Friday, March 9, 2012

Christopher West and The Invasion of the Body Snatchers

Let's say you're a man who has a wife, or a man who has a fiancé, or a man who has a girlfriend (or a maiden, to those who prefer courtship). And let's say you just read about how Christopher West stared at the body of a woman during Mass and was able to offer up his physical arousal towards her beauty (seen from behind) to God within "the womb of the church" (which is, according to West, only in the pubescent stage with regards to sexual awareness), continuing to gaze, and that one day in this way you transformed your desires in seeing the same, and that you didn't sin (according to you and West) because you didn't consciously desire to possess her.

I wonder how much your wife or your fiancé or your girlfriend (or your maiden) will appreciate, that instead of turning your eyes away and mortifying your thoughts so that you saved your gaze solely for her (your wife, fiancé, girlfriend, maiden), you were able to gaze at the woman's body and were able to transform it into your wonderful burnt offering of burning physical arousal; and that same burnt-offering pure gaze of love is the same burnt-offering pure gaze of love that you give to your wife or fiancé or girlfriend (or maiden).

Isn't that wonderful then, that the looks you share with your wife in the marriage bed are the same that you share with a stranger? Or in the case with West: the same look which you penetrated a stranger with, but which wasn't shared because you were looking at her from behind or without her noticing?

Nudist naturism is definitely a gateway through which the Westian brick road leads, and around which there is no detour.

Let's say you're either of the above men or you're single, and the woman that you used as a medium for your pure burnt offering to God was another man's wife. No problem here with the husband having any objection because it is simply a matter that everybody needs to be indoctrinated with this "mature purity". Then all will be well.

No wonder that West's teachings lead directly to naturism and nudism. Read this post by Wade at From the Ivory Tower, in which among many examples, one Mrs. Kimmel equates this pure gaze of love with, "enjoying the season’s first snowfall or interacting with nature in any other way."

This is when people start saying that you can look at a woman just like you would appreciate the beauty of a conch shell, or sunset. What about someone who enjoys the beauty of computer programming?

Are you starting to feel that weird Harry Potter vibe?

Now imagine a world where every person gazes at the other with this "disinterested" (read the post) "appreciation" and where any lust (radar! radar! radar!) is immediately and magically brought back to the configuration of the pure burnt offering disinterested gaze of love.

We would then be living in a creepy naturist version of The Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

35 comments:

jvc said...

Great, great post.

I have been wondering if Westian leads, eventually, to polygamy.

I started to study the West heresies after watching a video series by him. I remember during one segment he claimed that an "orgy" was a sort of anti-type of what we would experience in Heaven in terms of community or something. (He got blank stares even from his hand-picked in-study audience.)

I didn't really think much of it at the time, but now knowing that West's teachings are basically the baptism of popular culture, I have to wonder if he doesn't think that Heaven is some sort of Jesus two thumbs up version of an orgy where everyone is getting it on with the gaze of pure theological illiterateness. Who knows.

Paul Stilwell said...

Funnily enough, my first encounter with West's writing was an article (his Body Language column) in which he used the illustration of an orgy, saying that the reason they were engaged in it was because they had a hard-wiring for the Eucharist.

I think I'm still trying to articulate - though that article was years ago - what it was about that article that struck me the wrong way, while part of me seemed to superficially agree with it.

jvc said...

In terms of superficially agreeing with it, I think the problem that a lot of orthodox people have when reading West's material casually is that they assume the best of his writings and his attentions. We can put our own assumptions of his best intentions, because he has marketed himself so well as *the* authentic interpreter of JPII.

It's only when one begins to read his stuff more in its entirety does he pick up subtle clues that not all is well. Then, eventually, an avalanche pours down and one realizes just how far from Catholic Tradition is the West agenda.

For me, part of my revelation was realizing that West was actually helping to lead, or was the best representation of, a movement that I had wondered about for years: the people in the Church who do seem to worship sex.

As a theological outsider, I could only guess that this movement was not in following with Catholic Tradition as none of these people seemed interested or familiar with Catholic history or writers older than a few decades, tops.

It was only when I searched around for information on the Hildebrand-West controversy that I found her critique and, in so doing, began to find the Church's authentic, unchanging, beautiful history on marriage and sexuality.

Paul Stilwell said...

Oh yes, the logic of it does point towards polygamy...

Paul Stilwell said...

We posted comments at the same time, so that last one of mine was not in response to your latest.

Absolutely agree with what you said here: "It's only when one begins to read his stuff more in its entirety does he pick up subtle clues that not all is well. Then, eventually, an avalanche pours down and one realizes just how far from Catholic Tradition is the West agenda."

And the rest. It is a reason to be thankful for what West is doing - well, for those willing to be stirred to seeking and knowing the truth.

Wade St. Onge said...

jvc, the scary thing is that Dr. Peter Kreeft, who was just hired by Theology of the Body Institute and by that fact has become Mr. West's colleague, teaches that very thing.

http://wademichaelstonge.blogspot.com/2012/01/tob-st-onge-questions-kreeft.html

It wouldn't surprise me if Kreeft's article, "Is there Sex in Heaven?", impressed West so much that he said, "we have to hire this guy!"

Wade St. Onge said...

By the way, Paul, this post had me in stitches. You certainly have a way with words.

Wade St. Onge said...

jvc, with regards to your second comment - you have hit the nail on the head, and that has been my experience as well.

jvc said...

That's very true. In a haphazard way, West is the guy who led me to find Dietrich von Hildebrand, Alphonsus Liguori... he forced me to pick up my first full Abp. Sheen book... he's made me appreciate Chesterton more than I ever could have (seriously, praise God that he had that encounter with the man in the woods, from Everlasting Man)... he's made me discover more of Augustine.

Plus, I bought a box of Alice von Hildebrand's book the Privilege of Being a Woman, for all of my lady friends, so I now have to chance to share her great work with others. It really is a fantastic read. One can get through it in a single sitting, really.

Wade St. Onge said...

I'll just reprint here what Dr. Kreeft said in his article, "Is There Sex in Heaven?"

http://www.peterkreeft.com/topics/sex-in-heaven.htm

"Intercourse on earth is a shadow or symbol of intercourse in Heaven. ... This spiritual intercourse would mean something more specific than universal charity. It would be special communion with the sexually complementary; something a man can have only with a woman and a woman only with a man ... The relationship need not be confined to one in Heaven. Monogamy is for earth. ... The relationship may not extend to all persons of the opposite sex, at least not in the same way or degree. If it did extend to all, it would treat each differently simply because each is different – sexually as well as in other ways. I think there must be some special "kindred souls" in Heaven that we are designed to feel a special sexual love for. That would be the Heavenly solution to the earthly riddle of why in the world John falls for Mary, of all people, and not for Jane ... But would it ever take the form of physical sexual intercourse? We should explore this question ... Since there are bodies in Heaven, able to eat and be touched, like Christ's resurrection body, there is the possibility of physical intercourse. But why might the possibility be actualized? What are its possible purposes and meanings? ... Specifically human reasons for intercourse include (1) consummating a monogamous marriage and (2) the desire to express personal love. As to the first, there is no marriage in Heaven. But what of the second? ... If the possibility of intercourse in Heaven is not actualized, it is only for the same reason earthly lovers do not eat candy during intercourse: there is something much better to do".

jvc said...

Paul, I had a conversation with a friend several months ago about West that is relevant to the comment of mine that you highlighted.

As I began to point out the problems with West, like the serial misquotations, the light finally dawned. It took until I could point out the direct misquotations to finally make a connection.

Once that was established, this friend revealed to me the next day that she had noticed in her copy of "Heaven's Song" that she had underlined the less offensive passages and ignored the rest.

I think a lot of us did this subconsciously. Maybe it's human nature. There is so much information out there on everything, that we don't really go looking for errors, especially in topics that we ourselves are just trying to learn.

Enbrethiliel said...

+JMJ+

The Peter Kreeft passage Wade has quoted reminds me of the time a Muslim man trying to proselytise me told me about all the beautiful women he'd get in Muslim-heaven and tried to entice me with a similar beatific vision of "many handsome men."

Perhaps W*** is trying to create a heaven-on-earth using the same blueprints.

Deacon Jim Russell said...

Hello, my brothers in Christ.

Another post, wherein we learn that Christopher West is leading us all to a gnostic gnudist gnaturism so that we can all become polygamists. I think this is a fair, albeit absurd, summary.

Now, however, for a few facts, Paul, regarding the story that you seem to have marred nearly beyond recognition. I suggest you return to the presentation of this story as found in "Theology of the Body Explained," p.398-399.

Wherein we discover that West says: "Two personal stories might illustrate how grace can enable men to appreciate women’s true beauty. The first regards a woman who seemed to capture society’s standard of beauty, and the other regards a woman who was far from it.”

Notice the point here: enabling men to appreciate women’s true beauty. In the first story, this happens as West observes (note: the verb “stared” is not part of this account) a beautiful woman flip her hair over her shoulder, a gesture that “captured all that was so beautifully ‘feminine’ about her.”

What does West do? Stare? NO. He *prays*. “Rather than repress the stirrings of my heart, I surrendered them to Christ so he could purify them and show me their true meaning.”

He goes on to say, “The deepest truth of my attraction to this woman confirmed my desire for heaven. Some might suspect that my attraction to this woman during Mass would be a source of distraction—or worse, an occasion of sin. Yet, as I allowed the distortions to be crucified, this woman helped me enter into true worship. She helped me understand what the Mass is all about.”

Then West quotes JPII from “Mulieris Dignitatem”, no. 26 (the following is the fuller context of that quote): ***Since Christ, in instituting the Eucharist, linked it in such an explicit way to the priestly service of the Apostles, it is legitimate to conclude that he thereby wished to express the relationship between man and woman, between what is "feminine" and what is "masculine". It is a relationship willed by God both in the mystery of creation and in the mystery of Redemption. It is the Eucharist above all that expresses the redemptive act of Christ the Bridegroom towards the Church the Bride. This is clear and unambiguous when the sacramental ministry of the Eucharist, in which the priest acts "in persona Christi", is performed by a man.***

So, thus far, we have part one of two stories to illustrate how grace can enable men to appreciate woman’s true beauty. In this part, woman’s physical beauty calls West to a prayerful reflection of the Eucharist being celebrated…where?….at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception…

But there is also part two—West observing a heavy woman, initially expressing relief at the lack of “struggle” in that moment, and then realizing that such a view *also* distorts the dignity of the human person. He says, “As I had been praying to see the true personal beauty in all of the ‘shapely’ women at the beach, so too did I begin to pray to see the true personal beauty in all the ‘unshapely’ women at the beach. Coming to do so is another dimension of our struggle to see others as Christ sees them.”

With the clear footnote, btw: “By telling this story, I do not mean to give license to those who might be so bound by lust that going to a beach would be an ‘occasion of sin.’ For the man bound by lust, the admonition ‘Turn away your eyes from a shapely woman’ (Sir 9:5) retains all its wisdom (see p. 211ff.).”

This is all about the purity of heart that lets us see rightly…

God bless you, my brothers….

Deacon Jim Russell

Deacon Jim Russell said...

Oh....and as for the Kreeft reference, all I really can say is, "You've got to be kidding me."

But, thanks, Wade, for providing the link to the full text of the original, as your condensed version, bursting with ellipses, seems to fundamentally alter the meaning and intent of Kreeft's original work....

God bless you, and thanks for keeping me in your prayers,

Deacon Jim Russell

Anonymous said...

I don't know about West, but I do wonder about the difference between the American experience and the European experience - an experience in which nudism and naturism is far more common. It seems to me that this way of thinking would fit into a culture in which every time you go to the beach you're confronted with a beach full of bare breasts.

Paul Stilwell said...

Thank you Deacon Jim for bringing up the second story in which West stared at bikini clad women on the beach as a burnt offering.

Deacon Jim Russell said...

Did he "stare", Paul?

I don't recall him saying that he "stared."

Does he say he also "stared" at the heavy-set woman? Or does he just "stare" at the ones who are "beautiful"??

God bless,

Deacon Jim Russell

Paul Stilwell said...

Stared, looked, observed...when it comes to someone taking the lesson learned from West's "illustrations" what's the difference?

Paul Stilwell said...

Oh yes, and West always adds the caveat that this is not for men who are "bound by lust" or for those who are "impure". But hey, if you're one of the initiate enlightened, then by all means - look, stare, observe!

Or in the words of one Fr. Loya....

Paul Stilwell said...

“The deepest truth of my attraction to this woman confirmed my desire for heaven. Some might suspect that my attraction to this woman during Mass would be a source of distraction—or worse, an occasion of sin. Yet, as I allowed the distortions to be crucified, this woman helped me enter into true worship. She helped me understand what the Mass is all about.”

Thank you for the quote Deacon Jim.

Deacon Jim Russell said...

So, Paul, then there *is* a passage to be found somewhere in West's writings in which he commands the "enlightened" to "look," "stare," "observe"?

Then by all means cite it. Please show me the passage from West in which he calls us to stare at scantily clad women provided we're not "bound by lust"....

I'm not familiar with it. What I *am* familiar with is the notion that it is our *universal* calling--for all souls called to holiness--to seek to be "unbound" by lust and to "see rightly"--to have the *capacity* to see rightly. And to *pray* that we might see rightly.

Right?

Isn't this what you are called to, and what I am called to?

God bless you,

Deacon Jim Russell

Deacon Jim Russell said...

Actually, Paul, that's *part* of "the quote".

Try not to rip anything out of context now; instead go look at the *whole* story, found in "Theology of the Body Explained" pp. 398-399....

Paul Stilwell said...

So here we are right back at square one. This conversation took place in another comment box, yes? He tells people to do such things by way of recommending that one does not do them if they are bound by lust or if they are impure.

Learn how to read what he is saying but what he is not saying.

Paul Stilwell said...

Yes, it is part of the quote.

I was just saying thanks for it, for it serves to show how West objectifies the woman's body.

Deacon Jim Russell said...

Paul:

1. You can't seriously believe that West's sole reason for being at a beach--or for being at *Mass*(!)--was to see women and "objectify" them???

2. How is it "objectification" to encounter a woman of *any* shape or size and then *pray* to God for the grace to see her "true beauty"?

Jim R

Paul Stilwell said...

“The deepest truth of my attraction to this woman confirmed my desire for heaven. Some might suspect that my attraction to this woman during Mass would be a source of distraction—or worse, an occasion of sin. Yet, as I allowed the distortions to be crucified, this woman helped me enter into true worship. She helped me understand what the Mass is all about.”

Thanks for the quote.

Deacon Jim Russell said...

You are most welcome.

I hope that, through it, you can see how, in pursuit of our call to holiness, God's grace can transform our mind and will such that our wounded nature can still see rightly.

God bless,

Deacon Jim Russell

Wade St. Onge said...

With regards to the post by Anonymous:

You make a good point.

I would just say a couple things:

1. It is not necessarily what is exposed that will incite lust, but how it is presented. A fully-clothed woman who is accentuating her feminine qualities and carrying herself or exhibiting herself in a provocative way will probably incite lust quicker than a woman outside in the nude who is slouching and folding her arms because she is cold.

2. Even in cultures where breastfeeding is done publicly with little shame, (a) such cultures still do believe in modesty, but do not have the same sense of positive shame about breasts as they do, say, the genitals. (b) However, that is not to say they should not - as John Paul I said, cultures which do not have a sense of positive shame about the body should be catechized and taught to recover or discover that shame.

Also, I would recommend to you the following link under the subheading "Shameless Nakedness" up to the picture of the Ark of the Covenant (after that it is not as relevant):
http://dawneden.blogspot.com/2009/06/virgo-redacta-christopher-west-and.html

Fr. Angelo addresses this issue, although to be honest I am not completely convinced by his explanation and find it wanting. But you may find it helpful.

Wade St. Onge said...

Perhaps one of the benefits to the "ad populum" posture is that a priest can more deeply enter into true worship and understand the Mass better by looking out and seeing the beautiful women in his congregation.

Once again, there is a lot of truth to what West says - the beauty manifested physically in a woman and our attraction to that is a glimmer of the greater beauty of God and the greater attraction we should have for Him. But once again, he gives an anecdote that can lead so some improper behaviors. Practicing "the pure gaze of love" now becomes a springboard to a greater entering into worship and a greater understanding of the Mass and its meaning.

This is something I cannot accept because (a) I do not find this in the writings of John Paul II, and (b) I do not find anything like this in the writings of any of the saints. Which is why popularizers like Mr. West have to speak of TOB as a "revolution" and speak of how "two-thirds" of everything the Church has taught about sex was written or delivered by JP2 (Good News About Sex and Marriage, Introduction).

Paul Stilwell said...

Deacon Jim, I can definitely see through the quote which you provide how Christopher West objectified the red-haired woman while simultaneously gussying it up in the titanium walls of spiritual pride.

I look forward to the day I can explain to my future wife that a beautiful female stranger's body helped me to see what Mass is all about.

Then the next step, granted that my future wife accepts my wonderful visions, would be describing to our children our marital embraces in graphic detail (like those Westian disciples as quoted in Wade's post that is linked to in my post.

Because that's what such things lead to: naturist nudism.

Deacon Jim Russell said...

Wade wrote:

***This is something I cannot accept because (a) I do not find this in the writings of John Paul II, and (b) I do not find anything like this in the writings of any of the saints. Which is why popularizers like Mr. West have to speak of TOB as a "revolution" and speak of how "two-thirds" of everything the Church has taught about sex was written or delivered by JP2 (Good News About Sex and Marriage, Introduction).***

So you don't see the complementary concepts of masculine and feminine in the Eucharist? JPII does, and the quote is above, from Mulieris Dignitatem. It's in the writings of JPII after all.

And do you really quibble with the claim that JPII's pontificate gives us about two thirds of what the Church has taught on sex and marriage? I note that you did not fully render West's claim, which is this: "In fact, John Paul's contributions to the Church's teachings on sex and marriage are so vast that over two-thirds of what the Catholic Church has ever said on these subjects has come from his pontificate." (Good News About Sex and Marriage, Introduction, p. 14.)

What percentage estimate would you find acceptable? I'd say that West's estimate is pretty fair if we're speaking of Magisterial teaching...

God bless you, my brother in Christ,

Deacon Jim Russell

jvc said...

I'd say five percent.

Given that the truer source of usefulness of a text is how often it is cited by scholars throughout the ages, we'll probably not know the particular usefulness of JPII's audiences for several hundred years.

It really takes incredible ignorance of the Church's teachings on marriage and sexuality to claim that JPII constitutes 2/3rds. The claim in and of itself pretty much encapsulates the ignorance of the Westians about Church teachings.

jvc said...

What is the other 1/3rd, by the way, Deacon Jim?

And what are the top five other writers that are in that 1/3rd? Tell us how you came to rank the top five other writers, if you care to rank them.

What are their major works? Which works do you find the most useful? Are there any authors you do not find useful? If so, why?

And if the Church failed to understand the fullness of the Truth on this issue for approximately 1,980 years, please help us understand why this is the case.

love the girls said...

2. Even in cultures where breastfeeding is done publicly with little shame, (a) such cultures
If Peter, Sex and Dogs in Heaven, Kreeft is involved, that's damning enough for me.

________________



Wade St. Onge writes : "still do believe in modesty, but do not have the same sense of positive shame about breasts as they do, say, the genitals. (b) However, that is not to say they should not - as John Paul I said, cultures which do not have a sense of positive shame about the body should be catechized and taught to recover or discover that shame. "

It appears that Wade St. Onge is saying women shouldn't breastfeed in public as if breastfeeding is sexual. Well it's not sexual. It never was, and never will be sexual.

The disorder is in those who think it is sexual.

On the one side we have Christopher West seeking grace through voyeurism at Mass, and on the other disordered jansenism finding shame in a mother feeding her baby.

Wade St. Onge said...

So why do women in this culture cover up (i.e. put a blanket around the baby's head and the breast) when they breastfeed?

And I never said it was sexual. I was visiting with a married friend some time ago and I was a bit surprised but not scandalized or aroused when she began to breastfeed without making much of an attempt to cover up. I'd be fine with her doing it again. And get this - she's just as much a critic of West as I am.