I feel like Hercule Poirot. Not in the sense that everywhere I go I leave a trail of corpses behind me, you’ll be pleased to hear!
No, I feel like him in those moments towards the end of a story when he says (in a Belgian accent I can’t reproduce here) ‘I have been stupid. Stupid!’
As some of you know, I wrote my dissertation for my philosophy MA on the topic of how we treat dead bodies and what that says about what it means to be human.
I was interested in the fact that although certain (very dominant) strands of philosophical thought consider the body to be no more than a shell or prison in which the ‘real’ person is trapped, the fact that we treat corpses with such respect suggests that there is something of greater significance in our fleshly form than we generally acknowledge.
I knew that was important, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on how or why. It matters to the abortion debate, because it affects the point at which we acknowledge that an embryo is a person. It matters to the euthanasia debate because it affects our decisions about when a person no longer has a worthwhile life. (Briefly, in both cases, if possession of a body is a significant part of what makes you a person, the roles your mind and capabilities play in those decisions must necessarily be smaller.)
I knew, however, that I was missing something. I knew I hadn’t quite finished the puzzle.
Enter Andy Crouch.
In Christianity Today yesterday (!) Andy wrote about the Same Sex Marriage debate and pointed out that which should have been self-evident to me: bodies matter.
What unites the LGBTQIA coalition [if you don’t know what those letters refer to, read his article!] is a conviction that human beings are not created male and female in any essential or important way. What matters is not one’s body but one’s heart—the seat of human will and desire, which only its owner can know.
Of course! That’s the connection my brain has been trying to make all this time! It’s no wonder no one has a good answer for ‘why can’t I act on these feelings?’ when we’ve spent years, if not centuries, prioritising the intellect and the experiential over the physical.
The bodies we’ve been put in, the things they’re designed to do and the way they fit together matters because they’re not just inconvenient shells or carrying cases for the real people hiding inside; they are essential parts of our beings and our personhood.
How I feel is not who I am, and it doesn’t need to affect what I do.
I’ve written about that before, even very recently, but still haven’t managed to make the connection.
I’m so glad Andy’s little grey cells were working more efficiently than mine. Thanks, Andy, for making the connection for me, and for a great article with some really helpful points about recognising this same sin in our own attitudes and actions instead of pointing fingers or throwing stones.