In many cultures in the Middle East and elsewhere in the world there is a strikingly different approach to sexuality and the interactions between men and women. These cultures feature an emphasis on honor and shame as well as well as being on the other side of the individual/collective axis from those us in the modern West. If one takes a spectrum of human cultures and measured them by a metric which weighs their emphasis on individual vs group responsibility and sensibility one would find US and Western cultures today leaning toward the side of individuality and the individual whereas these Middle Eastern cultures were would be found at the other end, in which a person does not weigh his own advantage before that of his particular group (in this instance the primary group was the family). There are two reasons why this is important. First is, that many of us find the Bible, a book authored within the context of an honor/shame/collective culture is important. And furthermore the honor/shame/collective culture like the Middle East of the 1st century, comprises 70% of the worlds population today. Most of those of us reading this essay live in the western minority. If you think the liberal/conservative or left/right divide in the US is difficult to cross … it pales before this larger cultural division.
Features of the culture in which the separation of men and women is predominant are discussed in great detail elsewhere and by others. For the following, I’m going to concentrate on just one aspect of differences between the West and the h/s/c cultures. Most h/s/c cultures typically arranged themselves specifically in ways that tried to make it impossible for men and women to come into contact in a situation where their interpersonal relationship/contact might lead to a social unacceptable sexual relationship. In part a working assumption there is that people in these situations do not have the will power to actually resist such temptation. Now from the point of view the Western outsider there are a plethora of very disadvantageous features to this particular arrangement. For the point being made below … these perceived negative aspects are, at least at first glance, not relevant. What is relevant is the comparison made between our porn drenched Western culture and theirs in that the sight of the hint of anything at all about woman’s figure or form his highly eroticized in their culture where in ours the saturation has desensitised us. And it is this relative sensitivity to the erotic is that which I wish to use as a analogy to compare the high (hierarchical) churches to the low churches in their differing treatment of liturgy and sacrament to the restrained/free sexuality in the other two cultures.
In h/s/c cultures one finds manner, clothing, and interactions between the sexes in society highly constrained. In high liturgical/hierarchical churches one finds the manner, clothing, and interactions in liturgy similarly constrained. The west can be described as jaded and deadened to stimuli in comparison to the h/s/c cultures with respect to sexual imagery and erotically charged situations. Similarly, in prior conversations for example on Evangel, modern American protestants are comparatively blind to the sacred, as what was Holy was defined as something of an internal state of mind not a ontological property which can attached to a place (such as the Bush in Exodus). My point is that a sense of the sacred and a sensitivity to Holiness is heightened by similar practices. One might compare the segregation of the sexes in Middle Eastern cultures to the wall or screen separating between the servers, deacons, and priests and the congregation in the Eastern rites.