In many ways we have become a society obsessed with physique. The gorgeous, athletic body has taken center stage, and the media keep its images constantly before us. Many movies exalt muscularity and animal passion. Advertisements frequently assault us with vivid images psychologically designed to arouse.
All this, and yet we lament an epidemic of unhappy marriages, divorce, teen-age pregnancies and prostitution, pornography, sexual crimes, and horrifying venereal diseases. But frankly, what do we expect? How can society not reap the effects of an unholy preoccupation with the body and its sensations?
You don't have to be a prude or oldfashioned to feel there's something fundamentally wrong with today's extreme emphasis on physique. No one is advocating a return to Victorian shame about the body. But when the body and muscularity themselves become idolized, when glorified animality is exalted above the moral and spiritual qualities in man, then we have bought the ''big lie.'' And that lie, which has had such devastating effects on society, is the materialistic world view that says man is nothing more than a highly evolved animal, a biomechanism whose only consciousness is brain chemistry.
This reductionist view of man has widely influenced the science, art, music, and literature of the last fifty years, if not longer. And it has debased mankind. Why? Because our humanity is not derived from matter, evolution, biology, or brain chemistry. Our humanity derives from the spirit of God in us that senses man is infinitely more than what the physical senses will admit.
This spirit, or spiritual sense, is what gives us the idea of goodness, law, order, beauty, immortality, infinity, transcendence. It's what makes us long for that which the material senses can never satisfy. Christ Jesus came to awaken and advance this spirit in humanity by showing us man's eternal sonship with God.
By his resurrection and ascension above matter, Jesus proved man's true being to be spiritual. Thus he taught: ''Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat; neither for the body, what ye shall put on. The life is more than meat, and the body is more than raiment.'' n1
n1 Luke 12:22,23.
Man's real life is indeed more than physique or fleshly raiment; it is limitless thought, the intelligent expression of the divine Mind, God. And if we intuitively sense this fact, we will want to make God's holy expression evident in our experience. We will realize that bodily idolatry wars with the spirit of God in us and would slay our spiritual sense of life.
In her book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered and founded Christian Science, writes, ''Selfishness and sensualism are educated in mortal mind by the thoughts ever recurring to one's self, by conversation about the body, and by the expectation of perpetual pleasure or pain from it; and this education is at the expense of spiritual growth.'' n2
n2 Science and Health, p. 260.
For the true happiness that spiritual growth alone can bring, the flesh must be subordinated to the spirit of God in us. The image of the beast is not the image of God we want to reflect. Every time we see animality strutting its stuff , we can mentally rebuke it. We can prayerfully realize that man is not an erotic animal but the holy creation of God.
As we purify our own thought of the ''lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life,'' n3 a peace enters our life that is beyond human comprehension. We feel true satisfaction, not satiation. Our relationships are uplifted, our affections enriched, our intellects freed. We glimpse the infinite possibilities of man in God's likeness.
n3 I John 2:16.
This is not to say there won't be a mighty struggle with ourselves and with today's mesmeric bombardment of sensual images. But if we pray, God works with us, transforming our nature, making it more Godlike. And what joy to know that the light of our own spiritual ascent will surely attract others, and in this way bless all of society. DAILY BIBLE VERSE My dearly beloved, flee from idolatry. I Corinthians 10:14