Embodied approaches to management: incarnation as organisation

Introduction

I wonder if, as you listened to various presentations today you detached your intellectual self from your bodies? I wonder whether you have mastered the art of overcoming your body and residing only in your mind? I suspect as focused as you may be, you still feel the chair beneath you, the pen in your hand, the clothes in your body. You see, bodies matter, there’s no way round it, without them we are unable to engage in any community, institution or human relationship. Emma Bell and Daniel King writing in Management Learning state that ‘The body is thus the surface onto which the culture is inscribed and the vehicle for its reproduction through enabling the interiorisation of ethical values that guide behaviour in situations of face-to-face interaction’[1] and the radical feminist theologian Carter-Heyward writes that bodies are the ground of all holiness.[2] Yet for centuries Christianity has had a difficult relationship with bodies. Bodies have often become to the church as mammon – a deity of selfishness and greed as if God didn’t look at creation including bodies and declare it as good.

Rather, bodies have become difficult and perhaps an obstacle for the Church and in ministry. For centuries we have faced this Gnostic and Cartesian dualism surrounding the body and soul. Two separate entities, interacting with each other but one which is ultimately superior which is the soul.  The Enlightenment led to a less bodily and more intellectual orientation; the dichotomy of sinful flesh and pure souls was set up; for women disembodiment has been particularly stark and the need to overcome the clothing of Eve to aspire to the perceived purity of Mary.

However, really there is no way of escaping the reality that we are embodied people. I want us to rewrite this narrative of disembodied-ness in light of an incarnation theology and I believe our rewriting can be of ultimate value to others. If we were to see flesh as divine and incarnate of God; if the Church were to treat bodies as important sites of holy story with their history, their exclusion, their role and their resurrection I believe it entirely possible that it would be more functionally organisationally astute, more pastorally aware and a more theologically literate Church. Incarnation is at its best the being and becoming of God, therefore taking embodiment seriously is important for the Church. In the same way I argue this could be a useful dialogical avenue for other institutions and organisations of all shapes, sizes and ethical stances.