Wednesday, May 11, 2005

A Very Sad Spectacle

Like most people, I was momentarily amused by Neal Horsley's peacock-proud admission of bestiality.

But I was also disturbed by it, in a way that I couldn't quite put my finger on. It reminded me of a passage I'd read in some book, somewhere.

It kept nagging at me. I dug through my shelves, and finally found the elusive passage in William Bradford's Of Plymouth Plantation. Bradford came to America on the Mayflower, and was elected governor of Plymouth Colony. This book of memoirs covers the years from 1620 to 1647.

Here's the anecdote that Horsley's case brought to mind:

There was a youth whose name was Thomas Granger. He was servant to an honest man of Duxbury, being about 16 or 17 years of age. (His father and mother lived at the same time at Scituate.) He was this year detected of buggery, and indicted for the same, wIth a mare, a cow, two goats, five sheep, two calves and a turkey. Horrible it is to mention, but the truth of the history requires it. He was first discovered by one that accidentally saw his lewd practice towards the mare. (I forbear particulars.) Being upon it examined and committed, in the end he not only confessed the fact with that beast at that time, but sundry times before and at several times with all the rest of the forenamed in his indictment. And this his free confession was not only in private to the magistrates (though at first he strived to deny it) but to sundry, both ministers and others; and afterwards, upon his indictment, to the whole Court and jury; and confirmed it at his execution. And whereas some of the sheep could not so well be known by his description of them, others with them were brought before him and he declared which were they and which were not. And accordingly he was cast by the jury and condemned, and after executed about the 8th of September, 1642. A very sad spectacle it was. For first the mare and then the cow and the rest of the lesser cattle were killed before his face, according to the law, Leviticus XX.15; and then he himself was executed. The cattle were all cast into a great and large pit that was digged of purpose for them, and no use made of any part of them.
There are many fascinating things about this story, but what strikes me in particular is that it's described as "a very sad spectacle." Whatever one thinks of the Christian law that required this backward child to be executed - but only after watching the ceremonial slaughter of the animals he'd "buggered" - there's a certain note of gravity and regret in Bradford's account that I fail to detect in the antics of today's would-be theocrats (like Neal Horsley, for instance). What Bradford is describing is Old Testament theocracy done "right," in that it was the work of sincere people motivated less by sadism and self-loathing than by a painful sense of duty. I fear we have no such pool of theocratic talent to draw from nowadays.

The other, more serious point is that Horsley eventually jilted his equine paramours, and became the great and godly man we all admire today. In Plymouth Colony, he would've suffered a very different fate; the world would never have learned that his perverted, self-centered mistreatment of animals could be transmuted by the alchemy of dominionism into perverted, self-centered mistreatment of women.

That's the problem when you make death the wages of sexual sin; you could end up robbing the world of a violent anti-abortion activist.


monkeygrinder said...

Never forget that a christian (such as horsley) can be forgiven by number two (in the trinity) for anything.

Horsley good have followed up his lustful endeavors by filming a 8mm mule snuff film, and then ate the mule, and J. would have washed him clean, that is what he do.

Alan Colmes, on the other hand, is likely doomed.

Thus, the death of old time religion. Forgiveness is a commodity that needn't be earned.

Anonymous said...

I truly fail to understand why the supposed Christians tkae the god of the Old Testament as their theocratic model anyway. I guess the number of laws and rules satisfies their legalistic desires.

It's disgusting.

Rmj said...

A reminder that the law of Moses originally applied to a community of like-minded persons bound in covenant of promises and blood (such, at least, was their belief). It created, in other words, a sense of duty, not of power and authority.

Just as it did in 18th century America.

But today?

"...all, high and low, are out for ill-gotten gain; prophet and priests are frauds, every one of them; they dress my people's wound, but on the surface only, with their saying 'All is well.' All well? Nothing is well!' They ought to be ashamed because they practiced abominations; yet they have no sense of shame, they could never be put out of countenance." Jeremiah 6:13-15b, REB)