To mark the 80th anniversary of C.S. Lewis’s book The Abolition of Man, Carl R. Truman wrote an article for First Things entitled The Desecration of Man.  Lewis wrote about a world losing its sense of what it means to be human: “Modernity was abolishing man.  It represented nothing more than a crisis of anthropology,”  The abolition of man as Lewis describes it took place against the background of “its disenchantment and its accelerating liquidity.” Modernity has pushed religion and the supernatural to the margins of life, stripping our lives of mystery. With liquidity, life is in endless flux with no solid place to stand.

Citing this, Truman proposes an additional category: the desecration of man.  “We have become cogs in the machine,” notes Truman “[and] it is because we built the machine.”  To make his point, Truman suggests that in the desecration of man, we need look no further than changing attitudes about sex and death. We are created in God’s image with a body.  The tendency of modern culture is to deny significance to the body.  “We think of ourselves,” points out Truman, “as primarily psychological beings, a notion reinforced by the frictionless, disembodied interactions of our online world, where we experience a battle against the authority of the body, specifically its sexual nature and its morality.”

Desecration helps us to understand the destruction of human exceptionalism and limitation as grounded in the image of God.  “Desecration is an assertion of power, reinforcing the greatest myth our culture, which likes to believe that we are the godlike masters of this universe.”  There can be an exhilaration in thinking we are gods.  “And there is no more dramatic way of being God than in waging a holy war against the God-given nature of embodied human personhood.”

With this desecration we are “divorced from the image of God and from personhood, [treating] the body is animate Play-Doh at best.”  We now use our humanity to dehumanize ourselves.  Augusto Del Noce calls this “a total revolution.”  Truman maintains our fundamental problem today “is not that man is disenchanted or turned into liquid, but that he has been desecrated, in part by the impersonal forces of modernity, but largely by his own hand.”  

Truman’s answer, first and foremost, is a theologically-informed liturgical one: “consecration.”  “The modern crisis of anthropology must find its solution among religious communities, worshiping in local contexts.  For it is in worship that human beings are brought into the presence of the God, in whose image they are made and who grounds their common human nature.”  Since this blog is intended for men, I take this to mean that men need to take the lead in living a life surrendered to God in word and deed, pointed to our heavenly father, in whose image we’ve been created. But we cannot do this alone.  We need to be in communities of faith, where Father, Son and Holy Spirit are worshipped.

Truman reminds us of the radical way the early Church affected Roman culture.  “Her vision of human beings as persons rather than objects and as possessing innate value was grounded in the notion that all were made in the image of God.”  This is our challenge today.  “The restoration of personhood and dignity to men and women requires the worshiping community of the church to grasp the greatness of the God in whose image we are made.”

The challenge for men: 1) Surrender to the Triune God of grace, 2) Adopting a scriptural worldview (II Cor. 10:4-5; Romans 1:16-32), 3) Involvement in a believing community and 4) Living intentionally as a follower of Jesus (I Peter 2:20-21).