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Conversation: Are You an Ender or a Starter? Part 1

I used to be a conversation-ender.

Growing up in the South, I was immersed in a conservative environment, both religiously and politically.  I grew up Presbyterian, in a long bloodline of Presbyterians past, which is a denomination that puts great emphasis on knowledge and scripture.  I grew up with sword drills, and I was a quicker draw than most. I knew all the Bible stories and could answer all the Sunday school questions.

I wouldn’t trade that upbringing.  I have deep respect for my Presbyterian roots.  They are strong and deep.  I still maintain most of my early Presbyterian theology and appreciate my early exposure to a love of the word of God.

What I would trade, however, is how I used that word of God.  I was quick to draw my sword and fight, and I fought to draw blood. I fought to win.

Black-and-white theology

The appeal of a black-and-white theology is that there is a straight answer for everything.  There are neat categories.  There is order, and we Presbys love us some order.  There is comfort in knowing what is right and what is wrong, who is in and who is out, where the line in the sand is and which side we’re on.

The problem with black-and-white theology is that it is fear-based.  Fear of complication, wrong answers, messy categories, disorder. Fear of not knowing, not being sure, or maybe just not being right.  Fear of being disagreed with. Fear that there could be more than one valid answer.  Fear of losing that comfort and security.

The good and bad of boundaries

Having clear boundaries makes us feel safe.  That’s a natural human trait.  We’re designed to want and need boundaries.  Boundaries are good and necessary.

But whose boundaries?

If boundaries are good and necessary, then the more boundaries we have, the better off we will be, right?  We will be safer and more comfortable.  We will be more sure. More right. So we create more and more boundaries for ourselves, encroaching on the space within.  Little by little, we sacrifice our safe space until we find ourselves…in prison!

Enter Jesus.  Enter truth.  Enter freedom.  Enter fullness of life.  Enter fulfillment of the law.  Enter space.

The best boundaries we can live by are God’s boundaries, not ours.  But how do we know what God’s boundaries are?  Who’s to say who’s right and who’s wrong, who’s in and who’s out, who’s free and who’s in prison, whose space is God’s space?

Better to be safe than sorry, right?

Better slap down those who threaten the safety of our comfortable boundaries, right?

Better end the conversation now than risk stepping out into all that space, right?


To be continued in tomorrow’s post…

Is Body Theology Foundational?

Is body theology foundational? Is this concept–the way I define and understand it–part of the rock bed of the Christian faith? If Christ is the cornerstone, then is Christ set in body theology?

As I began developing my concept of body theology a few years ago, I was presented with this question and began to ask myself just how much of the Christian faith is wrapped up in my definition of body theology.  I came up with four categories: sexuality/physicality, community, media literacy, and service.  The more I studied and explored the concept of body theology and the messages of our culture, the more convinced I became that we must first understand ourselves as physical/sexual/worthy beings before we can engage in healthy community, media literacy, and service because everything flows from the core issue of where our identity lies. 

Our identity is the source from which we conceptualize everything we believe, from which we make choices to act or react, and through which we relate to God, ourselves, each other, and the world around us.

The issue of sexuality/physicality must be dealt with first because it is the biggest and deepest lie; it is the lens that must change first or it will color the way we understand all the other issues. While it is true that identity can only be discovered in community, in many cases unhealthy messages about our identity have already been internalized and are, thus, already being perpetuated in our communities. Before we can change the community identity, we have to exchange God’s truth for these lies about our bodies.  Only then can we engage in community, culture, and service in a healthy way.

So, is body theology foundational?  Christ of necessity must be set in body theology precisely because God entered the world in human form–as a body! Christ cannot be set solely in any theoretical or spiritual foundation because that negates the very meaning and purpose of the incarnation: God incarnate; God dwelling among us in the flesh!

This is the foundation of body theology: our bodies matter because God used BODY to create us, to relate to us, and to redeem us.

In this context we find our true identity in Christ.  It is our human response to the incarnation of Christ to accept ourselves as the holistic bodyselves we were created to be.  Only then, through this identity in Christ, can we begin to develop a healthy theology of bodily sexuality, bodily community, bodily cultural discernment, and bodily service.

What is Body Theology?

Body theology is traditionally used to refer to body image and sexuality; however, I believe a true body theology is much more holistic, involving not only what we look like (physicality) but who we are as human beings (identity) and what we do with our bodies (community and service).

Holistic body theology is four-fold: sexuality/physicality, cultural discernment/media literacy, community, and service. Topics covered on this blog will stem from one of these categories, always with the underlying principle belief that our bodies were made good and, though corrupted by the fall, have been redeemed through Christ.

Holistic body theology, then, is based on the incarnation of Christ: God took on flesh, not merely the appearance of flesh; God lived and suffered and died—and rose again!—in the actual, fleshly sense. Likewise, we are both corporeal (bodily) and spiritual beings.  My goal is to encourage Christians to realize our true identity in Christ, free ourselves from bondage to the lies that can be perpetuated through culture, and be empowered to enter into the redemption Christ offers both for our bodies and how we use them in the world. I believe that as we grow in knowledge and discernment, we can redeem both the way we see ourselves and the way we interact with culture–and enjoy living in freedom in the space where the sacred and secular blur into messy, surprising beauty.

Come join me on this journey toward healthy, holy living.

Image: farconville /

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