SPIRITUAL SOAP: Weird & Güd - Intention Detention
Intentions matter, or be slain.
Before we were The Black Sheep, we were a newsletter named Spiritual Soap. Please enjoy this article from our history!
I enjoy research too much and I’m a shameless critic. Weird & Güd is the conjoining of those misanthropic qualities into something useful: recommendations and fascinations neatly packaged together for you every week, no hermeticism required.
Nothing like some biblical drama to keep it weird for you.
Onan and Tamar, 1892, by Alexandre Cabanel
You’ve all gotten a bit comfortable with the weird portion of this newsletter, so let’s go biblical, the quickest route to true weirdness.
The Abrahamic religions care a lot about sex, and by care I mean are fixated on it. We might mock them but that desire is evidence of our own extremism—modern western society obsessively cares too little about sex. In a climate allergic to criticism, of which the sex-positive ideology was born, we will do anything except scrutinize what we do. Religion provides the scrutiny we can’t bring ourselves to apply.
I’m not religious and this newsletter is not an elaborate conversion scheme. Religion is a big-big-old-old thing and writing it off as irrelevant is like chucking a fossil into the trash because it’s old—the oldness is exactly what makes it valuable. It’s also what makes it insanely weird.
Enter Onan. A normal dude that found himself in the abnormal debacle of being required to impregnate his recently deceased brother’s wife, Tamar, to create an heir to Dead Brother’s fortune. There you go again with that ancient weirdness, Bible. Our friend Onan was understandably hesitant but found the bravery to go forth. He finished the deed and was promptly slain by god himself for “doing evil.” What that evil actually was is the question that has birthed some of the most pernicious religious views on sex today.
Tamar of Judah, 1847, by Francesco Hayez
The bible says Onan “spilled his seed” (poetic at the most uncomfortable moments as is the bible’s brand) and then he was slain. Was he slain because he disobeyed the command to create Dead Brother’s heir? Because without procreating he was a hedonist? Was he slain because he was having sex with Dead Brother’s wife to begin with? We don’t really know, but out of this vaguery has originated all your favorite classic conservative hits like I Can’t Get No Contraception, Smells like Sex for Pleasure is Sinful, No Masturbation No Hell, and according to the Jewish interpretation, God Only Knows but We’re Pretty Sure This Justifies the Death Penalty.
Onan got what he deserved but not for the reasons any of the major religions argue. Onan was a goddamned liar (very literally damned by god). Dead Brother’s wife expected this encounter to result in her Dead Husband’s heir only to watch Onan basically say “psych” at the last minute. Onan’s story is a lesson in the honesty of intention; there are more ways to lie than simply with words. Slayer God in this story becomes the ultimate father who asks “What are your intentions?”
But sure, ban contraception.
Tamar got screwed by Onan, became the reason religion screwed all other women out of reproductive autonomy, and had to wear this weird hat. And people wonder why feminists are mad.
Judah and Tamar, circa 1650-1660
If you think I’m above placing my own work in the Güd category, we’re about to get to know each other just a bit more.
Last week I published an essay I was hoarding (thanks to Areo Magazine for freeing it from the dark recesses of my “finished pieces” folder). The essay is a call to examine the state of comedy. We’re reaching the peak of a climate where comedy is being quietly smothered under our ravenous desire to find what’s Wrong with everything.
Lenny Bruce, Wrong in 1961
Look at the headlines that come down your newsfeeds; how often are they worded in a way that sounds worse than what the actual article has to say? How often do you hear someone’s interpretation of an event and find out it’s worse than the actual event? We’re quicker to denounce what we hate than praise what we love; anger gets more engagement than enjoyment. The internet moves fast and has already incorporated this equation—we’ve become unconscious outrager miners, trained to find the next worst thing.
Comedy can’t breathe in a room full of cynicism. Searching for the worst interpretation of events kills comedy and we pay the price for that death by living in a world of worst-case scenarios. Intention may be intangible, but the results of twisting it for selfish means aren’t. Read my latest essay. Protect comedy.
George Carlin, Wrong in 1972.
I hope this makes your week a little weirder and a little güder. Now go forth, be weird, and above all, be güd.
I sit alone at a desk biting my nails to bring you every edition of Spiritual Soap. Is it worth it? Don’t tell me, show me.