Idolatry of the Body

26 June 2008

I have heard a little bit here and there about the Pope John Paull II’s theology of the body.  It is, essentially, a theology of the dignity and inherent sacredness of the human body.  It is a good theology, taking something ordinary or mundane and lifting it so we can see God in it.

One thing I’ve noticed lately –one thing I have to be on guard for lately– is not theology of the body but idolatry of the body.

In the last six months, I’ve returned to exercise in earnest, and in the last three, I have revamped my nutritional habits.  I exercise two or three times a week, pretty hard, and I have managed to discipline myself to eat only when I am hungry and only enough to satisfy that hunger.  I don’t generally drink during the week either.  Sometimes, on the weekends and special occasions, I let myself indulge a little bit.  A steak.  Three or four beers.

I look and feel great, I think.  And what this leads to is a temptation.   I’ve noticed myself looking at my forearms, noticing their changing shape, looking at my calves or other parts that are changing due to exercise and diet.

And I fear an idolatry of the body.  I remember hearing on television a woman  involved in a reality show about exercise makeovers making a comment while starting a new exercise, “this must be great for that back fat.”
I remember thinking at the time, “Back fat!  Just think about getting fit!”

All beautiful things, all good things, can end up as idolatry.  I fear getting so caught up in exercise, eating right, and how I look that I abuse their goods.

I think I am safe; I think I can do it right, but the fear is healthy.  It does not consume me, but I am aware that the possibility of an idolatry of my body really exists.

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One Response to “Idolatry of the Body”


  1. ‘The Simpsons’ on scrupulosity:

    Reverend, I think I’m coveting my own wife!

    – Resident annoying Christian Ned Flanders

    Abusus non tollit usum – it’s wonderful you’re in better shape than me – but good point; keep an eye on that so it doesn’t become a sin.

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