Imago Dei

March 9, 2008

I’ve been thinking about “One Punk Under God” since we watched one of the episodes last week. It has made me ask some uncomfortable questions, such as: is it possible for a church community to be open, welcoming, and healing to those who differ in their sexual orientation without making the One Punk Under Godtheological proclamation that homosexuality is not a sin? I had several gay and lesbian friends in college; we were able to enjoy each other’s company and have lively literary discussions even though they knew where I stood on the issue. But a one-to-one relationship has more flexibility, I think, than a church structure charged with moral teaching. It just seems to me that Bakker believed he had to make a theological shift in order to open Revolution’s doors to the homosexual community, and I wonder if that is the only solution. The concept of sexual orientation has a foot in the discussion we had the week before about body theology. If the Church isn’t capable of handling a healthy and theologically sound discussion regarding heterosexuality and its implications for gendered leadership and family life, is there any hope for discussions and theological understandings of less straight forward forms of sexual orientation? Gender and sexuality issues, though hot topics in the western (or at least American) Church today, are so uncomfortable and so deeply rooted in our very identities as humans and as children of God that it has been more often than not simply swept under the rug or whispered in hallways. The undercurrent of discomfort and the inability to speak freely and knowledgably on issues of gender and sexuality has drastically overblown these topics that, in scripture, relatively speaking, play a much smaller role than we are often led to believe by the historical emphasis on the squelching and misrepresentation of the biblical understanding of the body.

RembrandtAgain I am drawn back to the first discussion of the relation between holiness and beauty. Why is it that in the realm of art the body is glorified, nakedness and even sexuality are lauded? Historically, on a skill level, an artist had to prove command of both the complicated representation of the crucifixion and of the human body in its original, uncovered state. Yet in the Church, once a great supporter of artistic expression in all mediums, we fear and shame that which art simultaneously reveals as beautiful in the name of piety. In our effort to be pure, we have lost that sense of holiness present in the very fact that our physical forms were created in the image of God, by God, and pronounced good. Of course, I’m not suggesting that we confuse the recognition of beauty and holiness in the human body with lewdness and vulgarity, but in our efforts to avoid the latter, we have lost in some profound way our understanding of the former. Fear and shame, those stumbling blocks to faith, have skewed the lens through which the Church views the world, to the extent that some churches refuse even simple stained glass or a cross hung on the wall for fear of idolatry. For the sBotticelliake of a holiness we cannot understand, we have lost that sense of beauty that was meant to be its vehicle. I am reminded of Aristotle’s discussion of the chairs: the painting of a chair points to the chair itself, which is more real, that in turn points to the true Form of the chair that exists outside our realm of perception and is most real, the epitome of reality. Not that we can’t take issue with Aristotle’s Forms, but there is a correlation.

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3 Responses to “Imago Dei”

  1. Evtastic said

    I was just thinking about this very topic the other day while I sat in a huge, completely uninteresting church building. So much space and totally unadorned! A real shame, I think. The nudity thing is sure interesting. Isn’t it strange that the church used to be comfortable painting nude bodies on the ceiling but now preach emphatically to avoid anything that even hints of nakedness?

  2. Brian said

    being comfortable with one’s self (body) must first occur before one may be comfortable with one other’s self (body).

    until that occurs, using “we” or “the church” to project-on this discomfort simply is a safe way to express the individual’s issue with self/body

  3. lauraknowles said

    After further reflection on our conversation, Brian, you’re right that when I say “we” I am including my own body issues in the mix. But that is just my point: the way I view my body, gender, and sexuality has been greatly influenced (and negatively) by the evangelical teachings of my church. Based on the class discussion, I am far from alone in my experience, so I felt comfortable making the generalization that “we the Church” have a skewed and squelched understanding of these issues.

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