arise and take us to task.
- Orthodox Study Bible, Psalm 4:5
- John Cassian, On the Eight Vices, Philokalia Vol. 1, pg. 83
- Shepherd Hermas, Vision I:1-9, The Apostolic Fathers (edited by Jack N. Sparks) pgs. 161, 162
- Matthew 5:28
- 1 Timothy 1:15, Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom
- Matthew 5:4
- Matthew 3:2
- Matthew 23:25, 26
- Romans 2:24
- Sayings of the Desert Fathers (translated by Benedicta Ward), pgs. 124, 125.