Thursday, 22 June 2017

** FATHER FRANK’S RANTS Rant Number 731 21 June 17



Stevie, a nice middle-class wife, suspects her equally bourgeois husband Martin of having an affair. With a mysterious female called Sylvia. She is hurt but gets real ballistic when she finds out Sylvia isn’t human. She is…a goat!

Such is the quirky plot of Edward Albee’s play, The Goat, or who is Sylvia? (It got the playwright the Pulitzer Prize.) Weird? Absurd? Disgusting? Yes, but not impossible. The Bible prohibits bestiality. Exodus 22:19 warns that ‘whoever lies with an animal shall be put to death’. Consider: why should such a stern prohibition be necessary, unless people existed who were drawn to it? There is no need to forbid sex with sticks and stones, is there?

Indeed, bestiality was not unknown to the ancient world. The myth of Pasiphae alludes to it. A Queen of Crete, Pasiphae burnt with love for a bull. Her unlovely offspring was the fierce Minotaur, half human and half beast. In partial excuse the myth says Pasiphae’s lust was the effect of a curse by the god Poseidon. In another version, the Queen has artisan Daedalus construct a wooden cow with cowhide covering, so she can copulate with the thing to her heart’s content. An intriguing Lesbian twist to the story…

To be blunt: Martin’s love for Sylvia isn’t abstract or platonic. He actually fornicates with the animal. ‘You are f…ing a goat?’ screams distraught Stevie at him. Again and again – can you blame her? Never mind how lyrical Martin waxes about Sylvia’s eyes, ‘her purity’, ‘her innocence’, the reality is that he loves her physically, i.e. has intercourse with the beast. Disagreeable and revolting but also comically thoughtful. How low can human beings sink in perversion?

Western countries, wallowing in the decadence they call ‘freedom’, scoff at religious morality. Yet, many still draw the line at bestiality. Ultra-liberal Germany has a ban on sex with an animal or ‘zoophilia’. (A German bloke called Oliver Burdinski three years ago demanded the right to have sex with his Siberian pet dog, Joey. The dog’s views are unclear.) The rationale though is curious. It is an offence to hurt an animal but also to ‘force’ it into unnatural sex. What’s wrong with bestiality is that it is against animal welfare, is that the idea? But imagine, if you can bear the thought, a wretched beast whose behaviour suggested…it enjoyed it. (Like poor Joey?) Would that make the thing right? When St Thomas Aquinas wrote about ‘sins against nature’ he taught they were grave offences against God, love of neighbour and reason, not against ‘consent’. Bestiality was for the Saint the most monstrous of all unnatural transgressions.

Despite the queer subject, The Goat has hilarious lines. When Martin tells distraught wife Stevie that he had joined a support group for people with similar syndromes, he runs through the unlovely gamut. A bloke physically loved a pig, he tells her. ‘A PIG?!’ yells Stevie. ‘A small one’, Martin qualifies. Another man fancied a dog. A third screwed a goose. Whereupon Stevie starts throwing and smashing plates around, like a fury. Can you blame her?

Albee was an openly gay man. In the play you encounter Martin’s gay teenage son, Billy. Initially shocked and hurt by his father’s confession, Billy eventually comes to some kind of acceptance and reconciliation with dad. They ‘talk things over’. Which allows Martin to set out his anti-social opinions about ‘love’. It was a bit like that old fraud, Dr Freud, expounding his sinister theories about infantile sexuality being intrinsically ‘perverse and polymorphous’. A convenient cover for all sorts of abominations. I am so glad Freud is dead. Hope he and his nutty, bogus ideas stay dead, too.

God in the Book of Leviticus commands that not only the man who commits bestiality should die but the animal too (20:15). This is echoed in Sharia’, the Holy Law of Islam. A Prophetic hadith enjoins: ‘If someone engages with sex with an animal kill him and kill the animal.’ There is no suggestion in the play, of course, that Stevie goes in for Old Testament or Islamic morality. She doesn’t kill Martin. Her terrible revenge is of a more exquisite, feminine type. ‘You brought be down, but I will bring you down!’ she shouts at her husband, and goes off. Later she reappears, bespattered with blood, dragging on the stage a large, bloody bundle: Stevie has slaughtered the goat. ‘Why?’ Martin cries. The play ends with his puzzling ‘I am sorry!’ Bit lame, perhaps.

Man lives ‘In this waning age’, lamented Shakespeare. A reference to the Elizabethan notion that mankind is declining from an original, pristine ‘Golden Age’ to the current, corrupt state of mankind. Even Milton thought the same. For the poet human beings were getting physically smaller, becoming like elves and fairies. Poetic imagery perhaps signifying an indictment of the monsters of nascent modernity. Makes you think that all is not well in the ‘tolerant’ and ‘enlightened’ Western world. It is the moral state of humanity that is in the dock. Will sentence soon be passed? Insh'allah!

Revd Frank Julian Gelli


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