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Love Thy Body | Book Review

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Answering Hard Questions about Life and Sexuality By Nancy Pearcey


Love Thy Body significantly changed my perspective of my body. My eating disorder was accompanied by body dysmorphia, which I still struggle with today. Knowing my body is part of my identity, my body was made this way for a purpose is incredibly reassuring. It makes me embrace my body, not alienate myself from it.


Pearcey makes three very important points in Love Thy Body. First, that the material world has a purpose; this includes the body God gave you. Second, that everything is a worldview; secular or religious, it’s just a lens with which to view the world. Third, that Christianity isn’t just “tradition.” Our “customs” are based on theology.


Material Girl

What I like most about this book is how Pearcey lays out the Christian view of the material world. For example, the teleological view of nature: though we live in a broken world, signs of God’s existence and purpose are in creation. That worldview defines a person as more than their feelings or desires, but also their bodies and material manifestation.


“If nature is teleological, and the human body is part of nature, then it is likewise teleological. It has a built-in purpose, part of which is expressed as the moral law. We are morally obligated to treat people in a way that helps them fulfill their purpose.” pg. 23

"Christianity is dualistic because it holds that there exists both body and soul, matter and spirit. These two substances causally interact with one another, but neither one can be reduced to the other." pg. 20-21


As an eating disorder survivor, I still struggle with body dysmorphia. Understanding that the Christian worldview teaches the body has a purpose and the body is part of your identity, helped tremendously. It gave me a lot to think about in terms of who I am.



Worldview vs Worldview

The second part of the book that I enjoyed was how Pearcey points out secular morality is just another worldview, like Christianity. She reiterates that everyone has a worldview. Whether it's secular or religious, everyone has biases and beliefs that contribute to how they see or interpret the world.


“But what progressives fail to understand is that every social practice rests on certain assumptions of what the world is like一a worldview.” pg. 93


“Is the secular position neutral? Is it unbiased and objective? Of course not. It rests on a highly contentious, two-level view of human nature that involves a crassly utilitarian view of the body (lower story) along with a subjective, arbitrary definition of the person (upper story). Nothing neutral about any of that.” pg. 63


“Today many people think it is inappropriate to talk about rights endowed by a Creator, at least in the public square. Why? Because in the fact/value split when a position is labeled religious, it is assumed to be private and subjective, not shared by others within the polity. Ironically, however, by that definition, it is the secular view of personhood that should be barred from the public square. Though it claims to be scientific, in reality, it is private and subjective.” pg. 60


Her objective is to ask which worldview is better? The secular or the Christian worldview? Pearcey says the Christian worldview is the superior one. “My goal in Love Thy Body is to show that a secular morality “doesn’t fit the real universe.”” pg. 11



Tradition! Tradition?

One argument against Christianity is, “just because we have always done it that way doesn’t mean we should keep doing it that way.” Critics say tradition is outdated and has served its purpose. They want to get rid of it without knowing why the “tradition” was there in the first place.


To understand “tradition” we have to understand the culture Christianity was born into一Roman culture. When Jesus started his ministry, Roman culture was predominant. It was oversexualized. Any sexual relationship was accepted as long as it involved a higher-status male dominating a lower-status person. As long as sexual intercourse was practiced in moderation, any sexual activity was moral.


Pearcey says on page 188, “The early church had to muster the courage to stand against a culture in which there were few limits on sexual behavior. From the beginning, Christians have not defended “traditional values.” They have stood for truth against prevailing cultural norms. The Early church may have been “on the wrong side of history.” But that’s why it changed history.”


Traditional values are just values. Don’t get the customs confused with the reasons behind them. Some traditions evolved and are just habits; others are based on theology. Christian values will always be on the wrong side of history.



Attachment Hormone

In the chapter, Schizoid Sex, Pearcey explains that oxytocin is released during sexual intercourse. The same hormone that is released when a mother nurses her baby; it’s the hormone that stimulates caring and nurturing, the attachment hormone. (127)


This scientific discovery reiterates the Christain perspective. Marriage is a covenant between two people, a promise they will share everything一bodies, emotions, etc. Sex is meant for marriage because it is part of that covenant.


In Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, he preaches against sexual immorality, saying, “Whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body” (1 Cor. 6:18). If we take into consideration that having sex emotionally attaches two people, attaching to more than one person is detrimental to your health.


My husband and I didn’t date anyone before finding each other. We have what I call a “one and done” kind of relationship; we waited until we found the right person to date. Obviously, it has its pros and cons, but I believe the pros outweigh the cons. One of the advantages is we are only attached to each other.



Gender

I’m glad the gender debate wasn’t happening when I was a kid. I was a Tomboy and refused to wear dresses. Most of my life has been ruled by emotions. The older I get, the more I recognize I have both masculine and feminine traits. I would have questioned into which gender “box” I fit.


I could write a whole book about feelings because most of my life has been ruled by my emotions. That’s why I’m glad Pearcey addresses them here. “Because we are fallen and sinful, our feelings fluctuate over time. The most reliable marker of who we are is our physically embodied, God-given identity as male and female.” pg. 156


Feelings aren’t reliable. Sometimes they are right and sometimes they are wrong. We can’t rely on our feelings to tell us how to live our lives. What Pearcey says here is the understatement of our society: our feelings fluctuate, but our physical embodiments don’t.

Your emotions are part of what defines you. From a holistic standpoint, emotional health is the ability to recognize, express, and control emotions. How we process our feelings is part of who we are and how healthy we are. If gender is based on feelings, then our gender becomes our personality and vice versa.


Pearcey says on page 176, “Psalm 139 says God “knits” together our bodies in the womb一which includes our masculine or feminine identity. The physiological structure of our bodies is not some evolutionary accident. It signals a divine purpose for males and females to form covenants for mutual love and the nurturing of new life. The act of giving love is the act of giving life. As O’Donovan writes, “Christians have classically believed that in the ordinance of marriage there was given...a teleological structure which was a fact of creation and therefore not negotiable.” Morality tells us how to fully participate in that fact of creation一how to be fully human.”


Our gender is so ingrained in our identity that it tells us how to be fully human.



I’m not a stereotypical woman. No one is! The world keeps telling me that I should be a man because I’m more assertive and blunt than the typical woman. Because God gave me the gift of teaching and prophecy. Because I’m just as focused on success and achievement as a man. But I still have curves. I have insane emotions because I can have a baby. I’m still a woman.


It’s more than a relief to hear Pearcey say on page 217, “In the New Testament, the gifts of the Spirit are not divided by gender. Prophecy and teaching are not masculine. Mercy and service are not feminine. The Spirit “distributes them to each one, just as he determines” (1 Cor. 12:11).”


Pearcey even dismantles the secular worldview on gender, when she says on pages 197-198, “To discover whether you identify as a man, you must first define manhood. “If we are not men by our bodies, we are men by our actions,” [Jonah] Mix writes. Do you act stereotypically masculine? Then you are a man. Do you behave in ways that are stereotypically feminine? You must be a woman. Ironically, the queer theory actually reinforces rigid gender stereotypes.”


What was the first action Bruce Jenner took when he became Caitlyn? Wore makeup and a dress. Stereotypical displays of femininity. Why? Because queer theory reinforces rigid gender stereotypes.


“By contrast, if you take your identity from your body, Mix says, you can engage in a range of diverse behaviors without threatening the security of your identity as a man or woman. “When we are defined by our bodies, the whole width of human experience remains open...There is freedom in the body.”” pg. 198


Radical Hospitality

Pearcey’s solution? Radical hospitality!

“But what about through our families? Do we nurture and build up our family relationships with the goal of forming a network loving enough to draw others in? Do we think of creating a home base strong enough to serve those in need?” Scripture says, “God sets the lonely in families” (Ps. 68:6). Who is building the strong, healthy families that God can use to minister to the lonely, the wounded, and the outcast?” pg. 262


“Christians must also practice radical hospitality. She calls it sharing the gospel with a house key. “If you are not sharing the gospel with a house key, especially with people for whom crushing loneliness is killing them faster-if you are not doing that, why not?”” pg. 263


“If God has given you a dependable income, a loving spouse, a strong church community, a reliable group of friends, those gifts are not just for you. They are to equip you to reach out and draw in those who are broken and searching. God is giving you the opportunity to bring hope that Christianity is real and not just words-to put flesh and bones on the message of hope and healing.” pg. 264


That’s the exact strategy I intend to implement: sharing the gospel with a house key. I want to invite people into our home and our lives. People that don’t see the Christian worldview, that is lost and need a way, people that need something better than what they have now.


5/5 stars.

Would recommend Love Thy Body to any Christian struggling with body dysmorphia or who has someone close to them who is struggling with it. Pearcey gets very philosophical at times, which makes it hard to follow for those who aren’t into philosophy, but it’s worth pushing through that!


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