[This article was originally written as an academic paper for University and therefore is presented in a much more formal manner than some of my other writings. I would caution the reader that the paper to follow examines some of the heretical doctrines that Zinzendorf adhered to and includes descriptions of his sexual deviancy and fetishism. The Zinzendorf of Rick Joyner and other Neo-Pentecostals is far different from the Zinzendorf we discover by going back to period texts.]
The Moravians, or Unitas Fratrum, were a Gnostic sect founded in 1457 in the former Eastern European countries of Bohemia and Moravia, known today as the Czech Republic. When the Counter Reformation ensued in the 16th century, merciless Catholic persecution all but extinguished them. In 1722, a small band of survivors journeyed to neighboring Germany in the hope they would grant religious asylum. They eventually settled, upon invitation, at Berthelsdorf in Saxony Germany, on the estate of Count Nikolaus Ludwig von Zinzendorf. Immediately, the exiles set about establishing a permanent community, complete with a church, on the Count’s estate (Hamilton).
In 1734, Zinzendorf became a Lutheran minister and was later made a bishop over the Moravian Church at Herrnhut. He and his sect subsequently established Moravian settlements in the Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, and England, and afterward set up communities in Pennsylvania, New York, and North Carolina (Hamilton). Today, Zinzendorf is considered a religious reformer and revered by a small number of Protestant denominations. In recent years, his “religion of the heart,” which stresses divine revelation over doctrine, has gained new and ardent followers among the ultra-right-wing, Neo-Pentecostal Dominionist groups. Historically Count Nikolaus Ludwig von Zinzendorf has been portrayed as a religious reformer and a brilliant, albeit misunderstood, theologian. However, comparison of texts penned by Zinzendorf’s 18th-century critics reveal shockingly similar allegations that are too voluminous and well substantiated to ignore. As it turns out, Count Nikolaus Ludwig von Zinzendorf was not only theologically heterodoxic, but a sexual deviant whose worship and sexualization of the wounds of Christ bordered on fetishism.
Zinzendorf took great pains to cover the fact that his doctrine was heterodoxic. His desire to gain legitimacy and entrance to other nations required as much. He claimed that the Theological faculty of the University of Tübingen in Württemberg Germany had issued him Testaments of Orthodoxy, and it is true—these testaments were, in fact, given. He needed these to prove to others that the tenets of his faith did not differ significantly from any other Protestant religion. Zinzendorf wanted desperately to start a mission in London and would need these Testaments for the British Kingdom to grant his sect permission to settle in any of the British Dominions (Rimius, “Candid Narrative” 15).
While initially granted, these testaments were later rescinded by the same governing body that had issued them once they examined his beliefs more deeply (Rimius, “Candid Narrative” 15). Evidently, the Theological Faculty at the University of Tübingen felt hoodwinked. An official copy of the University’s withdrawal is annexed in the book, “Candid Narrative” by Henry Rimius (Appendix 1-105). Zinzendorf would later knowingly trying to gain entrance to the British Kingdom with these fraudulently obtained Testaments of Orthodoxy. This was considered a high crime and misdemeanor (Rimius, “History of the Moravians” Appendix 1-46; “Candid Narrative” 35). The fact that he fraudulently obtained these Testaments, along with the fact they were later withdrawn, indicates that his doctrine was considered neither orthodox nor in accordance with other Protestant sects.
In another instance, Zinzendorf lied about his credentials by claiming the Theological Faculty had examined his doctrine at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark. At that time, the University of Copenhagen functioned as a general church inspection College that oversaw both church discipline and the work of the priesthood within the State of Denmark. Zinzendorf was related to the new bride of the Danish King and was initially warmly received when he arrived in Denmark for the Coronation. The visit went well, and he eventually returned home, leaving behind some of his Moravian brethren to start a mission there.
The king was not amused. The Moravians grew in Denmark over several years, causing division in the State Church and an uproar within the overall religious community. When Zinzendorf returned to Denmark so he could straighten things out, the King was furious. He gave him two days to either submit to an examination of his theology by the University of Copenhagen or “be off Danish soil” (Perkins, 221-222). While Zinzendorf later insisted he had been granted Testaments of Orthodoxy from the University of Copenhagen, the Dean, under the seal of the faculty, legally attested that no such Testaments of Orthodoxy had been given. Furthermore, the Dean insisted that the University had never even been petitioned to undertake such an examination. Consequently, it was determined to be an utter fabrication on the part of Zinzendorf (Rimius, “Candid Narrative” 16).
One does not need a prestigious theological college to discern that the doctrine that Zinzendorf embraced is unorthodox and heretical. Zinzendorf’s sermons, writings, and self-written hymns, testify of this. In excerpts taken from his sermons, Zinzendorf belittles and debases both Christ and the Apostles and calls the Trinity, “good for nothing but to amuse dogs and swine.” He believes the Holy Spirit is the wife of God and refers to Christ’s manner of speech as that of “a peasant, a carpenter, a fisherman, or a man brought up among toll gatherers” (Rimius, “Candid Narrative” 38, 40-41; Lavington 12-15, 31-32, 29; Wesley 13-14).
In one of Zinzendorf’s sermons, he insists Christ is feeble-minded claiming He, has “not one more thought than was needful of Him.” In referring to Christ being tempted to turn stones to bread after His forty-day fast in the wilderness, Zinzendorf claims Christ’s answers are illogical and foolish. He further insists that Christ deemed Himself, “useless and good for nothing” and that many of the things the Lord stated in scripture are “not fit to be examined” (Lavington 29-31). Alarmingly, Zinzendorf goes as far as to tell his congregation that Christ “had nothing extraordinary in his turn of mind or gifts” (Lavington 31; Wesley 13). Furthermore, Zinzendorf states that at that cross, Jesus did not have enough intelligence to “arm himself like a great genius.” Instead, He was like, “the poorest of creatures who in their straits fall into downright convulsions” (Lavington 31-32). He further demeans Christ by calling Him their “little Jesus” and by feminizing Him as their “Little Mama Jesus” (“ Candid Narrative” 39). Evidently, it would appear from such comments that Zinzendorf considered Jesus, weak, cowardly, intellectually deficient, and devoid of any talent or abilities. Consequently, by the words of his mouth, he stands opposed to orthodox Christian doctrine and thought.
Not surprisingly, Zinzendorf denied the deity of Christ, the bedrock upon which all orthodox Christian doctrine stands and instead insisted that Christ had no more power than we have (Lavington 28). In one sermon, Zinzendorf imagined Jesus as a mere woodworker in heaven, “hewing timber as the house carpenter of a little village, or making ploughs and other utensils for his neighbors” (Lavington 30). While this perspective alone provides proof of his unorthodox views, his scathing rebuke of the Apostles adds additional evidence.
In a sermon delivered to one of his Moravian settlements in the Dutch city of Zeist, he refers to the Apostles as “ignorant tricksters not fit to be trusted” (Lavington 125). It is his belief that the Apostles have wrongly cut the cloth and laid a weak foundation, spoiling Christ’s plan. He insists that St. Paul and St. John accommodated themselves too much to the times and were thus incapable of serving as a pattern for us (Wesley 16). In this same sermon, Zinzendorf alleges that Christ felt “pain in his entrails” when He thought about the fact that the Apostles would later commit “false tricks” to mar His plan. Strangely enough, Zinzendorf goes on to claims it will be centuries before Christ will finally find someone to trust with the execution of His plan (Wesley 15-16). This view is understandable considering Zinzendorf believed there had been no real church in existence before him and that God had chosen him to start the true Church and reveal His actual plan (Lavington 2).
Zinzendorf believed that the reading of Scripture was more dangerous than beneficial to His society (Lavington 71). Considering Zinzendorf’s non-Scriptural beliefs, his disdain of Bible reading makes sense. Andrew Frey, a former Moravian who had lived in the settlement on Zinzendorf’s estate, testified that the sect believed the Bible to be “loathsome dung, fit only to be spit upon” (Frey, 19). When a person abandons Scripture, they also abandon the Mosaic Law upon which all orthodox Christian doctrine rests. Without the restraint of this Law, there exists no Biblical morality. A person then feels free to embrace antinomianism and instead, do what seems right in his own eyes. This casting off of the restraint of law was precisely what happened with Zinzendorf. Predictably, antinomianism ensued.
Eventually, Zinzendorf’s antinomianism gave rise to openly erotic and perverse behavior that took place communally within his sect. Antinomians believe that New Testament Christians are under a new dispensation of grace freeing them from the confines of obedience to Mosaic Law. Zinzendorf, in fact, took this freedom one step further by discarding the confines of scripture altogether. He believed instead that this was a new era and that now Christ expressed His will directly and exclusively to both Zinzendorf and his elders eliminating the need for Scripture altogether (Lavington 74). As Christ’s Vice-Regent, Zinzendorf was conveniently free to declare that his sect’s lewd and licentious behavior sanctified by God, and therefore, Holy (Lavington 81; Rimius, “Candid Narrative” 38-79). This kind of “salvation” provided him with the freedom to gratify all sensual proclivities including making use of other men’s wives and daughters and holding orgiastic meetings under the guise of worship (O’Neill 106; Lachman 57-58; Wesley 14, 19-20; Schuchard 6).
Zinzendorf was a sexual deviant who exacted totalitarian control over the sex lives of his followers. He believed that human sexual union symbolized the mystical marriage between Christ and his Church—the believer and the Divine. The act of copulation became so elevated in his community that he referred to it as a “sacrament” and viewed it as a liturgical act (Peucker 31). Zinzendorf gave explicit instructions to all couples regarding the act of copulation, its frequencies and the various positions available to them. There were regular conjugal laws established and these were observed by all members of the sect. Certain hours and quarters were set up for these matters and meetings known as love-feasts ended with couples making love in full view of other parishioners (Lachman 59).
Zinzendorf considered himself Chief Deputy of Christ on earth, and “adjusted” marriages by making couples switch partners whenever it so pleased him. Sometimes “mass adjustments” were performed, and young girls and boys were forced together and made to perform difficile copulation astride wooden benches (O’Neill 107; Lachman 59).
All marriages performed outside the community were considered void, and all marriages performed within the community had to have the initial consummatory copulative act witnessed by Zinzendorf and his elders (O’Neill 108; Lavington xi). In “History of the Moravians,” there appears a testimony from a young, married woman by the name of Johanna Elizabeth Pabst, who testified under oath that all newly married couples were initiated into the “conjugal mysteries” by performing sex in the presence of elders (Appendix IV-72).
Zinzendorf governed not just the copulatory act itself that but the offspring it produced. Parents had to relinquish parental rights before they were allowed to join the community so Zinzendorf could legally take these children from the parents and raise them communally (Rimius, “History of the Moravians” 112-113). It was common for Zinzendorf to take children to his personal residence to “instruct them,” and he was sometimes observed to have nine or ten such children in his bedchamber overnight (Rimius, “Candid Narrative” 9). One is left to contemplate what “instruction” these children might need that required an overnight stay in the bedroom of an adult man. It is conceivable the Count was instructing the boys in the use of their penis. He was, after all, fond of telling them that their male member would become numb from disuse. He cautioned them that once it was numb, the Lord would have to instruct them in its use, forever. (Lavington 102-103). This is not the only instance in which his actions toward young children is suspect.
Zinzendorf often left his Countess at home and traveled abroad with a very young girl by the name of Anna Nitschman. He made her an eldress of the church at the tender age of fourteen, a title by all rights which should have belonged to his wife. It gave the young girl an enormous amount of influence and power of the lives of the community’s women. The young Anna Nitschman had been brought into the Zinzendorf home at a very young age after Zinzendorf had bribed the girl’s father to adopt him. This sham adoption deflected any outrage that might arise over their relationship because it was seen as totally permissible for a brother to be alone with his sister. In exchange for going along with the charade, the girl’s father was allowed entrance into sect’s inner circle and he became a leading figure in the early days. She remained in the Zinzendorf home for many years, and eventually married Zinzendorf, her adopted brother, soon after the death of his wife (Broomhall and Van Gent 194). Certainly, it would be fair to conclude that the adoption only served as a thin veneer of respectability to cloak his ongoing sexual relationship with the young girl.
Zinzendorf’s literature, sermons, and hymns, prove that he placed an undeniable and inordinate amount of emphasis on both the male member and on Christ’s circumcised penis. The congregation was instructed to meditate on the phallus of Christ and to maintain erections during prayer (Schuchard 49). In a hymn addressed to his penis, Zinzendorf penned the following:
“Member full of Mystery
Which holily gives and chastely receives
The conjugal ointments for Jesus sake;
May thou be blessed and anointed” (Rimius, “History of the Moravians” 49).
Zinzendorf did not stop at just writing a hymn for his penis, but he went on to petition Christ’s penis to anoint his own, for its conjugal business. It was words such as these penned above that caused John Wesley, father of the Methodist Church to cry out in protest asking, “Were ever such words put together from the foundation of the world?” (Wesley 30)
Undeniably, much of the sect’s lascivious behavior was committed under the pretenses of devotion to the blood and wounds of Christ. Zinzendorf and his Moravians worshiped the five wounds of Christ. The contemplation, adoration and rumination of these wounds produced group arousal that included language comparable to sexual fetishism. Although they lavished their devotion on all of Christ’s wounds, including, disturbingly enough, his circumcised penis, none of them was as cherished and revered as His side wound (Fogelman 87; Hutton 269).
In their drawings and paintings, they portrayed this side wound as female genitalia. The sect carried little cards with them as tokens of their dedication, inscribed with words of desire for the side wound in openly erotic language. Other cards depicted scenes of the Moravians carrying on the daily activities of eating, sleeping, resting, and working inside the side wound of Christ (Fogelman 77, 110). In this way, Jesus became both male and female, both maternal and erotic. Perhaps feminizing the Lord in this manner made it easier for both sexes to achieve the mystical sexual union with Him needed for spiritual gratification (Fogelman 80-91).
The Moravians hymns were replete with graphic language describing their mystical marriage with Christ and His side hole. In fact, the wounds had their own set of hymns called the “Wounds Litany” that Zinzendorf had penned in their honor (Lavington 37; Wesley 20).
“Oh, husband with a hole, O what an incomparable Ray!
Kiss us, you cold little mouth!
Oh, corpse! Spread further in this church hall.
We are lying here like the child.
Kiss us you cold little mouth” (Mack 44).
The cold little mouth that they were longing to kiss was the side wound on the corpse of Christ! Communion was not viewed in the Scriptural sense but seen as symbolic of their mystical marriage and erotic connection with Christ. They called this communion “a conjugal penetration of our bloody husband” (Mack 44). The language in their hymns was illustrative of the instruction given by Zinzendorf. There were asked to imagine themselves kissing and licking the side wound of Christ, to receive the blood (Lachman 59; Lavington 2, 39).
Zinzendorf’s complete idolization and infatuation with the side wound is evident. He instructed the Moravians to pray to them. In one prayer, they were to ask the side hole to hear their prayers and in another to accept their meditation. In another prayer, they petitioned “His broken eyes, the five wounds and the great hole” (Lavington 38; Wesley 20). Like most fetishes, their adoration and veneration of the wounds spread beyond the object of their immediate focus and began to include mentally kissing the Roman soldier and his spear in order to thank him for making the side hole (Lavington 39).
Their deification of these wounds, in essence, gave them license to commit acts that were not in keeping with Orthodoxy because they self-justified their intemperance by reason of their devotion to these wounds (Lavington 41). Evidently, the community held that any who had “taken abode” in the wounds, could commit no sin since the Lord was so delighted with their “sportiveness” (Lavington 43).
It is clear that a re-evaluation of our historical view of Zinzendorf is in order. This is especially true given the infusion and proliferation of his heterodoxic doctrine into modern Pentecostalism, and especially into the Neo-Pentecostal, ultra right-wing Dominionist groups. This propagation is very alarming to consider because many of the hardcore dominionist groups today seek the complete subjugation of civil government to their control. Therefore, this insidious doctrine that elevates progressive revelation through alleged direct contact with the spirit world over established Christian doctrine is highly dangerous to both religious adherents and society in general.
It is not immediately apparent why this material about Zinzendorf has been hidden, ignored, or glossed over, by historians. However, it is apparent that the reemergence of Zinzendorf’s doctrine within these religious circles makes a re-evaluation of the man critically important. Although Zinzendorf is known today as a social reformer and gifted theologian, the abundant evidence of his non-orthodox doctrine, sexually deviant proclivities, and blood and wound theology, surely disqualify him from such venerable praise.
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—. The History of the Moravians: From their First Settlement at Herrnhaag in the County of Büdingen, down to the Present Time, with a View Chiefly to Their Political Intrigues. London: Royal Exchange, 1754. Print.
Wesley, John. Queries Humbly Proposed to the Right Reverend and Right Honorable Count Zinzendorf. London: Royal Exchange, 1755. Print.