Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Hinge

The problem with our sex-saturated culture, then, is not that it overvalues the body and sex. The problem is that it has failed to see just how valuable the body and sex really are. Christianity does not reject the body! In a virtual "ode to the flesh" the Catechism proclaims: "'The flesh is the hinge of salvation.' We believe in God who is creator of the flesh; we believe in the Word made flesh in order to redeem the flesh; we believe in the resurrection of the flesh, the fulfillment of both the creation and the redemption of the flesh." (CCC 1015, emphasis Christopher West's) --Theology of the Body for beginners, Christopher West

Right, the problem with our sex-saturated culture is not that it is sex-saturated. Its being saturated with sex via every medium is just a symptom that the culture is "onto something" (thanks Brandon Vogt for interviewing Christopher West; it was revealing). Indeed, Bob, the problem is not that the culture overvalues the body and sex, worshiping at its altar with the sacrifices of millions of babies. Rather, the problem is that it has failed, tragically of course, in spite of all those sacrificed babies and billion dollar porn industries, to see just how valuable the body and sex really are. Gosh darn it, how tragic.

But have no fear sex-saturated culture! For Christianity does not reject the body! See here in our Catechism it states in a virtual "ode to the flesh": "Yadda yadda yadda yadda FLESH; yadda yadda yadda yadda FLESH; yadda yadda yadda yadda yadda FLESH; yadda yadda yadda FLESH; yadda yadda yadda yadda yadda yadda yadda yadda FLESH." (CCC 1015)


New wine, new wine skins


Sarcasm aside: the knowledge that the body is good in that it is 'the hinge of salvation', if it is to be a good that is known, must be a knowledge given by the Holy Spirit, as one lives life according to the Spirit, as one keeps one's body in holiness and reverence, as one causes an alignment with the deepest layers of one's personal being through continence, custody of the eyes, self-control, habitual temperance, avoiding the near occasion of sin.

The flesh is not transformed according to life in the flesh; meaning, that by which the flesh is known, according to life in the flesh, is not what is known in life according to the spirit. For example: there is no good behind pornography. For example: mature purity does not have its definition in transforming the objectifying gaze. (Pornography is put to death. The objectifying gaze is put to death. Pornography does not rise again as the Sistine Chapel. The objectifying gaze does not rise again as the "pure gaze of love". )

It cannot be a gnostic acquirement beforehand, as though that knowledge will carry us, such as that though I may fall, at least I still have that "key" within my body and all I need do is "reclaim" it. It cannot be grasped. It is not a knowledge according to our knowledge, nor according to secret knowledge. If Christ affirms the flesh, it means that we are to affirm Christ.

For God became man, suffered, was crucified, died and rose again from the dead in glory and ascended with the same glorified body into Heaven, and in a very real way, took our humanity in its fullness with Him where it abides in Heaven. Thus, the Incarnation is not an affirmation of us in our own ways of knowing: it is the final condemnation of sin in us - that is, the death of it. The new man is a new creation to such an extent that man's suffering and deaths (and his one physical death) are to gain eternal value, and in the scope of this bedrock redemption, our masculinity and femininity is contained, and in that sphere God can give to whom He will, without force, an abundance which by its very gratuitousness tells a person it is from God. It's not a coded program of reclamation (i.e. restore grammar (or our sexual bodies) and the world will be converted!). Rather, it's that because of Christ, we cannot die enough in this life: the flesh being the hinge of salvation is not a call to a Catholic version of magical palm-reading (body-reading); it is the assurance that in dying we will not lose anything, but that it will be pure gain - in this life and in the next.

This means that the flesh which is the hinge of salvation has its unfathomable value according to what God accomplished, not according our desires of the flesh. Thus our first movement towards it is extremely important. In our hands, this "value" ever and always tends to become the value of a tool - like a mechanic regarding the value that a battery charger will have for his business ends.

So what that you say sex points to Heaven? Or points to our redemption, or points to our sexual redemption, or whatever? It will be just as much a tool - indeed, you just entrenched it as such. Just because you claim to take it out of Hefner's dumpster and do what -- go abracadabra peanut butter sandwiches (with a smattering of Catholic lingo on top)?

I notice in the realm of sexual analogy Jesus becomes a mere "empowerer" - a battery charger.

That's not new wine skins.

Therefore no new wine.

Christopher West's wine is a cheap substitute for those who don't like the part about new wine skins. That's why his wine is cheap and skimpy and disincarnational.

Yummy wine in a box!

10 comments:

jvc said...

It's Gnosticism. The same nonsense we've been dealing with for millenia. By mastering some special knowledge we will attain enlightenment and nirvana. It's a special knowledge that was hidden from us until the enlightened ones -- West, Kreeft, Janet S. -- came along. They are to lead us to the new lands flowing with milk and honey where we can indulge as the culture indulges, for we will have then baptized the culture.

Yipee! One cannot wait!

Paul Stilwell said...

Yes, Gnosticism is the old perennial, isn't it. And people think they are immune to it.

Of course, money also helps lower the immunity. But that would be reading bad motives.

Anonymous said...

This is perhaps the most blatant example of decontextualizing and changing the meanining of something I have seen from him: taking the quote from the catechism as though it refers to the body/sexuality as he is trying to mean it to be. The section is part of the "in brief" following the discussion of the resurrection of the body!

jvc said...

Taking off from the last comment.

West is either:

1) The least intelligent pop scholar in Catholic history

or


2) The biggest BS'er in terms of Catholic scholarship in history

After reading almost any page in any one of his works, you can't help but get the feeling that it reads like a guy who was up until 4am writing a term paper and just slathered on as many random quotes as possible to blow up his Works Cited page. It really is pretty bad.

And, again, the problem is that if you were to make corrections page by page it would probably take up a volume 10x the length of the original work you were critiquing.

Deacon Jim Russell said...

Hi, Paul--hope you are well.

One of the things I note in this post is that West says the "problem with our sex-saturated culture, then, is not that it overvalues the body and sex. The problem is that it hss failed to see just how valuable the body and sex really are."

But your echo of this statement is "the problem with our sex-saturated culture is not that it is sex-saturated."

West's original words are obviously not intended to deny "sex-saturation" so to speak, for his words acknowledge the condition clearly.

Rather he is saying that this existing condition is not due to an "overvalue" of the body and sex but rather an *under-appreciation* of it.

Would you agree that the culture undervalues the meaning of the body and sex?

The use of the CCC quote to emphasize how the Church does *not* reject the body seems valid to me, as it emphasizes the fullness of the "redemption" of the body with the soul, which we proclaim as our belief in the resurrection of the body.

Would you agree that the Church does not reject the body and that this is easily demonstrated by the belief in the redemption and resurrection of the body?

God bless you,

Deacon Jim Russell

Paul Stilwell said...

"The problem with our sex-saturated culture, then, is not that it overvalues the body and sex. The problem is that it has failed to see just how valuable the body and sex really are."

If the problem with our sex-saturated culture is not that it overvalues the body and sex, then pray tell, what is this sex-saturation?

Deaon Jim Russell said...

Hi, Paul--you're asking the right question.

The "sex saturation" is the under-value of the meaning of the body and sex. It is the fact that the culture cheapens the body and desacralizes it by not seeing the body as an "image of God" but rather seeing the body as an idol unto itself, to be worshipped, to be "used" by self and others, etc.

It's the divorce of sanctity from the body that West emphasizes here, coupled with the claim that Christianity gets the value right.

The claim of culture tends to be that it's the "Church" that rejects the realm of the physical/sexual/corporeal. West is saying this claim is false.

Hope this helps.

God bless,

Deacon Jim Russell

Paul Stilwell said...

I was asking the question rhetorically.

The culture overvalues the body and sex. That's why it is sex-saturated.

The porn addict regards his porn as sacred.

Deacon Jim Russell said...

Paul--does the culture "fail to see just how valuable the body and sex really are"?

You say "overvalue"--and to the extent that this corresponds to the notion of the "idolizing" of the body and sex, you are correct.

West says "undervalue"--and to the extent that this corresponds to notion of the "sanctity" of the body and sex, he is correct.

Are you able to agree with this assessment?

God bless,

Deacon Jim Russell

jvc said...

Hilarious, Jim.

With West, the disease is always also the cure.

Hey! Wasn't there a song about that kinda thing?

Oh, yeah, there was!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aA9OqUuA6a0