Sex, Worship, and Embodiment

We are embodied beings.

We interact with the world through various organs. We use our hands and eyes and ears and voices and other faculties to experience and contribute to the world. And that includes our relationships. I look into my wife’s beautiful blue eyes and she looks into mine and this act facilitates intimacy. Our hands touch one another’s, not merely as an act symbolizing mutual possession, but also as a means of enjoying and cultivating it. Holding hands is part of the relationship. It mediates and enhances intimacy.

A critical climax of a marital union is only achievable by means of our physical bodies. In intercourse the organs of one person coordinate with the organs of another for a biological purpose for which an individual human body is insufficient. Unlike the intrapersonal organic cooperation that occurs during systemic nervous, cardiovascular, and respiratory processes, human reproduction requires that two human beings with different organ sets become a united whole. Only by this kind of union is this new whole, this new function, possible.

To work on discovering and describing the empirical facts about sex is a beneficial project. But to then argue that there isn’t some profound purpose driving it or that the intimacy shared by those who unite in sexual intercourse isn’t real is a mistake. Our bodies mediate our interaction with the world. Our bodies mediate our intimacy with one another. Organic union is the highest act of intimacy.

Now when I drive my body to the building that my community assembles in on Sunday morning and place my body in proximity to theirs and open my mouth and begin singing, there is another kind of union that takes place and facilitates another kind of intimacy. My voice cooperates with the voices of other humans in order to achieve a musical purpose for which an individual human voice is insufficient: harmony. To this is added the music generated by the humans playing various instruments. This mixture constitutes a new sound that is not possible for me to produce on my own and therefore in corporate worship we do not merely symbolize our unity, we embody it. The act of musical union mediates and enhances our intimacy with one another.

But it goes further than this, because musical union in worship has an object. We come together, not merely to sing, but specifically to sing to our Creator. Our music has the property of being about something—or rather, of being directed to Somebody. Our union in corporate worship then not only facilitates our intimacy with one another, but also our relationship to God.

As I mature throughout my life I become more deeply emotionally moved during worship. It is not all that rare that I will tear up. I do not pretend that there are not physical facts about my relationship to God. Discovering and describing these facts might very well be a fruitful enterprise. However to argue on the basis of the existence of these physical facts to atheism is ridiculous. To say that because thus and such occur in my brain when I sing or when I pray, therefore the object of my song or my prayer is not real is just as big of a mistake as saying that because thus and such occur in my brain when I see or hold hands with or unite with my wife, she is therefore not real.

We are embodied beings, after all.

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Filed under Faith, Marriage, Science

One Response to Sex, Worship, and Embodiment

  1. Or similarly, because behavior or cognition can be reduced to and understood as processes, therefore those processes are simply processes. They are thus understood as such, devoid of meaning.

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