Book Club Channel
The Saving Power of Sex: An Interview with Christopher West
How can the TOB evangelize? I chose the title At the Heart of the Gospel to underscore the scope of the TOB and where it leads us. It's so important that we understand that the TOB is not just a teaching on sex and married love. And it's certainly not just for married people. Rather, through the spousal analogy, John Paul II illuminates the entirety of God's plan from Genesis to Revelation with a splendid supernatural light. John Paul wrote that the new evangelization consists in "making known 'the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things.'" How can we make this mystery known? John Paul says that the "body, in fact, and only the body, is capable of making visible . . . the mystery hidden from eternity in God" (TOB 19:4).
In short, it's impossible to bring the world to Christ without recognizing the absolute necessity of the body in understanding what Christianity is and what it holds out to us.
What is one thing you wish more people understood about Catholic theology as it relates to the body and sexuality?
That, despite popular opinion, Catholic teaching on the body and sexuality is not a list of prudish prohibitions. It is a glorious, liberating vision of human life that corresponds perfectly with the deepest and most noble desires and aspirations of the human heart for love, joy, union, and happiness. Catholic teaching on the body and sexuality puts us on a trajectory, a journey, that, if we stay the course, passes over from the human realm of love and union into the divine realm of love and union, leading us into the eternal ecstasy and bliss of the Trinity. That pass over takes us through many painful trials and purifications, but with St. Paul we come to consider those sufferings as "nothing" compared to the glory to which they lead us.
How does the TOB speak into the trickiest questions about sexuality in the public square today, especially the definition of marriage?
John Paul II begins his Theology of the Body by reflecting deeply on the following words of Christ: "Have you not read that he who made them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'?" (Mt. 19:4-5). John Paul II says that if we follow these words of Christ to their depth, we will be able to answer all of the pressing questions that men and women are raising today about marriage. And that's what John Paul II does in his Theology of the Body: he follows these words to their depth.
The point in going back to "the beginning" is this: sin has terribly distorted our understanding of human sexuality. In order to understand God's original intention for it, we have to return to "the beginning" before sin distorted it. That's the foundation of everything.
If there is anything we can say about same sex attraction in light of the Gospels it is this: "In the beginning it was not so" (Mt. 19:8). This is not a condemnation of those who experience an orientation towards their own sex. But we must be willing to examine—however politically incorrect it may be—the ways in which sin has disoriented our sexual desires. Guess what: there's not a single person on the planet who has not been, in one way or another, sexually disoriented by original sin. Sexual desire, in all of us, has become inverted, self-seeking. It's called lust.
Deborah Arca joined the Patheos team after more than ten years managing programs for the Program in Christian Spirituality at the San Francisco Theological Seminary. Deborah has also been a youth minister, a director of Christian Education and music/theatre programs for young people and has served as a music director for worship and special retreats.