The Secular, The Sacred, and The Body (part 2)

Last post, I harkened to the name of this blog, Weird Amphibians. I referred to Mr. Berry and his essay that brought tears to my eyes. I shared that humans are not made to be split into pieces or categories but rather, live and operate as whole beings, whole selves. 

Splitting the person only leads to further splitting. Pieces of our whole selves are left floating about independently when the are meant to exist together in a purposeful, harmonious relationship. Our ethnicity, origin, DNA, upbringing, our muscles, posture, hair and skin . . . our memories, the events that have formed and shaped us, the foods we put in our bodies, the things we put on our bodies. . . our thoughts, feelings, fears, hopes and dreams. All of this . . . both the physical and the not-so-physical . . . it makes us, "us." It's ALL part of our makeup. 

When we create boxes and separate our bodies from our souls, we're left with "remainders." These remainders include (though are not limited to) emotions, thoughts, desire. Are these remainders part of our bodies or part of our souls? Where exactly do we place things like anxiety, depression and sexuality? Does that go in the "body box" or "soul box?" Is it a physical, biological issue? Or an internal issue of the psyche? And what the heck is our psyche? 

Our culture is striving so hard, so hard, to answer these kind of questions. So is religion. And yet, both are (and have been) coming up short. Swinging to opposite sides of the pendulum, they are searching for answers in the extremes. I realize what I am about to say below is VERY broad and an over-simplification. But let's go with it. 

The culture's response is to emphasize the physical, carnal self. BMI, skin color, calories in, calories out. Emotions are chemicals, memories are factors. This response eventually reduces humanity and humanity's "problems" to a mass of chemicals, atoms and the model of their genus/species. People are turned into textbooks and the spiritual self, the messy inner parts of our hearts, emotions, and desires are treated simply as chemical factors in a mathematical equation. Man is reduced to flesh and flesh only.  

The religious response however, is to emphasize the spiritual, inner self and eventually disregard the physical body entirely, along with it's biological factors. I have two examples to share, both from my personal life, that will perhaps provide tangible examples of this over emphasization. The first example: A professor of mine, announced to me and my fellow classmates that there was "no such thing as mental illness." Any sort of "emotional illness" was merely a spiritual problem. The second example: A colleague of mine informed me that anxiety attacks had nothing to do with one's physical health but only their "spiritual health." Both of these examples demonstrate a disregard for science and biology, in overemphasizing the spiritual-self and reducing man to soul, and a soul only. 

Both of these responses are twisted truth. Yes, we have a chemical makeup, a biological predisposition. Yes, we have inner, spiritual selves. But we are not entirely one or the other. We are a complex, interwoven fabric. These responses are byproducts of divorcing our fabrics from one another. While the marriage of ourselves is indeed complex and messy and hard to reconcile, the divorce is fatal.

It's here I would like to turn to Mr. Berry's essay because, friends, it's so good. He writes, "the concept of health is rooted in the concept of wholeness. To be healthy is to be whole. The world health belongs to a family of words, a listing of which will suggest how far the consideration of health must carry us: heal, whole, wholesome, hale, hallow, holy . . . if the body is healthy, then it is whole. . . divided against each other, body and soul drive each other to extremes of misapprehension and folly." (103-106). 

We've talked (okay, I've talked) A LOT about the secular and the sacred . . . I've harped on the engaging culture. I've rambled on the Christian need to redefine their place not merely as "believers," but as HUMANS in the world. I've shouted from the roof tops of this tiny blog for us to get dirty. To dig in. To pursue the arts and sciences because it's our DUTY. If we want to see the gospel spread, we need to marry the secular and the sacred. If we want to be Jesus to the world, we need to be dentists, poets, moms, yoga teachers, florists and plumbers. We need to leave the four walls of our churches. We need to BE THE SAINTS. St. Francis, Benedict, Augustine (just to name three out of . . . well, lots). They loved animals. They planted gardens. They loved people. They labored vigorously. They wrote poetry. They changed their corner of the world.

Heaven is NOT another world. Heaven is here and now . . . the Kingdom is almost here but not quite. We get to partake in the restoration process, the making new of all things broken and wounded. And we get to do it with paintbrushes, love, music, chemistry, airplanes, coffee, compassion and servanthood. 

Are you sick of me yet? I get sick of myself too. Luckily, my other love (besides the ancient church fathers) is health and wellness. And I'm excited to head in that direction for the next couple, few, handful (I'm unsure) of posts. Because Jesus doesn't care just about our souls or our church and Bibles. He cares about our bodies too.