Image and Likeness: Reflections on Theology of the Body

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When I saw the call out for submissions for this anthology I got so excited! I wished I could contribute, but none of my short stories seemed appropriate. So I decided I needed to read it as soon as it came out. And I was really, really excited when Ellen Gable agreed to give me a free copy to review!

It was not disappointing in the least. This anthology covers many aspects of St. John Paul II’s significant work, and often from different perspectives. It is a mix of poetry and short stories. Most of the short stories are straight fiction, but one is sci-fi and another is hard-boiled detective mystery. Some of the perspectives are very unique, highlighting various parts of the human condition:the humanity of a priest, the terror of a girl facing an unplanned pregnancy, a person in mourning, people facing inconvenient truths…

This book includes a number of very talented Catholic authors, a few I had heard of, others I will be looking up after reading this.

This book definitely illustrates the idea found in quotes such as this:

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Fiction is the way through which we can capture imaginations. You can better illuminate complicated ideas through stories. All of these stories will capture your imagination and give your brain more to chew on days after putting the book down. These stories and poems are examples of literature that needs to become more mainstream. Only then can we hope to really develop a culture of life.

If I was to make any complaints, I would only have two: 1) I think that the darker stories could have been broken up more with the lighter stories. Some nights when I was reading this, it felt like I got two or three really dark stories in a row. 2) This book concentrated on the more traditional aspects of Theology of the Body, namely anything involving sex, marriage, and beginning and end of life issues. Some work has been done by theologians, Susan Windley-Daoust comes to mind, to extend his theology to other aspects of being human. Maybe this could be an idea for a sequel? Maybe I can find something to contribute next time?

I did get this book for free in exchange for an honest review. I’m looking forward to reviewing more Full Quiver Publishing books. I already have a few on my Kindle.

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Theology of the Body Thursday # 37:Women Need Abortion?

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I’m currently working on a blog enumerating the many, many ways that the assertion that “Women need abortion in order to be successful” is unspeakably insulting to… well… everyone, I want to concentrate today on that assertion from a Theology of the Body perspective.

Where do I start? The statement is so irredeemably screwed up. So, I’m going to limit myself to the idea that we are made to be gifts. An abortion is in many ways a refusal of the gift.

It is a refusal of the gift of the male who gave himself to the woman in the sexual act.

It is a refusal of the gift of fertility, that women were made with the awesome ability to bring new life into the world.

Of course, most obviously, it is a refusal of the child, a gift from God violently sent back to its Maker because it wasn’t the right time or the couple had “better” things to do.

“This likeness [to God] reveals that man, who is the only creature on earth which God willed for itself, cannot fully find himself except through a sincere gift of himself.”

-Gaudium et Spes

The statement that “Women need to have the right to an abortion in order to be successful” is a huge insult to the gift. It says implicitly that women don’t want the gift of fertility. They certainly don’t want the gift of a child. That children are a burden and motherhood is a pointless endeavor. That our plans and desires are more important than morality and success can only be measured by dollar signs and fancy titles.

This idea cannot be any more incompatible with the fact we can only find ourselves through a sincere gift of ourselves.

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Theology of the Body Thursday #36: My Body Isn’t Just for Marriage

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Today I want to share with you a very insightful article from Reverb Culture. It’s by a single woman, Sarah Kuenzi, reflecting on what exactly bugs her about the way Theology of the Body is usually taught.

Theology of the Body, in its most basic form, shows us that the spiritual is shown through the physical. Our bodies have a sacramental purpose, because they both reveal and affect the truth of who we are. 

Recently I started reading a book with a couple close friends entitled These Beautiful Bones– An Everyday Theology of the Body by Emily Stimpson – I highly recommend it. Through this book, along with good old Scripture and Catechism, prayer, and honest conversations, I’m slowly becoming more conscious of how the physical and the spiritual interweave with one another. I’m discovering the true heart of John Paul II’s writings. In our work, social interactions, and leisure, our bodies are so often disconnected and disengaged from our minds. It’s easy to dismiss the physical aspect of our humanity, especially if we don’t like the way our bodies look, or the temptations that seem to stem from them. But our bodies and spirits are tied together, and we need both. God has called us to redeem our whole selves – body and soul.

Please read the whole article here: http://www.reverbculture.com/blog/tob

I highly recommend it.

Theology of the Body Thursday #35: What is a relationship?

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“We started out just hooking up but then it got serious and that was weird so we stopped dating for awhile, but then we realized it’s OK so we started dating again and now it’s great. I hope that doesn’t sound bad. That sounded bad. I mean, it was the correct information but I presented it in the wrong way. This is weird. I look like a dick. Ask him a question now.”  – The young woman in the above picture

This quote gave me pause when I saw it on my news feed the other day. She’s obviously uncomfortable talking about her relationship. She’s embarrassed to be talking about something so private. She’s confused and she’s not sure how to even appropriately talk about it. Maybe she knows who Humans of New York is and she’s worried about having her face and quote plastered across the internet. But enough speculating, let’s just take the quote at face value.

For those of you unfamiliar with the lingo, more often than not, “hooking up” means having sex with “no strings attached.” So to translate the first sentence, they were having sex, but then it got serious, so they stopped. Do we really look down on sex, on our own bodies, that much? We can have sex without it being serious?

And then, serious just seems weird? I’m not sure how to even contemplate that. Maybe it is weird because we are all so naturally stuck in ourselves and then someone else comes on the scene and takes our affections. Maybe it is weird because change is weird.

As flawed as this quote is about sex, it says even more about womanhood. In a society so saturated with sex, women’s bodies being used to sell everything from cars to cheeseburgers to cable TV, this woman and many like her don’t feel comfortable talking publicly about their sex lives. She thinks she “looks like a dick” for telling the truth of her experience while he just sheepishly smiles.

Is this what we have come down to? Women ashamed of admitting their sexuality while their sexuality is used and abused. “Relationships” being so without rules, without strings, that no one can define them, even the people involved. As I’ve said before, in placing sex outside of marriage we have thrown the baby out with the bathwater and left future generations hurt, confused, and feeling just “weird.”

Here is the sexual revolution, summed up in a Humans of New York picture and quote.

 

Theology of the Body Thursday #34: The Not-so-secret Love Letters of John Paul II

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The BBC came out recently with an exposé on John Paul II’s “secret affair” with a married woman.

Although there was nothing “secret” about it. And the BBC carefully avoided the word “affair.” ::wink-wink::

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Image from the estate of Anna-Teresa Tymieniecka

 

Tymieniecka and JPII started correspondence in the 70’s prompted by a philosophical work that JPII published, “The Acting Person.” Their deep conversations about philosophy and everything else continued in letters and in-person visits for the rest of his life. After he died, she tried to sell the letters she received and a library in Poland ended up with them. The library did not make the letters available for reading until the BBC saw them. That is the only sense in which they were secret. Their relationship wasn’t a secret at all.

It only stands for reason that a man who wrote so poetically about the plight of women and had such a deep understanding of the human person would have had to have relationships with women.

But the BBC felt the need to add that there is no suggestion the Pope “broke his vow of celibacy.” They had to read sexual attraction into every page.

It reminds me of two great friendships in the Bible, David and Jonathan and Ruth and Naomi, that are frequently victims of the exact same abuse. It says more about us than it does about them. We, as a society, can’t accept a close relationship devoid of sex because we have equated intimacy so much with sex.

We are created to be a gift to others. Certainly that is stamped on our bodies, to be sure, but sex isn’t the only way to express this gift. To be celibate doesn’t mean you have no intimacy in your life. Can’t we just accept that you can be close to someone without sex. I think that would solve a lot of the loneliness in the world.

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And here’s what I think JPII would want to say to these journalists. (But he’d probably be too polite, so I’ll say it for him.)

Theology of the Body Thursday #30: Madonna is Wrong

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In a recent interview, Madonna was asked about dancing nuns on stripper poles. A trailer of her upcoming tour contains a teaser of them. Her response, “I just like the juxtaposition. I’m very immersed in deconstructing the concept of sexuality and religion and how it’s not supposed to go together, but in my world it goes together.”

Setting aside how campy stripper nuns are, I’m glad that “in her world” sexuality and religion go together. Guess what. Sexuality and religion belong together.

God made us male and female for a reason. Not to have sex just for the heck of it, but to give ourselves as a gift to one another, including, but not limited to, sex.

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Screenshot from Madonna’s tour trailer. Honestly, these are the most dressed stripper nuns I’ve ever seen. Is Madonna showing a bit of respect there?

In music and art, the sexual experience has often been compared to a mystical connection with God. This isn’t just artistic license. The intense gift of self between a man and woman with the accompanying potential for new life is just about as close as we humans can get to God and His work. We are cooperating with His ongoing creation of the universe in our openness to new life. That is what sex without the barriers of birth control is all about. It makes sex more honest, open, and also, simply, more God-like.

Celibacy is just the other side of this same coin:

Celibacy and marriage are complementary vocations because they both proclaim that sexual intimacy cannot be an audition. Both celibates and married persons respect the structure of covenant love and avoid “trial” or conditional intimacy. Both celibacy and marriage reject sexual relationships in the context of what Pope Francis calls the “throwaway culture.” Both celibacy and marriage reject sexual relationships premised merely on satisfying erotic desire…Celibacy and marriage are the only two ways of life which converge on the conclusion that marriage is the fully human form for procreation acts in light of God’s design which abides in us and shapes our lives.

Love is Our Mission, 98-99

Celibacy lends respect and support to marriage in its absence of sex just as marriage lends respect and support to celibacy in its participation in the creation of new life. They both courageously proclaim the dignity of sex.

So, regardless of how you feel about stripper nuns, sex and religion do belong together, just likely not in the way Madonna thinks.

 

 

Theology of the Body Thursday #26: Cool Organizations: Stop Surrogacy Now

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What is wrong with surrogacy? If a couple wants a child and a woman agrees to be a surrogate, what’s wrong with it?

This is what is wrong:

  1. Women are not incubators. We are not machines. People are meant to be loved and things are meant to be used, not the other way around. Regardless of pay, a woman’s most intimate parts are not tools.
  2. Children are not commodities. There is no “right” to a child. The idea that a couple has a “right” to a child is a very dangerous one indeed. This opens the door to all sorts of abuses in the name of “having a child.” The idea of children has commodities, as things, once gave the blank check to anyone who wanted child labor. Let surrogacy have the same fate that child labor once did in this country.
  3. A child, on the other hand, as a human being has rights, and one of those rights, as listed by the UN, is the right to his or her biological parents.

What can you do about it?

From the Center of Bioethics and Culture:

Stop Surrogacy Now brings together a worldwide, ethnically, religiously, and culturally diverse group opposed to the exploitation of women and the human trafficking of children through surrogacy.

 

With support from 16 organizations and more than 100 individuals from 18 countries, Stop Surrogacy Now demands recognition that surrogacy exploits women (in many cases poor and marginalized) who are paid to bear children. Often these women are subject to coercion, restrictive or substandard living conditions, and poor health care. In addition, surrogacy carries many severe, short- and long-term health risks. Many surrogates live as indentured persons with 24 hour monitoring of the “property” within their wombs.

 

Stop Surrogacy Now demands recognition that children conceived for surrogacy are quality-controlled: subject to sex-selection or abandonment for disability or simple change-of-mind. Children produced through surrogacy are objects of contract as well as products of inequitable bargaining power and unregulated markets. Most often, these commercially produced children experience the sudden and complete severance of the natural bond between mother and child and are intentionally deprived of contact with and knowledge of one or both biological parents in direct violation of the U.N.’s Declaration of the Rights of the Child.

 

Signatories to Stop Surrogacy Now demand a complete stop to surrogacy in order to protect women and children worldwide and to end efforts that would seek to legitimize and normalize trafficking children.

Please sign the petition found at: Stop Surrogacy Now

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I did talk about surrogacy in a previous TOB Thursday. You can read it here.