3. Made in the Image: The Christian Understanding of the Body
Spirituality and Wellbeing - Interdisciplinary Approaches to the Study of Religious Experience and Health - Bettina E. Schmidt
Jeff Leonardi [+]
University of Wales Trinity St David
Historically, Christianity has for the most part tended to view the body as a relatively unimportant vessel for the soul. The body has been associated with desire - and therefore sin - mortality and decay. In our own time this legacy has led to Christianity being seen as anti-pleasure and anti-sex, and even more so with regard to same-sex relations. All this is somewhat surprising given the Christian doctrine of the Incarnation, and indeed Resurrection (of the body). This chapter will outline some of the negative theological attitudes to the body and suggest ways in which this aspect of Christian culture impacts negatively upon health and wellbeing. It is also suggested that the wider post-Enlightenment culture incorporates an extent of Mind-Body dualism which can also contribute to these unhelpful effects. It will also be suggested that Christianity can offer a more appreciative and celebratory perspective on the body, with important implications for health and wellbeing. Drawing from Person-centred psychology it is suggested that the concepts of the actualising tendency and organismic awareness can offer a more holistic balance to these historical quandaries.