Pope John Paul II’s teaching on the “Theology of the Body,” changed my perspective on dating and procreation. Prior to that, my experiences of dating in our hypersexualized culture, were marked by unmet expectations.
Five years ago, I broke up with a nominal Christian who I lived with for six months. Soon after, an Anglican priest lent me Christopher West’s 8 part CD set “An Introduction to the Theology of the Body: Discovering the Master Plan for Your Life.”
West explained how the sexual revolution enabled the widespread use of birth control, and created a culture of sex without consequences. The physical act of sex used to mean a man wanted to marry the woman, and have a family with her. Now it meant something more like “I think you’re hot and I’d like to have an orgasm.”
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, today the median marriage age for men is 29.8 and for women it’s 27.8. Millennials, my generation, is known for putting off marriage, partially because of cohabitation. Data shows 15 percent of adults ages 25 to 34, live with an unmarried partner.
Reflecting on Pope John Paul’s teaching, and attending Anglican catechesis helped me realize contraception, i.e. birth control, and cohabitation were outside of God’s Divine plan for man and woman. “The Form of Solemnization of Matrimony” in the 1662 Book of Common Prayer states the primary purpose for marriage clearly:
“First, it was ordained for the procreation of children, to be brought up in the fear and nurture of the Lord, and to the praise of his holy name.”
Dr. Matthew Lee Anderson taught a seminar on the “Theology of the Body” for the Brazos Fellows at Christ Church Waco. He challenged us with John Paul II’s teaching on “creation as a fundamental and original gift.” He showed that our original solitude, unity, and nakedness laid the groundwork for a theology of the body.
“It (the creation) also signifies, according to the first narrative, beresit bara, giving. It is a fundamental and ‘radical’ giving, that is, a giving in which the gift comes into being precisely from nothingness” (59).
Because of this, John Paul’s said “every creature bears within it the sign of the original and fundamental gift.” Because of this, we know that creation is the fundamental and original gift. Essentially, this means man received the world as a gift, and the world received man as a gift (59).
In my own experience with online dating, I saw men and women treat one another as objects of use that could easily be discarded. Such behavior contradicts the inherent truth in John Paul’s teaching that “the body reveals the living soul (61).” If a person’s body reveals their soul, then an interaction with another body, is an interaction with that person’s soul, not just their physical body.
Genesis 2:18 states, “Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that man should be alone; I will make a helper fit for him.’” Pope John Paul interpreted this scripture to mean man’s “essence” was incomplete without a help mate – God has created man and woman to exist “with someone” and “for someone (60).”
God baptized my romantic desires, after taking a yearlong break from dating, while committing to Anglican practices of prayer, theological study and active participation in the life of the church. Instead of viewing dating as an opportunity to be affirmed or find happiness, I see it as a mode of discerning the question “is God calling me to exist for this person?” Can we exist for one another, to care for one another’s soul and the souls of our future children?