“… we are more and more directing the desires of men to something which does not exist—making the role of the eye in sexuality more and more important and at the same time making its demands more and more impossible.” Screwtape in C. S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters“If everybody had the same face…there’d be no pretty women.” Death Bredon in Dorothy Sayers’ Murder Must Advertise.
|"Who's the fairest|
of them all?"
"People who use Dove
As part of their Campaign for Real Beauty, Dove announced that according to their survey of ten to seventeen-year-olds, “
The plain woman of one hundred years ago was supposed to develop her character. The plain woman of today is supposed to develop belief in her own beauty. Unfortunately, neither solution satisfies any woman. Neither is enough. What is the Christian, Lutheran response to a woman’s desire to feel beautiful? It begins, I think, with shocking words. It tells us that although our desire is “natural,” we are corrupted sinners with corrupted desires. Our wish to receive admiration from others? Vanity. Our hope of attracting men? Lust. Our attempt to build self-worth through good characters or well-groomed bodies? Pride. All this is sin, and it leads to death. It demonstrates the condition of our ugly, rotting hearts. It shows us that we deserve the torment of eternal separation from God. It proves us to be hideous beings with no way to save ourselves. Yet the God whose glory is reflected, ever so faintly, in all earthly beauty is not hideous. Through the ugly, terrible death of Christ, He pays the cost of our ugly sins. He washes away our vanity, lust, and pride in Holy Baptism and gives us new life. In Christ, we are beautiful. The beauty that we are given is full beauty, a beauty that fulfills all the meanings of the word, the kind of beauty that is true and real and could never come in well-advertised bottles. Baptism may not give us earthly, physical beauty, but it gives the kind of beauty that is behind our yearning to be beautiful. It frees us from the need to fulfill the current narrow ideal for physical looks.
As new creatures, we are free from the demands of Eleanor Roosevelt, Dove, and all the well-meaning people who bury us beneath a load of obligation to make ourselves beautiful through our own efforts. As free women, we have Christian liberty to enjoy the physical world that God had given us and enjoy the earthly beauty that He created. Like Rebecca, Abigail, or Esther, we may use jewelry and beauty products. We may exercise and tone our bodies. In Christ, all of this is freedom. On days when it begins to feel again like a burden, we have a solution. We flee to the cross of Christ, confess our sins, and receive absolution. What a beautiful and glorious thing!
P.S. No, I won’t really tell my children that they are ugly. No doubt I’ll think that they are more adorable than anyone else's children. Yet they, too, will be sinners, and I will rejoice that I can bring them to church to experience God’s beautiful gifts of mercy. Because they will need it.
Somewhat Related Reading
“For women in our culture, to be “hot” or “sexy” is to have value. There are a variety of theories as to why this is true but, from my experience, it goes back to the acceptance of contraception and the idea that the primary purpose of sex is for pleasure.” Read Jen Fulwiler’s take on an unintended effect of contraception on a woman’s self-value.
“It is not surprising that this strange disease of the spirit—the self’s search for the self—should have its counterpart in an anguish of the body. One of the commonplaces of modern experience is dissatisfaction with the body—not as one has allowed it to become, but as it naturally is…. For the appropriate standard for the body—that is, health—has been replaced, not even by another standard, but by very exclusive physical models. The concept of “model” here conforms very closely to the model of the scientists and planners: it is an exclusive, narrowly defined ideal which affects destructively whatever it does not include.” Read quotations from Wendell Berry about the problems that result from the separation of body and soul in “identity.”
And: Essential Fridays