Love Thy Body:
Answering Hard Questions about Life and Sexuality
by Nancy R. Pearcey
Baker Books (2 Jan 2018)
978-0801075728 (Also available on Kindle)
As we look around the world today, one thing is for certain: the sexual revolution is in a mess. We were offered anarchy and now we learn the obvious: we no longer know the rules of the game. On the one hand, post Weinstein, we learn that entire institutions have been guilty of predatory behaviour. On the other hand, at least in the UK, innocent men have been charged with rape only for the prosecution to drop the case. Secularists are quite right to say that assaults on women have something to do with power inequality. But that is not the whole answer; not even half an answer. They dare not mention the "c" word, but it is surely obvious that we are in this mess because of our collective loss of chastity. If you want to understand Weinstein, you need to begin with Hefner. It was good to see the women of Hollywood wearing black in protest this year. We just want to see more of it on their persons next time.
This superbly readable book spells all of this out. Why has the female body been objectified? Because, says the author, we have become practical dualists, severing the body from the person. Those involved in pornography and the hookup culture grasp the body and disregard the person. In doing so, they invariably end up despising the body. When I look at a painting by Rembrandt, I see a real person, body and soul. This is hardly true of those images in pornography.
Pearcey argues that this dualism goes back to Kant and the enlightenment. She is surely correct. Much of secular ethics attempts at distinguishing between human beings and persons. But when does a person come into existence? Most ethicists will argue that it is sometime between conception and birth. Peter Singer will say sometime after birth. It is all so arbitrary. Liberalism, as Robert George says in his endorsement of this book, is philosophically untenable. In contrast, Christianity claims that there is a body and there is a soul at conception and one cannot be separated from the other. Sadly, we have rejected Christianity. And so, as we follow the secularists, we end up with abortion on demand. Or we start off with voluntary euthanasia in the name of "dignity" and we invariably end with involuntary euthanasia. All because we think that there is a difference between persons and beings.
So how do we get out of this mess? The author suggests that what is now needed is a rescue mission. We need to reach out to our post-Christian neighbour and show them the person of Christ. Christianity alone can give the basis for a "high view of the value and meaning of the body as a good gift of God." We need to reach out to others in compassion with this "life-giving and life-affirming" message.
This message will not be coming from Hollywood. As I write this review, I read that one of the highly favoured directors for this year's nominations gets a little anaphylactic when he hears about C S Lewis and another film is about a grown up man's sexual affair with a seventeen year old boy.
A book to help us reflect on our current woes. And how to get out of them.
Reviewed by Dr Pravin Thevathasan