Driving home from town today, I poked the button for the radio and was greeted by a PBS discussion of a novel about the shallowness of the gaudy wealth of the kingdom of Dubai. I tuned in mid-conversation where they happened to be talking of the plague of prostitution and of social media in this Islamic city state. It was a strange juxtaposition of thought that immediately caught my attention. The author commented that life there was oddly disembodied, that the sense of personhood was disconnected from the physicality of the body, whether it be in the disengagement of two people in the prostituted sexual act or in the disembodiment of the online community, the phrase "online community" being somewhat of an oxymoron in itself.
People were calling in, commenting on different parts of the conversation, but no one seemed to pick up on the theme of disembodied people, which I find to be both significant and saddening. Our culture is increasingly obsessed with sex, but not as it inhabits the marital bed. I cannot remember the last time a sexual scene, or the suggestion of one, included two happily married people. It is almost always people who are either living together without benefit of marriage, or two people who just happen to land in one or the other's bed for the evening. And of course, the obligatory presence of a homosexual couple, while not yet being portrayed so openly sexual, is fast becoming the new norm. And that's just broadcast and cable television.
People are obsessed with the the attachment of bodies, but strangely silent at the disengagement of the soul and spirit. It's apparent in the way sex is treated in the media, but it's also evident in the social media itself, which has in many cases become a cesspool of people's disappointments, resentments, vindictiveness, and retaliation. The slight or the offense given in private is now broadcast for everyone to see, but only from the perspective of the offended person who posts his or her grievance. It's all done from a distance, and from the relative safety and often anonymity of a social media persona that may have no real connection to the personality of the person behind it. Comments are disembodied, and more and more people are living these body-less lives through their cellphones, laptops, and tablets.
Secularists often scorn the Christian's supposedly puritanical protection of sex within the bonds of marriage. "You see the body as evil and dirty; that's why you are afraid to celebrate your sexuality," they say. To the contrary, we are the only ones taking the body seriously enough. We understand the connection between "sarx" and "psuche," body and soul. Only as the body is taken seriously as an integral part of who we are, and as we refuse to detach the body from the inner life of the human being, can we begin to understand what it truly means to be human. I am grateful tonight to have listened to a conversation that made me ponder anew the mystery of this life we live, as St. Paul said, "in the flesh...and in the spirit." And I am grateful for my Christian faith that is concerned with the redemption of the entire person, body, soul, and spirit. This redemption of the entire person is my only hope, and although I may be misunderstood to say so, I cling to it with holy desperation.