Being a Body

I had my first “Bodies and Theology” class today. It was great. Apropos of my last post, we started class with theatre-influenced movement exercises. At one point, the professor (who is wonderful) asked us to walk like dogs. While my classmates remained upright, I dropped to the floor and scurried around like a puppy. I got to be silly–and there is exhilarating bravery in silliness. We also created some body sculptures, an exercise borrowed from the Theatre of the Oppressed. Posing together without any foreplanning, we attempted to convey the concepts of “knowledge,” “theology,” and “God” through our bodies. 

“God” was the most challenging; our professor invited those who weren’t part of the sculpture to modify it. They joined our hands together until we formed a circle. As a result, the body sculpture that started as a vision of disconnected hierarchy (one person standing, others kneeling and cowering), became an image of connection and interdependence. A very different understanding of God. Rich discussion arose from the choices that we made to represent each idea, the beliefs and biases that they revealed. 

In this class, we are invited to discover God as people with physical bodies. Christianity isn’t traditionally good at that, so I’m excited about this opportunity. It also feels good to have a break from the intensely cerebral space of other classes. When we shared our reasons for taking the Bodies class, I said that I wanted to work on being ‘present’ as a body and to experience things without immediately intellectualizing them. For those who follow my kink journey, that’s also a goal I have for my current exploration of submission. My Dominant said early on that she wanted to see me “feeling without thinking.” What a terrifying thought!

Thinking and feeling are my bread and butter. My strong feelings are normally mediated through intellectual, critical thought, which is useful most of the time. It can, however, lead to a sense of distance from my body when I most want to be present, as if I’m more of a brain floating along than a full being. It sometimes means that sexual experiences feel ‘hotter in hindsight,’ more intensely erotic after I’m removed from the situation than in the moment. I hope that the movement and physicality that this class requires, my continued kink exploration, and the interplay between those two different realms will encourage me to enjoy my body and connect with the Divine in a new way–as an embodied person.

The Story Still Matters – An Epistle on Theory

The birds had just begun to lift their songs of praise as I reverently opened my laptop. Illuminated by the glow of the screen, I sought the sacred PDF: “Postmodern Biblical Theory.” I trembled with emotion as I read, eyes welling with tears. “Yes, I see now,” I said aloud. I knew, as rosy-fingered dawn appeared on the horizon, that I now understood the Bible. Heavenly music played as I typed my ardent one-page reflection. Now fully prepared to deliver the Gospel to this troubled world, I emailed the quote “Nothing is original” to a custom bumper sticker company. I said a quick prayer to the Academy as I filled my metal water bottle, fortified by my faith in postmodernism. 

That totally did not happen. 

Closer to reality: I skimmed the PDF at 11:30 at night, my brain promptly shut down, and I slammed my laptop closed in disgust. I had hoped that going to divinity school would help me to reconnect with the Bible. Unfortunately, this New Testament class had turned out to be a survey course of critical theory. We read a whole lot about the Bible but hardly the Bible itself. I felt less connected than ever. 

That’s not to say that critical theory isn’t valuable. Theory helps us to see consequences of writing and interpretation, especially for groups then tend to be on the margins of society. It trains us to be flexible; we’re not stuck with the old “Eve sinned and now all women have to obey their husbands” nonsense that often gets repeated in churches, for example. I think that many of us find comfort in theory because we’ve been hurt by people who repeat “God said it, I believe it, that settles it.” Theory reminds us that nothing is actually ‘settled.’ 

But theory is a set of tools we can use to understand the Bible’s role in our lives. The story still matters. Unfortunately, my class was often “all theory and no Text.” Without the consistent opportunity to read the Bible, it was hard for me to figure out how to use these tools, let alone imagine how I could communicate the value of theory to other Christians who love the Bible and read it…religiously. 

All theory and no Text makes Fox a dull boi

I’m pretty grumpy about it. As a result, one of the purposes of this blog will be for me to read the Bible as a beloved story book, informed but not driven by theory, and to find what moves and inspires me as a Christian. What might this look like? Bible studies, spiritual practices, poems, stories, and songs. In other words, church activities minus the peer pressure (love you, Church). I’m going to start with a series on the story of David and see where it takes me. 

Be of good courage!

Perpetua Fox

She/her/hers