Posted by: nieophyte | May 10, 2008

My body, my soul

It happened while I was driving to meet my mom. We had made plans the evening before to meet for breakfast the next day, but I hadn’t heard from her. I didn’t even know where we were supposed to meet, but I got in my car and started driving with the assumption that she’d call eventually.

While making a left turn, I felt the vibration. I reached into my sweatshirt pocket fishing around for my phone, but it wasn’t there. What the … ? That’s when I realized, it wasn’t my phone vibrating, but my stomach. Grumbling.

Am I that out of touch with my body that I can’t even recognize whether or not my stomach is grumbling? This mini-event launched me into a long and still-lasting inner dialogue with myself about my body and my connection to it. What is my body? Is it simply a vessel carrying the more important part of me, my soul? or is the body also something that is “essentially” me, and I use the word essentially in the philosophical sense, in the Aristotelian sense. Is my body the essence of my being? Or do I subscribe to the ideas of dualism–that mental processes are not of my body, but solely of my mind and therefore, my body is unimportant and my soul is the real.

Slowly, I am coming to the conclusion that the body is a truly important part of my spiritual self. I’m a little miffed, to be honest, by mainstream evangelicalism’s neglect of the body and physical elements as essential to spirituality. I really wish I had grown up in a church that practiced the seven sacraments and spoke of the elements as real conduits of spiritual realities in a physical world. How much more significant might communion be, for example, if I was told that these physical elements–the wine and the bread–held within them real, spiritual significance rather than just symbolic meaning? Instead, I’m given welch’s grape juice and a piece of hawaiian bread and told to pray and think upon the meaning of what Christ did for me thousands of years ago.

I’m not saying that I subscribe to transubstantiation, but I am here to ask us to question the body soul dualism that has permeated modern Christian thought. What are the ramnifications of church teaching that says this world is simply a waiting room, a holding place for those just passing through and moving on to paradise ahead? How devastating could such a soul embalming, mind calming teaching be?

Pretty darn devastating, in my opinion. It has bred a generation of Christians who have no sense of reality, no feeling of urgency to confront the physical maladies of this world. Global poverty, AIDS, economic disparity in the classes, suburban sprawl, warfare, persecution, abuse of the earth’s resources–all of these world-wide disasters are simply physical and therefore insignificant to a group of people just passing through on a heavenbound train.

But this ideology is not reminiscent of the Jesus I know. My Jesus fed the hungry, not symbolically, but he literally gave them a pick of fish, which they put into their mouth, chewed with their teeth, and swallowed in order for the food to fill their empty stomachs. My Jesus healed the sick, by touching their leprous skin, so that the weeping sores closed with new skin, as cuts miraculously do.

The healing was immediate, it was physical, it was visible, it was tangible, it was real. And if we claim to be followers of Christ in this world, then our work and our worship must also be just as immediate, physical, visible, tangible and real. So, while speaking about spiritual life can be a largely figurative endeavor, I’m here to advocate for a newfound acknowledgment and appreciation for the truth: that in Him we LIVE and MOVE and have our BEING.



  1. AMEN and AMEN!

    I’ve actually tinkered with the idea of quasi-transubstantiation. I don’t know if I’d go as far as to say that it literally becomes the body and blood of Jesus Christ, but I will refuse to believe it’s merely symbolic either. Somehow, somewhere, a miracle takes place when I take the elements (Our community uses real wine and challah bread. hee!)

    Bishop Tom Wright tackles your frustration well with a view of heaven I subscribe to. Heaven, if we are to go there, is a place of waiting for those who’ve passed before Jesus comes back to reimagine the earth. This means we’re not going anywhere when Jesus comes back.

    What does this mean for us on earth now? We prepare for His glorious arrival. Not in making sure our sins are purged or that we’re not caught doing naughty things when he returns. But rather in preparing the earth towards realizing the kingdom. And thus, Bishop Wright stresses that we must take part in healing the world just as, as you mention, Jesus did while on earth.

    In my community, we’re going through the notion of what right-brained worship looks like: worship that affects ALL of our senses and not just listening, talking, and drawing out some “application” as a result. I’ll keep what you said here in mind.

  2. I really like your posts. As a matter of fact, they may be the only ones I ever connect with on Merging Lanes. =)

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