I will be heading to Kansas City today for two events featuring Christopher West and Theology of the Body. This has been a very important teaching for me and has helped evolve my thinking about how to build a culture of life. Encouraging respect for the life of the unborn is only part of it. There must also be a new “sexual revolution” which reclaims the truth and meaning of human sexuality and protects the sanctity of the marital embrace which is meant to be both unitive and procreative. It is the prevalence of contraception and the acceptance of casual sex that has lead to many of the problems we associate with the “culture of death” – abortion, HIV/AIDS, pornography, divorce/breakdown of family life etc… That is precisely why JPII said in his encyclical Evangelium Vitae:
It is an illusion to think that we can build a true culture of human life if we do not help the young to accept and experience sexuality and love and the whole of life according to their true meaning and in their close interconnection (n. 97)
I just spoke to a group of high school students about TOB last Saturday at a PSR retreat. The retreat leader later told me that the overall reaction from the students was, “WOW.” Wow indeed! That was my reaction when I first heard it! As JPII biographer George Weigel said, TOB reshapes the way we think about our “embodiedness as male and female, our sexuality, our relationships with each other, our relationship with God – even God Himself” (source). This is a message that our youth, and really all of humanity, is hungry for, for it explains nothing less than the deepest longings of the human heart!
Christopher West is probably the most well known expert on JPII’s theology of the body and does an excellent job of explaining it in a way that is non threatening and very easy to understand. I have listened to him quite a bit in the last few years and look forward to seeing him in person! You can read some of West’s articles at the Catholic Education Resource Center. Topics include:
What is the Theology of the Body & Why is it Changing so Many Lives?
God, Sex, & Babies: What the Church Really Teaches about Responsible Parenthood
In-Vitro Fertilization and the Hermeneutic of the Gift
A Basic Theology of Marriage
The Theology of the Body & The New Evangelization
John Paul II’s Theology of the Body: Key to an Authentic Marital & Family Spirituality
Celibacy for the Kingdom & the Fulfillment of Human Sexuality
And an interview with Christopher West
See also JPII’s 129 general audience addresses that make up TOB.