Human flourishing and theology of the body
Currently, the trend we see in both youth ministry and the church at large in regards to issues of physical behaviors (especially, but not exclusively, sexual) is one of policing said behaviors in isolation from a larger holistic theological context. When we talk about sexuality or homosexuality we have thus far attempted to do so in a sort of theological vacuum that is void of a baseline agreement on inherit and inalienable worth and goodness of the divinely created being. Based on personal experience in the field, as well as current research, we believe this is ineffective in large part because it lacks a substantive underlying “so what” that provides a fuller understanding of God’s design for covenantal relationships—sexual and otherwise. Without a comprehensive “theology of the body,” youth ministries and the church at large will continue to function in a fearful and reactionary mode to issues of sexuality, sexual practice, health and wellness, etc.
In order to develop a truthful and useful theology of the body, we must first learn processes of theological reflection, which requires and may grow out of a deeper literacy (or perhaps a “theology of the Book,” which in turn will inform a “theology of the Body of Christ” or the rebirth of the church as we know it.) Some possible avenues for this may be a theology of personhood workshop—a guided tour, if you will, among community—rather than just a book. One of the end goals will be to create a mechanism that disallows quick and shallow answers to difficult questions but instead requires reflective responses. Being able to offer reflective theological responses to questions that up to now have either received pat answers (don’t touch, don’t taste, don’t do) or silence (we don’t talk about that here) will require.
- I’d say God’s love and Christ’s love is highly permissive (we just have always had trouble accepting this).
- Can we agree on a theology of the body and come out on different sides in our appreciation?
- We need to start our discussion with a comparison of our theology of the body but a singular theology of the body seems naive.
- How do we being to dialogue about and develop a practical theology of personhood?
- How might such a theology of personhood affect not just our sexuality but all of our relationships?
- How do we avoid equating “Christ’s love” with permissiveness? (i.e. a theology of personhood does not need to be permissive in an attempt to express love and welcome to those within and without our churches. While it is not permissive, it believes that there is a greater mandate to function out of love than there is to function in a manner that polices actions.)
- How has the Catholic Church dealt with this topic and what can we learn from them?
- How do youth workers diligently pursue the establishment of a theology of personhood in light of larger church governance? There could be a conflict of authority and scope if youth workers attempt to pursue such an establishment without the full support and even leadership of the pastor.
- How does our understanding of the Imago Dei play in to this matter?
- Can we agree on a few core standards of response regardless or our ideology of the issue?
Train and Educate:
- Resources/studies on why issues of sexuality are still taboo in many churches
Resources that exist:
- Too many to list on sexuality, dating, and purity, etc.
- Man and Woman He Created Them: A Theology of the Body by Pope John Paul II
- Earthen Vessels: Why Our Bodies Matter to our Faith by Matthew Lee Anderson
- Good Sex 2.0 by Jim Hancock and Kara E. Powell (and Leader’s Guide)
- Thomas Moore
- Body, Sex and Pleasure: Reconstructing Christian Sexual Ethics by Christine Gudorf
- Honoring the Body: A Guide for Conversation, Learning, and Growth by Stephanie Paulsell
- Agreed that the broad/underlying issue is a theology of human flourishing but there needs to be resources develop to help churches and youth pastors deal with issues of sexuality
- Robin Blakemore’s sexuality workshop (North Alabama conference of the UMC)
- All resources developed for students must include a parent component
- We want to see a “messy spirituality-ish” book on this topic for teens
- We want to see some kind of program that shows how theologically thinking about this issue plays out
- We want to explore whether narratives—real or fiction—can play a role in illustrating this idea. (A word of caution: often when fiction is created with a didactic goal, it’s shabby at best and abysmal at worst. Can we break out of that pattern?)
- What comes after Edge TV?
- Conversation around topics that have acute divisiveness
- Resources addressing theological anthropology