Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Book Review: Two Books in One

When "Theology of Her Body/Theology of His Body" arrived in my mailbox a few months ago from the Catholic Company's Reviewer Program, I eagerly opened it up. This book by Jason Evert, founder of the Pure Love Club and, is really two books in one.

The first side of the book, "Theology of Her Body," is subtitled "Discovering the Beauty and Mystery of Femininity." When I flipped the book over, I found "Theology of His Body: Discovering the Strength and Mission of Masculinity."

Being a woman, always trying to better understand the opposite sex, I opened the "His Body" section first. I had expected a dumbed-down, teen version of John Paul II's teachings. But that is not at all what I got. In direct language, filled with real-life examples, Evert lays out the reasoning behind the Church's teaching on sexuality and relationships, especially marriage and fatherhood.

"...boyfriends will often pat themselves on the back if they say to their
girlfriends, 'I don't want to pressure you to do anything that you're not ready
for.' Implied in this statement, however, is the assumption that they guy
is willing to take all that she will give. He feels like a gentleman
because he is not forcing her to do anything, yet he has become morally and
spiritually limp. His character is passive, and he has no deep convictions
about the value of her soul or his." (p.28)
The "His Body" section continues to challenge teen boys and young men to value themselves, especially the ways in which, as men, they are created in the image and likeness of God. "This is one way we reflect the image and likeness of God in our masculinity; we initiate the gift of life. The woman does not. Rather, she receives it." (p.35) Evert challenges teens to sacrifice themselves, to model themselves after Christ, sacrificing for His Bride, the Church.

Impressed with the down-to-earth explanations of some pretty complicated theology, and the real-life examples, I flipped the book over and started reading the "Her Body" side. Even though I'd been impressed by Evert's take on men's sexuality, I was sceptical about his take on women's. Again, I was pleasantly surprised.

He didn't dumb-it-down, and he wasn't condescending. Instead, Evert writes of the mystery and sacredness of femininity. "Like the Holy of Holies, the image of the locked garden and spring reveal that a woman's body is not unapproachable. Rather, she is opened only to the one who is worthy to enter." (p.7)

Throughout the "Her Body" section, Evert writes of the dignity of women. He describes our sexuality as a mystery to be pursued, to be revealed, to be unveiled and redeemed. He encourages women to embrace their beauty, to accept their bodies as a gift from God. "God created the body of the woman to be a visible sign of the beauty of her femininity.... Therefore, a woman's body should not be deemed impure. She might dress in a way that detracts from her dignity. The thoughts of men about her may be impure. But the body itself is very good." (p.39)

I had not expected a book written for teens to have so much theology in it, such a strong Biblical and Catechetical basis. And certainly, I didn't expect a book with this much theology to be written in such a clear, concise, and easily-accessible way. The real-life examples provided an easy-to-follow model for teens who are navigating the choppy waters of dating, sexuality, parenthood, and responsibility.

I am lending this book to my friend, a priest who teaches at a local Catholic high school. But I want it back when he is done. My kids are a few years away from the teen years, but this is one book that we will all be reading when that time arrives.

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