What A Christian Woman Knows About Beauty

120px-Shadow_me There’s been a lot of talk about beauty around here lately. One friend has even labeled the ongoing conversation TBD—The Beauty Discussion. We’ve dragged Augustine, Reformers, Puritans, philosophers, and the Mahaneys into the discussion to help us and our daughters think about women and beauty as Christians. Here are five points:

Physical beauty is as real as spiritual beauty. Our culture tells women that physical beauty is all that matters. Some Christians react to this by saying that spiritual beauty is the only real beauty. But that’s not true; God created real, physical beauty, and in this world we see lots of it, including in other people. Something purely physical can be beautiful (a flower, sunset, and Taylor Swift’s hair), and we can be thankful for it. There is a tension between physical and spiritual beauty as we strive to maintain body and cultivate soul, but one is not less real than the other, though one is less valuable than the other. Continue reading

Dove Ads, Ambrose, and Christian Women

160px-Grace_Kelly_-_High_SocietyThe social experiment that Dove released last week is fascinating. It has a clear message: “You are more beautiful than you think”.

Apparently, it’s not new for women to think that they are ugly. Hence the early invention of make-up, which has been around at least since the ancient Egyptians started the eyeliner trend about 4,000 years ago. Ambrose of Milan, writing in the fourth century, commented:

“[Women] erase that painting [of God] by smearing on their complexion a color of material whiteness or by applying an artificial rouge. The result is a work not of beauty, but of ugliness; not of simplicity, but of deceit. It is a temporal creation, a prey to perspiration or rain. It is a snare and a deception which displeases the person you aim to please, for he realizes that all this is an alien thing and not your own. This is also displeasing to your Creator, who sees His own work obliterated. Continue reading

New Glasses and The End of the World as We Know It

glassesA couple weeks ago, my glasses fell apart. In the process of getting new ones, I went to buy frames from a store that’s part of a nationwide chain. As I walked in, a sales person nabbed me, offering help and explaining that they recently reorganized how their products are arranged: “We’re not dividing by gender any more – we’ve grouped them by style, so it’s easy to find what you want.”

Notice the careful phrasing. Gender “divides” – that’s a bad, outdated thing. “Grouping” is nicer, more convenient. Continue reading

In Praise of Clerks

Outside of legal and ecclesiastical settings, the role of a clerk is rare. We think of clerks as rather Victorian: the old bachelor or young husband serving in the front room of an office in a Dickens novel. Through the 20th century, the role pretty much disappeared from everyday life, as secretaries replaced clerks as the lowest paid employees in a company. Times when men were not available to work these positions, as during the two world wars, had a lasting effect on our views of workplace norms. But maybe it’s time that churches and Christian business owners took a fresh look at clerks as workable options.

Now, don’t take this as a personal pitch against secretaries. I know some wonderfully efficient, capable women who serve as secretaries. They are a blessing to the institutions where they serve. They do a great job. And don’t take this as a patriarchal, male chauvinist rant, either. It’s not wrong for a woman to work. It’s not wrong for a woman to have an education. In fact, Christian women should be working hard anywhere they are, home or office, and they need all the education they can get. But we can easily fall into the trap of going along unthinkingly with our culture because evaluation of a societal norm can be uncomfortable. Continue reading

Student Riots

We were up in Canada last week and the student riots in Montreal are bigger news there than they are here. Hundreds of university students are making a huge fuss in Quebec which turned violent, all because tuition (which is currently about half of what it is in the U.S.) has gone up.

This sort of demonstration is irritating partly because they are making a mess, partly because they are taking up all the headlines, and largely because they are wrong. Having someone charge you more for an optional service is no reason to hurt other people or destroy their property. Continue reading

Gray Hair

If you are reading this with dyed hair, don’t take it personally. I’m not arguing that dying your hair is sinful. I’m just questioning the ubiquitous cultural approach to loss of keratin. Our culture sees it pretty much as 100% bad, especially for women. Not so Scripture. It might help everyone – not least elderly believers – if we looked at gray hair as a good thing.
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Are You Captivated?

“Everywhere we go we are surrounded by screens. Have we entered a techno utopia or a virtual prison?” Captivated (available December 2011) is a thought provoking film reflecting the truth expressed by Paul’s Spirit inspired rebuttal of the common phrase of his day: “‘all things are lawful for me,’ but not all things are helpful. ‘All things are lawful for me,’ but I will not be enslaved by anything.” (1 Cor. 6:12) Worth watching–as long as it doesn’t captivate you all the more!

[HT: Head Heart Hand]

Pursuing Beauty

In 2008, the American YWCA published a report titled “Beauty At Any Cost”: “Every woman in the United States participates in a daily beauty pageant, whether she likes it or not. Engulfed by a popular culture saturated with images of idealized, air-brushed and unattainable female physical beauty”, women are daily pressured to join in the idolatry, even as men, by lust, propel the cycle.

Beauty Distorted

The snare of beauty idolatry in our culture is blatant. Pursuit of female beauty has risen to a fevered pitch. Natural beauty is not what is expected. Even make-up doesn’t do the job anymore; we need botox and plastic surgeons. Marketers work with graphic artists to airbrush and reshape images. The results are placarded across magazines, tv, films, billboards, and the internet.

The pressure to join in this idolatry is tremendous. Christian women, wives, even young girls, are often down about their appearance, feeling ugly and unattractive. The symptoms of becoming addicted to this world’s beauty are wide-ranging. Physically they may include anorexia, bulimia, and depression. Idealized female physical beauty combined with a pornographic and promiscuous culture pressures even the closest relationships. It impacts marriages, as women desire to outdo their celluloid counterparts, fearing that beautiful images will seduce their husbands. Even the workplace is impacted: research shows that women who best adhere to societal beauty standards are most likely to be hired and promoted.

So how can Christians break this idolatry? What should a woman’s view and pursuit of beauty be like?
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