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From the editor: May 15, 2015

Military & Monastics


It dismays me to read this blog post by Michael Avramovich about the rise of sexual assault in the military. I remember reading in Stephen Ambrose's works about homosexual activity among American troops in Europe during WWII—it was nearly non-existent.

Today's military problems are a part of the larger cultural problem bequeathed to us by the Sexual Revolution of circa 1968. But it began earlier, certainly in the mainstreaming of deviant sex—supposedly merely reported but—fraudulently promoted by the pervert "Dr." Kinsey. The "everybody's-doing-it" and "they're-all-going-to-do-it-anyway" philosophy of sexual instruction have been merely self-fulfilling prophecies. Permission was given society-wide for stimulating the sexual appetite "as you like it," as long as there is no coercion.

But you reap what you sow. Now the military and campuses are rife with "coercion." But remember that the appetites grow the more they are indulged, recruited and promoted. Is it possible to diminish this wildfire, and return it to the fireplace where it belongs, where it is the only really "safe sex" and is productive rather than destructive?

While the biblical examples of treating such wildfire are not encouraging—using brimstone and more fire—I am put in mind today of a strong counter-example that many have forgotten about or sidelined: monasticism.

May 15 is the Eastern feast day of Pachomius of Egypt (d. 348), a contemporary of Anthony, who shared in the establishment of monasticism in Egypt in the fourth century. One of his foundations had 3,000 monks, I read this morning, and that's just one.

What in the world was going on that, rather than sexual license exploding, warfare against the passions was receiving a flood of new recruits? We shouldn't dismiss the phenomenon as a blip, or an abuse, since chastity and the gift thereof are clearly laid out by our Lord and his apostles as one expression of living "for the sake of the kingdom." But it is a gift.

Monasticism was quasi-military in the sense that it was viewed as warfare and required strict discipline. We may think some of it overboard, but compared to Navy Seal training, is it? Discipline and self-control can make a comeback, in sexual matters, spiritual matters, economic matters, in all matters pertaining to life and godliness. It requires faith, hope, and love. Prayer. Repentance.

Egyptian Monasticism even spread. Monks from Egypt are referenced in connection with Switzerland (!) and even more so with Ireland. St. Verina was a Coptic hermit, who evangelized in Switzerland near Zurich. She was a relative of St. Victor, who along with St. Maurice—all from Egypt—we martyred in Switzerland. Twenty-one Swiss communities were dedicated to St. Anthony of Egypt. Ireland's Stowe Missal gave prominent position to the Egyptian desert fathers. And the Book of Leinster contains a litany of St. Oengus, which "invokes unto my aid through Jesus Christ" the "Seven Egyptian monks in Disert [hermitage] Ullaigh." Art, organization, artifacts all suggest the influence of Coptic monks afar. Quite an army.

One of Pachomius's largest foundations, after his death, gradually declined through the influence of decadence. Monks are not infallible. Nor soldiers or armies invincible. The point is to struggle toward the right target, under the good grace of God, toward love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such there is no law—only true freedom, and no coercion.

Chastity for all. It's a good word. And some people today—burned out by an oversexed "culture"—are pulling back from the "sex", finding out they have spiritual capacities waiting to be discovered, renewed, by grace. We should all want chastity, and all to be chaste.

Yours for Christ, Creed & Culture,

James M. Kushiner
Executive Director, The Fellowship of St. James