Clearing the Fog
in the
War of Words


  logomachy--1. A dispute about words. 2. A dispute carried on in words only; a battle of words.
logomachon--1. One who argues about words. 2. A word warrior.



Body and Soul

Body and Soul

The Arts and Entertainment section of Sunday's Philadelphia Inquirer was filled with regret and anxiety about two things: the imminent closing of the five-year run of a show about four promiscuous women (Sadly, curiously, its fans await the finale for those women of 'Sex') and the imminent opening of a film about the Passion of Jesus (Gibson's Gethsemane and When sacred goes cinematic, passions flare ).

O tempora! O mores!

I could make a cheap joke about Sex's lack of passion and Passion's lack of sex, but you'd spot that I was just vamping to kill time. I haven't seen Mel Gibson's movie (but I have read the book). I saw just an early season or two of SATC (I read that book, too. As for watching the show, well, I was marooned in a rented room with a TV--what can I say?). The ending, as we finally know, is that all four women end up with men in snug long-term relationships: married; in LTR, with baby and man; in maybe-serious R, maybe LT; and betrothed.

This confirms my impression from the first season. Under the bright glitzy glissando quartet of the show, the continuo was a shriek of pain from the women being shredded by the sexual revolution. In the end, the show seems to have stayed true to the schizoid fantasy that powered the grinder.

The biggest fantasy element in the show wasn't the expensive shoes, fancy restaurants, or even the snappy dialogue. The women were driven by the idea--the quaint, your-Grandmother's-Barbie-doll-wedding dream--that There Is Someone Out There For You, a "soul mate". That's what they wanted--if not right away. But they all thought that you can search for that life-long faithful one while being faithless. That while searching for one's soul-mate you can be promiscuous. That what your body is doing has nothing to do with your soul.

So they jumped into bed with one likely guy after another, without doing anything to evaluate his long-term prospects. And time after time the brutes' faithlessness brought shrieks of soul-riven outrage. It used to be that when a man was said to have "outraged" a woman, he had physically assaulted her and violated her modesty. Things really aren't that different now, except now it isn't legally physical assault, it's consensual sex, at least for the physical part.

The problem is that the soul part isn't really separate from the body. Sorry, folks. We have one nature that includes both body and spirit, a fact reflected both by the women's dream and by their pain when they keep trying temporarily to tear the dream out of one half of their nature.

I don't have much hope for the LTRs. The women are expecting the virtue of faithfulness in themselves and in their men, but virtues and vices are habits of doing what is right or what is wrong. Since there is just one you, body and spirit, you are what you do and you do what you are. When your body has sex, so does your soul. The clock on being faithful to your soul mate doesn't start when you move in together. It starts when you are born. Though you can't turn back the clock, you can over time develop new habits, but the later you wait to develop a new habit, the harder it is to do so. It will take a lot of work for the women to develop the virtue of faithfulness. As for their men--well, good luck.

Which brings us to Mel Gibson's The Passion of Christ. The chattering classes seem a bit stunned that Gibson is committing such a massive act of theism in public. But never mind them. SATC's motifs, human nature, body and soul, faithfulness, are central to Christ's Passion.

The Big Problem that people have with people is that we are body and soul. It's messy. One of the oldest and most durable heresies is that of dualism, which explains the conjunction of our nasty, suffering bodies with our sublime spirits as a demonic plot. The Devil or a demi-urge stole our souls from heaven and imprisoned them in our bodies. Jesus' Incarnation as God-made-Man settled the issue for some. God could not have taken on something made by the Devil, but others tried to fit Jesus into the dualists' story. For them, the Incarnation created an even greater scandal, and in the early centuries of Christianity innumerable people wandered off into heresy trying to avoid it.

Faithfulness is at the heart of Jesus' Passion. It is the climax of a two-millennium story of God's covenant--a relationship of faithfulness--with the Jews. Jesus takes on human nature to show us how to live with body and soul in the world. He taught for three years that he was about His Father's business. The consequence, as my brother says, of putting a perfect man who does what God the Father does into a sinful world is that the world kills Him. Jesus showed us what He is by what he did. He suffered as much as a human can bear--torture, death, abandonment, despair, and the agony of knowing that your humiliation is taking place just a few feet in front of your loved ones--pleasing His Father with His steadfast love.

The women of SATC have bought into a tepid, modern form of the dualists' ideas of independent body and soul. Gibson's Passion is part of the story of Jesus' showing us how to live with integrity, that is, faithful to our nature and to God (as opposed to sinning and suffering). The chattering classes mourn the passing of SATC and look askance at the advent of Passion. Someone formed by Jesus' teaching sees the life modeled by the women of SATC as one of disintegration, and though they won't admit it, so did the writers of Sex and the City.



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