“We have all felt that ache, that yearning, that desire that thumps in your chest,” he said. “There is a banquet that corresponds to that ache. We make the mistake of going to finite things to try to find the infinite. Be true to your heart.”
The alternative to the banquet is the fast food gospel, which promises immediate satisfaction, he added. West speaks from experience.
“In 1988 and 1989, as a college student, I spent a lot of time taking my desires to the wrong places,” he said. “It’s like ‘Super Size Me,’ the documentary where the guy eats at McDonald’s for breakfast, lunch and dinner for 30 days. My arteries were really clogged.”
West incorporated pop culture and music references throughout his talk. For example, he broke into the chorus of the Rolling Stones hit “Satisfaction” in reference to where many people are in their lives in terms of love.
He explained that the reason many people choose the fast food gospel is because they grew up on “the starvation diet gospel,” a home without nurturing and where love and sexuality were not openly discussed.
“If my choice is going hungry or choosing the greasy chicken nuggets, I’m going with the nuggets,” he said.
West shared a television storyline to illustrate how giving up on finding endless love is comparable to giving up on any dream.
“I’m hooked on ‘The Office,'” he said. “I’m streaming it through Netflix so I’m only in season two, but I’m hooked. Jim and Pam have something. It’s not perfect, but it’s real.”
West spoke about an episode where Pam has a potential opportunity to pursue her dream of becoming an artist. While supported by Jim, her dream is crushed by Roy, her fiancé at the time.
“I was so moved, that it brought me to tears,” he said. “I’m so engrossed in these characters that I started to pray for Pam.
“Somewhere we think our dreams are unrealistic and we settle. When we settle, we lose our dreams. Keep your dreams alive. Keep that hope alive.”
West discovered Pope John Paul II’s teachings on sexuality in 1993. He said it awoke his dream following a breakup with his girlfriend of four years.
“I was devastated,” he said. “But reflecting on the relationship, I didn’t know how to love her.”
West, a husband and father of five, is a faculty member at the Theology of the Body Institute in West Chester, Pa. He has authored several books, including “Good News About Sex and Marriage,” “Theology of the Body Explained” and “Theology of the Body for Beginners.” In addition to his talk at UW-Green Bay, he also presented a workshop for the priests of the diocese.
What makes your body theological?
“What makes our body a study of God is the Word was made flesh,” said West. “If we believe in the Incarnation, it should make sense. God made us male and female to form a holy union.”
West explained that when we have a mature experience of sexual attraction there is proper reverence. The body is beautiful and is something good with proper reverence, but too often the body is treated as an object, he added.
“Pornography brings in more money than all the professional sports combined,” he said. “Who are the consumers of pornography? It’s those raised on the starvation diet gospel. Despite all the garbage we’ve been exposed to, Christ can come in and heal us.”
Milwaukee singer/songwriter Mike Mangione, who had previously worked with West, including a tour in Hawaii, performed during interludes of the presentation.
For more information on West and the Theology of the Body Institute, visit www.christopherwest.com.