Philosophy in the Middle of the Desert

Living Sacrifices: Celibacy, pt. 4 – Its Non-Biblical Incentives and Flaws November 9, 2011

Filed under: Celibacy — milesprowers @ 10:04 pm


*You change. You lose your self, your identity, and your individuality and become more like someone else as the two become one flesh. Marriage makes it harder to be yourself and do what you love because you now have a responsibility to be what someone else wants you to be. Instead of being “you”(who you were your whole life) you suddenly become a “unit”. I can’t just hang out with you anymore, now I have to mess with red tape. And even then I have to hang out with you and some stranger I’m not as good of friends with. It will never be the same. All those good times can never be relived, because you’re too busy having good times behind closed doors that only one other person will get to experience.
*Your character is tamed/watered down. We’re all characters in this great story, and the cool characters are the ones who live on edge, who stand out. Would you rather be the independent, mysterious loner, or the domesticated softy anchored to a house, job, kids, and routine?  What is cooler, really?  James Dean who is a promiscuous ladies man sleeping around all the time?  Or the mysterious, virgin, loner James Dean who’s above the animalistic instinct of sex, and too cool for the mush of romance?  I say the latter, through and through.  Because he’s on a whole other plane (higher than the common, normal, predictable, natural plane) touching the divine.  A legend.  And more respectable, too.

-You only live once.  So in the great story of History, if you got one blurb to sum up your whole life would you rather be recorded as being a character like Isaac, who’s only real significance was his birth and death (legacy) through whom Abraham’s descendants would be blessed (whose life is little more than the dash on a tombstone between 2 dates, that dash mostly being summed up by family quarrels), or Elijah, the loner in the desert who pours out himself before God only to be filled by him and so see the supernatural first hand as it works through him while he stands before kings to rebuke them as ambassador of the King of kings.

– – Of course this is the stupidest argument in the whole essay, yet it still has some merit.  Isn’t it true that the most captivating, attractive men of the Bible are the prophets out in the wilderness?  The revolutionaries?  Of course being married doesn’t automatically mean you will be tied down and have kids, routine, etc.  It just makes it that much harder to be a living sacrifice, and it’s how the vast majority of marriages end up (not that those things are bad if they are what God called you to, and even then you are still called to be radical in that calling of marriage, parenthood, and routine, and not mediocre).  One thing’s for sure, in marriage the mediocrity of life is so much more tempting than in celibacy.
*Romance stinks, it complicates everything, makes it so you can’t really be good friends with the opposite sex, and when they’re married even more so. They’re off limits. It’s so exclusive and cut off, creates so much drama, and makes the most ordinary interactions with the opposite sex instantly permeating with paranoia and awkward tension.


Of course celibacy has its own temptations and stumbling blocks.
When you think of a monk, what kind of sins would he be most likely to struggle with?
Well, if you’re alone most of the time, then the person you think about the most is yourself, because it’s the main person you “interact” with. It’s very good to have time to be still and meditate, analyzing yourself and how to serve God better, but it can also be dangerous.  Too much thinking can lead to depression, judgment, anger, perversion and insanity (what my Mom calls “morbid introspection”). If you’re so focused on yourself it’s inevitable that you become selfish, because there’s no one around to do anything else for or think about. It’s inevitable that you become over-analytical toward yourself which can make you depressed at still not doing all you can do for God. Also, in quiet seclusion it’s easier to desire what you don’t have/the things which are more obviously absent: the friends, romance, commotion, and fun you think everybody else is having right now, which makes you lonely and depressed. So you either jeopardize your convictions by indulging in those worldly things which will fill the emotional void in your life, or stick to your convictions and make yourself feel better by judging them for not sacrificing as much as you are for God’s kingdom and thus being in sin.

“This life of sacrifice sure is hard, but at least I’m doing the right thing, unlike everyone else who is sinning because they aren’t obeying God’s commands to the degree I am.” This is the case with the righteous man who thanks God he’s not like other men, and whom Jesus condemns in Luke 18. You have to assume what other people do or don’t do, though you really don’t know for sure what they’re going through or their attitude to God. Don’t get me wrong, it’s impossible not to judge and make assumptions as we go about daily life, and in fact Jesus actually tells us to judge righteously. But judging is perhaps the most sensitive issue out there, and if we venture into those waters we’d better be sure we’re living above reproach. We need to be so careful that we judge with the right motives and based on facts only, for those who judge are the ones in the cross-hairs of God’s judgement and the world’s. Who is more likely to be called a hypocrite, an adulterous, violent celebrity strung out on drugs or a preacher who told a lie?  Remember that when God was on Earth the people he rebuked were those set apart as holy, not the the average “lukewarm” Jews.

Do not judge so that you will not be judged. 2 For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. (Matthew 7)

When you take a stand and truly surrender your life to God, making sacrifices beyond what most Christians make, it’s hard not to notice the distinction between your ideals and the majority’s. And thus it’s hard not to compare yourself with them and be frustrated that other people aren’t sacrificing the same things you are. Here you are laying down your life, denying your selfish desires, and living on edge after the model set by Jesus and the apostles (whom every Christian should model their lives after), and everyone else in the church is buying whatever they want, indulging in their physical desires, wasting their time watching tv, and never mentioning Christ outside of church. All without it ever crossing their minds that they’re doing something wrong; they’re just going with the flow.

This judgment of course leads to the biggest sin of all, which is pride, so that in trying to surrender yourself to God the most, you end up surrendering to him the least. Pride is the worst sin because it puts yourself in the place of God, the very one you were trying to serve. So that even in your attempts to serve God you have selfish motives and put your own ambitions over those of others (whose ambitions might actually be what God would rather have you pursuing at the time than your own).
“O that these people would become true Christians like me and the apostles, think of how different the world would be!” And then inevitably it goes to, “How dare they live their lukewarm lives, never stopping to examine themselves, keeping the starving starving and the lost lost! Delaying Jesus’ return.  What evil people!” And of course there’s a lot of truth to this, but more importantly this is pride disguised as righteous indignation which leads to elitism, among other things.

Your pride hardens your heart making you arrogant and unable to see your own sins, so that you can only see the sins of other people. It’s the plank in your eye (sin in your own life) that blinds you from seeing the situation clearly, from seeing what you actually are (just another sinner and really no better than they). And in your one-way “righteous indignation” you get angry at the sins of others you perceive, since you can’t perceive your own (because they’re blocked from your view by the plank). If you could perceive your own then you would be mad at yours just as much as the other person’s (if not more since you know the full extent of your own, and it’s you who’s sinning (the only one you are responsible for and able to control). Not being proud allows you to gain an accurate perception of yourself which convicts you of your sins and pulls you down to the same level as the other sinner, thus cancelling out the anger altogether. Humility allows you to see things as they really are.

… of course you’re probably thinking to yourself right now, “You’d have to be pretty self-absorbed to write a whole essay about your personal views on this subject.” Alas, so goes the curse of the artist, the best of whom isolate themselves with only their ideas so as to become immersed in them and thus manifest them to the best of their human ability. So I’m not so much opposed to self-absorption, nor do I equate it with selfishness. It’s just that you need to beware of going down that road which ends in elitism. You are so possessed by your masterpiece of ministry that will one day reach the world that you neglect your daily responsibilities. Drive down that road ignoring those stranded hitchhikers on the side, excusing it because it’s not your gift. “Let the one who has the calling of pulling off pull off.” You can’t help because it would only distract you from your real calling– which seems bad and convicting now, but one day when your ministry bears fruit your present decision will be justified.
But sometimes the most mundane of service in the present is just as good as the monumental milestone in the future. All God really wants us to do is to do his will right now, at the present, and all the time. To be faithful with the talent he’s currently entrusted to us until he reveals the next thing we’re supposed to do for him.

I used to be ignorant and think all those monks living as hermits in monasteries were in sin, not going outside to fulfill the Great Commission. But now I realize how critical they were in the advancement of Christianity. The Kingdom of Heaven needs people who will be set apart from the temptations of the world in isolation so that they can do those sacred acts of ministry which can only be done in such an environment. I’m talking about copying manuscripts and the like. That is the kind of ministry where you can’t take chances getting distracted or tempted by the outside world and really do have to be set apart from evil, having a clear conscience and clear mind focused on God.

Those kinds of ministries are few and have tangible ends when there will no longer be a need for most of them, and so ideally God would set apart only a minority for those sacred services until finished.  But that’s ideally-speaking. In reality there are so few people currently involved in them that the need is perhaps the greatest.  So we might as well assume that God has called everybody to that kind of work until it has been accomplished.  I specifically have things like foreign Bible translation in mind, which would probably result in a greater number of salvations currently than would evangelizing Americans, who could learn about Christianity any time they want.  Yet even so, Jesus’ general commands were for us to be in the world, but not of the world- spreading the Gospel by forming relationships with people, acts of service, and communicating the gospel out in the world. Be careful of hiding behind your ministry to give you an excuse for not helping someone in your path (the priest in Luke 10:31). That person would not be brought into your path in the first place unless God wanted them there; if God wanted you to be secluded he would keep them away from you. Unless it’s a special case where God has called you to a sacred ministry, you shouldn’t be afraid of getting dirty in the process of helping the tax collector’s and sinners right where they are; chances are the ministry you’re using to justify your isolationism actually isn’t as significant as the need you see right now.  Just like everything else in Christianity, the Great Commission is a balance. In order to reach sinners you’ll have to be around sin and thus run the risk of falling into it yourself. But a tainted evangelist is arguably better than a perfect hermit.

Nikola Tesla, the great inventor, suppressed his desires for romance and companionship so that he could focus on science, only to become deranged in the end and have those desires force themselves to the surface in a perverted way– in this case developing romantic feelings for a pigeon.
I think it’s common that in the case of a monk who separates himself from all temptations that those tempting desires force themselves back into your mind in one form or another. If you aren’t around women, then you’ll be tempted by whatever else is around you– in the monk’s case by other men, in Tesla’s case by an animal. Though it may sound absurd, anyone of us is capable of this given the right circumstances. As celibates we must acknowledge our tendency towards insanity and perversion more than the married person who has those temptations satisfied in romance/companionship and sex, and we must take the precautionary steps in preventing it.

Others would include:  
off people because you’re so obsessed with not spending your own money that you take advantage of others who you assume would spend it anyways and reason that it’s not hurting them if you take a little from their abundance.   “They shouldn’t be spending money on this, but since they do anyways they might as well give it to a good cause.  The least they could do is give some to me (since I don’t have any of it) which is ultimately giving to my ministry.” It’s kind of like taking from the rich to give to the poor, or designating people’s funds for them, because otherwise it would all be wasted on vanity.  As if you are more important than they because you are more obedient to God than they, which isn’t for you to think about.
*Becoming obsessed with people, because your deprivation from relationships or THE relationship (romance) makes you idolize the few relationships you do have.

But just as there are certain sins celibates are particularly prone to, there are certain sins that married people are particularly prone to (that a celibate wouldn’t struggle with). Such temptations from marriage would include: complacency in your comfort zone, chasing after the same things as the pagans/Joneses, materialism, idolatry (giving things priority over God), wasting time, etc.  All of these things can still tempt a monk, but he’s not as likely to give in as a married couple is; likewise a married couple will still be tempted by the monk’s temptations (judging, pride, anger, seclusion, selfishness, elitism, etc) in their own married manifestation.  For a celibate, the greatest temptations are the things he’s giving up, aka romantic companionship and sex. Likewise with the married, the greatest temptations are probably adultery and alone time to do what you want to do (independence), because those are the things you sacrifice when you get married.  In marriage the temptation is all the stronger to waste time by enjoying each other, which betters no one else in the world. And then you feel guilty when you do work by yourself on projects, etc, because you think you’re not upholding your duties as a spouse (which your sub-conscious mind tells you are to attend to your spouse at all times). And if the 2 of you can’t think of anything to do to spend time together and fulfill your marriage “obligations” then you just waste your time watching the television, which isn’t really time together anyways. Marriage tends to make null and void not one soul, but 2.

However, “celibate” or “married” should not be your main attribute. It is simply one of many attributes which collectively find their place in the background as your foundation, not your goal; they are just means of your ministry. No more than not being a liar should give you the label of a “Non-liar”. It’s just one of many disciplines of the Christian life; no more special just because some people don’t have it. The better off you are the sooner you forget about being celibate and focus on the Great Commission.

Also, I think one of the reasons for people struggling in the absence of romance is due to that being the norm of society, and there being such an emphasis on it in society. If the majority of society was celibate than it wouldn’t be anywhere close to the temptation it is today, because it wouldn’t be part of the culture. The reminder of your singleness wouldn’t be all around you, and thus it wouldn’t be on your mind to struggle against.  Just like most homosexuals today wouldn’t be homosexuals if they were living in the 50’s when homosexuality was an unspeakable sin that no one talked about, because they didn’t think about it enough for there to be a temptation.

Ultimately you are only responsible for yourself and can only control yourself, so therefore just worry about your own relationship with God, which still needs a lot of work. Maybe you are doing better than some people in an area, but they’re probably doing better than you in another. Who’s really to say which good deed or sin outweighs another? And you never know what a person has been through or is going through to justify that sin in their mind. All you can do is keep living out your own vision of how best to please God, hoping to inspire them to do the same (if it even is in fact God’s will for them to do it), and encourage them softly, in love, to surrender their whole lives to God (a lifelong process for every person) and take steps to get rid of what is keeping them from that surrender.//


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