Letters from the Underground: Defined by Beauty




Just a quick note about this ad, that I just HAD to post on because it reveals a nuance in the cultural/church gender role debate, of which I have been exploring in light of my missions work. I see a lot of objectification of both woman AND men. It’s pretty easy to see how the culture objectifies women. Our bodies are for sale everywhere. And if we aren’t willing to sell them, we’re chastised for being prudes or lesbians (I have been called both–what’s wrong with those terms anyways??). Of course, if we look a little deeper, underneath all of the blatant ways we make our women and young girls commodities for men to consume, we will find that our base assumption about men is as insulting. We may not ‘objectify’ them in the sense of turning them into a commodity (though we are coming closer and closer every day), but we frequently talk about men in the context of their hypersexuality as if they cannot possibly have dreams bigger than sex with as many women as possible.

So, if one were to open their eyes to the gender role/objectification debate there is no shortage of obvious examples for them to whiteness. But what isn’t so obvious, are the subtle things we embrace that create an environment where the obvious disrespect and degradation (of both genders) can continue to flourish. This ad speaks to one of those subtle things; and the reality is that the church embraces this as much as the culture.

It is not news that women make the world a more beautiful place. It is one of the biggest gifts that we bring to humanity. A woman’s beauty is uniquely her and uniquely her own and therefore should not be compared on a value scale. People are themselves, no one is the same, and therefore we cannot create a standard of people with which to compare others. But that is exactly what our culture has set out to do with beauty, and that is perhaps why our definition of beauty is often shallow, destructive, and objectifying. Let me be clear: A woman’s beauty was never meant to define her, her interests, or her position in society. But by primarily praising our daughters for their physical beauty we teach them to emphasize their physical beauty over their identity as a person–a perspective that is inherently objectifying.

Smart+Woman.+Nothing+to+describe_b1b732_3586066It is also a perspective that limits their potential and reinforces old, conservative standards for gender roles (a woman’s job is to be pretty and dainty, and make sure you don’t intimidate their men with intelligence or excellence). It could be that we only want to encourage our young girls to pursue interests or professions that we deem ‘appropriate’ for the role we assume they should take in family, church, and society. Instead of encouraging their natural gifts and abilities (gifts God has given them) we hold on to the one thing that is different from men and emphasize it, as if to say that physical beauty is what defines a woman as a woman. What we don’t realize is that in our attempts to maintain the traditional gender roles, we are institutionalizing a lie that the world is selling us. Mainly, that our daughter’s worth is in her body and her beauty and that she had better be good at that or she will fail as a woman.

A woman’s beauty will glorify God…but so will her intelligence, strength of character, and big dreams. Let’s help our daughters value themselves for more than their beauty. Let’s help them explore and achieve the identity that God has born in them; one that includes but is not limited to being beautiful.



The Most Astounding Fact

Don’t Blame it On the Goose

We have all experienced it. The phenomenon of staring wide-eyed at a clear night sky, soaking in the starlight, and reflecting on the brittleness our lives – Moments that can’t be put into words.

Awe. Beauty. Inwardness.

I remember one of the first times I ever prayed. I was 15 years old, and I was drunk.

My friend and I had stayed out late and were walking up and down the beach searching for an adventure. All of the sudden, there came a moment when I was by myself. My friend had ran up the beach a little, and I found myself standing in front of the ocean and underneath the most magnificent night sky I have ever seen.

It felt as if I had been blown backwards into the sand. I was caught off guard. I had been on that beach for at least three hours before I had noticed the radiance of the sky. How was this possible? Was I really so distracted and preoccupied that I missed the heavens? Then came the prayer. I’ll paraphrase, but I’m sure it went something like this:

There has got to be more. Purpose. Meaning. God? Something.

Prayer comes out in many ways. That night it came out in an awakening or a realization of my humanity. I was inwardly expressing an awe for life. At the time, I would not have called this reverent moment prayer. But as I look back, there is nothing else that I can call it.

Begging the Question

The video above is amazing and I love what the narrator Neil deGrasse Tyson has to say. I’m sure he would personally dislike where I’m going with this (even though he is quite elegant and honest about faith), but there is the question which I feel is being begged in this video. I think it is the same question which is begged during the moments we feel when we marvel at the astounding complexity and symmetry of the universe.

Here is the question: Why?

The universe, vast and chaotic, produced us. And here we are. Here we are asking the why questions. These why questions entail a longing for purpose, meaning, value, and freedom. We want to know who we are. We want to know our place. Tyson says himself,

You want to feel connected. You want to feel relevant. You want to feel like you’re a participant.

Consider this: I believe we are connected. I believe we are relevant. And I believe we are participants in an orchestra that is bigger than ourselves. But this connection is not merely to what is physical. We are not just relevant to the material universe. From the center of my being, I believe there is more than meets the eye. There is more than the universe.

We all innately believe at some level there is purpose to life. There is meaning. There is value. There is freedom.

I believe in these things.

But why do I believe in them? Where did they come from?

Is it possible that there is a designer?

Could there be God?

And could that, in fact, be the most astounding fact?