We had another Wellness Fair again today. Despite budget cuts, we somehow always have enough money to redirect hundreds of staff hours to Wellness Fairs. I should be glad they aren’t called Faires, I suppose.
Body worship is part of the civil religion now, and such expressions may be regarded as religious festivals. Two 20th C developments have driven growth of body worship. Though things that are good for your body are only a subset of things that are good for you overall – we might consider things that are good for your intellect, good for your relationships, good for your spiritual growth, or good for your emotions, for example – but it is the most easily measurable one. If someone breaks your arm, you can quantify that and take it to a court of law, which recognises the value of an arm. Someone hurting your marriage used to be given some weight – one could sue for alienation of affection – but those others are more elusive in description. As we have become more mobile, we have relied more on law than on informal and local sanction for enforecement. Because America started as a colony and has always had more internal migration than other places, this reliance on the concrete and measurable has always been greater here. The concrete has obvious value, the abstract, less provably. See also the related phenomenon of environmentalism – spiritual damage to a community, or intellectual damage, or damage to a reputation or sense of community are less quantifiable than damage to air or rivers, so it is not much regarded in law, and eventually not in everyday thought. This may be wiser, but it is at least worth noting that our ancestors would have felt the opposite.
But the stronger reason for moving to body worship is that our bodies are better now, and we have increasing expectation they will work well for longer periods. In earlier eras, there wan’t much reason to worship at that personal shrine. The occupational wounds and breaks were improperly cared for and we carried the pain or disability forever; childhood diseases weakened for life; hunger found nearly everyone at some time in his life; and a host of diseases or accidents could cut your life off abruptly. Worship of one’s own body would seem, frankly, a little silly. Even the rediscovery of classical Greek focus on the beauty of the body was a worship of the ideal, not the everyday body you or I might have.
My mother chuckled rather grimly while she was in her last year, dying of cancer, that her doctor wanted to check her cholesterol, which had always been high. No point.
Yet now you might live to be 101, and be reasonably comfortable for most of it, so it becomes more worth your while to make an investment in that god. And, as in most religions, we make some offerings that are real, and some that are largely symbolic. It is ironic that we now worry about our bodies more when the danger is less, but it has a certain sense to it. As our lives get better the possible gods increase.
UPDATE: The proper answer to those who attempt to Christianise their body worship by quoting Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, is "Actually, I very seldom sleep with temple prostitutes." That is what the verse is referring to.