Tuesday, June 08, 2004

The Body and the Soul

The body and the soul--how often the two have been maligned. It seems it's been one-upsmanship for the better part of history. The body denigrated at the expense of the soul--the soul maligned at the expense of the body. In contemporary North American culture we have both happening at the same time. Conservative (or is it more accurate to say 'fundamentalist'?) religious communities speak almost exclusively of the nexus and priority of the soul. We worry about the soul of man--the soul of the country--the soul of the church--the soul of the corporation. It's good talk, good rhetoric that inflames passions. It just has no arms or legs. No real help for people, no real means of spiritual formation, no real Christology. It's hopeful talk, makes for good sermons, but amounts to little transformation or community. Any transformation or authentic community is only Pnuematic serendipity. In the midst of the rhetoric and proclamation, the body, so ironically central to the Christology of these same fundamentalist churches, is subtley (or forcibly) moved to irrelevance.

On the other hand, culture, having lost the soul entirely (except in formless sentimentalism about "heart") worships the body. Apparently, the body is the sum total of life, so in order be 'true to life,' a new cult has arisen around incarnation. Image, weight, musculature, hair styles, grooming are all billion dollar industries as a result. It makes for good marketing, good commerce, good economy, but it has no depth, no soul, no heart, and so no power to adequately energize me for anything beyond myself. Any selflessness is due to the subtle and inescapable influence of Divine glory.

But both extremes are misplaced and give me pause to ask difficult questions. Does this not mean that in addition to not trusting the themes and impulses of broader culture, we need to avoid trust in conservative evangelicalism's basic understanding of proclamation of the Christian message? Apparently, the religious community is no better a spiritual guide than broader culture.

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