God Loves All Bodies

Human Bodies: Week 2

God Loves All Bodies
Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Barbara Brown Taylor, one of our CONSPIRE 2018 presenters, shares her experience of falling in love with human bodies, her own and others. She writes in An Altar in the World:

Our bodies are prophets. They know when things are out of whack and they say so, although most of us welcome their news about as warmly as the people of Jerusalem welcomed Jeremiah’s. We would rather lock up our bodies than listen to what they have to say. Where Christians are concerned, this leaves us in the peculiar position of being followers of the Word Made Flesh who neglect our own flesh or—worse—who treat our bodies with shame and scorn.

I came late to understanding that God loved all of me—not just my spirit but also my flesh. Like many young people raised in the fifties, I grew up with a lot of questions and unearned shame about my ripening body. . . .

When understanding finally came—not by reason but by faith—the first thing I understood was that it was not possible to trust that God loved all of me, including my body, without also trusting that God loved all bodies everywhere. God loved the bodies of hungry children and indentured women along with the bodies of sleek athletes and cigar-smoking tycoons. While we might not have one other thing in common, we all wore skin. We all had breath and beating hearts. Most of us had wept, although not for the same reasons. Few of our bodies worked the way we wanted them to. The vast majority of us were afraid of dying. . . .

My body is what connects me to all of these other people. Wearing my skin is not a solitary practice but one that brings me into communion with all these other embodied souls. It is what we most have in common with one another. In Christian teaching followers of Jesus are called to honor the bodies of our neighbors as we honor our own. In [Jesus’] expanded teaching by example, this includes leper bodies, possessed bodies, widow and orphan bodies, as well as foreign bodies and hostile bodies—none of which he shied away from. Read from the perspective of the body, his ministry was about encountering those whose flesh was discounted by the world in which they lived.

What many of us miss, in our physical dis-ease, is that our bodies remain God’s best way of getting to us. . . . Deep suffering makes theologians of us all. The questions people ask about God in Sunday school rarely compare with the questions we ask while we are in the hospital.

Reference:
Barbara Brown Taylor, An Altar in the World: A Geography of Faith (HarperOne: 2010), 41-43.

Image credit: The Thankful Poor (detail), Henry Ossawa Tanner, 1894. Private collection.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: If we are all made in God’s image, if we are all the Body of Christ, then treating black and brown bodies with love and respect is the only way for our country, our communities, and our Christianity to be whole. —Richard Rohr

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