During a road trip some time ago with a distant and excessively conservative relative the discussion turned to his belief that ‘grace and justice’ are supreme concerns in his life. I commented that I, a humanist, had no real understanding of the concept of grace, and that justice was subjective and difficult to define. This eventually led to an uncomfortable jest on his part suggesting that since his profession gave him access to my personal search history that he could use private information against me on a whim. We laughed it off at the time but, what stands out to this day is my observation of his joy at making that threat, there was a fearsome sparkle in his wry eye. Ours is not a close relationship so the joke was way out of bounds.
I was reminded of this conversation when I came across an article from Editorial Board by John Stoehr with the title For White Evangelicals, It’s Not About Fear https://stoehr.substack.com/p/for-white-evangelicals-its-not-about which discusses the history of permissible public sadism in Christianity, using Richard Rorty and Adam Serwer as sources. Apartheid, misogyny, slavery, and other ancient hatreds justified by christian teachings are usually couched in language that hides the sadistic joys of the oppressors. This is not a sexual pleasure, as commonly misunderstood, it is pleasure derived from witnessing or causing the suffering of others. They find pleasure in punishment for divine justice; gays deserve punishment because they are gay, no additional reasoning is required. Judgment and punishment evoke pleasure on the part of religious busy-bodies.
No one should be surprised at the revelation of a ‘sadistic pleasure’ by the religiously inclined, we are conditioned to accept it through tradition and the fading status of holy vs. secular in popular culture. And yet, every aspect of christianity beginning with the foundational use of an iron age torture device, involves the joy of Jesus who died: pleasure from another’s pain. His crimes are seldom discussed for being several and irrelevant when balanced with the not-staying-dead part.
Today, most of the traditional joy-from-suffering events are no longer acceptable in our culture. Sacrificial slaughter, slavery, poverty, and other previously enjoyed godly humiliations, cheats, rapes and deaths have gone by the wayside. The remaining sadistic joy is sexuality; they are fighting hard to keep this last pleasing joy of condemnation. It has become the primary mission of the church to retain their anti-gay sadistic traditions. The article recommends abandoning the imprecise word ‘homophobia’ and calling sadism what it is. As long as they continue to call us abominations it is the least we can do, but, it gives me no joy to do so.