By CK Persons
The Catholic Church is no stranger to scandal as the sexual abuse crisis makes abundantly clear. But the most scandalous thing about Catholicism – and this is not to minimize the horrible effects of sexual and power abuse — is the Incarnation: the core Christian belief that God became human. Although an outrageous claim, this belief is a radical affirmation of the goodness of creation and the importance of the body, among many other things.
Scandal unfortunately is linked to kinky sexuality as well, mostly due to misunderstanding and fear. Mere talk of spanking, foot worship, and bondage (not to mention any edge activities such as needle, fire, and breath play!) is often dismissed as strange, perverted, abusive, or even worse. Kinksters, however, understand the complexity of sexuality and courageously practice their seemingly endless creativity. They celebrate the vastly diverse ways human bodies and minds can be intimate with each other (i.e., consenting adults).
The Incarnation – literally, (God) in flesh – is a fundamental Catholic belief. God became human in the person of Jesus of Nazareth – a person who breathed, ate, slept, had sexual desires (the Catholic belief is that he remained celibate, a topic for another article), etc. – approximately 2000 years ago and continues to live today, though imperfectly, in the church community and beyond. Put another way, God pervades creation; there is goodness in and through all things. Such a belief in part led Paul to write to the Christians of Rome that nothing can separate us from the love of Christ (Rom 8:38-39). And we can access the divine – at any time – through our very senses: in what we see, smell, taste, touch, and hear. We don’t have to wait around for a God outside of ourselves to do something; the divine presence already abounds within us.
To compare the Incarnation to kinky sexuality is perhaps scandalous in itself, but this belief and way of practicing sexuality appear to go hand in hand. Sexuality is fundamentally good, and kinky sexuality, which can profoundly integrate the mind and body, reveals that goodness in many ways. I’ve thankfully had the privilege to experience and to witness how such sexuality has explicitly accepted and celebrated my own and others’ goodness and worth. The Incarnation is another way of saying that the body is inherently good; this belief is a radical promotion of the flesh, for through it we can intimately experience the divine. The love we experience in our varied partnerships is nothing less than the love that is God.