It's odd that Christians — people who claim to believe that God created the earth, sustains it day by day, and intends to create a new earth — are often so mixed up about sex and food. How long would the earth's inhabitants last without coupling and eating?
And yet most Christian writers right up to the 16th century praised celibacy, sexless marriages, and arduous fasting. Bless Martin Luther for loving his wife (and the beer she brewed), but lots of us still seem to think that good sex and good food — if not actually sinful — are at least pretty low on the religious values hierarchy.
Has it escaped our attention that, according to our most sacred literature, God made a naked male and a naked female, put them in the midst of grain fields and orchards, and told them to multiply?
Have we noticed that, in the great poem that is the last book of Christian scripture, the celebration of the triumph of good over evil is portrayed as a marriage supper?
Why are we so nervous about our bodies?
Well, such nervousness has a long history. Philosophers going back at least as far as Plato have favored the soul over the body. St. Paul often sounds like he does too (though theologians, e.g. E.P. Sanders, point out that his spirit/flesh dichotomy isn't really talking about the soul versus the body at all). And the Roman Empire was full of teachers who posited a radical dualism between soul and body — with the soul, of course, on top. The author of the first letter to Timothy described such teachings, and rejected them:
They forbid marriage and demand abstinence from foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected, provided it is received with thanksgiving; for it is sanctified by God’s word and by prayer (1 Timothy 4.3-5).
I wanted to illustrate this post with a painting of Adam and Eve enjoying themselves in paradise. I thought it would be easy to find: just Google "creation" or "paradise" or "Eden," throw in "Adam" or "Eve" to narrow the search results — piece of cake, right?
Sadly, no. Just about every painting that came up was about the Fall. Eve having a chat with a snake. Eve sharing her apple with Adam. The primal pair fleeing Eden, earnestly hiding their genitals.
My Google search discovered no rejoicing in the beauty and goodness of the fresh-made earth. No sumptuous breakfasts prepared by the Creator for the wakening humans. No primordial picnics au naturel.
Hey, Christians, can't we do better than that?
LaVonne Neff is an amateur theologian and cook; lover of language and travel; wife, mother, grandmother, godmother, dogmother; perpetual student, constant reader, and Christian contrarian. She blogs at Lively Dust and at The Neff Review.