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4 The Sacrament of Bodies Your body is not a temple, it’s an amusement park. Enjoy the ride. ―Anthony Bourdain, Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly When I was ten or eleven, I started lifting weights. I had a science teacher who had wiry, muscular arms—not large, but defined—and shoulders that looked like they could carry or handle anything. I admired them. She looked strong and exuded a quiet confidence and capability. I asked her about them once (“What did you do to get them?”), and she said she did twenty-five push-ups every day and lifted some weights. Somehow I convinced my parents to get two tenpound weights, and I started using them daily, doing curls, shoulder presses, and butterfly presses while standing in front of a mirror in the living room. Even though my parents didn’t fight me on it, they often expressed their disapproval. “Your arms are going to look like 67 a man’s arms,” my father would say to me. “Why do you want to look like a boy?” my mother would ask, exasperated. For some reason, I was cognizant about muscles early on. Not only was I aware of them, I was drawn to them. Now, of course, I am obsessed with Michelle Obama’s beautiful arms and the way she transformed my view of the First Lady by being unabashedly a woman of power and beauty. I have always liked the idea of looking and feeling strong. From day one, I was a blur of activity—not unlike my six-year-old daughter, who is always bouncing, jumping, twirling, and climbing. As much as I was able, I would be out on my bike with the neighborhood kids and would return home covered in mud. I wanted to do anything and everything outside—to run on trails or in parks, chase after Frisbees , explore and wander off on my own. I would climb trees as high as I could until my mother found me and shrieked at me to climb back down. I wanted to feel it all—the sun and the wind, the cold and the rain, being outside where Mother Nature would wake me up. I loved the feeling of dirt from the mountains under my nails and on the soles of my feet. Generally, though, my brother and I weren’t encouraged to participate in athletics growing up. I’d always begged to play on the kids’ soccer team and do more than the annual church volleyball tournament. I wanted to go to sports camps like my friends and to be on all the sports teams. But my parents always responded that studying was going to get me to college and that sports were not important. The implicit message was that our bodies weren’t meant Outside the Lines 68 to be much more than containers for our brains, as if they were machines that needed only to be regularly maintained, groomed, and cleaned so as to be presentable. Yet our bodies are more than empty, inanimate vehicles for our consciousness . They mean something. They are constantly perceived and read, interpreted and shaped by external cultural forces. Many are violently forced to conform to that elusive and arbitrary standard eternalized by magazine covers. In the Christianity in which I grew up, bodies were explained as a part of God’s creation but not necessarily good. They were created by God’s hands, but they were expected to be clothed and closeted. Anything that had to do with the body was always diminished because of the call to “live by the Spirit, I say, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16). From the get-go, queerness undoes this dichotomy between mind and body, and the subsequent marginalization of bodies, by deliberately, purposefully centering bodies: how they move, how they breathe, how they express themselves, and how they experience pain and violence, lust and sex, desire and intimacy. More than that, queerness recognizes the temptation toward dichotomy and bridges these binaries, healing the gulf. It fills in the spaces we tend to leave empty and makes whole what is broken. A queer spirituality then invites us to see the possibility that our bodies are the sacramental —the holy, ordinary, sacred, and real-world—means in which we receive grace and salvation. The Sacrament of Bodies 69 Bodies Matter I first took sex education as a fourth-grader. None of it really...


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