<< Front page News March 19, 2004

Why Jesus loves your body

Lillian Barger discussed God and body image
By Sarah Robertson

Ecumenical Christians of Oberlin sponsored author Lillian Barger to act as discussion leader at their weekly meeting Sunday. Barger discussed the issues raised in her recently published book “Eve’s Revenge: Women and A Spirituality of the Body.” The book addresses the portrayal of the body in modern society, and tries to rejoin the body with spirituality using a paradigm of Jesus to counter the deleterious effects of society’s destruction of the body. Barger also works as a counselor to women who have been disenfranchised from the Church.

“In society, we’re taught that the body doesn’t matter much, and that it is in the way of spirituality,” she said, “But you are your body. You’re more than your body, but our spirituality is often in the context of our bodies.”

Barger discussed the increased tendency of women to engage in self-destructive behaviors, such as self-starvation, cosmetic surgery, and cutting of the skin. Students discussed the images people are bombarded with in modern society of impossibly thin and beautiful women.

“The media does not look at women as whole beings,” Barger said, “A pair of eyes is always on us, and we feel we must live up to the image that other people have of us so we’re not comfortable with the bodies we have.”

She also prompted discussion of consumer culture, explaining that people’s bodies have become a commodity. Barger said people are conditioned to seek out only small parts of another’s being.

“Part of the consumer culture is not just consuming objects but consuming people,” she said. “Love is often about consuming someone else and not about real love.”

Barger explained the importance of bodily identity in the context of religious practice, saying that community cannot be achieved without physical presence. As more and more people use the Internet as their sole venue for spirituality, this authentic community becomes more difficult to attain.

“The Internet is dislocated from space and is not connected to any community,” she said. “In the end, people end up more isolated than they’d be otherwise.”

Barger then asked the group whether the life of Jesus could affirm the human body as spiritual. She explained that there are many implications of the fact that God took on a body.

“The most powerful thing in the Christian religion to respond to a society that hates the body is the fact that God took on a human body,” she said.

In addition, she explained that Jesus spent much of his life taking care of people’s bodily needs. She also pointed out that Jesus was born of a woman.

“The idea that God would be in a woman’s womb and would be born of her is significant,” she said, “A woman’s body was used to redeem the world, which implies that everything you do can be a redemptive act, and your bodily works become meaningful in the name of Jesus.”


The Review News Service: News, weather, sports and more, in your ObieMail every Sunday and Wednesday night. (Click here to subscribe.)