It is a universal truth so obvious that it goes unsaid but here it is: 100% of all humans, in every country, of every race, of both genders and throughout all of human history, every single one has had….wait for it…a body. The debate, in so much as there has been one was never whether we had bodies but whether we had souls or spirits. Whether we were more than a singularity but a duality or even in some thoughts a trinity of mind, body and soul.
Your body matters. It matters in all sorts of ways, to your health, to the ways you experience the world, to the ways you engage with others. It is, to the frustration and pain of some, inescapable. For some their body is a temple and to others it is a prison – yet each person is, in some way, defined by their outward form.
Your body is also, in some ways, a theological statement. And the Son of God taking on human flesh is one of the biggest theological statements of all. Bodies matter.
At various times attitudes towards the body have varied considerably ranging from overindulgence and exaltation of bodies to the despising and mistreating of the vessel that bears us from cradle to grave. In this present time, how to think about bodies has, once again, become incredibly important.
It is important for a variety of reasons. The current big battle for ‘equality’ is being fought for the T in the LGBT coalition (I realise they keep adding initials but for most people it’s still LGBT), the transgendered. How we think and articulate a world-view that includes our bodies will matter in this debate. It’s an issue I first wrote about here.
The knock-on effect of this carries over to two other related arenas, that of sexuality – so for example is there a right use of your body? Does that right use include or exclude homosexual sex? It also spills over into the arena of gender and gender equality because our bodies plainly separate men and women from being the ‘same’, or do they?
Let me be upfront about my current position; the most consistent position with scripture would be to honour the body you were created with and that would both help determine your identity, your sexuality and your relationship with the opposite sex.
To understand what it means to be a man or a woman is to begin with knowing what a man or a woman is, and that fundamentally begins with some thought on the bodies that men and women have.
The transgendered deny the reality of the body they have and locate their sense of identity somewhere else, in some undefined sense of self. They live with the distressing sense that they were somehow born in the wrong body, that it does not reflect ‘who they really are.’ What this shows though is a huge disconnect between empirical fact (‘you have the body of a man’) and the non-empirical decision (‘Despite having the body of a man, I ‘know’ I am really a woman’). This complete deference to preference is already evident in the arena of sexuality. As a result of this inner sense and conviction the body is both denied and then altered.
If one begins with the assumption that our bodies are given to us by our Creator, there could be few stronger denials of that Creator’s choice than to change that body.
But denials come in many shapes and forms. The bodies we have also have obvious connections to sexuality, the biology is consistent with heterosexuality and inconsistent to homosexuality and there is a fundamental difference. Gay activists argue differently to transgendered, they are gay men and lesbian women, they are not uncomfortable with their male or female sex; what they do deny is that the body they have should determine anything or indeed be a barrier to their sexuality. What they have in common with the transgendered is they also locate their sense of self in something other than the bodies they have.
Here is a wide variety of reading material that illustrates the connections and the importance of the issue. (*this post has been sitting in my draft file for a few years so the links are active but not recent – still worth reading though)
- A few years ago the decision of Bradley Manning that he was in fact a she caused sites like Wikipedia no end of problems
- For an excellent insight into the worldview behind transgenderism read this by Nancy Pearcey. She sums up that worldview in this way, “The worldview implicit in the transgender movement is that our physical bodies have no particular value — that our biology is irrelevant to who we are as persons.”
- Andy Crouch offers a particularly insightful essay on the coming issues, worldviews and possible responses for the church
- Matt Hosier offers a good follow up to Crouch’s post, here
- An example of how thinking, rightly, about our bodies impacts our understanding of sexuality can be seen here, through the example of Sean Doherty. Sean, a Christian with same-sex attraction saw his future as celibate until, “He heard a ‘theologian in Oxford’ (whom I speculate was Oliver O’Donovan) comment that ‘God created two sexes, not four.’ In other words, sexual identity in creation centres around the two sexes of male and female, and not the four of male heterosexual, male homosexual, female heterosexual and female homosexual. For Sean, this was a revolution in his thinking. He realised that he needed to act not out of his ‘orientation’, however that had arisen, but from his sex as a man.”
- How we think about our bodies also impacts the issue of gender and to see what confusion this can bring you only have to look at the example of my adopted country Sweden. Here the activists want gender neutrality, “What many gender-neutral activists are after is a society that entirely erases traditional gender roles and stereotypes at even the most mundane levels.”
It seems to me that we have often neglected to think carefully enough about the significance of our bodies and the way we treat them and what they may (or may not) mean.
Photo by libertygrace0