Monday, August 26, 2013

Christopher West: Just Mailing It In

Christopher West  says the following in his latest email reflection:

"Strive to enter through the narrow gate." What does this passage from yesterday's Gospel say to us about the way we live and express the theology of our bodies? Striving to enter through the narrow gate in this context means committing ourselves to a continual purification of two misguided approaches to the body: the tendency to worship the body on the one hand (very prevalent in the culture today); and the tendency to reject or devalue the body on the other hand (very prevalent among Christians today). The more we are purified of both, the closer we are to that "vortex" in the center that draws us up bodily into the divine Mystery with all the elemental force of Christ's bodily Ascension and Mary's bodily Assumption. Lord, help us to enter through that narrow gate!
To quote that great Western Philosopher Steve Austin:  WHAT?

No seriously, what does this mean?  This is what happens when you try to make your little pet theory fit into everything.  I guess if you expounded on this enough you could (maybe!) get it to mean something relevant to the Gospel, but really, this is just someone on auto pilot repeating the same talking points after two decades of doing the same show every night.  Back then, the words had some meaning, and you could appreciate the enthusiasm, even if he was wrong.

Is it really that apparent that devaluing of the body is "very prevalent among Christians today?"  By Christopher West's own standards, his rock star TOB persona is beloved by Catholic youth, and even most Catholic young adults.  (When it comes to attractive young Catholic women, you limit your dating pool when you tell them you don't like Christopher West.)  He lives a pretty comfortable life in a pretty comfortable house with a pretty comfortable family traveling the world several months a year preaching his message.  If it was really that prevalent, could he live the lifestyle he does?

And how do we "purify" ourselves of this misguided approach to the body.  I'm not sure, but I'm guessing if you pay money to buy Mr. West's books or speeches he will tell you!  At this point he is just collecting a paycheck.  He isn't even saying these words with flair anymore.

There's actually room for interesting material here.  About how difficult living the chaste life is, whether you are married, single, or in a religious vocation.  About how it is one thing to profess a truth, but quite another to walk it, and how we can walk it. Instead it becomes the standard West shtick.

Maybe I'm a bit cynical.  I just think that if you are out there for a long period of time, you should do what you can to make your message relevant in today's culture and continually develop your work.  In West's world, things haven't changed since 1997.  Most Christians still hate their bodies, nobody is listening to JPII's catechesis, so keep buying my works to become part of the special club who gets it.  We faithful Catholics who are doing their best to promote John Paul's audiences deserve better.


  1. I'm surprised West didn't take the occasion of Sunday's gospel reading to tell us that he's discovered a long-lost anatomical meaning to Christ's exhortation to enter the narrow gate ...

  2. I actually wrestled over whether or not to allow that comment. I'll allow it barely if only because West's history of sexualizing everything makes it germane. Let's not go too far beyond that though. :)

  3. i see both things as happening...perhaps a look at what Bad Catholic wrote a couple months back could help, a series he did on modesty:

    or maybe you just don't care about that perspective? i dont know, i dont know you and i'm not sure if you know christopher west but i read much of what you wrote as blatant ad hominem. i think the application to this Gospel reading is poor but then again the Gospel can expound upon many things we think they don't. it might help that from the perspective of West, those who subscribe to his comments probably desire understanding how the Gospel may teach them something about the TOB he has made his life's work.

    and yet your critique is probably apt...we probably need more focus now on how to live it and less on what ought be lived though West has done a fabulous job on the latter for the lay person (imho)


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