I read an essay not so long ago, written by a woman who received a Facebook friend request from a man who 13 years earlier had raped her. Although she never accepted the request, she did call him. Opened her woundedness. Asked him to talk about what he did and why. She writes that this “hour-long phone conversation with the man who raped me . . . was more helpful than 1,000 hours of therapy.”
It was a compelling piece of writing, and the author handled her subject both honestly and carefully. It was refreshing because – frankly – we live in a culture that can’t talk about sex. Not without a sneer, a snide comment, a joke, or some kind of sotto voce complicity (as though the discussion itself is suspect).
That’s what I find so refreshing in the Bible’s Song of Solomon. There is no shame. Instead, there is honesty, vulnerability, passion – even the passion that will continue to pursue in spite of cultural boundaries (implied by the beating received at the hands of those “sentinels of the walls” who “took away my mantle”).
And that’s what I find so frustrating in some of the early church fathers, such as Origen, who seems convinced of the evil of “fleshly desires.” He writes that only those “free of the vexations of flesh and blood . . . withdrawn from the desire for corporeal nature” may read this Old Testament book. And that’s what I find so frustrating in Bernard of Clairvaux’s insistence, likewise, that perceiving the message of the Song with “any shadow of corporeal substances” is nothing more than an “evil suggestion[s] . . . forced upon us by the bad angels.”
If Jesus was fully human, then we should be free to be the same, opening our woundedness and our longings, discussing with honesty and passion what it is to want.
If Jesus was fully human, then we should be free to be the same