Posted in Essay, General Interest, Terri Stewart

Sacred Space in Men’s Bodies

Four weeks ago (plus one week off), I started exploring finding sacred space in our bodies. I took a brief look at the need for sacred space because of the large influence of Western Christianity on our society and the world. Additionally, the groundwork was laid for a holistic view of our bodies as sexual beings and the unity of being.

Part I, here

Part II, here

Part III here

Today, the images, poems, and points address the issue of men and body liberation. The team who created this, myself, Denise Ritthaler, and Bjorn Peterson, used scripture, quotes, images, factoids, and music to make the point for healing our body image and considering our bodies sacred space. I am additionally adding an update of men and shame from Brené Brown.

  • Each subset of males see’s their body as either limiting or freeing. Either an asset or a liability.
  • Disappointment or embarrassment with body image is not talked about.
  • Men objectify others (esp. women) in the very ways they hope that they themselves are not objectified.
  • Men disguise their bodies (weights, tattoos, fashion)

Two examples come to us from Saul Williams and Brett Dennen. Mr. Williams talks about the inescapability of the realities that are attached to black, male bodies (explicit) while Mr. Dennen addresses the shame and guilt attached to the privilege of being Western-European-American and male.


Brett Dennen

In both cases, the artist laments the body as that which separates him from larger community and peace. The body is either used to marginalize or is a symbol of appropriation and bodily harm. The body is mournful, life-stealing, and restrictive.

Sociologist and author Brené Brown, PhD, offers this list of shame that men experience: (page 91-92, “Daring Greatly,” an abbreviated version of the list is below)

  • Shame is failure.
  • Shame is being wrong. Not doing it wrong, but being wrong.
  • Shame is a sense of being defective.
  • Shame happens when people think you’re soft.
  • Revealing any weakness is shaming.
  • Showing fear is shameful.
  • Shame is being seen as “the guy you can shove up against the lockers.”
  • [Men’s]worst fear is being criticized or ridiculed–either one of these is extremely shaming.

But the body is sacred!
Kelly Brown Douglass: Divine incarnation affirms the holiness of all bodies.
Sally McFague: Spirit and Matter are intrinsically related.
Mayra Rivera: God’s transcendence in our embodiment “summons” us to a new ethic.
Galatians 5:2 “Do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.”

Again, what’s theology got to do with it?

  • Body/Spirit dualism allows objectification (Kelly Brown Douglas)
  • Objectification leads to disembodiment in the sense of our body as unholy other
  • When we are disembodied, we can no longer connect to creation (Sally McFague)
  • When we are disembodied, we can no longer connect to the other (Mayra Rivera)
  • When we are disembodied, we can no longer connect to the other within our self (extrapolated from Mayra Rivera)
  • We can neither connect to immanence nor transcendence

Without immanence (experiencing our bodies) or
transcendence (experiencing the other),
we lose our sense of sacred

And we become a befuddled mess. I hope that by experiencing the beauty and wisdom of our bodies presented here and in the other presentations, you will rebel against popular imagery and embrace the holistic sense of the life cycle.

Can I get an Amen?

Next week, I will look at this for one more week focusing on the good news that comes to us from the sources of spirituality and sociology. More Brené Brown! This next piece hasn’t been written, but I have ideas! Can you help me out by offering my the body-positive messages and quotes you receive from your spiritual paths and traditions?

References are here.



P.S. From Brené Brown on women and shame (I wish I had read this book before I started this series rather than in the middle of it!) (From pages 85-86,”Daring Greatly,” abbreviated version)

  • Look perfect. Do perfect. Be perfect. Anything less is shaming.
  • Being judged by our mothers.
  • Being exposed–the flawed parts that you want to hide from everyone are revealed.
  • No matter what you achieve, what you’ve come from and survived will always keep you from feeling like you’re good enough.
  • Even though everyone knows there is no way to do it all, everyone still expects it. Shame is when you can’t pull off looking like it’s under control.
  • Never enough at home. Never enough at work. Never enough in bed. Never enough with my parents. Shame is never enough.
  • No seat at the cool table. The pretty girls are laughing.




As a chaplain to chaplains, I find myself in the deep listening work of attending to the dreams of hope-filled people whose true calling is to serve and uplift incarcerated youth.

5 thoughts on “Sacred Space in Men’s Bodies

  1. My body image messages come from my father saying that the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit and telling me when I asked to get my ears pierced in 6th grade: “That is mutilation of the body for purposes of vanity, and I will not subscribe to it.” Hence, no piercings, no tattoos, no artificial coloring. I suppose I feel that it would be shameful to alter my appearance in any permanent, unnatural way. However, being a Temple and being sexual sometimes creates a huge disconnect.


  2. Massively thought provoking, Terri. This runs the gamut of some of life’s greatest taboos and often unspoken truths; subjects of which we speak little but think often. Priscilla’s comment hits one nail on the head, that as sexual beings, respect for our bodies as ‘temples’ seems to run contrary to the Western world’s attitudes to sexual behaviour – a huge disconnect in her own words – unless … and this is a big UNLESS … we learn a deeply rooted RESPECT for the bodies of all other beings (aka looks, appearance, colour, creed, the way they dress, debunking commonly held perceptions of ‘beauty’ and ‘ugliness’ etc. etc.) from the earliest age possible. Then, perhaps, we can learn to come to terms not only with ourselves, but also with the great and wonderful variety that exists amongst humanity, let alone the rest of the animal kingdom!

    Thank you for helping to open minds, Terri.


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