No epilogue, I pray you; for your play needs no excuse. Never excuse; for when the players are all dead, there needs none to be blamed.
William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream
The line has been ringing in my ears as I have been weighing the Christianity Today piece and the (sparse) reaction to it. It’s a bit of irony, of course, as Shakespeare does in fact provide an epilogue. “If we shadows have offended” and the lines that follow are among his most famous. But then, the players are yet alive and still in need of some excuse.
It would be easy to stereotype the negative responses to the piece, and because it’s late and this is my fifth go at this post that’s exactly what I’m going to do. In short:
Some folks decried the intrusion of yoga into American Christianity, while it also earned some strange defenders (new headline: “Christian Yoga Knockoffs are Awesome, says Random Feminist“). Others counted Bible verses and found me wanting, while others objected to my use of the Pope in the strongest possible turns.
These responses aren’t necessarily wrong. In fact, as the author of the piece I share some of the responsibility for them. I set the frame for any discussion to follow, and I should have known better than to start with evangelicalism’s second-most contentious issue in the past year and end with a fellow who (unfortunately) is a nonstarter for most evangelicals. It’s a truism in speaking that if you mention something controversial, everything else you say will be forgotten. I can now accurately report that this is true of writing as well.
One prominent Christian blogger said to me over email that he found the piece “unassertive,” a word rarely applied to me. But to clarify, my hope was to take a swing at getting evangelicals to think differently about sexuality and to point people to Earthen Vessels for the full treatment. Babe Ruth apparently pointed and swung once, only he connected with a bit more success than I.
The irony is that I say twice as much about the Pope in the article as I do in the book. On purely mercenary terms, this is doubtlessly a mistake, as it will keep some folks from bothering to pick up and read. But I have found through this process that I am reluctant to repeat myself, and if people read the book I had hoped they might find a sliver of something different in the article. And, of course, vice versa.
And more importantly, someone is going to have to tell evangelicals about the Theology of the Body at some point, unless we want to further ingrain our habit of recreating the wheel. The way to offer a better alternative to the Pope’s on the subject is not to ignore, but to read patiently and charitably, finding the good and praising it and humbly leaving behind whatever remains.
As to the questions of yoga, I won’t repeat what I’ve said in the book about it [see: previous paragraph], but I will note that my focus there is more limited than the commenters seemed to take it. I hoped that the dispassionate use of yoga to point out the very real problem of determining the boundaries for evangelical spirituality wouldn’t descend into the question of whether it’s right or wrong, but we are apparently still too close to the controversy for that to happen.
One closing note: they said in the early days that blogging was the perfect activity of the chronic narcissist. But no one blogs for very long without friends, and I am fortunate to have some of the best. It’s always tempting to allow the negative comments to overwhelm the compliments, but the kindness of the many people who shared it on Twitter and beyond makes that impossible.