Thursday, November 01, 2007


"[I]n putting forward an understanding of human physiology as crucial to (rather than incidental to or separate from) the construction of self, Paul Eakin's study (How Our Lives Become Stories: Making Selves) and [recent] laboratory experiments intersect with the agenda of modern theology. As Eakin asks, "Are bodies something that we have or something that we are?" The development of robust theologies of the body, theologies predicated on the notion of humans as embodied beings and bodies as something we "are," is a thriving enterprise within theological circles these days. Such an endeavour inevitably touches upon issues of sexuality, of limitation, but also on what it means to proclaim religious truths as a finite and bounded being.

"The disembodied position, that which views the body as something that we merely have, can too easily lead to theological positions that gloss over the tensions, attractions, and repulsions that come with lived human experience. The failure of such theological systems to take seriously the notion of embodiment leads not only to theological impoverishment, but to the dangerous potential for a variety of abuses. These include the potential to abuse one's own body, but also the potential to fail to honor the value and worth of the body of the other. Violence is empowered by systems of thought that refuse to acknowledge, with integrity, the rights of other bodies.

"Additionally, the numerous instances of clergy sexual misconduct can be read in light of this deficiency, as can high rates of clergy obesity and substance abuse. A disembodied theology has nothing to say on these issues, so they are often ignored until they reach crisis status. Likewise, a disembodied theology is of little utility in thinking about human sexuality and sexual ethics. The intensity of intra-denominational conflict over sexuality implies that the Christian churches have too long been absent from meaningful participation in such conversations. I am encouraged by some recent work on the subject, and hope that the dialogue continues to expand. As medical science continues to explore the wonder of the human body, we must ensure that our theological thinking keeps pace."


(c) From Sightings, and the Martin Marty Center at the University of Chicago Divinity School. The author, Kevin Boyd, is Director of Field Education and Church Relations at the School.

No comments: