Sunday, February 10, 2008

God doesn't want me to be pretty

Through the blog of a friend, who belongs to a pastor’s wives blog roll, I’ve discovered a woman who is married to a Baptist pastor in Chicago. She is a completely different kind of Christian from me, and probably would not even admit that I deserve the title (and/or would pray fervently for my soul, if she knew about my spiritual state). Anyway, I appreciate her optimism and delight in the world around her, and her solid simple faith in the Bible as the word of God. These are all things which I lack, and while I am happy with my honest doubts, I fear I would look like a grumpy cynic were I to dismiss anyone else whose spiritual walk was not wracked with similar ambiguity.

This woman is leading a woman’s Bible study on "A Woman and her Appearance" which she posts on her blog. Basically, she has looked at various Biblical passages and come to the conclusion that God cares about our appearance, and He wants us to look beautiful and womanly. I, to put it mildly, disagree. In fact, the first sermon I ever gave at Ecclesiax (back in the days of innocence, before I became de facto pulpit supply) was about our bodies – about our need to accept them and then to move beyond them. If I believe anything about God’s interaction with humans, it is that He sees our souls, and that he wants us to do likewise when we look at other people.

I believe that every person has inherent worth, and a focus on beauty separates us from this truth. In our society, old people are considered ugly – but I can’t accept that God does not love old people, or that he wants women to try to hide the outward evidence of their life experience. Also, poor people are often not as beautiful as rich people, because what we consider beauty is a luxury taking time and money - Jesus was pretty loud and clear about his preference of the poor over the rich.

I do not embrace many absolutes in my faith, but from what little I understand about God, I am pretty sure He does not want me to put my energy into trying to be pretty.


Ryan said...

I guess this woman's comments say a lot about fundamentalism. They take scripture at shallow face-value, and since scripture is considered a description of reality, why not judge all of creation by the surface?

They also forget that supposedly when God looked upon creation, God said it was good. It was all good, not just the stuff wearing makeup.

Wheatsheaf said...

"...I am pretty sure He does not want me to put my energy into trying to be pretty."

But how can you be really sure? What if it God does care about your appearance? As you are not certain, is it not better to hedge your bets? Let's face it, it would really suck if you went up to the pearl gates and St. Peter says to you "El Maggie, because you refused to dye your greying hair* even though God created hair dye, and because you refused to use God's gift of chemically filled teeth* whitening strips, you are barred entry."

* The author is not making any comment on the state of your hair or teeth. This is only used as an example.

Tara said...

I completely agree with you. Actually, I have found several things I disagree with on various blogs on that blogroll... I find it rather bizarre to be part of such a strange group of women. Most of them, I suspect, would be rather concerned about me as well even though I AM a pastor's wife!

Oh, and by the way, if the flowers show up under the words on my blog it means the page hasn't fully loaded- it is supposed to be a solid colour under the words. Apparently (according to the designer) this happens in firefox sometimes and you are just supposed to refresh your browser!

el Maggie said...

WS - you have a good point, they're not called the "pearly" gates for nothing, maybe dental cleanliess really IS next to Godliness . . .

senatorsmith said...

Well I guess the pretty lady would not approve of the Paper Bag Princess... which happens to be the greatest children's book EVER! IMHO.

I am choosing not to respond, as this type of thing can set me on a tirade. I don't see myself being able to have a productive debate with this pretty lady. So I will not even share my point of view. I would love to debate it with her though.

Anyways, I am choosing to respond in song. Since I am not particularly gifted in that area, I will let Christina Aguilera speak for me.

Too bad I cannot post the video to the song "Beautiful"... sure it would more than likely cause the pretty lady significant distress, but I would like to think that it may open her eyes... open her mind.

here's the link if you have never seen the video. It's good. And shocking for many conservative folk.

Don't look at me

Every day is so wonderful
And suddenly, i saw debris
Now and then, I get insecure
From all the pain, I'm so ashamed

I am beautiful no matter what they say
Words can't bring me down
I am beautiful in every single way
Yes, words can't bring me down
So don't you bring me down today

To all your friends, you're delirious
So consumed in all your doom
Trying hard to fill the emptiness
The piece is gone left the puzzle undone
That's the way it is

You are beautiful no matter what they say
Words can't bring you down
You are beautiful in every single way
Yes, words can't bring you down
Don't you bring me down today...

No matter what we do
(no matter what we do)
No matter what they say
(no matter what they say)
When the sun is shining through
Then the clouds won't stay

And everywhere we go
(everywhere we go)
The sun won't always shine
(sun won't always shine)
But tomorrow will find a way
All the other times

'cause we are beautiful no matter what they say
Yes, words won't bring us down, oh no
We are beautiful in every single way
Yes, words can't bring us down
Don't you bring me down today

Don't you bring me down today
Don't you bring me down today

kns said...

Or to put it another way: appearance and beauty are not at all the same. One could make a case for God caring about beauty defined in a much deeper way, a way that goes beyond physical attributes.

Simone said...

The thing I found most ironic about her little study was the part about women not wearing men's clothes, which made me think about what we wear (and what each gender wears) is a cultural thing that changes as time goes on. I thought the underlying current was that women should wear dresses to look womanly? but in biblical times didn't everyone wear robes. I think most western men would feel pretty "womanly" if they wore robes or even if they dressed like most men in the middle east do today where robes are still more commonly worn.
Although there's something to be said for taking care of your appearance I think that how we treat people is likely a bit more important. sigh.

el Maggie said...

Good call Sim - I'd given up on vigorous logical analysis by that point in the program.

Tara said...

I tagged you on my blog today... I just thought it would be fun to learn more about you since you are clearly a fascinating woman (in a good way!)