Christianity and S/M

Carrol Cox cbcox at
Tue May 22 19:56:55 PDT 2001

Chris Brooke wrote:
> No early Christian or
> later Augustinian author mentions this specifically, but it's an
> obvious inference from the doctrines they did hold, and it certainly
> gives pause for thought.

Imagine the gentlemen in Washington D.C. planning the Vietnam War. Now it is an obvious inference from their doctrines that two or three million people would die in the short run, tens of millions more in the long run from malnutrition, cancer, genetic defects, et cetera. Dean Rusk and McNamara were from one aspect cold-blooded mass murderers and torturers -- certainly they caused (knowingly) far more pain in fact than Tertullian would have had time in his life to imagine. But it is simply silly to try to explain Rusk & McNamara in terms of psychological principles. And of course the gentlemen at the U.S. Treasury and the IMF are responsible for more deaths, now and in the future, than were the architects of Vietnam. Does s-m explain them? Nonsense.

Most discussions of pre-modern cruelty also instance something of a lack of imagination. That was a world without antibiotics and without painkillers. The fabrics available for clothing would for the most part have been (by modern standards) more or less continually uncomfortable. In the colder climates bodily cleanliness was difficult if not impossible. One's daily experience of physical discomfort and of extreme and unrelieved pain in others surely establishes a different context for imagining the pains of the afterworld than do the greater comforts of modern life. In fact, there is some correspondence between the increase in comfort of the educated classes and the decline in belief in hell.

It was only with the development of central heating, of anaesthesia, of reasonably safe travel in winter, of the transfer of death and misery to the hospital, and so forth that concern for cruelty to animals suddenly blossomed.


More information about the lbo-talk mailing list