Dignify and Deploy 35: A Way in the Wilderness
‘Theology of the Body constitutes a kind of timebomb set to go off in the third millennium of the Church...it may well be seen as a critical moment, not only in Catholic theology, but in the history of modern thought.’ George Weigel
Our Lady of Refuge elementary school in a suburban Midwest city had some problems: a girl who wanted to identify as a boy and whose parents expected the school to welcome ‘him.’ A mother alarmed to overhear her female 5th grader boasting of sleeping with her girlfriends. Pre-teen guys whose first confessions revealed habitual porn use—and a couple of them who thought they were ‘gay.’
The principal of the school introduced a Theology of the Body (TOB) curriculum for the entire school. Smart woman. Instead of railing against modern ‘evils’, she cast light on what was most real and true and authentic in her students.
Blame it on St. John Paul ll. He knew the mess we were in and the mess we would be in. Like St. John the Baptist, he prepared a way for people of all ages to forego fake liberties and their fall-out. He foresaw the bitter fruit of the sexual revolution. He knew that adult lust singes kids. Today, as children face a bewildering array of messages about sexuality and marriage and assuming a host of identifications, A Theology of the Body raises up their original dignity as male and female. Our original dignity.
No-one has made TOB more dynamic and alive than Christopher West and the Theology of the Body Institute. Not only am I proud to partner with them in our upcoming course ‘Sexual Integration and Redemption’ (come join us!), I applaud the myriad ways they tailor this teaching for all ages. Check out their resources and find the onramp right for you.
Taken as a whole, these 130 lectures taught over 3 years in the early eighties may well be St. John Paul ll’s greatest contribution. TOB summons our sexual solidity from the phantoms. Therein lies our happiness, our authentic liberty. St. John Paul teaches us to be reconciled to who we in truth are. For this we can be hopeful: no naked images or swoony LGBTQ+ narratives or puberty blockers can destroy our native sexual dignity and its reclamation in Jesus.
St. John Paul looked clear-eyed into the modern world and recognized something. He saw what humans wanted and needed—a quest for freedom—over and against mere rules. Aware of residual Catholic thinking that seemed suspicious of sexual love and tended to reduce it to sin, he envisioned the deeper liberty that the human person could realize when established on the sexual truths built into our common humanity. For example, my focused masculinity is always inclined to confirming woman’s dignity. Always. It is how I am made—my body tells that truth stronger than residual lies.
Of course, I can believe the lies. But God entrusts me with a certain moral responsibility. Will I own my embodiment? Will I courageously declare its truth, fight for its liberation, and activate-in-love? Its proof lies in the only ‘law’ that guides sexual happiness—St. John Paul II’s ‘law of the gift.’ Will I give my gift to her in a way that confirms her dignity in truth?
When I am weak (often) and tempted by the phantoms, I look to Jesus and confirm my original dignity. I remember hers. He grants strength to launch out in love. The One who made me is ever true to redeem me. My happiness and freedom lie in cooperation with Love’s fulfillment, one act of love, one day at a time.
“Thank You Jesus for how You made us and how You redeem us. Thank You for entrusting us with a hand in our own redemption. Burn off sloth, fire up our sexual nobility, made to image You. Come Holy Spirit, liberate what is true and beautiful from what debases us. May we not settle but aspire to the dignity of our sexual humanity. May we grow into ‘mature expressions of the gift’ by helping others do the same. Deployed to dignify, we ‘harness the John force.’”