Two of the more serious critical comments I encounter, though, are 1) it is a fad, and 2) it is no more special than any another program. But are these comments valid? Is TOB like a Snuggie®, here today and mocked tomorrow? Is it ‘just another program’? While there are many great programs out there, I would like to give some reasons why I feel TOB is different and here to stay:
1) TOB is universal
I mean this in three ways. The first concerns who can benefit from this message. Most programs are geared towards a particular state in life. You have marriage encounters, singles groups, divorce support groups, young adult groups, senior groups, Hispanic ministry, African-American ministry, men’s groups, women’s groups, groups for those who have no group, groups for those who do not want to belong to a group, and so on. TOB, though, applies to everyone, regardless of race, married state, or age. As Christopher West says, “If you have a body, Theology of the Body applies to you.”
The second way is that TOB affects how you view every other person. Your spouse, your date, your friends, your boss, the woman on the cover of Cosmo, the guy who made an obscene gesture while cutting you off on the highway, are all viewed differently because it reinforces and expands the idea that each of them are ‘persons’, not tools to be used to gain something for yourself.
The last way is similar to the first. While some programs are directed to a specific target, and so are only applicable to that target, TOB addresses so many different aspects that it can be incorporated into almost anything. Marriage prep, Theology on Tap, Bible studies, teen and adult faith formation, RCIA, divorce counseling are just few examples. Theology of the Body is a comprehensive expression of our Catholic faith, so it can and should be integrated into every aspect of our Christian lives.
2) The most important thing
TOB speaks about understanding and gaining something that everyone, whether Republican/Democrat, believer/atheist, Buckeyes’ fan / ’the team up north we have basically owned since 2004’ fan ultimately seeks, which is L-O-V-E. This gives TOB a unique common ground on which to start a dialogue with people from all different backgrounds and viewpoints.
3) The ‘whys’ behind the ‘whats’
People today are not satisfied with a ‘because I said so’ explanation to anything, particularly regarding our Catholic faith. TOB provides the reasons for some of the Church’s most controversial moral teachings, such as pre-marital sex, contraception, and homosexuality. My experience has been that while not everyone embraces Church teaching on these matters after hearing TOB, it does open many minds to considering the Church’s positions more seriously.
There are many wonderful and necessary programs out there, many of which I have been a part, but I have been blessed to see the enormous positive impact this message has had on others lives and my own. TOB is not ‘just another thing’. It has the answers to solve the moral mess we find ourselves in today, and because it is the Gospel message, it is here to stay.
What aspects of TOB do you think make it unique and valuable? What has TOB done in your life?