[NOTE: This post was originally written for AffirmingGender.com. It was published April 7, 2017.]
I recently saw a video promoting a world beyond the so-called “limits of male and female” in which an activist dismisses the human body as a “living meat skeleton.”
Much is at stake in the confusion today, both in the secular world and in our churches, about the meaning of the body. We live in a world that insists our bodies are meaningless. But that is to insist that human life itself is meaningless.
The human being is not a soul “in” a body. Because of the profound unity of body and soul in God’s design, our bodies are not something we “have” or “own” alongside ourselves. In a very real way, we are our bodies. Our bodies reveal the spiritual mystery of our souls. And because we’re made in God’s image, our bodies also reveal something of the divine mystery. In fact, if Christmas is real, the human body reveals the very logic of God, the Logos of God: “The Logos became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (John 1:14).
Believers must recognize today’s insistence on the “meaningless of the body” for what it is: a direct attack on the Incarnation. Logos (“Word” in English) refers to the ultimate “meaning,” “reason,” “logic” behind everything. The astounding claim of the Christian faith is this: Ultimate Meaning has communicated itself by taking on flesh… The enfleshment of Ultimate Meaning, in turn, becomes the ultimate en-meaning-ment of the flesh. Again, if Christmas is real, human flesh – far from being meaningless – conveys Ultimate Meaning.
And it’s not generic bodies that do this, but gendered bodies: “God sent his son, born of a woman” (Galatians 4:4). Whatever number of “genders identities” the modern world may claim exists, Christ’s teaching is definitive: “in the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female’” (Matthew 19:4). Only by returning to this original truth can we save the term “gender” in a world becoming untethered from reality.
The root “gen” — from which we get words like generous, generate, genesis, genetics, genealogy, progeny, gender and genitals — means to produce or give birth to. A person’s gen-der, therefore, is based on the manner in which that person is designed to gen-erate new life. This means gender is not a malleable social construct. Rather, a person’s gender is determined by the kind of genitals he or she has. While the sexual and feminist revolutions of the 20th century were right to challenge certain roles conventionally limited to one or the other gender, there are two roles — one belonging only to men and the other only to women — that are inalterable and absolutely indispensable for the survival of the human race: fatherhood and motherhood. When we understand the gender-genitals-generation link, we also understand why a de-gendered society is bound to de-generate. Indeed, failing to honor the God-given meaning of gender places the future of the human race in peril.
Inevitably, the question of those born with ambiguous genitalia arises. While acknowledging that this is indeed a painful reality of our fallen world, we must also acknowledge that the anomaly does not alter the norm. The hope for those who suffer with gender confusion of any kind lies not in the false power of science to “re-gender” us, but in the real power Christ to regenerate us as the men and women God created us to be “in the beginning.”
No, our bodies are not meaningless meats hanging on a skeleton. They are rather the means by which God conveys Ultimate Meaning.
Do you understand your body that way?
Image: Vasiliy Yakobchuk, iStockphoto.com
For such a time as this have we been given Saint John Paul II’s Theology of the Body. By taking us beyond the alternatives of prudish repression and damaging indulgence, the Theology of the Body opens the path to the redemption of sexuality and the real healing of our wounds. Learn more by watching my short film, The Cry of the Heart. Watch the trailer below.