It was Thomas Jefferson, referencing the First Amendment of the United States Constitution in an 1802 letter to the Danbury Baptist Association, who first coined the term ‘separation between church and state’.
And, for some considerable period of time, it appeared that what Jefferson had put asunder, no man could unite. Until Donald Trump, Harvey Weinstein and Cardinal Pell forged a phallic link that transcended all such constraints.
How ironic that these three great institutions – the Church, the State and the Theatre – should be united in the unholy patrimony of ejaculation. For, of all the institutions that have been ravaged by the pox of priapism, it is these three that stand little head and shoulders above the rest, fully erect in their shame.
It’s an odd triumvirate, to say the least. For whilst one might argue that the main players in the arena of government and of the performing arts are already possessed of the brand of poppy-tallness that invites decapitation, church players (with the possible exception of the Pope) achieve notoriety – if at all - purely by virtue of their uninvited tumescence.
Which means we need to dig slightly but not all that much deeper.
References to the ‘theatre of religion’ and the ‘theatre of parliament’ are by no means new. The costumes, the ritual, the choreography, the rhetoric, the drama and the conflict are common to all three. But, once again, the bond goes somewhat deeper.
Each institution is based upon a very particular hierarchy which, until very recently, was virtually synonymous with patriarchy. The figure perched atop this unedifying heap is not there through any form of true meritocracy but, rather, through a kind of Divine Right, arrived at through Secret Men’s Business.
The demagoguery of their rule has its foundations in a strongly paternalistic brand of charisma that, if too closely examined, disappears up its own fundament. Their role is oracular, all-seeing, unchallengeable. As such, they are seen to dispense wisdom of a kind that is beyond the ken of their parishioners, their cast or their electorate – these groups obediently seated at their feet, like so many overgrown schoolchildren.
We see the faithful relieved of their burden of sin in a ritual as baseless as it is primitive. We see crowds of delegates moisten their gussets when assured by their leader that he wields the power to restore greatness to their dustbowl. And we see young actors (mainly women) expose their bodies before assembled strangers in blind fealty to their director’s artistic (quasi-religious) vision.
Each of these acts requires a leap of faith. And we use the term ‘leap of faith’ because a leap is the only means by which one can attain such faith. A leap into the darkness, the unknown. A step that is so far removed from the previous, logical step taken that it can only be described as a leap.
And it is this blind faith that brings us, finally, to the profound nexus that exists between it and sex.
Jesus himself (or, at least, the reports we have of the teachings of a man said to be Jesus) never mentioned sex. Not once. Yet it remains the single, most powerfully abiding obsession of the Church (not to mention those of other religions).
Whether it be birth control, abortion, marriage, adultery or homosexuality, it is the orifice through which life passes that seems to most potently capture the imagination of the cleric. Likewise, our political messiahs – like so many dogs spraying urine over so many trees - are desperate to assert dominance over their female acolytes. And our auteurs, viewing their trusting charges through a male lens, seem incapable of excluding the naked female form from their projected fantasies.
Because sex is the weaponization of faith. I’ll state that again: Sex is the weaponization of faith. Pure and simple.
Ergo, Trump, Weinstein and Pell.