A friend of mine recently described that at the end of a day of video meetings he feels like his head has been squeezed in a vice.
If you can relate, then you may be up against false gods and ancient heresies.
Long before the pandemic sent us to video meetings and online schooling, our culture has been flirting with a kind of neo-Gnosticism for years. Gnosticism is an ancient heresy that goes something like this:
spirit = good
physical = bad
I would argue that we have adopted this same ancient belief, but dressed in new clothing. We have become a people that looks away from the physical world in our attempts to find human flourishing.
You can see hints of this everywhere:
- In the million ways, we opt “live” online (media, gaming, shopping, dating, chatting, and even church services.)
- We daily scroll through social media feeds cultivating “friends” and grooming our image.
- We involuntarily turn to our devices to regulate our bodily emotions without them.
- We watch live events through our screens so we can record them to watch the recorded version later.
- We mistake being attractive for actually being good (in this way, we opt for the appearance of good over good itself).
- In the area of identity, the concept that someone can be a “man trapped in a woman’s body” or vice versa rests on the idea that the “real you” is not based in your physical body.
- And in the area of sexuality, online porn has been correlated to the decline in marriage rates, as people choose virtual reality over physical reality.
(I write all this with great compassion for those of you who wrestle relationally, emotionally, or in any sexual area. I believe Gnostic thought makes these struggles all the more difficult to navigate. Regeneration is here to help!)
Please don’t misunderstand. I’m grateful that our screens enable us to see and talk with loved ones, friends, and coworkers. Also, I’m not suggesting that a virtual meeting or Facebook post is morally akin to things like online porn. However, I am pointing out the common denominator:
Our culture approaches the human body as though it is replaceable, alterable, or expendable.
For Christians, this ought to sound an alarm because Christianity’s understanding is human beings consist of both soul and body. Christianity believes that separating soul from body or body from soul is the path of death, and so cannot make a person more alive (nor more fruitful, flourishing, or free).
However, even though we hear the alarm, we also hold up hope! How? Why? Because at the center of the Christian faith is the good news that God “became flesh” (John 1:14), and he did so precisely because he esteems human beings—these unique soul-body creatures he made—that much. He came to restore human beings body and soul, to oneness, to integrity again.
Considering the subtle but real cultural slide into Gnosticism, and its accompanying view that our bodies are replaceable, alterable, or expendable, might God be asking us today, “Is this really what you want?”
The gods we’ve worshipped are shaking. Will we, God’s people, continue to prop them up because of the ease and comforts they afford us?
Jesus, teach us to esteem our bodies as you do. Word made flesh, lead us!
Questions for reflection: Where in your life might you have unwittingly embraced the notion that your body (or anybody’s body) is a problem rather than a gift? Where might you have slipped into preferring the ease or safety of interacting online rather than face-to-face when possible? Where else might you have bought into thinking that people’s physical bodies are optional when it comes to knowing and being known, loving and loved?