God Loves a Woman’s Body

Durer’s renowned portrait of Eve

I’m not a big John Mayer fan, but I do think one of the best songs in the past decade (okay, it was actually 2001 – but close enough) is Your Body is a Wonderland. It celebrates a woman’s body – the awe, delight, and glory every woman should feel about her body. Yet, every time I get a whiff of pop culture, there is another “scandal” about a woman and her body. Is Beyonce photoshopped in a bikini? Is Meghan Trainor’s new song, All About that Bass, dissing people who are naturally thin? How can I look as good as that Hollywood star who is the same age as I am? (even if she has never given birth, has a personal trainer and chef and assistant and stylist, and enough money that she never lies awake at night wondering which bill she can afford to pay…)

The simple state of our society is that when women think of their bodies, they overwhelming have negative thoughts. They don’t celebrate this gift from God, but find things to criticize and to improve. And I fully claim that I am one of these women. I have tried my best to model for my daughter a healthy body perception – to keep my negative thoughts on the inside or just to voice them to my friends – but it’s an everyday challenge. As much damage as our society has done in contributing to a negative body image, I believe the issue started much earlier.

I remind myself on a continual basis that St. Augustine was not a totally bad guy. Yes, he had issues with his mommy – he kicked out his common law wife of over a decade and kept their son – and he tried his best to turn Pelagius into a heretic (and was successful). Yet, it’s his use of Greek dualism in his early 5th century writings that marked the Church (and thus Western society) for many centuries to come. Augustine took a few key verses from the Bible, mixed them with some of his Gnostic tendencies, and purported that the soul was connected with the divine, and could only reach God when denying or negating the body. The soul vs. body split became entrenched in Western thought. A woman’s body was especially seen as evil, since it was derived from the first sinner, Eve. Women’s bodies came to be viewed as a temptation, keeping men’s souls from attaining the glories of union with the divine. A woman’s soul could never overcome her body.

Pelagius (Augustine’s nemesis mentioned previously) was the first British theologian. He believed that all creation was good, including women’s bodies. Women were made in God’s image, as was man, and could be trusted to follow the divine light. Various theologians have tried to reclaim this goodness of creation in recent years. This is such a powerful message for women in today’s world. You are made in God’s image – no matter your size, skin color, age, etc. Your body is not a temptation for men – the temptation comes from them and how they view women. Your body is not something to be scrutinized and analyzed – it is a gift from God that works with our souls so that we can be God’s hands, feet, mouth, and heart in this world which so desperately needs it.

God loves each woman’s body. We should too.

Advertisements

Hinduism, Christianity, & Nature

Image

            As a College Chaplain, I am the one person who is officially designated to help support the spiritual journey of the campus community. I dare say we are living in the most religiously diverse nation this planet has ever seen. As a result, most colleges and universities today have incredibly diverse campuses in terms of religion. However, many people don’t realize this. They tend to stick with people like themselves, and this includes any religious belief set or observance.

             One of my great joys is helping students learn about different religions, and how to engage with people of other faith traditions. A group of students and I recently attended the Hindu Temple of the Triad. I’ve been several times now, and the smell of incense as I entered the building welcomed me with open arms. The leader of the community emerged, shook our hands, and generously spent time explaining Hinduism and puja (worship) to our students. Enthralled with the space, the students had numerous questions and began to see connections with their own religions.

             So many of the aspects of puja seemed familiar to me – a beautiful altar, a priest who trained years for this role, offerings to the divine, sacred writings. Yet, on this day, another similarity struck me. As our host explained the deities, he pointed out the particular animals associated with them.

             “Each idol has an animal, because it represents that all of creation is connected and part of the divine.” I sat there, again seeing a connection with my own faith of Christianity. One of my favorite parts of the Bible is where God created everything – every animal, tree, flower, star, and humans. And once God created, God said, “It is good.” All of creation is a gift from the divine, and it is good. Celtic Spirituality brought these concepts to the forefront. The first British theologian, Pelagius, understood that creation is good. However, the Western Church followed in the footsteps of Augustine, who himself was immersed in the Greco dualistic understanding of good and evil. Augustine couldn’t get past his hatred of his desires or his body. And so the church (in official doctrine, at least) rejected the understanding of the goodness of creation, and bought into the Greco ideas that our bodies (created in God’s own image) would lead us astray from the spiritual path and must be subdued. The church bought into the concept that creation itself must be dominated as well, and made to follow the will of man (and I use the word man specifically, not as a substitute for humanity).

             As I sat cross-legged in the Hindu Temple, soaking in the words of this bright man who immigrated from India, and whose life could only have been markedly different from mine own – I remembered the words of Genesis. “And God created, and it was good.”