Saturday, April 11, 2020

It Doesn't Take a "Depth Psychologist"

to suspect that there was something going on in the home or youth of St. Mary of Egypt that lead to her embracing a life of sin in her teenage years. Many victims of sexual abuse end up living sad lives as a result of that abuse. Whether St. Mary of Egypt is one of them, she and God know, and God saves even those who are mired in lives of sin through no fault of their own. Or is that not what we would expect from a merciful God who sent His son to dwell among us?

Public Orthodoxy: Depth Psychology and the Courage of St. Mary of Egypt by Pia Sophia Chaudhari

We enter into this stark and amazing story, in the midst of our Lenten journeys, which emphasizes not only the power of repentance but the battle between impurity and holiness. And yet, sometimes in ensuing discussions I feel left with a sense of a script for purity and piety (and possibly more than a touch of mistrust of feminine eros) rather than having touched the depth and complexity of human experience.
Has a feminist taken offense? Who is "mistrusting" feminine eros, and what does that even mean? (Is she as sympathetic to masculine eros?) Feminine eros by itself is no guide for right behavior, and it is possible for feminine eros to become disordered, even if it is through no fault of the victim who has been "corrupted" and exploited by others. The Byzantine Christians seem to be more apt to use the word "sin" even more analogically than Latins, so why not in instances such as this? Can the "acting out" of a sexual abuse victim not be considered involuntary sin? There is no suspicion or mistrust of "feminine eros" by a normal Christian, just a recognition that St. Mary's pattern of life was not one that was going to bring her closer to God, regardless of how culpable she was for her behavior. Still, we must point out that there are probably women who make very poor choices when it comes to their sexual behavior, who do so because of disordered self-love and not because they were abused by others.

Who is emphasizing only the aspects of "purity" and "impurity"? Even sexual abuse victims who are acting out love themselves in the wrong ways, seeking to blot out their pain and suffering, and this self-love must be healed by God. Christ Himself welcomed the prostitutes and tax collectors (Matthew 21:31), so that their hearts might be created anew.

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