touch

Bloody Friday: God puts skin in the game.

Excuse the crudeness of the following comments but let’s face it, Good Friday is not exactly a family festival. As religious festivals go, it is about as gory and gruesome as it gets. So this is a fitting time for some street-level religious discussion.
A friend talks of needing a fuck-buddy.
I don’t judge but I suspect that what she really needs is a snuggle-buddy. My guess is that when people don’t have someone with whom to share that regular, nurturing skin-to-skin contact, they have to make up for lost time and cram a week’s worth of contact into an hour or two.
Whatever it takes. I don’t mean to gloat but I do have a snuggle-buddy and at this stage of life, (entering my senior years), the full-body, skin-to-skin, nightly spooning is far more sustaining than the sex.
Mind you, when my snuggle-buddy abandons me, which is NOW, while I am writing this piece, (my other-half being in Palm Springs for Easter while I am shovelling snow in Northern Canada!), I go into shock and withdrawal and start grasping for any available substitute reality, like numbing out with alcohol, or masturbating or envisioning getting my own fuck-buddy.
My skin hurts!
Actually my entire psyche hurts. It has learned to rely on the calming, nurturing, restorative effect of being in the warm, sensual glow of someone I love. But as luck would have it, this Easter here I sit skinless.
Which suggests a very ironic twist. Easter is precisely the time of year when (to use a poker metaphor) God puts skin in the game. That is what happens, isn’t it? Think about it: Maundy Thursday - washing feet, eating flesh, drinking blood, Good Friday -  whippings, crucifixions, Easter Sunday - resuscitating cadavers.
Skin is in.
We can no longer envision this God-human encounter as something other-worldly. We connect with Spirit in the physical, sensual, sexual, pleasurable and painful. In other words, to get to God we have to go through the body. We too, have to put skin the game.
Nobody is comfortable with this.
Certainly not religion. As a Pastor I probably gave close to a 1,000 sermons. Never once did I mention sensuality or sex or the importance of skin-to-skin, not even in premarital counseling, for God’s sake! Parishioners might have assumed I didn’t even know any of the “S” words, except that I had two children and, at one point, in the heat of passion, I ran off with a parishioner’s wife. Oops.
My religious training was intended to instill a suspicion, an aversion to all things physical and sensual. We could have sex but never enjoy it. Certainly not talk about it. We couldn’t dance, couldn’t enjoy a good glass of wine or whisky, couldn’t risk physical contact with anyone outside of matrimony (adolescents included), wouldn't even risk a massuage. If we wanted to be really religious, spiritual, we could go off in a corner and pray, or sit on our butts for hours on end and endure tedious tomes about substitutionary atonement  (WTF) or some other theoretical dismissal about the undeniable fleshiness
Consider the sanitization of religious rituals.
From pasty communion wafers to insipid communion wine, we dare not risk anything reminding us of the real-life scandal of "God-in-the-flesh." Once in my little congregation, we celebrated Maundy Thursday with foot-washing. That was high-risk, non-repeat behaviour.
And for good reason. Nothing is more sensitive or personal than feet (gentials excluded). Feet smell. They are dirty, calloused, bunioned, twisted, sore. No one wants their feet fondled in public by a stranger! They reveal the intimacies of our lives. You need special training to read a person’s palm; anyone can instantly read someone’s life-line from their feet.  So kibosh foot-washing in church. Save that for the old-folks home when our toe-nails get ingrown and the skin flakes and cracks.
Point being, we are embarrassed by our skin.
It makes us too human, too real, too vulnerable, too needy, sensitive. Sometimes the pleasure is more than we can control and it causes us to do things which may have problematic consequences, (Who doesn’t know that one?). Other times it brings pain that we can’t endure, even with a full arsenal of modern medications.
So what to do about relating to a God who insists on getting physical?
Risk getting real, vulnerable. Touch someone, with feeling. Get a massuage. Give a massage. Enjoy a good bottle of wine under a crimson sunset. Delight in the sensual, embracing each moment as an experience of connecting with Spirit. Dance, sing, play music, celebrate. Fall in love. Get you own personal snuggle-buddy. Personally, I am off to California to track mine down. And with any luck  even squeeze in a bit of tango.