Theology of the body rocks

  • January 23, 2009
{mosimage}TORONTO - If sex sells, can a pope’s teachings about marriage and sexuality also appeal to the masses?

Two Catholic musicians are hoping that John Paul II’s “theology of the body” set to music will be able to. Or at least encourage listeners to consider an alternative view to the sexually permissive culture.

“We live in a time when marriage is under attack. Our kids are bombarded with sexual images and the Internet is full of temptations,” said David Wang, lead singer of the Catholic rock band Critical Mass (and a regular contributor to The Catholic Register ) which recently released a CD entitled Body Language.

The antidote? Promote a positive view of sexuality, Wang said.

John Paul II’s theology of the body originated from 129 short talks that the late pope had given between 1979 and 1984 on marriage and erotic love which promoted chastity before marriage and discouraged the use of artificial birth control.

As a father of nine, in Kitchener, Ont., Wang, 46, said it became “glaringly obvious” that youth were facing competing messages about sex from their parents and the church and society.

Before writing the lyrics, Wang — who writes the monthly music column for The Catholic Register — researched the theology of the body for about a year and discovered that instead of saying that “sex is bad,” John Paul II was promoting a different message: That human sexuality is “beautiful, a reflection of the divine, and should be treasured and valued,” Wang said.

Critical Mass’ CD tackles issues like marriage, celibacy, contraception and homosexuality. Wang said the music has an eclectic mix of styles, from power pop to Latin, Middle Eastern and rock.

One of the 12 songs on the CD, “Friend,” comes from the perspective of a person who has AIDS, Wang said, and who has been ostracized by his friends. He said the song also challenges people to practise what the church preaches: to discourage behaviour which is contrary to church teachings but to not reject the person involved in it.

“How many of us have friends who are living together?” he asked. While these friends are often accepted, those who are gay sometimes receive different treatment, Wang said.

Like Wang, 28-year-old philosophy doctoral student Peter Baklinski said John Paul II’s theology of the body has also been a source of musical inspiration. Baklinski has produced a CD of original piano music entitled Resonance of the Gift: Reflections on the Theology of the Body. He will be using earnings from the music towards his tuition as a first-year doctoral student at the John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family in Melbourne, Australia.

After reading John Paul II’s teachings, Baklinski said he was impressed with the “new radical thinking about marriage and sex.”

Growing up in a family of 14, he said his parents’ example taught him that “marriage is possible, no matter what.”

John Paul II’s teachings on human sexuality present a countercultural message which affirms the sanctity of marriage, he told The Catholic Register during a telephone interview from Vilna, Alta. But promoting the message will likely be an uphill struggle as it competes with what some experts have documented as the emergence of a “hook up culture” where casual sexual relationships are becoming increasingly popular, especially among youth.

Even so, Baklinski, a father of two, said the “new sexual revolution” introduced by the theology of the body about chastity before marriage and the traditional family has a positive message because it doesn’t focus so much on what people can’t do, but how sexuality is a gift within marriage.

And in a time of increasing divorce rates, Baklinski said John Paul II’s teachings on human sexuality are needed now.

One of the messages Baklinski hopes will resonate with listeners is John Paul II’s teachings on the communion of persons which, he said, was reflected in the relationship between Adam and Eve.

The communion of persons refers to the meaning of life and how we are made in the image and likeness of God, he said.

Weblinks to the music can be found at for Critical Mass and for Baklinski.

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