When God's Temple Needs a Reno
(Queer Body Image)
August 2014, Berkeley
by Gary Simpson

From the Hebrew Scriptures, we see that the human body is good. In the creation account of Genesis Chapter 1, God makes men and women in the image of the Divine.[1] God takes a very personal role in custom designing individuals in the womb. One Psalm describes God as forming our inner parts in the womb.[2] People with special spiritual callings are described as both being designed by God in the womb and being given a prenatal call.[3] 1 Corinthians Chapter 6 provides a more Christian understanding, when describing our bodies part of Christ.[4] We are God carriers, the living Temples of God. I am gonna to intentionally make a grammar mistake to emphasize my point. And God don't make no junk and don't live in no junk.

Our bodies do wonderful things for us. Through our bodies, we understand and relate to the universe, to others and to God. Beverly Harrison and Carter Heyward make the point that our bodies help us become "self-directing moral agents."[5] Beverly Harrison notes that our relationships with people and with God are "mediated through our bodies."[6]

All of these positive images of our bodies get drown out by other messages from society. The noise of Barbie dolls and the bodies seen in underwear advertisements scream at us so loud that we miss Divine affirmations. On the Brown University website, I found reference to a study that found that 74.4% of women with normal body weight and 46% of men with normal body weight thought about their weight or appearance either 'frequently' or 'all of the time.'[7] A book titled The Adonis Complex talks about a vicious cycle, where the more one thinks about one's body the worse one feels about one's body.[8] As people who either struggle to overcome oppression or who struggle to reduce the oppression others feel, a poor body image does not help. When people are "alienated from their bodies", they are "more likely to be content with, and even at home with, pain and oppression."[9]

Chronic pain has been my twin brother since 1990. For those of us who suffer from chronic pain or debilitating diseases, for those of us who have bodies that do not match our gender identity and for those of us who find our bodies compel us to love people who society tells us we are not supposed to love, our bodies do not always perform the way we want them to perform. The aging process, which tends to be accompanied with change of hair color, loss of hair, poorer skin complexion, increase in wrinkles, decreased energy and sex drive, chronic medical conditions and pain, is not for cowards, because our bodies progressively look worse and progressively function less effectively. There was a time when I joked that God has my order for a Zac Efron body for my next life. Right now, I would be quite happy with a body half as nice as what I have, as long as everything works and nothing hurts.

I wish there was a solution, a way to make physical pain and disability go away, but I do not have a solution. Reflecting on one thing my body still does helps give me hope. Jo Hudson, who for a number of years was the pastor of the gay mega church Cathedral of Hope, told the 2013 United Church of Christ Conference that Lazarus was dead and God used him. Because God used a dead man, I think there is hope for me.[10] From a Christian perspective, we see humanity's healing coming through Christ's stripes, the wounds he received when He was crucified.[11]

As we let the powerful beacon of the risen Christ shine through the gaping picture-window sized wounds and stigmata of our hearts and bodies, people will find hope and strength. And through our stripes, they will be healed.


[1] Genesis 1:27 (ESV) So God created man in his own image,in the image of God he created him;male and female he created them.

[2] Psalms 139:13-14 (ESV) For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.

[3] Jeremiah 1:5 (ESV) Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,and before you were born I consecrated you;I appointed you a prophet to the nations.

[4] 1 Corinthians 6:15 (ESV) Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ?

[5] Beverly Harrison and Carter Heyward. "Pain and Pleasure: Avoiding the Confusions of Christian Tradition in Feminist Theory." Sexuality and the Sacred. 2nd ed. (Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 2010), 248.

[6] Beverly Harrison, cited in Harrison and Heyward (2010), 248.

[7] "Body Image." Brown University Health Education. n.d. 15 July 2014. (http://www.brown.edu/Student_Services/Health_Services/ Health_Education/nutrition_&_eating_concerns/body_image.php).

[8] Cited in "Body Image."

[9] Harrison and Heyward (2010), 248.

[10] Hudson, Jo. "Media Inquiries: Jo Hudson Closing Sermon of the UCC General Assembly." Rev. Dr. Jo Hudson. 02 July 2013, 17 July 2014. (http://johudsonblog.wordpress.com/media-inquiries/).

[11] Isaiah 53:5 (KJV) But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. Christians have historically seen this verse as pointing to Jesus' crucifixion.