The Church’s Forgotten History of Sodomite Marriage
Podcast: Axe to the Root
Topics: Christian Life, Doctrinal Studies, Theology
“A sodomite culture that has come to fruition has come to fruitlessness.”
– Idols for Destruction: The Conflict of Christian Faith and American Culture, Herbert Schlossberg
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Welcome to Episode 69 of Axe to the Root Podcast, part of the War Room Productions, I am Bo Marinov, and for the next 30 minutes we will delve into the problem of strategy, strategic thinking, long-term orientation, and postmillennial optimism.
That’s right, these are the things we will be talking about. You may be wondering if this is the right episodefor the title, or the right title for the episode,but it is. We will be talking about sodomite “marriage,” or, rather, about the history of sodomite “marriage,” but we will be looking at it from a strategic perspective, one that projects our world a few decades ahead, and works to establish what our focus needs to be today in order to prepare for the future and its challenges. In one of his audio tape series of back in the 1980s, Dennis Peacocke said that “the future belongs to those who have prepared themselves for it.” Given that our cultural present in the US doesn’t belong to the American church but rather to her enemies, we can rightly assume that the church in decades past didn’t care to prepare herself for the future. Or, that her leaders and ministers didn’t care to prepare her for the future. You know, Billy Graham passed away a few weeks ago, and while reading different articles – some of them eulogies and some criticisms – I couldn’t help but think, “If I ever cared about the reputation I leave, the last thing I want to be known for is being ‘America’s pastor’ duringthe decades of the most precipitous loss of Christian influence in America.” OK, OK, I am not trying to say that Billy Graham was deliberately guilty of destroying Christian influence in the culture; but the truth is, whatever he did or believed he was doing, he did not prepare the church for thefuture, which is our present, and thus our present doesn’t belong to the church. And Graham is not solitary responsible. Thousands of pastors in the last 100 years have done nothing to prepare the church for the future, ad as a result, when the future arrived, it was captured by the enemies of God. In fact, if anything, thousands of pastors have deliberately focused on short-term issues, and ignored the long-term issues of the future. There wasn’t even a self-conscious effort to discern what was short-term and what was long-term, what battles deservedmost of our time and effort and resources and what battles should be either left alone or only committed small time and effort. This lack of discernment – and even a refusal to seek discernment – has lead to grave consequences today.
So today I will tell you a story. A story from history. And you make your conclusions about the future.
A couple of years ago, in the middle of the public debate over the Supreme Court decision on the Obergefell v. Hodges, I heardVoddie Baucham sayin a lecture, or a sermon that for the first time, a government acknowledges marriages between people of the same sex.It wasn’t just Voddie, however.LaterI heard and read the same claimrepeated several times. I assume, the claim was made to create a dramatic effect on the hearers; to make them realize that this is a very special moment in history, and this moment justifies the sudden attention the preachers gave it. Now, there is much to be said about why the evangelical leaders of our day have to resort to such dramatic effects in order to shake their people out of their apathy; it is the fault of those same evangelical leaders who have preached apathy for decades. But this is an issue for another episode of Axe to the Root. As of now, I only want to focus on the claim that this is a unique moment in history in respect to sodomite “marriage.” And when we examine that claim, we will see that there are certain covenantal lessons for us in the history related to it.
There is only one problem with such a claim: it is false. In history, many cultures and governments approved of and sanctioned sodomite unions. Ancient Egypt, Assyria, many Native American cultures. In Greece, the city-state of Thebes even had its elite troops – the Secret Band of Thebes – staffed with sodomite couples of male lovers; the theory was that since sodomite male love is spiritually loftier than the love between a man and a woman, male lovers will fight much more ferociously to protect their lovers. The Fujian province of China was known for its ancient history of sodomite marriages. The Buddhist temples of Tibet, China, and Japan practiced pederasty (old men with young boys) as part of their normal everyday lifeall the way until WWII. (Ironically, it was the Chinese Communists, of all people, who put an end to the practice.) Sodomite practices and “marriages,” in any kind or form, have always existed in pagan societies. Yes, even in Islam. In fact, Islam changed its policies and laws on sodomy only under the influence of Victorian England. And even as late as the early 20thcentury, notable British sodomites like John Maynard Keynes would travel to Tunisia to find themselves young boys for sexual pleasures.
But there is more to the story. While we can expect that pagan societies, constantly being in war against God, would not only tolerate but also officially codify sodomy in their laws and customs, what is not known today is that Christian Europe also had widespread sodomy, and even sodomite marriages, for a while. And yes, church ministers presided over these marriages and officially registered them in their books. And fromthis lapse in the history of the church we today can learn a very serious covenantal lesson.
The Roman Empire in its last days before Constantine was given over to all kinds of immorality, and in fact, that immorality continued long after Constantine. The Eastern Empire became officially Christian under Theodosius I, but the Western Empire continued to be a mixture of paganism and Christianity. Ironically, it was the invading Germanic tribes who brought Christianity – or its heresy, Arianism – and with it, stricter morals. The old Roman aristocracy remainedpagan in its beliefs and ways, and kept the immorality of the past. And with it, kept its sodomy as part of its life.
The Western church, thus, started with the habit of overlooking that sin. In the first centuries after the fall of the Western Empire, there were almost no writings against sodomy. It was practiced for sure, and there were a few laws here and there against it, but in general, the society was tolerant of it. One reason could have been the fact that since sodomy is usually a sin related to wealth and free unproductive time, it was mostly the nobility and the monks that engaged in it. Being a sin of mostly the powerful of the day, therefore, not many theologians dared challenge the status quoagainst powerful men.
Apparently,therefore,during that period of time sodomites were rather tolerated. In the 8thcentury, Pope Gregory III only postulated one year penance for male sodomy and 5 months for female sodomy. The 8thcentury, of course, was still the so-called Dark Ages – not in the sense the secularists use the word, as in the ages of Christendom, but “dark” in the sense that the previously relatively secure and safe lands of the Roman Empire were still in turmoil after the fall of the Western Roman Empire two centuries earlier. Northern Africa and Spain were in the hands of the powerful Muslim dynasties of the Abbasids and the Ummayads. The Eastern Roman Empire was fighting for its life against the both the Caliphate in the east (Constantinople was besieged by the Arabs twice in 40 years) and the newly formed Bulgarian Empire in the north. Charlemagne hadn’t become a King of the Franks yet to unite the West, so the borders of Christendom were assaulted by Saxon, Norse, and Slavic barbarians, themselves pushed west by the tribes of the Eurasian steppes. In this situation, a sexual sin largely limited to a former ruling class that had become obsolete was not considered a priority. In the catalog of church penances, male sodomy was ranked together with other sexual practices that were not specifically banned by the Bible – within the family, of course –but were meant only for pleasure, not procreation.
The reign of Charlemagne brought to Western Europe the peace it had lacked for centuries; with peace came relative prosperity, and with prosperity, complacency and idleness returned, and with them, the sins that usually accompany complacency and idleness. Especially among a class of the population which by that time has received a number of privileges by Charlemagne and his heirs, and therefore had the luxury of indulging in those sins: the monks.
In 1051, the Benedictine monk Peter Damian wrote a long open letter to the then reigning pope, Leo IX; a letter that later was published ina book under the name of The Book of Gomorrah. The letter was a scathing attack uponthe clergy and the monks at the time, and it contained a long list of sexual sins and crimes that were rampant in the church. At the top of the list was sodomy and the related to it pederasty, that is, sexual abuse of underage boys. (The goal of sodomy – what today is called “homosexualism” – has always been pederasty, the abuse of underage boys.) Sodomy was rampant in the monasteries and among the clergy, said Damian, and he also spoke against the multiple practices of sexual abuse of boys given to the monasteries for education, or as orphans for care. The practice used to be accepted as normative in pagan Athens (Plato mentions it in his Dialogues), and it was banned by the early Christian emperors. But in the 11thcentury, the monasteries and the church schools had become a den of sodomitic iniquity, and children were the main victim of it. Against these did Peter Damian write, and requested that the Pope introduce new and harsher penalties, as well as demand the civil rulers legislate harsher civil penalties.
His letter earned him the hatred of many churchmen at the time. Remember, sodomy is usually a sin luxury and idleness, thus, it is mainly the social elites that indulge in it. Damian’s attack on sodomy stirred the hornet’s nest and he quickly earned a lot of enemies. Pope Leo IX first praised the book highly but then, after pressure from the powerful of the day,changed his mind and decided that Damian’s criticism was an exaggeration. The very fact that there was such a push back, however, was sufficient proof that Damian was not exaggerating; sodomy was really rampant in the church. Of this period we have the first recorded sodomite marriage officially done by a church priest: in 1061 two men, Pedro Díaz and Muño Vandilaz were officially married by a priest in a small chapel in Galicia in Spain. Modern Roman Catholic commentators claim that the priest probably didn’t realize that he was marrying two men, but the names are very specifically male (Spanish names, unlike many modern English names, are very gender-specific). There is no way that the priest didn’t know what he was doing.
If the Renaissance was a period of great strides in fine arts, the pre-Renaissance centuries were a period of great development in poetry; one can remember that the Renaissance itself started with the poetry of two men, Dante Alighieri and Petrarch. Almost anyone literate enough to write was writing poems for different occasions, and whole epic stories were told in verse. (Think of the Norse sagas and edas, Beowulf, the whole chivalry epos, etc.) Those not literate enough to write poems just memorized them, and a favorite past time at social gatherings was reciting poems – a leftover from earlier times when tribal lore was transmitted to generations by reciting it at public gatherings. Of course, in a time when only the elite could have the luxury to learn to read and write, it was mainly the elite – the nobility and the clergy – who wrote poems. And guess what: since sodomy is mainly a sin of idleness, of those in the elite who had enough time on their hands and were bored of just standard everyday life, the centuries before the Renaissance saw an abundant flow of sodomite poetry, and – mark this – it was written mainly by priests and monks. A number of bishops between the 9thand the 11thcentury left poems that were obviously sodomite. Poetry, of course, always allows for an abundant use of similes, metaphors, and other figures of speech, and in poetry, the author has the liberty of hiding in plain sight his real motives and purposes. But even allowing for the most favorable interpretations, many of these poems were unmistakably sodomite and expressed sodomite lust. In one example, in the 9thcentury, a priest from Verona in Italy wrote a poem about a boy who was stolen away by his rival with words that were obviously an imitation of love poems written to women at the time:
One of these stones is that boy who disdainfully
Scorns the entreaties I utter, ah, painfully!
Joy that was mine is my rival’s tomorrow,
While I for my fawn like a stricken deer sorrow!
In the late 11thand early 12thcentury Baldric, first an abbot of the monastic commune at Bourgeuil for 27 years and then bishop of Dol in Brittany for another 23 years, was known for writing love poems. Late in his life he admitted, again, in a poem, that among the addressees of his poems he had males as well as females:
I wrote to maids, and wrote to lads no less.
Some things I wrote, ’tis true, which treat of love;
And songs of mine have pleased both he’s and she’s.
The number of such poems during that period is surprisingly large, and may be not so surprisingly, given that during that period, the church’s penalties on sodomy were relatively light. The civil government’s penalties on sodomy were much harsher, but only on the books. Most of the sodomites were members of the government elite anyway, so they could get a pass. And, judging from the extant poetry, sodomy was widespread among the clergy, and the clergy, under the legal structure of the day, was exempt from civil sanctions, except where there was a violation of the royal law. And the clergy was surprisingly bold in their depictions of sodomy. The two poems I quoted above were of the mildest and most restrained sort. Many other were unashamed expressions of burning lust, containing depictions of physical contact and even metaphorized verbal pictures of sexual touching. Yes, that was among churchmen in the 9ththrough the 12thcentury.
Peter Damian was right after all, and his letter to Pope Leo IX was not an exaggeration, after all.
A generation after Damian’s letter, the First Crusade was called, and the era of the Crusades started, to last for about two centuries. (Perhaps even three and a half, if one counts the lesser campaigns against the Turks which continued until the fall of Constantinople in the mid-15thcentury.) Until that time, Christendom had not seen warfare over such long distances. Within the small confines of Europe, wars were fought over short distances, and the armies’ trains usually included either the families of the knights (if they were wealthy enough to afford it) or prostitutes who took care of, and advantage of, the sexual needs of the soldiers. From this perspective, the Crusades were a different game. First, the distance was too far from home for either families or prostitutes to be willing to join the journey; besides, the logistics of caring for or carrying additional numbers of people over such long were complex for that day and age. And, second, the very nature of the Crusades as “holy wars” precluded allowing prostitutes with the armies, or even families. (Even sex within the family was considered “impure” when a knight was on a holy mission.) The military – especially where there was no strict moral code enforced – has always produced temptations for sodomite acts, and the Crusaders’ armies were not an exception. The tradition of homosexual poetry continued during that period, and in fact, the Crusades only gave it a new impetus. If anything, the Crusades would be expected to tacitly protect sodomy. The Crusaders were all knights, members of the nobility, and it is among the nobility that sodomy was spread in the previous centuries.In addition, the Crusaders – as participants in an undertaking by the Church – were protected from civil penalties; that is, only church penance was imposed if caught in the act, if they were ever even brought to trial.This is not to say that all Crusaders were sodomites; but certainly sodomites were able to find a safe haven in the Crusades, and especially in the religious orders of monks-warriors that were formed during that time. (Remember, it was monks and bishops who wrote sodomite poetry during that period.) They also fought and established their kingdoms in lands previously held by Muslims. There was cultural exchange between the Crusaders and their enemies, and, guess what, contrary to what many people imagine today, Islam is actually quite friendly towards sodomy, and sodomy among soldiers was rampant in the Muslim armies at the time.
It is commonly accepted today that the accusations of sodomy against the Knights Templar in the 14thcentury were all fabricated. The truth is, however, there was and still is abundant evidence that at least some of these accusations were true – although, admittedly, the main target of their accuserswas not the Knights’ morality but the wealth of their order.It was during that era when sodomite art started growing in Europe. Most of that art appeared disguised under religious themes, and it was mostly as illustrations to books or even Biblical texts. Some of it is quite disturbing: in one illustration, the three wise kings of Matthew chapter 2 were depicted lying in the same bed, under the same blanket, naked, and two of them are in a position of an unmistakably sexual nature. In another such illustration, the Garden of Eden is depicted with two couples who passionately hug and kiss each other – except that each couple is of the same sex – two men and then two women. Etc., etc., no need to continue with these descriptions. As much as we love to point to the Crusades as a time of great courage and victories for the Christian faith, the reality is, the Crusades were at best a mixed blessing; and they brought back to Europe just as much corruption and apostasy as the faith and courage they took away from it. And while in some respects the faith and the knowledge of some grew and were strengthened, sin – and especially sexual immorality – grew even more in Europe before the Renaissance. We like to imagine that Christendom was all good and pure before the Renaissance, and that it was the Renaissance that made it all bad and restored paganism. The historical truth is a bit different: European Christendom was already given overto immorality even before the Renaissance. In fact, there are legitimate reasons to say that the Renaissance was a step upward in terms of moral improvement. But that for another episode. Let’s stick to the sodomy issue.
The era when it all came to fruition was the 14thcentury. Before we examine sodomy during that century, we need to look at the historical circumstances.The 14thcentury was rightly called by many modern historians the Calamitous Century. The first 15 years of the century saw a rapid drop of temperatures across the globe (due, probably, to volcanic activity). In Central Asia, winters became so bitter cold that the Mongol Empire created by Ghengis Khan collapsed. In Europe, the summers quit being dependable for food production, which culminated in the three “years without summers,” 1315-1317, with bitter cold winters and constantly rainy summers. The famine of these three years decimated the population of Europe which hadn’t known a shortage of food for several centuries. Just 20 years later, with their populations barely recovered from the famine, and in the conditions of much colder and more hostile climate, the dynasties of the Plantagenets of Englandandthe Valois of France started a war which would last for another 116 years (the Hundred-Years’ War), leading to even worse loss of productivity and life. Ten years after the start of the war, in 1347, the Bubonic Plague hit Europe through Venice. Europe had seen epidemics before but nothing that destructive. Within just a couple of years, between one-third and half of the population of Europe was exterminated. In some places, local feudal lordswere left without serfs; they all died. Christendom received such a devastating blow that had it been attacked by even a small force, it would have been conquered. And in fact, such small force did appear. In 1362, a small army under the leadership Lala Shahin Pasha, subject of Murad I, the grandson of Osman I, the founder of a small Turkish principality in Asia Minor, crossed the Dardanelles from Asiadeep into Byzantine territoryand captured the highly strategic but weakly defended city of Adrianopolis. Few people – even on the Balkans, where the local nominally Christian states, Bulgaria, Serbia, Walachia, Hungary, and a number of smaller principalities were busy fighting each other – paid attention to this bold move. Within the next 30 years, Murad I and his son Bayezid I conquered the whole Balkan peninsula and established positions to both conquer Constantinople andcreate a springboard for invasion into the very heart of Europe. The European powers realized the threat and assembled a significant army of the cream of their nobility for yet another crusade. That army – between 16 and 20,000 knights – was defeated so badly at the battle of Nicopolis in 1396 thatonly 300 escaped; the reason for the defeat being that European knights were so undisciplined and so obsessed with personal glory that they could even come together with a common tactical plan for battle, but most just rushed to the enemy and go slaughtered. Economically, politically, militarily, even socially, Europe was as good as gone by the end of the 14thcentury.
One would expect that in the midst of all these calamities a Christian culture would develop at least the suspicion that all these may be God’s judgment on it for sins that shouldn’t even be present in it, let alone be rampant, let alone be almost the norm among the ruling classes. That’s the purpose of God’s judgment, after all, to inspire a return to the faith, and a return to the Biblical standards for justice and righteousness. But if anything, the 14thcentury saw only more apostasy. In the midst of constant wars, epidemics, and famine, the value of human life cheapened and death became prevalent. The hearts of men, instead of turning to God, hardened. And that was not only among the elite.Sexual immorality became rampant evenamong the lower classes of the society. Before the 14thcentury, especially after the return of so many fighting men from the Crusades, it was common for the lower aristocracy, not having a means to make a living, and not willing to work for a living, to form gangs and terrorize whole areas either as marauders or as mercenaries for local rulers. The height of such activity was the 14thcentury. If you have read Arthur Conan Doyle’s poem, “The Song of the Bow” (“What of the bow? / The bow was made in England: / Of true wood, of yew-wood, / The wood of English bows; / So men who are free / Love the old yew-tree / And the land where the yew-tree grows.), was inspired by one such English gang in Italy, led by the English mercenary John Hawkwood. And there were hundreds like Hawkwood terrorizing Europe.
But in the middle of the 14thcentury, right after the worst devastation of both the Black Death and the greatest battles of the Hundred-Years’ War, local peasant communities alsostarted organizing such gangs and raiding nearby cities. Europe became a nightmare of violence and injustice. Some of those gangs eventually grew strong enough to stage peasant revolts in France, Germany, Flanders, England. The dissolution of civil power removed the externalrestraints, and without restraints, the European society was in a constant collapse. The reason for it, of course, was the church. In the previous several centuries, the church had adopted for its social doctrine feudalism, the concept that the only bonds that provide cohesion in the society were the bonds of power and submission to higher powers. (Not self-government under God, as in the Law of God.) When the calamities of the century weakened the bonds of power and submission, men had no other principle of cohesion to fall back on; and chaos ensued. A parallel can be made to the modern American evangelical church which has elevated submission to powers to the level of a fundamental tenet of the faith, at the expense of self-government; we should expect that if and when another calamity weakens the civil powers (like the inability of the government to pay on its debt), that will lead to similar problems. But that’s an issue for a different episode.
Together with all the other dissolution of morals, the dissolution of sexual morals reached its culmination in the 14thcentury. Pre-marital sex was officially disapproved of by the church, but in real life, its stigma was removed. Young men at the time freely looked for available women to satisfy their lust. Giovanni Boccaccio’s The Decameron was published just a couple of years after the Black Death, and Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales was written in the last decade of that century, after another epidemics of smaller proportions. Boccaccio’s and Chaucer’s treatment of extra-marital sex as a solution to psychological or health problems was not unique; it was the common “wisdom” of that age. Their description of sex as a tool of power of women over men – and sometimes vice-verse – was also in line with the spirit of that age. The Romance of the Rose, a poem of 22,000 lines written by Guillaume de Lorris and Jean de Meun, became a true bestseller among the aristocracy. The poem was a detailed description of the art of sensual and sexual seduction, and became like a liturgy of pornography to the courtier classes.Falling in love with a married woman and having fantasies about her was considered the highest expression of pure love for a knight. Female clothing – both in court and on the street – became deliberately suggestive and revealing, exposing more and more flesh which in earlier centuries was considered out of bounds. In the cities and in the countryside, the common folk organized parades and festivals similar to the ancient Saturnalia, where men and women paraded and danced naked in public, and indulged in public sexual acts. Just like in ancient Rome and Greece, the children were not spared; if anything, girls and boys as young as 12 were considered sexually active and were involved in such debauchery.
In this setting, sodomy reached its culmination and flourished like never before. By that time, some of the theologians of the Western Church had developed the theory that sodomy was mainly sin against natural law – and that is, because is didn’t lead to procreation. Thomas Aquinas was responsible for taking that theory to its logical end. And while Aquinas also said that sodomy was second in gravity only to murder, the result of that theory was to diminish the gravity of sodomy as sin; it was no graver sin than adultery, or fornication, or even than sexual relations within the family, between a man and his wife, simply for pleasure, not for procreation. (Yes, that was considered sin.) But in a society where all such acts were widespread because of the common dissolution of morals, sodomy was not considered anything too offensive. There were, of course, civil penalties against sodomy, but since sodomy was mainly a sin of the members of the feudal elite or of the military and monastic castes, those penalties were seldom applied. The church was rather silent . . . or, as a matter of fact, as we will see, it even joined the other side for a while.
In many of the cities of Italy, there were special sections of town where the male prostitutes lived. In monasteries, sodomy had always existed even before the 14thcentury, but in the 14thcentury, it was now even openly celebrated in art. Some monasteries’ wall paintings of the time exhibit men hugging each other in poses that can’t be anything else but sexual; and the practice of monks raping boys sent to them for education seems to have continued throughout the century.
And in Italy, church priests started performing sodomite marriages. A number of such marriages were recorded in several cities in North Italy; there may have been even more of which we don’t know due to lost records. Again, such marriages were mainly limited to the political elite, to those who had immunity to the otherwise strict judicial laws against sodomy. Of what we know, most such marriages were performed in small chapels, usually not in big ceremonies. By the end of the 14thcentury, some feudal courts had official same-sex couples. And while there were voices within the institutional church against perversion and debauchery, the majority went with it. In his Inferno, Dante Alighieri mentioned specific names of well-known sodomites in high government positions, one of them Guido Guerra, a man of influence and power, a military leader, and a confidant of Pope Innocent IV. Sodomy, apparently, was not even concealed, if the sodomites were so well-known; and even the popes had no problem befriending and confiding in sodomites.
In terms of morality, therefore, the 14thcentury was the lowest point in the history of Christendom. No matter what area of life one would want to look at, family, sexuality, war, economics, social relations, foreign policy, art and literature, every area of life was soaked in wickedness and injustice. Rampant sodomy was only a natural consequence of the rampant total wickedness in the culture. What made it even worse than other cultures, however, was that the church said and did next to nothing against it. In most instances of immorality, church ministers joined the powerful of the day (or themselves were the powerful of the day), and indulged in that immorality themselves.
And then it suddenly ended, within a little over one generation.
Reading that part of history, I have always wondered about that abrupt change. The 14thcentury was, indeed, a dark age – not in the sense modern secularists propose it. In fact, if anything, they would have loved living in that century, with its dissolution of morals, its secularist character, and especially with the licentious liberty of its artists and poets, supported even by church ministers in high positions. The free fall of the society continued well into the mid-15thcentury – and with it, continued the judgment from God. There were no new moral or judicial reforms, and there were no leaders who would dare lead the society to correction. The only person who tried to reform something in the church or in the society based on the Law of God was the Czech reformer John Hus; but after he was executed, his followers either went into heretical extremes (including lawlessness and sexual immorality) or returned under the Roman church, for the lack of any vision of how the reforms should continue. The last crusade against the Turks, started by the Polish/Lithuanian king Wladislaw in 1443 ended in bitter defeat near Varna (today in Bulgaria; I used to live right where the battle was fought in 1444), and that for the same reasons as the defeat at Nicopolis 50 years earlier: his knights had no self-discipline, no self-control, and were driven by ambition for personal glory and honor rather than common military sense. Constantinople fell to the Turks in 1453; in the same year, England and France finally ended the Hundred-Years’ War, not because they resolved their problems but because both kingdoms ran out of resources, including human resources. The Black Death returned several times after the great outbreak in 1347, in some regions. Even the universities started in the previous centuries were now closing for the lack of qualified professors; the plague had taken the lives of many of them. For all practical purposes, in 1453 Europe laid in ruins, politically, socially, economically, militarily, intellectually. And in the midst of all this, sexual immorality – including sodomy – reigned supreme everywhere, from the highest courts to the lowest villages of the land.
And then all suddenly changed. I have no idea where the change came from; there is no specific event or historical factor that can be declared the beginning of the change towards correction. After the 1450s, within a generation, Christendom suddenly developed the discipline, the desire for righteousness, the vision, and the impetus to break with the previous generations. In Portugal, Prince Henry the Navigator started laying the foundation for the Age of Exploration by developing a new kind of ship (the caravel) and training a generation of navigators like Antonio Noli, Nuno Tristao, Bartolomeu Dias, Vasco da Gama and many others, who became role models for many European youths (including the Genovese Christopher Columbus). Both Spain and Portugal were able to train armies disciplined enough to defeat the Moors and rejoin the peninsula to Christendom; Columbus left for his first journey in the same year the last Muslim fortress in Spain, Granada, fell to the armies of Ferdinand and Isabella. These new victories were the result of the development of better gunpowder and weapons, which took more disciplined armies than the knights of the previous era. In 1444, when Wladislaw was defeated at Varna, the technological levels of Islam and Christendom were the same. Just 50 years later, Christendom had superior ships and shipbuilding, and superior firepower on both sea and land. In 1439 Gutenberg developed the movable type, and within just 20 years, Europe produced more copies of different books that all of the previous centuries together. The universities were revived. A number of reformers appeared even before Luther, the greatest names among whom were Girolamo Savonarola in Italy and Desiderius Erasmus in Northern Europe. Europe, which had sunk to the bottom of the pit of iniquity, rose quickly to levels of individual and social morality that she never had before. Luther’s Reformation was not produced in a vacuum; it could only succeed because the righteousness of the society was pulling far ahead, while the morality of the institution of the church was lagging behind.
What about sodomy?
By the end of the 15thcentury, sodomy had almost disappeared from public life. As opposed to the abundant evidence of widespread sodomy in the previous century, the second half of the 15thcentury and the 16thcentury give very little evidence of it. Erasmus, who, in his satire,In Praise of Folly, wrote against the clergy of his time, only mentions it in passim. (Compare this to the literature of the previous ages.) Luther, when asked about his view on sodomy, declared that he would prefer to leave the subject untouched, his fellow Germans were so blissfully unlearned about this horrible vice that he didn’t want to give them a chance to get educated in perversion, even if through a sermon. Calvin, in the gigantic volumes of his sermons and commentaries, never tackles directly the issue of sodomy: apparently, neither France nor Switzerland in his time had any widespread sodomy. John Knox also didn’t elaborate on that sin in his letters or sermons; he must have not considered it an issue in Scotland or England. Compared to Europe of just a generation or two before, in the 1300s and the early 1400s, sodomy seemed to have disappeared in Europe. Only a few cases are known of that time, and certainly none of them brazenly public display of perversion by the elites.
What happened? To what can we ascribe such abrupt change? Certainly not to any church revival. There wasn’t any, in that period. There was no major drive towards reformation by any established church figure. The change in the society happened independently of the church; the seeds grew without any institutional help. How did that transformation happen? And what made sodomy disappear so abruptly within just a generation?
The answer can be found when we consider the nature of the sodomite culture, and the nature of the godly, family-based culture.
A sodomite culture is, by default and by its very definition, devoid of the ability to produce fruit. As long as that culture hasn’t developed to its practical maturity, it still has mixed practices: many of the early sodomites in Rome, and later in medieval Europe, had families and wives and children, while practicing their sodomy. The perversion, therefore, continued by example and imitation in the families and in the culture. But such mixture is not a matured sodomite culture. When a sodomite culture develops to its maturity, it completely rejects the concept of procreation and view of the future. (That’s why modern sodomites are the main supporters of the abortion industry.) To put it simply, a sodomite culture that has come to fruition has come to fruitlessness. It can’t develop anymore. It can’t procreate. It can’t produce offspring for the future. It can’t even think of the future. All it can do is destroy itself. It may bring some destruction on the culture around itself, but even there, a sodomite culture get so powerless the closer it gets to its fruition that even its attempts at destruction are powerless.
And eventually, it disintegrates of itself. Even where there is no organized resistance against it.
And it gets replaced with a culture of future-oriented families whose purpose is conquering the world. Even if that culture starts very small and very weak, and even if it looks like it won’t have any chance to survive against the odds.
And you all make the conclusions for yourself, in our culture today.
The book I will assign for reading this week is A Distant Mirror, by Barbara Tuchman. Tuchman is an outstanding historian, and an even more outstanding story-teller. Read the story of the 14thcentury in that book. And as you realize the moral and social chaos Europe was thrown in by the end of the 14thcentury, just keep in mind that just two generations after the end of the book, Europe was completely different. And let that govern your hope and strategies for the future.
And speaking of strategies of the future, remember in your prayer and giving Bulgarian Reformation Ministries, a mission organization devoted to building the intellectual foundation for the future Christian civilization in Eastern Europe. That’s right. No matter how the situation looks today, eventually, only the Christian civilization survives long term. And we are there for the long term. Visit BulgarianReformation.com, subscribe to the newsletter, read what a mission is supposed to do to win long-term, pray, and donate. God bless you all.