What does it say about my mind that the name “Augustine of Hippo” immediately conjures up the image of a hippopotamus dressed as a bishop? Of course, “hippo” actually means “horse, ” with a hippopotamus being a “river horse,” but I don’t know of any particular connection between horses and the city of Hippo Regius (now Annaba, Algeria) either. Anyway, you know how preachers are always going on about what promiscuous party animals they were before finding Jesus, and you get the impression they’re wildly exaggerating (well, at least I do)? Augustine seems to have been a trendsetter in that respect, since he’s said to have been a hedonist before his conversion to Christianity. Nobody seems to be all that clear in exactly what his hedonistic behavior entailed, however, aside from having several affairs and following the Gnostic religion of Manichaeism. His mother Monica was a Christian, but he didn’t enter into the faith until Easter of 387, when he was thirty-one years old. He then gave up his position teaching philosophy, gave away his worldly possessions, and became celibate. He also came up with the idea of original sin, which seems awfully convenient to me. I mean, he was able to use this concept to excuse what he saw as bad behavior in the past, while also saying that none of it really counted because Jesus forgave him. I’m all for self-improvement, but isn’t it more effective to search for the roots of your negative traits instead of just deciding that it was Adam and Eve’s fault? I can’t help but feel that some of these people who turn from a life of sex or drug addiction to hardcore religion are just trading one addiction for another. Augustine was also known for addressing the concept of the just war, feeling that sometimes war was necessary to preserve peace. So turning the other cheek didn’t apply then, or what? I’m not saying there isn’t merit to this idea, just that I’m not sure it squares too well with the actual teachings of Jesus. But then, Augustine’s background was in Greek philosophy, and I often get the impression that this was just as important to the development of Christianity as anything Jesus said or did.
By the way, I don’t usually bother explaining my titles, but the reference here is particularly obscure. It refers to Hippo Hump Day at Scarlet Clarity, which has since been updated to the more general Pachyderm Wednesday. So now you know. And knowing is half the battle.