Friday, May 15, 2009

Has Christopher West Gone South?

(The videos embedded in this post show a more articulated and contextual unpacking of key points in the Pope's teaching on the Theology of the Body and are a necessary addition to the news interview mentioned below. I hope they help!)
In the past week since ABC Nightline aired a 6 minute video interview on Christopher West, articles have tried to articulate, posts have posited, and Twitter has been twittering with people's reactions to its content. Many have been overwhelmingly positive, seeing through the roughly 10 substantial distortions and misquotes from the 6 minute piece (each clarified by Christopher here), grateful that even a glimmer of the Church's beautiful teaching slipped through the mainstream to potentially 4 million viewers. Others have used up large pockets of cyberspace to attack and belittle one of their own rather than the slanted ABC interview.
Samples of this attack:
"He (Christopher West) is one of the many self-help gurus out their that market their perspectives, attract people who are spiritually foundering, and make a living off their presentations, books, and dvd's... In my diocese (that would be Philadelphia, folks), all those into West have no real spiritual foundation. They follow cultural phenomenon, become spoke people for this "New" understanding and wind up in the end with the usual nothing... Give him time, and he will self-destruct like the rest of them."
- GM
“I’m shocked and horrified by the words that he uses. His mere mention of Hugh Hefner is to my mind an abomination.”
"From what I have read, both in the article and from respondants to it, Mr. West has become inflated by the success of his venture. Humility and purity go hand in hand, and it seems he has lost both virtues."
- C
I felt a deep sadness and frustration in reading some of these comments. It seems the Pharisees are alive and well in the Church today. Here is a deeply faithful, prayerful, humble, and yes, very passionate man who has given his life to unpacking the very dense and philosophical truth in the Theology of the Body for hundreds of thousands of people who may never have had the chance to read or hear it, while some of his brother and sister Catholics sit in their pews and criticize him. Jesus was called a drunkard, he was mocked for eating with tax collectors and sinners and talking to prostitutes. He was completely misunderstood and misrepresented by the religious leaders of His day. And every person who follows in his footsteps and tries to engage the culture and bring them the Water of Life gets the same wagging finger from the self-righteous.
Of course the media gave a skewed reading of this teaching. The lens with which it looks is still cracked. But some of the Truth could still be seen through that camera, and it has cut like a surgeon's knife right into our Manichean tumor that has thought the body evil or dirty, and sex something we shouldn't talk about in public. But if the Church doesn't speak of this beautiful mystery of human sexuality, who will? We all know the answer to that question.
The silence on sex in the pulpit and from many of our parents regarding sexuality since the 60's has not prepared any of us well for the media tidal wave that is sweeping away another generation. I say God bless Christopher for speaking this truth.
Has he perhaps gone too far south in his work? Is he too "vulgar"? Well the word means the "folk speech, the common tongue." Maybe going south is exactly where the Spirit is leading him. Deep south... into the heart...
The heart is our hidden center, beyond the grasp of our reason and of others; only the Spirit of God can fathom the human heart and know it fully. The heart is the place of decision, deeper than our psychic drives. It is the place of truth, where we choose life or death. It is the place of encounter... - Pope John Paul II
Some who severely critiqued Christopher rather than the interviewers have clearly never read the Pope's words, let alone Christopher's. They are crucifying a man based on a distorted 6 minute news clip. Read the Theology of the Body. Be still with it, pray... and pray for God's flawed and faithful servants who have the courage to face the culture, and speak to its heart.
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