“A Word about the Body and the Flesh,” by Andrew Schatkin

There is a misconception that the Christian faith is opposed to physicality and, for want of a better word, the body of the flesh, or perhaps better put, is against sex. To be sure, there is something of an emphasis on virginity since Christ was born of a virgin and since then various orders have been organized at least in the Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church involving vows of celibacy, poverty, and obedience. There is, it would appear, an anti-sexuality element in the Christian religion. This is emphasized by the fact that there is a common idea that when we die, we will be flitting about like some sort of invisible ghosts in some sort of metaphysical world.

These ideas, which have become attached and involved with the Christian religion, are erroneous. They are erroneous on two grounds. Number one involves the doctrine of the Incarnation. This doctrine posits that Christ was preexisting and took on human flesh combined with his Godly being in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. In fact, there can be no more affirmation of bodily humanity and sexuality. This doctrine puts an end to any doubts on the subject. The Christian god so affirmed the body, the flesh and sexual feelings, that God took it upon himself to become a full human being with all the attendant feelings I have just referred to. I can think of no other religion in which any God chose to take on human flesh and thereby affirm humanity, bodily being, and, of course, sexuality. Only an extremely limited person would say that Jesus had no sexual feelings since he was fully human.

The second argument against the otherworldly character of Christianity, which has been bandied about with its emphasis on virginity and celibacy in certain religious communions of the body of Christ, is that Christianity holds that Christ rose from the dead with a body. He did not come out of the grave like some sort of ghost or spirit but came out with some sort of body. Once again, we are faced with the glaring fact that the risen Christ has a body and in fact ascended into heaven with a body. Once again, the misconception that Christianity is an other-worldly anti-flesh, anti-physicality religion is belied by this significant historical event and doctrine.

Finally, there is the fact that Christians believe that at some point we will be given the chance to rise again. The Apostles Creed describes this belief as a belief in the resurrection of the body Once again the resurrection of the body as a doctrine and dogma posits not that we will come out of the grave like some sort of flitting ghost or see-through entity, but with a body in fact like or akin and in connection with our own body in life.

This essay has I think has cleared up certain misconceptions about the Christian faith that are articulated by those who neither know, understand, nor care to understand these doctrine. There is no religion that better-affirms physical being, the flesh, humanity, and sexuality than the Christian religion. God created physical beings, including men and women. He himself affirmed that creation by taking on human flesh with all its limitations, feelings, and senses. The Christian religion believes that Jesus Christ rose from the dead with a body and presently occupies a contiguous human body in heaven. The Christian religion articulates the dogma that we will rise from the dead, not as spirits, but with bodies contiguous and connected with the bodies we had in life. To the best of my knowledge, I can think of no other religion that affirms the flesh more than the Christian religion.

Finally, I would add a little note here that Christianity has raised and always will raise the status of women in society. Christ was born of a woman, many of his followers were women, and the Genesis account of creation presents males and females with equal amounts of sexual feelings. God, who is a spirit, wishes to have a relationship with human beings, with bodies and bodily feelings. The Christian religion is, in short, far from being an otherworldly, outer space religion; it is instead a religion very much of the flesh, the time, and the being.