[This was a dorm presenation, probably in 1994 or thereabouts]


Art Marmorstein

    In one chapter of C.S. Lewis' The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, Lucy is looking at the books in Tumnus the Faun's library.  She runs across a book with the title, Men, Monks, and Gamekeepers: or, Is Man a Myth?  I really like the title, and I always thought there should be a real book called Is Man a Myth?  Of course, the problem with such a book is that the question is too easily answered.  It's quite clear that Man is a myth.  In fact, both men and women are essentially mythological creatures.

     Now by this I don't mean that men and women aren't real--just the opposite.  I tell the students in my world civilization classes that a myth isn't an untrue story, but a story that expresses what people consider to be the ultimate truth about man and the universe.  Probably, I should be just a bit more careful in explaining the word "myth" to students, because (really) academics use the word in two different senses.  We primarily use the term "myth" for stories that describe what a society feels to be true about the universe (what I should probably call "true myth").  But we sometimes also use "myth" in a pejorative sense to describe deceptions (what I should probably call "lying myth"). Both kinds of myth, true myth and lying myth, are exceedingly important, and if you want to understand any society, one of the best ways is to look at the myths that society tells.

     My academic specialty is eschatology, the study of ideas, stories, and myths about the last times.   What's interesting about these end-time myths is how important they really are.  The stories a society tells itself about the life-after-death, resurrection and judgment, and heaven and hell affect conduct in all sorts of different ways.  Islamic eschatology, for instance, promises men that, if they die fighting a holy war, they go immediately to a paradise where dozens of beautiful women are ready to make them eternally happy.  This is one reason why Moslems make such effective soldiers.

     In my classes, I usually concentrate on the stories societies tell about the beginnings of things (their creation myths) and the end of things (their eschatological myths).  But these are not the only kinds of myths societies tell.  Societies also tell myths about human relationships, and (particularly important) myths about men and women and their relationships.

     Now as for me, the male-female myth I like best is the romantic fairy tale, stories like "The White Cat," and "Beauty and the Beast."  While I don't particularly like what Disney did to the latter story, it does get one thing right.  The title song contains the words, "a tale as old as time," and, while the story of "Beauty and the Beast" itself doesn't go back that far, the basic elements of the romantic fairy tale do.   There's something pretty universal about the idea that there is one special person one ought to give one's heart to, that one ought to risk everything for that person, that love will eventually overcome all obstacles, and that, once married to that special person, one lives happily ever after.  One finds such stories in Medieval poetry, in the Arabian Nights, in Vedic literature--and even in the Bible.

     Now until the early 1960's, it seems to me that what most American young men and women aimed for in their real lives was something like the romantic fairy tale--and what probably would amaze young people today is how much of the time they made their dreams a reality.  Even into the 1970's, many of us were able to establish those "happily ever after" relationships, and for those who are/were successful, the romantic fairy tale seems unquestionably "true myth," as clear an expression of our marital relationship as one can find.

       But it seems to me that couples today tend to be much less successful in achieving this "happily ever after" sort of joy in their relationships, and many have rejected the fairy-tale model as a lying myth.  Feminist types in particular tend to attack the old-fashioned fairy tale, maintaining that it leads us to expect what never was and never can be.  Few women, they argue, are fairy tale princesses and no men are Prince Charmings.  But they are wrong.  A man can make a woman feel like a princess, or like a queen.  A woman can make a man feel like a prince, or like a king.  And the reason is, that, deep down, there is something of the princess in every woman, and something of the prince in every man--or at least there can be.

     So if the fairy tale myth is true myth, why aren't there more "happily ever after" type relationships, where the man makes his wife feel like a queen, and the woman makes her husband feel like a king?  Because a key factor in maintaining such a relationship is exclusivity--particularly sexual exclusivity.  We've accustomed ourselves to thinking of sex as recreational, a thing done primarily for physical pleasure.  But physical pleasure is only a part of what goes on in sexual relationship--and not the most important part.

     It's interesting that some of the clearest explanations of what the sexual relationship is all about come from celibate men, Pope John Paul II and the Apostle Paul.  Particularly interesting are the Apostle Paul's comments in I Corinthians.   Paul warns the Corinthians against visiting temple prostitutes, telling them not to "make themselves one flesh" with a prostitute.  Now this sounds like Paul is talking simply about physical union.  But "flesh" and "body" are not synonymous for Paul.  Flesh (sarx) and spirit (pneuma) are warring principles within the body (soma).  When Paul talks about "the flesh," he has in mind pride, what we think of ourselves.  And what's at stake in a sexual relationship really has more to do with pride than it does with physical pleasure.  The sexual submission of a woman is a big ego thing for a man: when she submits to him, he has become her god--for a few minutes.  Sex is a big ego thing for a woman too.  When a man desires her, he can think of nothing else.  All of his attention focuses on her.  She has become his goddess--for a few minutes.  It's no accident that in the ancient world (and in places like India even today) prostitution is so closely associated with religion. 

     The problem is that it's all a cheat.  Outside of marriage, and without the affirmation of a permanent commitment, the apparent affirmation of the sex act is nothing more than a lie--and a particularly destructive lie.

     Now where did this lie come from?  Well, where do all lies come from?  The father of lies.  William Jefferson Clinton? [Got a lot of laughs with that line in the 1990's.]  Nope. From Satan himself.

     Now many of you probably think Satan is a myth.   Well, you're right.  Satan is a myth.  But what kind of myth: true myth or lying myth?  Jeffery Burton Russell, a first rate scholar, did a series of books on Satan, exploring devil-mythology from the beginnings of history to the present day.  Russell argues essentially that the devil is true myth: a personification of the radical evil that clearly has existed in human society throughout all history.  If nothing else, Satan is a useful short-hand way of representing the temptation to evil that confronts every one of us, and, in particular, our temptation to exchange the truth for a lie.

     Now it seems to me that one of the main things that is destroying our marital relationships is the fact that Satan has convinced us to adopt some lying myths.

     To a certain extent, the main lie is the old one in the garden of Eden.  Satan promised Adam and Eve that, through disobeying God, they would be as gods themselves, knowing good and evil.  Dietrich Bonhoeffer points out that the temptation is essentially this: you will decide what's good and evil for yourself.  The fruit was good for food, and pleasant to the eyes, and to be desired to make one wise.  It seemed good to Eve, despite what God had said.  So she became as a god, "beyond good and evil," deciding right and wrong for herself.  And Adam did likewise.

     And, of course, this is what we are constantly told we ought to be doing today.  Everyone ought to decide for themselves what is right and wrong.  No one, not even God apparently, has any right to set up moral standards for anyone else.  And the result?  Just look at Hebrew society during the time of the Judges, a time , where "everyone did that which was right in his own eyes."

    In addition to the universal lie ("you shall be as gods"), Satan has a special lie for women only.  The lie: you shall be like men.

    Now this doesn't seem to me to be nearly as good as Satan's original promise, but, for some reason, women today seem to be extraordinarily receptive to that particular lie, and many of them are doing their best to be just like men.

    Now if what women were imitating were men's admirable traits, this wouldn't be a great problem.  But what women end up imitating (often just to prove to themselves that they really are just men with different plumbing) is what is worst in men.  Ladies didn't used to swear.  So women think it's a man thing, and they begin using all sorts of foul language.  Men seemed to be able to have casual sexual relationships with no consequences.  A one night stand with a stranger?  Great.  And so women think that, if they have birth control and abortion to back it up, they can behave just as irresponsibly as men without any bad consequences.  Men often tend to put careers and hobbies before families, neglecting their kids and spouses to go out fishing or hunting with the boys.  So women think they're doing just great when they can leave the kids in a day care center and start climbing the corporate ladder--just like the boys.  The result is a mess--and that's the problem with lying myth.  It just doesn't make you happy, even if you follow the story line exactly.

     Now I've talked about Satan's lying myth for today's woman.  He's got an even better deal for today's man.  Not, "you shall be as gods."  But "You shall be as dogs."  As far as our sexual nature is concerned, Satan has turned a great many of us into dogs already.  Consider: A dog will mount any receptive female he can find.  (A dog will mount almost anything that moves, for that matter.  Disgusting.)  Dogs impregnate bitches and then go merrily on their way, leaving all responsibility for the next generation to the females. 

     Diogenes, of course, advocated leading a dog's life.  But when we behave like dogs sexually, there's a high price to be paid.  Women think men can get away with promiscuous sex: but they can't.  When one treats another human being badly, and especially when one exploits them sexually, it puts a blot on one's soul--and if one does it often enough, the soul all but disappears.  One ceases to be a human being at all.  True enough, promiscuous men don't have much in the way of responsibility: but they don't have any joy either.  And as their senses become jaded, they end up seeking out more and more perverted forms of sexuality, just to be able to feel something.  And finally--well, often enough the end of this particular lying myth is "unhappily ever after."

     Now why has Satan chosen these particular myths?  Why is Satan so intent on destroying traditional romantic relationships?  There seem to me two main reasons.  One, destroying the love between men and women destroys the family.  The prophet Malachi writes, "Did not He make one? And wherefore one?  That He might seek a godly seed."  In other words, the unity of husband and wife produces good children, and Satan knows that if he destroys marriages he's got a great start on winning the next generation.

     But there's another, maybe more important, reason Satan is trying to destroy our romantic relationships.

     One of my favorite passages of scripture is Revelation 21, the chapter that describes the New Jerusalem coming from heaven as a bride adorned for her husband.  The passage reminds me of my wedding, and especially of watching my wife walk down the aisle to meet me.  It was one of the most joyful moments of my life. 

    I used to love the Beach Boys' song "Wouldn't it Be Nice?"  And now--well, Donna and I were going to be able to "say good night and stay together," "every kiss would be never ending."  We were married. We were going to be happy.  And you know what?  Married life was even better than I thought. [Said that 20 years ago.  It's even more true today.]

     But what's most important of all about married life is that it points us to a higher joy: the joy being part of the bride of Christ.  You see, we don't understand the love of God so well.  Married love gives us a hint of it.  In some ways, it's a kind of a magic mirror, showing us, at least dimly, what we otherwise could never really see.  And it's no wonder that Satan is doing his best to smash the mirror--it's not just our earthly marriages he is trying to break up, but our ultimate love relationship, the one with God.

     The moral of the story: just watch your relationships.  Be as exclusive as you can be.  Be loving.  Be joyful.  Get married.  And prepare yourself for the wedding supper of the Lamb.

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