The Theology of Poo
Written By: Chip Stark
Many years ago, there was a book in which the author used the beloved characters of Winnie the Pooh to explain Taoism to the Western world. Focusing mainly on Pooh and Piglet, he sought, somewhat successfully, I think, to share the basics of this Eastern faith using familiar characters and situations.
This blog is not like that.
I am sure that when you read the title, there were some who thought that I made a typo and left off the H in Pooh. I didn’t. This blog is about poo, number 2, fecal remains. Well, at least it is after a fashion. It all started with what sounds like a bad joke - a Catholic (that would be me), an Episcopalian, a Lutheran, and an Evangelical Christian were discussing the efficacy of prayer for a micro-mini pig whose GI tract was all backed up. The owner of said pig had told God, in no uncertain terms, that if He did not heal her pig, she was done with Him, and that she would not believe in Him anymore. The rest of us looked at her, thinking that was not the way that it worked - we don’t get to demand that God fix the things the way that we want them to be, especially like that. She brought up some of the Bible to support her belief that she was given control and rulership over the pig, and thus she was well within her rights to demand its healing. Most of us were not convinced, and there is a reservation for good German beer and further discussion tomorrow, as of the time of this writing. I’ll have to fill you in on the outcome in a later blog.
The discussion got me thinking, however. Not only about the attitudes of prayer and requests of God, but also about what started the conversation - poo - and how it can symbolize us in our spiritual life. I’m not saying that our spiritual life is necessarily full of BS, although it can be if our prayer life and good works are about ourselves and what makes us look good. especially in our own minds. I am also not saying that we are nothing but a pile of poo and that we are rotten to the core with no redeeming qualities. No, we are all children of God, made in His image and likeness, and therefore have an inherent worth that comes from our very nature, and not as a gift from those with power or popularity, might or money, brains or beauty.
What I am saying is that our lives can sometimes follow the path of poo. We start out innocent and joyful and loving, just like a newly picked apple - fresh and full of life. Then we get eaten by the hardships the world - stress, loss, anger, fear, hate, the “thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to” (to quote the Bard). We are chopped up, ground down, dissolved, and turned into a dark, stinking mess that no one wants to be around, and our name becomes a curse. If that is where it ended, life would worse than meaningless. But it does not end there.
If any of you garden, as do I, one of the things that helps my tomatoes and peppers are mixing chicken and steer compost into the soil, to give it needed nutrients for the plants to grow and be fruitful. Chicken and steer compost is nothing other than manure - poo - that has been transformed from something pretty gross and that would if applied directly to the plants, kill them. However, through the composting process, the bacteria work on the poo, transforming it into an agent that can bring dead soil to life and sustain many new plants.
We too can be transformed, if we allow the Holy Spirit to do His work. Too often we keep Him locked up in the guest room of our souls while the rest of our spiritual house falls into disrepair and decay. If we invite him out, to the rest of us, especially the parts that are the dirtiest, He will transform it. It won’t be like it was before, but He will use your experiences and your pain, your loss and your stress, your anger, and your doubt, to feed someone who has the same pains and fears and doubts, to bring them to a strong, healthy, fruitful spiritual, and perhaps even an actual, life.
Let us take this next week or so up to the Feast of All Saints on Nov 1 to find a saint who life is like ours, and see how he or she were turned into compost and thereby enriched the world. Spend the month of November with this saint, learning about his or her life, talking, asking questions, and asking for him or her to intercede for you.
Mary, Mother of True Counsel, pray for us.
About The Author:
Chip Stark, trained as a PhD scientist in Medical Research but with the heart and soul of a historian, philosopher, and theologian, currently resides in Southern California. In addition to his day job in medicine, Chip directs the RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) program, and assists with the Confirmation and Youth Ministry Programs at St Julie Billiart Parish in Newbury Park, CA.