Samuel D. James

We Are Not Disposable

Written by Samuel D. James |
Saturday, September 24, 2022
The Internet age is one in which God’s providence is questioned at an emotional level every second. Every time we log on, we are seeking in some ways to escape the embodied realties that our Creator has placed us in. Owing much to this, ours is a culture in which people feel that they and everyone else is disposable. What an opportunity for the gospel! Forget what you’ve heard about militant secularism winning the day. What good is a sexual revolution if everyone is too depressed and anxious to have sex? The culture of disposability is doing a number on us. For Christians, do we know our gospel well enough to engage it? Or we are too swept up in our own digital demolitions to see the pain and emptiness and meaningless on the faces of people around us?

One of the most disorienting things about being a sports fan is how often, in order to continue being a fan, you have to adopt a pretty ruthless outlook about your fellow human beings. If you came up to me and said, “There’s a guy I know who really needs a job to feed his family; he’s better at this job than 99% of other humans but sometimes makes the occasional mistake,” I would immediately feel almost total solidarity with this unnamed, family-providing, exceptional worker. But if you clarified that this unnamed person was actually the guy who fumbled the ball twice in the playoffs or dropped a touchdown in the fourth quarter, I would probably say it’s a tough business but we gotta get somebody who can make those plays. Sports has a way of slithering beneath even a rock-solid worldview of altruism and imago dei, and making people feel disposable.
When I think about my contemporary culture, the disposability of people stands out as one of the chief values of the day. What Alan Jacobs so artfully called “the trade-in society” is a very real thing. And it has taken control of so much of our conversation, decision making, even relationships. In the last few years, for example, I’ve seen my corner of evangelicalism throb with the ethos of disposability, as friendships forged over gospel ministry are rent asunder due to political or even social media strife. If you made me, I could name probably a half-dozen people with whom I at one point felt a great solidarity and partnership with in life and work, whom I would have to admit now (again, if you made me) I hope I don’t run into at any point in the future.
I’ve never had many “enemies” in my life. But I used to not have many “opponents” either, and it seems like that latter category has expanded. Based on conversation with others and observation about the general malaise we find ourselves in these days, I think this is true for many people. I’ve written before about Facebook, and how the Facebook of my freshman year of college seems almost like a dream that I had one time. The idea of a website whose only ethic was friendship and only currency was neighborliness seems too ridiculous now to say out loud. But that was really how it was back then. Today, places like Facebook and Twitter are so often the places you go to combat other people, not know them. And as so much of our life takes on the values and structure of the Internet, it seems to me that we are far more likely to dispose of another person—relationally, or at least in our private imagination—than we used to be.
One thing I’ve noticed is how, according to the language of “justice” or “orthodoxy” (the word depends on whether your membership is in a progressive tribe or a conservative one), you have a moral obligation to be willing to turn on your friends and colleagues at a moment’s notice if they are found to possess unacceptable views or a sinful past. The latter situation is a little more tricky and I won’t say much about it, except to note that many of us have testimonies of grace that wouldn’t exist except that someone in our lives took a risk to their own comfort or reputation in reaching out for us.
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A Case for Using Physical Bibles

Written by Samuel D. James |
Sunday, July 31, 2022
To hold onto a treasured leather-bound Bible is for me a way of holding onto awareness of God’s grace in my life. Yes, Scripture is universally true all the time, but the Bible I hold in my hands was given to me at a specific place and a specific time. Perhaps a struggle in my Christian life has been to see myself not merely as mooching off the extravagant kindness of Jesus that he gives to everybody else, but as a specific target of his sovereign love. Proverbs 3:5-6 is true for everyone, but it’s underlined in my specific Bible because it’s true for me. It’s one thing to know something applies to you. It’s quite another to know it was meant for you.

Recently I was sitting in a worship service and looked around me. For every physical Bible opened I saw at least one or two smartphones glowing softly. I’m not sure why, but this was surprising. Is the Bible app really that common in evangelical worship? I guess it is. Not long after this I took a more deliberate notice in my small group of who had Bibles and who had Bible apps. It was a much closer ratio than I had assumed.
Bible apps are unquestionably convenient, and of course knowing and obeying the words that are there is far more important than whether you’re holding leather or glass. I have to admit, though, that it’s hard for me to imagine ever replacing physical Bibles with apps. Aesthetic value would be lost, but something else would be lost too…a compact landmark of my spiritual memory.
For me, physical Bibles are connected to both time and place. A quick glance behind my shoulder as I write these words lets me see a row of Bibles on my shelf, each one provoking a vividly clear memory of where and when I got each of them. In several cases I even remember the individual who sold them to me. These Bibles’ physicality takes me back to a specific season of life, a process of deliberate remembrance that isn’t just nostalgia. It’s a spiritual exercise that often awakens thankfulness.
Opening the Bibles deepens this experience. Opening up the Bible I bought right after graduating college, I see the markings of a blue ink pen drawing attention to Psalm 4:4: “Be angry, and do not sin; ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent.” My markings are almost certainly at least 4 years old. Was I feeling convicted about my anger? It’s hard to recall, though I do know that I underlined this verse before I married and had a toddler son who nailed me with a toy golf club. Even as I write this I feel ashamed at my ridiculous anger over a toddler’s mistake. Had I not opened up my 5-year old Bible I likely wouldn’t have contemplated this verse in light of my life now.
Physical objects anchor memory in a way that digitalization cannot rival. The technology critic L.M. Sacasas argues that physicality is an integral part of the self, and thus, the self recedes or “flattens” when all its experiences blur into electronic sameness.
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Book Review: “The Madness of Crowds,” by Douglas Murray

Written by Samuel D. James |
Tuesday, July 19, 2022
Evangelicals will have much to appreciate about Murray’s work. Most of us will find the book self-recommending and friendly to our priors. But this means that it’s all the more important to be distinctly Christian in these conversations. Christians are not content merely to pop politically correct bubbles (though we often must). We are obligated to speak the truth in love — an obligation that secular critics of progressivism like Murray won’t necessarily share. 

The Madness of Crowds: Gender, Race, and Identity begins with a quote from G.K Chesterton: “The special mark of the modern world is not that it is sceptical [sic], but that it is dogmatic without knowing it.” As epigraphs go, it’s a fine choice. Yet perhaps a better one would be this one: “A man was meant to be doubtful about himself, but undoubting about the truth; this has been exactly reversed.” The Madness of Crowds faithfully and forcefully documents the chaos that reigns when an entire generation of elites embraces this inversion.
Douglas Murray dives headlong into the contemporary “social justice” orthodoxy that already seemingly owns the whole of Western higher education and much of our politics. Though not a conservative — he’s an irreligious English journalist who also happens to be gay — Murray looks into progressive ideology in the areas of feminism, homosexuality, race, and transgenderism, and reports back a dogmatic orthodoxy punishing enough to make Nathaniel Hawthorne tremble. Murray’s curation of social justice culture’s alarming character is an extraordinarily valuable work of journalism, even if, unlike Mr. Chesterton, his secularist commitments keep him from connecting the most crucial dots.
Murray warns early on that the spectacles of outrage, cancellation, and ideological persecution that are now epidemic in Western life threaten not just manners but civilization itself.  “We face not just a future of ever-greater atomization, rage, and violence,” Murray writes in the introduction, “but a future in which the possibility of a backlash against all rights advances — including the good ones — grows more likely” (9). The “madness” Murray has in mind is that of a mob. According to Murray, the fuel powering the steamrolling machine of madness is identity. Once it is politically weaponized, identity becomes a powerful means to shut down truth-seeking and impose dogmatism.
One example is the conflation of what Murray terms “hardware” — innate, objective, biologically-determined facts about people — with “software,” i.e., social conditioning, preferences, and psychology. Calling hardware what is actually software empowers a multitude of intellectual dishonesties and political strong-arming.
As a gay man, Murray has no qualms with LGBT equality. But he does sharply criticize the social and political weaponization of homosexuality (“Gay”), as evidenced by the cynical way the gay left rejects any suggestion that experiences or upbringing may cultivate homoerotic feeling — even when such suggestions come from gays. Murray bemoans the way the contemporary gay rights movement reduces sexuality to sexual politics, and thus only values gay people who leverage their identity toward progressive ideology.
This is an important theme running throughout The Madness of Crowds. Identity politics, Murray observes, bottoms out in irony: tThe gradual erasure of personality and reduction of individuals to their politics. Murray recounts how technology entrepreneur Peter Thiel, who is gay, was relentlessly attacked by LGBT activists for endorsing Donald Trump. Murray cites one journalist who asked, “When you abandon numerous aspects of queer identity, are you still LGBT?” (44). Had The Madness of Crowds gone to press a little bit later, Murray would almost certainly have cited similar attacks from progressives toward mayor Pete Buttigieg.
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How I Would Explain a Christian View of Transgenderism to a Non-Christian

Written by Samuel D. James |
Wednesday, June 22, 2022
To miss God’s design is to not live as God intended. It’s to sell ourselves short, to make for us lives and identities and destinies that are far, far poorer than what God intends. That’s why Christians talk about this stuff: because the good life really is possible.

Let’s begin with the observable facts of anatomy. Males have different reproductive organs than females. More than that, the reproductive organs of males appear to be designed to fit together with those of females. If you took a class on safe sex in high school, your teacher (or book, or video, or whatever) almost certainly assumed that female reproductive organs had to be treated differently than male ones. Thus, every boy in that class was expected to know how to put on a condom, and every girl in that class was expected to know what the birth control pill does. I doubt there was much confusion in the class over why girls weren’t expected to practice with condoms on themselves or the boys weren’t asking questions about the pill.
Now of course, this doesn’t prove that all the biological males in the class experienced male gender identity, or that the biological girls experienced the opposite. But the point is simply that sex education depends on a meaningful distinction between maleness and femaleness, and that this distinction is a given one, not simply an artifact of culture. No one was brainwashed into thinking they have the physical parts between their legs that they can plainly see. Boys see their boy parts, and girls see their girl parts, and from the moment boys and girls are born other people relate to them not simply as generic humans but as boys or girls, mostly because of these observable human parts.
Christianity begins with the teaching that God created a man and a woman, Adam and Eve. When Adam saw Eve for the first time, he was so excited that he broke out into song. Christians take “Bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh” to mean that Eve was like Adam, yet unlike him. She was a human being, but she “completed” him in a very real way. In fact, in Genesis, we are told plainly how this completion was immediately expressed: through sex. “The man and his wife were both naked, and were not ashamed.” Adam and Eve’s natures as like yet unlike demanded sexual union. So in the Christian religion, men and women were created by God with bodies that are like yet unlike, and the expression of this mysterious, complementary creation is sexual union. There is no sex without bodies, and there are no bodies without maleness and femaleness.
Now here is where many critics of Christianity argue that this doctrine simply fails to describe the lived reality of many people. What about the intersex? What about those with gender dysphoria? What about those who say they know they are a different gender than their biological sex?
Two answers are in order here. First, while the existence of intersexed persons and persons with gender dysphoria is often treated like a golden gun against the Christian position, this is a gross oversimplification of what usually happens with these folks. We have research that suggests more than 90% of teens diagnosed with gender dysphoria will eventually grow out of it. Gender dysphoria should be understood as a psychological malady, not as a kind of person.
Second, the Christian position certainly anticipates the possibility of feeling alienated from one’s body. Christians believe that Adam disobeyed God and introduced sin into the world. Sin corrupted the Adam’s relationship with God, with Eve, with the earth, and even with himself. Adam and Eve’s recognition that they were naked and now ashamed is a sign of profound alienation between Adam and Eve and their bodies. Before sin, they accepted themselves and each other and rejoiced without shame. After sin, they cover their bodies and hide their persons from God.
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How to Save Men

Written by Samuel D. James |
Tuesday, June 21, 2022
The recovery of American masculinity will be a counterrevolution of dignity, encouraging men to embrace their God-given strength, competitiveness, and desire for meaning as signposts pointing them toward a rich life of worship, temperance, and self-sacrifice. 

The firebrand gender philosopher Camile Paglia once famously declared that there is no female Mozart because there is no female Jack the Ripper. Provocative as always, Paglia’s point is that, historically speaking, the extremes of human achievement—both superlative genius and murderous sociopathy—tend to be occupied by men. Society, Paglia argues, must therefore pay close attention to masculinity because the stakes are particularly high. The trajectory of the American male over the past few decades is proving Ms. Paglia unnervingly correct.
Conservatives have often sensed an anti-masculine bias in elite spaces of journalism, higher education, and pop culture. This was the animating spirit in a recent speech by Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., to the National Conservatism Conference. Hawley’s talk, titled “The Future of the American Man,” eloquently summarized many concerns that religious and traditionalist Americans have about contemporary masculinity.
Hawley pointed out that record numbers of young men are failing to graduate, work, or marry, and that this constitutes a genuine social crisis. Moreover, as Hawley observed, the emerging generation of American men do not seem to have a definite vision for their lives. Vocational ambition and community leadership are increasingly ceded to women, as many twenty and thirtysomething men languish in inactive lifestyles dominated by video games and pornography.
These are trends conservatives certainly should be talking about, and Hawley should be commended for talking so transparently about them. But if “The Future of the American Man” gets the symptoms correct, it names the disease only in part. Throughout the speech, Hawley casts the current plight of masculinity on “the Left,” arguing that third-wave feminism’s misandry is at the heart of Democratic and progressive policies, and thus, the primary agent of this crisis.
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The Children Who Kill Children

Written by Samuel D. James |
Wednesday, June 15, 2022
Whatever we’ve been doing isn’t working. Even granting that the temptation in moments like these is to overstate the frequency of mass killings, the fact remains that the social and spiritual condition of young American men accords perfectly well with their ascendant role in these horrific events.

Ted Kaczynski, aka the Unabomber, was thirty-six when he began his bombing campaign. Charles Manson was likely at least that age at the onset of his murders. John Allen Muhammad, aka the D.C. Sniper, was about forty-two, and Timothy McVeigh bombed the Oklahoma City Murrah building at the age of twenty-seven.
Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold entered Columbine High School at eighteen and seventeen, respectively. Adam Lanza was twenty when he murdered twenty children and six staffers at Sandy Hook Elementary. Dylann Roof was twenty-one. Payton Gendron opened fire at the Tops Friendly Market in Buffalo at eighteen, the same age as the alleged shooter who murdered nineteen children and two teachers on Tuesday in Uvalde, Texas.
The ages of these two groups are far apart, and their distance expresses a hemorrhaging wound near the soul of contemporary American culture: We have become a society filled with very young men who are ready and willing to throw away their lives and the lives of others.
Yes, America has experienced a meaningful decline in violent crime from the chaos of the ’70s and ’80s. But the value of this decline is obscured by ever-younger killers and their ever-younger victims. The designation of eighteen as legal adulthood is a misleading technicality. We are living in an age of literal child-on-child murder. What can make the conscience tremble if not this?
There are some who sneer at people, like me, who offer prayers in times like these. Prayer, they say, is non-action: an ineffective, meaningless piety meant to maintain the status quo on gun control. Yet it’s these same scoffers who instinctively pivot to the topic of gun control whenever a child takes the lives of other children, and their political rage is no less a religious recitation simply because they confuse Congress for God. An inability to talk about anything other than gun control threatens to deaden our lament and neutralize a vital conversation about why so many of our country’s most lost, most hateful people are boys with their whole lives ahead of them.
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The “Young, Restless, Reformed” Movement Wasn’t Enough, but It Wasn’t a Mistake

Written by Samuel D. James |
Wednesday, April 13, 2022
The problems of the present are real, but so were the blessings of the past. The passing of a particular moment in evangelical life is lamentable not because it was irreplaceable, but because it accomplished something real, and those who saw it are, in a very real sense, different people for having experienced it. 

The needle that I tried to thread in my response to David Brooks’s essay on evangelicalism could be expressed this way: The dominant evangelical institutions from 2006-2016 were rocked by Donald Trump’s presidential victory, the reasons for this are multifaceted and complex, but when the smoke cleared it was a particular strain of Reformed evangelicalism that was most fractured by it. The chief division right now in evangelical life seems to be between people who rejoice at this fracturing and those who lament it, but everyone agrees that 1) it happened, and 2) the evangelical moment known as “young, restless, and Reformed” was the most spectacular casualty of it.
In a few weeks the final gathering of Together for the Gospel will take place in Louisville. It’s very easy to overstate the influence of a single conference for pastors. But if you were shaped at all by the Reformed theology, expositional preaching, and culture-engaging ethos that came from places like Southern Seminary, Ligonier, and Redeemer Presbyterian Church, you probably were influenced in some way by the conference. It mattered to a comparatively small but comparatively influential moment in time for complementarian Calvinists. The conference’s ending, of course, is part of the larger shift of the YRR moment. I haven’t talked to one person who believes the conference would be ending in 2022 if Donald Trump and Ferguson had never happened. The conference is ending because the coalition it represented has changed.
Very briefly, I want to make one point about this. The rending of the YRR fabric has been traumatic for many, and the damage it has caused to friendships, institutional partnerships, and the mental and spiritual health of many evangelical pastors and leaders has been terrible. It is very, very tempting to look into history and see this fate coming. It is tempting to look at the YRR moment and see how its flaws and blind spots presaged such a fracture. They are there if you want to see them: the development of a celebrity teacher culture, the reliance on pastors and ministry models who were “growing,” the tendency within the movement to rely on the backchannel instead of strong leadership. Yes, these flaws and more set the stage for the frustration we feel now. What I take away from this, however, is that the YRR movement was never enough, but it also wasn’t a mistake.
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The Internet Is Pornographically-Shaped

Written by Samuel D. James |
Monday, April 11, 2022
The old proverb that “you can’t stop the birds flying over your head, but you can stop them from building a nest there” is true and helpful precisely because there is a distinction between a stray desire and its immediate fulfillment. In the liturgy of the Internet, however, such a distinction is a problem for technology to solve. The gap between our instincts and our power is a gap that digital technology wants to close. 

In his book You Are Not Your Own: Belonging to God in an Inhuman World, Alan Noble makes the point that internet pornography gives the user an astonishing amount of felt power and significance. Because almost any scenario or flavor or subject of porn is attainable online, the addicted user becomes accustomed to the idea that whatever he can imagine should exist for him:
Today you can find a pornographic depiction of virtually any fantasy. If you can dream it, you can find it. And you can probably find it for free within three minutes. When you inevitably get bored of that fantasy, just dispose of it and find something new—indefinitely. Humans have always been able to imagine all kinds of sexual scenarios, but we haven’t been able to make them exist, unless you happened to be a tremendously powerful despotic ruler. We all have the power of Caligula now.
Alan goes on to observe that recent digital innovations like deepfakes have unlocked an unfathomable potential for bringing wild fantasies to (apparent) life. Virtual reality environments simulate immersive sexual experiences even more realistically. At this point in the history of pornography, just about anything anyone demands to see, feel or participate in can be accommodated. Alan concludes, “We have a godlike freedom to pursue any fantasy we wish.”
This is, I think, a key to understanding something very important. A lot of evangelical writing and counsel about pornography centers on the idea of isolating pornographic content from its digital habitat and attacking it individually. Internet filters can raise alarms and block access to problematic pages. Accountability software and partners can flag bad-looking activity and ask about it. The idea is that if we can take the average Christian who spends nearly five hours every day on his phone and train his conscience and retool his devices to only spend those five hours on “pure” content, we will have defeated the enemy.

“You’ve Got Self:” How the Internet Cultivates Expressive Individualism in All of Us

Written by Samuel D. James |
Sunday, April 10, 2022
As Christians remind each other of the gospel, we will build in one another the capacity for richer joys, deeper identity, and lasting meaning that digital technology promises but never delivers. The permanence of the gospel, revealed in a book, proclaimed by a community, and demonstrated through love, is more than enough ballast for screen-weary souls.

Christopher Nolan’s 2010 film Inception tells a story about a technology called “dream-sharing,” invented at some indeterminate point in the future, that allows participants to enter into one another’s dreams via their subconscious. The main character, played by Leonardo DiCaprio, assembles a team of dream “hackers” to invade the mind of a billionaire business heir and convince his subconscious to break up his father’s commercial empire. In one of the film’s mostly subtly metaphorical scenes, the team visits a chemist who can make an especially potent sedative to allow for vivid and prolonged dream-sharing. The chemist takes the team downstairs, where they’re led to a dimly lit room where dozens of people are sleeping, connecting to dream sharing devices. The chemist explains that these people come to spend hours every day dreaming together, as their subconscious selves construct an alternative life in their dreams. Stunned, the team asks, “They come here to fall asleep?” “No,” the chemist replies. “They come here to wake up.” The dream has become their reality.
There are no real-world dream sharing devices, but there is one real-world technology that connects billions of people in a dream-reality: the Internet.
As Carl Trueman brilliantly lays out in The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self, expressive individualism has its origins in a complex collision of history, philosophy, and politics. Today, however, the most powerful vehicle for shaping people in its image is not the classroom or Supreme Court, but the Internet. To see this more clearly, we need to think of the Internet less as a singular tool or hobby, and more like what it is now: an immersive epistemological habitat in which hundreds of millions of people have regular, active membership. The Internet has transformed the way humans read, learn, communicate, labor, shop, recreate, and even “worship.” No other technology is as disruptive to traditional forms of human activity.
Membership in the online commons has formative effects on us, just like membership in a local church. The liturgies of assembled, embodied, gospel worship point us toward one set of beliefs and values, while the liturgies of Internet membership point us toward a different set.
While secular technology critics have been talking this way about digital life for a while, Christians largely have not. Instead, we’ve focused not on the form of the Internet, but on its content, encouraging one another to avoid pornography, slander, and envy on the various website and social media platforms we navigate daily. This encouragement is good and necessary, but much more is needed. Pastors and church leaders in particular need to see online technologies as powerful instruments of personal formation that push us in a certain spiritual and epistemological direction.
Before going further, we should take careful note of something important. The Bible’s vision of human flourishing as divine image-bearers and Christ-followers is a deeply analog vision. By this I mean that Scripture both assumes and prescribes doctrines, attitudes, and practices that are tied to our embodied, physical existence. For one thing, Christians believe that divine revelation is expressed in a physical book, the Bible, and that this book features language with objective meaning.[1] Further, the very first thing we learn from the Bible about ourselves is that we are created in the image of God, male and female. This means that our fundamental identity as people is tied to our bodies. God creates physical image-bearers who have embodied sexual identities, and in submission to God these image-bearers come together to marry, make love, and bear children that fill the earth (with their physical selves) and subdue it. Family is not an abstract concept, but a flesh-and-blood institution that is ordered according to real, embodied persons.
The Internet, by contrast, is radically disembodied. To be online is, in a very real sense, to escape the givenness of created existence. The social critic Laurence Scott writes:
If our bodies have traditionally provided the basic outline of our presence in the world, then we can’t enter a networked environment, in which we present ourselves in multiple places at once, without rethinking the scope and limits of embodiment. While we sit next to one person, smiling through a screen at someone else, our thoughts, our visions, our offhand and heartfelt declarations materialise in the fragments in one another’s pockets. It’s astonishing to think how in the last twenty years the limits and coherence of our bodies have been so radically redefined.[2]
The Internet’s disembodied, “fragmented” character is not merely interesting trivia. It is a massively important part of the way being online shapes our beliefs, intuitions, and habits.
Consider now three distinct “digital liturgies” that shape all of us in the image of the disembodied Internet.[3]

“My Story, My Truth”

Online technology’s flattening, democratizing character means that the most valuable social currency is not expertise, wisdom, or character, but story. When a truth claim goes up against a narrative, the narrative wins every time. Personal experience is the authoritative norm in digital discourse, and in many cases no amount of evidence or argument can trump it. To suggest that someone’s story may be relevant but not necessarily authoritative is often seen as a grossly unacceptable attack on their personhood.
The power of individual story to provide justification for desires and thwart any criticism is powerfully evident to Gen-Z. In her book Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters, journalist Abigail Shrier describes how large and growing numbers of teen and preteen Americans are learning to question their given gender through transgendered influencers, particularly on YouTube, Reddit, and Tumblr.
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Our Bodies Tell Us What We Are

Written by Samuel D. James |
Saturday, April 9, 2022
The crisis of modern culture becomes crystal clear. Our relationships, our roles, and ultimately even our bodies lose any objective givenness. They are simply expressions of our current desires, desires which can change at any time and be replaced quickly with the help of technology. I can decide I don’t want to be a husband or Dad anymore. I can even decide I don’t want to be a man anymore. Why? Because sex and gender are bodily expressions. If the body is simply an obstacle to be overcome in other areas of life, why not in this one?

In John Kleinig’s helpful book Wonderfully Made: A Protestant Theology of the Body, he makes the point that our bodies matter because they tie to our identity and our obligations in a concrete way. Knowing who we are (and knowing what we are meant to be and do) is not a purely psychological exercise. There’s a givenness to ourselves, and that givenness is expressed multidimensionally.
Consider this paragraph:
Our bodies were designed to work with others and with God here on earth. They were made to be receptive and active: receptive in obtaining life from God and active in working with God to promote life here on earth. Each body has received different characteristics and abilities because each body has something different to do. Thus, my male body qualifies me to work as a husband to my wife, a father to my children, and a grandfather to my grandchildren. Unlike me, the body of a single woman qualifies her to serve as a female relative, a female friend, and a female caregiver to others…We all have different vocations according to our location in the world and in our society. My location as a man is in my marriage and my family in the city of Adelaide, Australia. That is where God has appointed me to work with him caring for my wife, children, and grandchildren. He employs me to work with him in that location with those people.
Notice how Kleinig ties together things that we might not think to connect. Our male or female bodies (physical givenness) qualify us for certain work (roles) in certain places (location) among certain others (context). This is a particular way of understanding one’s identity. Instead of delving deep into self-analysis and introspection to determine what we want our identity to be, we can receive an identity based on physical realities that are objectively true of us. These realities tie us to ourselves, our work, our place, and our relationships. Right now, because of who and where my body is, I can serve as a husband to a wife and a father to two children in Louisville, Kentucky. I cannot serve as a single man or a wife. I cannot live like a childless man or a man of grown children. And I cannot live elsewhere than where I am.
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