Sunday, August 3, 2003

A brief and by no means thorough reflection on the conversations:

When you read history, one of the things you notice in recent work is the commonly held and frequently voiced assumption that traditional Christian thinking has emphasized a dichotemy between body and spirit, a separation, and modern thinking is all about the reintegration of body and spirit. I have to say that this never made sense to me, and even less so these days. It seems to me that both of the conversations of this week - on homosexuality and marital sexuality - revolve around the question, "What does what we do with our bodies have to do with the spirit?" Does what we do with our bodies affect our spirit, our total being? Should what we do with our bodies reflect any greater plan or purpose built into creation? That's simplistic, but you know what I mean. And the answers fall into two camps: those who wish the Church to give into contemporary Western culture on this score say, in essence - no. What I do with my body has little relation to anything beyond itself. Those who wish the Church to resist the temptation to give into culture say, yes. My body and what I do with it matters, and matters not only in the context of my bed or even my own emotions, but matters in the context of what God wants for His creation.

That's simplistic, and there are countless complexities and caveats that could be offered (and will be, I'm sure!), but it just strikes me that those who maintain the truth of traditional Christian thinking on sexuality are more attuned to the relation between body and spirit than those who want to dispense with it.

Now granted, this connection between body and spirit was more often than not presented in negative terms - you do this with your body, this happens to your soul. The proper relationship between body and soul was of the former being subjugated to the latter. But the relationship was there and understood, nonethless. We are not angels or spirits only temporarily housed in bodies. Perhaps the gift of the modern era is in helping us to see the positive aspects of our integrated beings - not only as we see the positive aspects of marital love, for example, but also, on a more fundamental level, as we unpack the relations between body chemistry and emotions, etc.

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