Today we’re not reading a Youtuber book but another Christian lifestyle book. How are there so many of these awful books in the world? Who knows but as long as people keep publishing them, we’re going to keep reviewing and debunking them.
Today’s book is ‘Love Thy Body’ by Nancy R. Pearcey and is subtitled ‘Answering Hard Questions About Life and Sexuality’ which in these kinds of books normally means ‘we’re going to be offensive, sexist, homophobic, transphobic and all-round judgemental using the Bible to back up our harmful beliefs while we complain about the ‘state of the world’ and long for the good old days when only middle class white men were valued’.
The chapter titles alone should give you a good idea of what to expect from this book:
- ‘Schizoid Sex: Hijacked by the Hookup Culture’
- ‘The Body Impolitic: How The Homosexual Narrative Demeans the Body’
- ‘Transgender, Transreality: “God Should Have Made Me A Girl”’
So umm… yeah.
As a lot of these books do it starts with a whole intro about how the world is falling apart, people are terrible, people have no morals anymore. Everything that’s ever gone wrong in the world is because we’ve allowed women and LGBT+ people to be treated as humans. And, of course, the only way to stop it is to turn to God – follow the Bible exactly as these people interpret it. It’s old, we’ve seen this in SO MANY BOOKS, but it’s no less offensive or degrading or just plain harmful.
I wish I didn’t have to cover these topics but here’s the deal: when these books stop getting published, I’ll stop ripping them apart.
So, the introduction:
‘Every day, the twenty-four-hour news cycle chronicles the advance of a secular moral revolution in areas such as sexuality, abortion, assisted suicide, homosexuality, and transgenderism.The new secular orthodoxy is being imposed through virtually all the major social institutions: academia, media, public schools, Hollywood, private corporations, and the law.’
‘Secular orthodoxy’ Are you kidding me?
I’m so tired of how some religious people seem to think that atheists have some big agenda we’re trying to force on the world to make everyone an atheist. That’s how this author here is making it sound throughout the introduction and it’s bizarre.
I mean I do believe that education, business, politics and the law should be secular, that is ‘separate from religion’ because that is the only way to allow true religious freedom and for everyone to be able to safely and freely believe or not believe what they want.
The author here only wants religious involvement in these things if it’s her religion and that’s not ok. I’m assuming Nancy here is American based on other things she’s written, can you imagine her outrage if the US government said ‘ok, we’re going to allow religion to influence all our social policies and laws and what is taught to you kids and what is and isn’t ok to show in the media… and that religion is Islam.’ She’d be so mad.
But by having a secular basis for education it allows kids to learn only what is fact and make up their own mind about beliefs later. They can learn that X, Y and Z religions exist and make up their mind if they want to believe in one or not as they grow.
Having a secular basis for laws and politics and so on means that everyone is allowed to express their religious beliefs or lack of freely. It means this woman can go to church when she wants, her next door neighbour can go to mosque when he wants and the guy down the street can choose not to do anything. How would it be fair if only one of those people was allowed to practise their beliefs?
Nancy is not thinking this through, she’s not thinking about everyone, she’s only thinking about herself and what she wants and she has this incredibly narrow-minded view that everyone in the world should live exactly like she does.
Sorry, anyway, she also plays the ‘I’m a former agnostic and finding God made me happy which means everyone else will be happier if they do what I did’ card and I hate it.
Also by apparently valuing everyone as individuals, wanting everyone to be able to express their own beliefs freely and caring about people taking personal responsibility we are ‘devalu[ing] the human being and destroy[ing] human rights’. Sounds about right…
She then complains that people like her are always ‘accused of intolerance and discrimination, branded as bigots and misogynists, and targeted for campaigns of shame and intimidation’ – well you know, if you don’t want to be accused of that stuff maybe don’t do it… ‘Ooh they called me a misogynist but I only said women were inferior to men and that their only purpose is to be baby-making slaves’ ‘Ooooh you called me an intolerant bigot and that’s not fair because I only tried to stop same-sex marriage from being legal and don’t think transgender people exist’.
Then she goes on to complain about Christians who don’t do things exactly her way… I’m so sick of this. She complains that ‘About two-thirds of Christian men watch pornography at least monthly, the same rate as men who do not claim to be Christian’ – funny, so you’re admitting that whether someone is religious or not, it doesn’t really affect what they like to do alone in private and yet you’re still going to turn this around and try and blame the ‘secualr othodoxy’?
And then after some boring stuff which we’ll cover in more detail later she ends her introduction with:
‘We live in a moral wasteland where human beings are desperately seeking answers to hard questions about life and sexuality. But there is hope. In the wasteland we can cultivate a garden. We can discover a reality-based morality that expresses a positive, life-affirming view of the human person—one that is more inspiring, more appealing, and more liberating than the secular worldview.’
She makes it sound so appealing doesn’t she?
In chapter 1, which is titled ‘I Hate Me: The Rise and Decline of the Human Body’ Nancy talks a lot about what she calls the ‘body/person dichotomy’ and in it she talks about abortion, interestingly we share a lot of the same views but come to very different conclusions about what it all means. Let me read you a few passages and then we’ll discuss it.
‘A few years ago, an article appeared by a British broadcaster named Miranda Sawyer, who described herself as a liberal feminist. In the article she said she had always been firmly pro-choice.
Until she became pregnant with her own baby.
‘Sawyer had run up against the wall of reality—and reality did not fit her ideology. So she began researching the subject, and even produced a documentary. Finally she reached her conclusion: “In the end, I have to agree that life begins at conception. So yes, abortion is ending that life.” Then she added, “But perhaps the fact of life isn’t what is important. It’s whether that life has grown enough . . . to start becoming a person.”’
‘What has happened here to the concept of the human being? It has been torn in two. If a baby is human life from conception but not a person until some later time, then clearly these are two different things.
This is a radically fragmented, fractured, dualistic view of the human being.’
Yeah, this is how I view things and I know not everyone agrees but I genuinely believe that while a fertilised egg or an embryo or a foetus may be human, they are not all people or individuals. In my view, personhood or individuality can be applied to that bundle of cells if it’s host wants to apply. So, if a person wants the baby then it is an individual from as early on as conception. But if the host doesn’t want it, if it’s a bundle of cells that is growing inside someone and exploiting their resources without their consent then we need a different, more objective way of identifying at what point this bundle of cells becomes an individual or human.
I don’t think simply ‘being living cells’ or ‘having human DNA’ makes something an individual.
If simply ‘living, multiplying cells’ was the only criteria, then why is it ok to kill some cells and not others? Why are we ok taking antibiotics to kill thousands of bacteria and virus cells but not to kill a human blastocyst which has far less cells? Or why are we ok cutting down trees, picking flowers, using weed killer? Why are we ok killing insects, mammals, birds?
If human DNA is the only important factor then why don’t we feel bad about all the human skin cells we’re shedding everyday? Why don’t we feel bad about removing cancer cells and tumours? Why don’t we feel bad about amputating body parts? Cutting off skin and taking out fat for plastic surgery?
And if it’s only living, multiplying, human cells then I have to ask, why? What makes us so special? And again, back to the cancer example…
The fact is, it’s not that simple. A lot more goes into making something an individual – can it survive without a host? What is its level of brain function? Can it feel and understand pain? Is it sentient? Does it have conscious thought? Does it have a sense of self? I go over the science and biology of this and talk about when I think a foetus becomes an individual in a 2 part video collab I did with Holy Koolaid, so I won’t go over it again here, I’ll leave the links for that down in the description below.
But ultimately, yes, I think there is a HUGE difference between a body and personhood or individuality.
And I understand that while Miranda Sawyer admits her view may have seemed irrational, I don’t think it was. Before something has the capacity to survive without a host, before it can feel pain, before it has any consciousness, I think it’s entirely up to its host to decide whether it’s a human being or not.
The author Nancy doesn’t like this though and she does go on to critique it.
She does talk more about this personhood theory saying:
[the foetus] ‘is acknowledged to be human from conception, in the sense that it is a biological organism knowable by the empirical methods of science. But it is not thought to have any moral standing, nor does it warrant legal protection. Later, at some undefined point in time, it jumps into the upper story and becomes a person, typically defined in terms of a certain level of cognitive functioning, consciousness, and self-awareness. Only then does it attain moral and legal standing.’
Which is a nice summary and something I agree with, although I don’t think the time is ‘undefined’ – it’s down to when the foetus develops those functions… I mean they’re hard to identify but not ‘undefined’ by any means.
And then here come her critiques:
‘Human life in itself is thought to have no value, and what we do with it has no moral significance.’
‘If you favor abortion, you are implicitly saying that in the early stages of life, an unborn baby has so little value that it can be killed for any reason—or no reason—without any moral consequence. Whatever your feelings, that is a very low view of life. Then, by sheer logic, you must say that at some later time the baby becomes a person, at which point it acquires such high value that killing it would be a crime.
The implication is that as long as the pre-born child is deemed to be human but not a person, it is just a disposable piece of matter—a natural resource like timber or corn. It can be used for research and experiments, tinkered with genetically, harvested for organs, and then disposed of with the other medical waste.’
Well yeah… as long as the host doesn’t want it, yeah, those early stage embryo cells aren’t people and they can be used or disposed of, just as someone would use or dispose of blood or a limb or skin cells, whatever.
And then she just jumps to a crazy conclusion:
‘Personhood theory thus presumes a very low view of the human body, which ultimately dehumanizes all of us. For if our bodies do not have inherent value, then a key part of our identity is devalued. What we will discover is that this same body/person dichotomy, with its denigration of the body, is the unspoken assumption driving secular views on euthanasia, sexuality, homosexuality, transgenderism, and a host of related ethical issues.’
I disagree that it dehumanised everyone… in fact, the opposite. It’s showing what it means to be human, what creates us, gives us value, what makes us individuals. Once we understand the physiological mechanisms behind what makes us ‘individuals’ – it puts a hell of a lot more value on the body because we know it’s directly responsible for creating us and out personality and how we reason and value everything. That make sense?
Basically, I don’t think it’s dehumanising all of us at all and I don’t understand how she got to that conclusion.
She moves on to talk about Christianity:
‘Christianity is dualistic because it holds that there exists both body and soul, matter and spirit. These two substances causally interact with one another, but neither one can be reduced to the other.’
‘Yet Christianity holds that body and soul together form an integrated unity—that the human being is an embodied soul… By contrast, personhood theory entails a two-level dualism that sets the body against the person, as though they were two separate things merely stuck together. As a result, it demeans the body as extrinsic to the person—something inferior that can be used for purely pragmatic purposes.’
That’s a complete misunderstanding. What it’s actually saying is the body creates the person, they’re completely linked. You can have a body without a person but you can’t have a person without a body. We are all defined by our nervous systems, how our brain is structured, which neural pathways we’ve developed and so on… again, this is a book I’ve recommended before but if you’d like to learn more about this, there’s a fantastic book called Synaptic Self which goes into a lot of interesting detail on this topic. I’ll leave the affiliate link in the description below.
It’s bizarre as well because you can’t just decide to ignore scientific facts just because you don’t like what you’ve made up for them to mean.
She decides her messed up interpretation proves that none of us value the human body anymore and all of this stems from how none of us are creationists any more. Seriously.
‘For centuries, Western culture was permeated by a Christian heritage that regards nature as God’s handiwork, reflecting his purposes.’
Then goes on about how God designed everything:
‘It is evident that living things are structured for a purpose: Eyes are for seeing, ears are for hearing, fins are for swimming, and wings are for flying.’
And then it’s full of the same tired arguments we’ve heard and debunked over and over again – i have plenty of other videos on this stuff so won’t bore you by going over it again, but to summarise her points, she says:
‘The smoking gun for design, however, is in the cell’s nucleus—its command and control center. The DNA molecule stores an immense amount of information.’
‘And information implies the existence of a mind—an agent capable of intention, will, plan, or purpose.’
And then she tries to go for the ‘fine-tuning’ argument which again, is backwards.
And then she says:
‘If nature is teleological, and the human body is part of nature, then it is likewise teleological. It has a built-in purpose, part of which is expressed as the moral law. We are morally obligated to treat people in a way that helps them fulfill their purpose. This explains why biblical morality is not arbitrary. Morality is the guidebook to fulfilling God’s original purpose for humanity, the instruction manual for becoming the kind of person God intends us to be’
Oof. That’s just. Oof. There is SO MUCH to unpack there.
So let’s simplify this down because I don’t want anyone to ever feel intimidated or out of their depth by big words. And I hate making things more complicated than it has to be.
A teleological view means that we view and define things by their purpose, rather than how they were created. It’s said that some things have extrinsic telos which depend on its relationship to other people and is often imposed by humans: so a common example is a fork. We don’t really talk about how the metal is formed and so on, we say it’s a utensil for eating.
Other things however have an intrinsic telos meaning it’s got a purpose it’s going to fulfil regardless of outside influences, there’s no agency or agency involved here. So this might be a red blood cell’s telos being to transport oxygen around the blood or a seed’s telos might be to grow into a plant.
Nancy is trying to argue that if we assume all natural things have an intrinsic telos then the human body must have one as well – which may be true. Although I’d argue we have both an intrinsic and extrinsic telos, plus each of our components have an intrinsic telos, plus we can also overwrite out intrinsic telos with our own extrinsic telos. I think it’s more complicated than she’s making out.
For example, our cells might each have an intrinsic telos to reproduce / transmit information / support our bodies / etc. It could be argued that the intrinsic telos of the human body, as a whole, is to reproduce or to survive. It could also be argued that the intrinsic telos of the human race, as a whole, is to reproduce and continue the species. But we also have to remember that unlike a seed or a cell, we are sentient and so we can overrule our possible intrinsic telos. We can find and live out our own purpose – we can choose not to have kids, to make our goal helping others, to make it about our careers or creating or we can feel like we don’t have a purpose or we can have and ‘try out’ several. That’s the beauty of humanity.
Just as we can change an object extrinsic telos – a spoon for eating can become a spoon for digging or a spoon for playing drums with a saucepan or a spoon for stirring. We can change our own extrinsic telos.
Nancy makes the mistake of oversimplifying all of this and then jumping to a conclusion we have absolutely no proof for saying ‘if we have a purpose, it must be intrinsic, it must have been put there by God and therefore we have objective morality’ which is just a massive illogical jump.
Just because she says it with conviction, it does not make it true.
And therefore, because I find massive flaws in this premise, I can’t help but disagree with everything she says afterwards:
‘in this purpose-driven view, there is no dichotomy between body and person. The two together form an integrated psycho-physical unity. We respect and honor our bodies as part of the revelation of God’s purpose for our lives. It is part of the created order that is “declaring the glory of God.”’
She’s completely ignoring the differences between intrinsic and extrinsic telos, she’s completely ignoring personal responsibility, the difference between conscious and non-conscious beings, and it’s bizarre.
But again, it’s kind of odd because here and there, there are things I agree with her on:
‘The implication is that the physical structure of our bodies reveals clues to our personal identity. The way our bodies function provides rational grounds for our moral decisions. That’s why, as we will see, a Christian ethic always takes into account the facts of biology, whether addressing abortion (the scientific facts about when life begins) or sexuality (the facts about sexual differentiation and reproduction). A Christian ethic respects the teleology of nature and the body.’
Yes and no. I do think the physical body defines what kind of individual we are. And I do think that shapes our view of morality as well. But she can’t go on about ‘Christian ethics’ taking into account biology when really she’s cherry picking which bits of biology she likes and which she doesn’t, as we’ll see later in the book.
Then she goes on and starts talking about Darwin, completely misunderstanding his theory of evolution:
‘Darwin could not deny that nature appears to be designed.’
Yep he admitted that but said even if it seems to be, the evidence suggests that it was not.
‘But having embraced the philosophy of materialism, he wanted to reduce that appearance to an illusion. He hoped to show that although living structures seem to be teleological, in reality they are the result of blind, undirected forces. Although they seem to be products of intention (will, plan, intelligence), in reality they are products of a purposeless material process. The two main elements in his theory—random variations and natural selection—were both proposed expressly to eliminate plan or purpose.’
Nope, Darwin definitely did not set out to say ‘I want to come up with something that will change the way people view our purpose in life! He simply studied animals and nature in great detail, analysed evidence and came to the conclusion that evolution via natural selection was the best possible explanation for how living populations change over time.
To say elements of his theory were ‘proposed expressly to eliminate plan or purpose’ is completely dishonest.
Plus, I don’t think evolution does really undermine a teleological view of things, but maybe that’s just me, I’m not an expert in philosophy.
I think we can have purposes without them being defined or assigned by a being like a god or some other agent. I think purposes can just develop and evolve and change over time.
It’s really funny though because Nancy and me see a lot of the same points and just reach very different conclusions about everything:
‘If the body has no intrinsic purpose, built in by God, then all that matters are human purposes. The body is reduced to a clump of matter—a collection of atoms and molecules, not essentially different from any other chance configuration of matter. It is raw material to be manipulated and controlled to serve the human agenda, like any other natural resource’
Yeah, I agree… and I think that’s a great thing. However, there are some things to note, like that people still have a consciousness and that gives us control over our own bodies – bodily autonomy – and that means we should be the only ones to control what happens to our bodies, unless we’re in a state where we can’t give that consent or make those decisions about what’s best for us.
It’s a complex issue – I’m sure you all get this. Nancy just tries to oversimplify this and basically says ‘no, personal responsibility is BAD. I want all my decisions to come from what I believe is a God and you should all listen to my God, and only my God, too.’
She goes back to talking about abortion and foetus development but ignores pretty much all the important science. She makes good points about how foetuses are constantly developing – gradually like a gradient, so it’s hard to pinpoint the exact point it would become an individual, which is an excellent and very important point. But she misses talking about things like when the foetus’ development of a nervous system, when it the higher level brain functions develop, when it can feel pain, when it has a consciousness, etc. which I think are incredibly important and need to be discussed, not just glossed over because they don’t support the conclusion you want.
Then there’s some talk of euthanasia and, what a surprise, she’s against that too!
It’s a lot of the same repeated stuff we’ve seen already:
‘According to the body/person dichotomy, just being biologically part of the human race (the lower story) is not morally relevant. Individuals must earn the status of personhood by meeting an additional set of criteria—the ability to make decisions, exercise self-awareness, plan for the future, and so on (the upper story). Only those who meet these added conditions qualify as persons.
Those who do not make the grade are demoted to non-persons. And a non-person is just a body—a disposable piece of matter, a natural resource that can be used for research or harvesting organs or other purely utilitarian purposes, subject only to a cost-benefit analysis.’
I find her use of language such as ‘harvesting organs’ ‘purely utilitarian’ is obviously biased and she is ignoring the meaning and value that humans apply to the body of others. It’s the reason why, even though there’s no “person” in there anymore, we still take care of and carefully dispose of the bodies of our dead loved ones, on the whole.
And I know she’s trying to push this as a ‘well this is a bad disgusting thing to think’ but I still think ‘yeah… but it’s the case, we have evidence that this is the most likely scenario and I don’t think it’s an awful thing.’
She does the same thing with sex:
‘if the body is separate from the person, as we saw in abortion and euthanasia, then what you do with your body sexually need not have any connection to who you are as a whole person. Sex can be purely physical, separate from love.’
Yep, I believe that it can be. Some people have issues separating them and I think a lot of that has to do with how people are brought up but that’s not a problem either, you don’t have to separate love and sex, you don’t have to connect them. And your view can change over time. It’s a completely personal thing.
She complains more:
‘The Washington Post suggested that it is healthy when teenage girls “refuse to conflate” love and sex: “Sometimes they coexist, sometimes not.” The Nation asked defiantly, “Why should sex have an everlasting warranty of love attached to it?”17 Why indeed, if the body is just a piece of matter that can be stimulated for pleasure with no meaning for the whole person?
The same bleak view of sexuality is inculcated in even young children. A video put out by Children’s Television Workshop, widely used in sex education classes, defines sexual relations as simply “something done by two adults to give each other pleasure.”18 No mention of marriage or family—or even love or commitment. No hint that sex has a richer purpose than sheer sensual gratification.’
I think she’s the one devaluing pleasure here. Pleasure is an extremely important thing in a lot of people’s lives and that’s ok. Not everyone values family, marriage or commitment and, again, that’s ok. I thoroughly support allowing people to discover and figure out what they do value, what makes them happy and how to achieve that happiness. As long as no one’s getting hurt, I don’t see any problem.
Nancy is interesting though, she complains about this stuff but never really explains why any of it’s bad or harmful.
In her section about homosexuality she does some serious cherry picking… it almost reads as satire it’s so ridiculous! She talks about how we do have scientific studies that prove there’s a physiological cause for same-sex attraction but also we should ignore that because our bodies are only “made” for the opposite gender.
‘To have a male body is to have a body structurally ordered to loving union with a female body’
So we can listen to some biological evidence but not other parts of it, if it doesn’t fit with her conclusions…
‘To engage in same-sex behaviour’ she writes ‘is implicitly to say: Why should my body inform my psychological identity? Why should the structural order of my body have anything to say about what I do sexually?’
Sorry but is our brain not a part of our body now?
She makes one of the most ridiculous claims I’ve ever heard of:
‘The person who adopts a same-sex identity must disassociate their sexual feelings from their biological identity as male or female—implicitly accepting a two-story dualism that demeans the human body. Thus it has a fragmenting, self-alienating effect on the human personality.’
It’s ridiculous, especially as she’s just acknowledged that same-sex attraction is a natural thing that we see is caused by a physical response in the brain and body.
She makes the same point about being transgender but uses that horrible phrase ‘transgenderism’ which I hate.
I’m not even through the first chapter yet and these are only her summaries about what she thinks of these ideas. There’s a lot more to go into if you guys are interested but this video is already super-long so I’m going to leave this here.
In future chapters she goes into more detail about why she hates: abortion, women, LGBT+ people, plastic surgery, casual sex and all sorts…