Wednesday, 29 May 2013

You Don't Have To Be Pretty

I came across this rather appalling link via Princess-Free Zone: a pastor of a North Carolina church tirading about gender stereotypes. I wanted to address a specific quote, "And when your daughter starts acting too butch, you reign her in. And you say, ‘Oh, no, sweetheart. You can play sports. Play them to the glory of God. But sometimes you are going to act like a girl and walk like a girl and talk like a girl and smell like a girl and that means you are going to be beautiful. You are going to be attractive. You are going to dress yourself up.’" (Emphasis mine.)

News flash! God does not say women have to be beautiful to please Him. God does not say it is women's job to dress up, woman's job to be "attractive". It is just not present in the Bible. Of the famous women of God in the Bible, do you know how many have their appearance mentioned? Five. Of these five, two are only mentioned because it's significant to a plot point (Esther and Sarah both attract the attention of pagan kings, but their faith is the point of the story. The other three are Rebekah, Abigail, and the Shulamite of Song of Solomon, all Old Testament women and part of a culture where a woman's economic value came from her appearance.) Do you know how many of the famous women of God in the Bible have no record of their appearance one way or the other? In the Old Testament, we have Eve, Ruth and Naomi, Hannah, Deborah, Tamar, Jochebed, Miriam, and Rahab. Among the women in Jesus' life, Anna, Elizabeth, Mary, Mary and Martha, Mary Magdalene, and among the women of the early church, Dorcas, Lois and Eunice, Junia, Phoebe, Priscilla, Lydia... indeed, nowhere in the New Testament is any woman praised or singled out for her beauty or lack thereof-- it's simply not present.

Now, all humans have a responsibility to steward the bodies God gave them. We are to avoid the sins of gluttony and laziness, and to treat others with respect, which easily translates into dressing appropriately for our culture and occasions, not eating to excess or only to satisfy our appetites, and to practice healthy exercise. I don't want you to hear me saying, "God says it's ok for you to be a couch-bound slob who lives in ratty sweatpants." But I do want you to hear this: all humans have these responsibilities. No, Pastor Harris, women don't have to smell nicer, dress up more, or spend more time cultivating their physical attractiveness than the men around them do. God never gave us that command. That's coming from the world.

Christian woman, God did give you a command about your appearance, though: to focus on inner beauty. To cultivate good works, a quiet and gentle spirit before the Lord, faith, not living in fear, to imitate Christ. But if anybody, within the church or without, tells you you have any kind of obligation to be beautiful, hold that up to the Scripture and I think you will find that it holds no water at all.

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