Tears and smiles like us he knew

VladimirIt’s easy for theology to engage with chemistry, physics, cosmology and the like. These topics are concerned with ideas, concepts, and theories, rather than with things you can see or touch or feel.

Like theology, these sciences are products of the human mind. Different people with different backgrounds, different brain wiring arrangements, will have different ways of looking at things. This is one reason why I don’t expect my theology, such as it is, to be the same as anyone else’s, certainly not that of Biblical authors who had an entirely different worldview and cultural milieu.

Engaging with zoology – human biology – is different.

Zoology concerns things we touch and feel and do. We ingest, we digest, we excrete, we screw, we fiddle with our own and each other’s genitals, we break, we wear out, we tear, we are vulnerable. It’s messy.

People of Biblical times are much more at home with this mess than we are. Scripture has blood, guts, bowels, murders, torture, wombs, circumcisions, hearts, body, eyes, ears, incest, and rape. These are not things prissy and prudish Christians talk about over sherry, let alone in church.

Church people seem unwilling to confront mess. Some are wilfully ignorant of biology. Human sexuality is a case in point: the churches’ attitudes to sexuality, masturbation and birth control are stuck in a bygone age that knows nothing of the embryology of the genital system or the role of ova and spermatozoa. The link between sexual intercourse and “love” is by no means clear in Scripture—nor even in the marriage service of the Book of Common Prayer—despite protestations to the contrary.

People blame Paul. Wrongly IMHO. In contrast to “spirit”, he used the Greek sarx that translators rendered as “flesh”. What Paul meant by sarx would more accurately be rendered in modern English as “ego”. That and its ramifications make complete sense to me. But—and this is not Paul’s fault—so began the church’s denial of biological flesh and therefore of human pleasure and delight.

The incarnation—carnes the Latin version of sarx—is messy.

The nativity is messy. Mary screams and shoves, amniotic fluid leaks, fetal membranes are shed, baby howls, placenta emerges, umbilical cord is severed, lots of blood, maybe urine and faeces and copious farts. And if we assume that Luke’s nativity tale has a smidgeon of historicity, there are the animals with all that that implies.

Western Christians have intellectualised their faith to minimise mess. They’ve lost touch with flesh. They’ve covered it up.

By ignoring or denying biology, western Christians ignore or deny the incarnation.

1 thought on “Tears and smiles like us he knew

  1. Stan, you have dissected the naivety out of the nativity, with all the refined skill of the Professor of Anatomy.

    You once told us that the best dissecting tool is not the scalpel, but rather cautious and informed application of the fingers.

    In this I think you may have been mistaken for you continue to dissect the most refined and organic truths, out of the infinite mess of reality; simply through the application of an enlightened mind.

    Gratefully smiling

    Marcus

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