“I’m pretty sure there’s a lot more to life than being really, really ridiculously good looking. And I plan on finding out what that is,” he says.
Words of wisdom from my favorite adorably clueless male model Derek Zoolander, who struggles with his identity and the meaning of life. As ridiculously good as he may look and as ridiculously obvious as this thought may be, I’m beginning to think maybe some of us Christians are ridiculous in our own conception of beauty.
Dr. John Mark Reynolds graced Corban with his presence at the final chapel during Arts Week on Friday, Feb. 11.
He was introduced as being nothing but credible: professor of philosophy at Biola University; founder of the Torrey Honors Institute, which he described as “Monty Python goes to college;” lover of theater; lover of Disneyland; consulter with filmmakers; commentators on radio talk shows.
The man deserves to be listened to.
My thoughts were challenged as a Christian woman living in a culture consumed with images of perverted beauty: especially of my own sex. Women are Photoshopped beyond recognition. Men see this beauty and are not satisfied unless the woman in their own life lacks all impurities, all imperfections, even pores.
As Christians, we know to avoid even the appearance of evil. It isn’t the beauty that is evil, but the culture’s conception of it.
Why would we avoid even the appearance of beauty?
Reynolds argued that “beauty induces love.” An example from his own life is the story of him and his wife. Only two days after he first saw her, they were engaged (“Don’t try this at home,” he teased).
So often we try so carefully not be anything of the world that we forget that we still have to be in the world. We listen to our Christian music in our “Jesus Saves” bumper-stickered cars. We meet in office building auditoriums for church. We know what is good and we know what is true, but forget to fit beauty into the picture.
“Christian music is for people that don’t like music but do like Christianity,” he said, driving his point home to a room full of Air1 junkies.
The Christian mindset is on utility. “Anything can be just as good if we do it cheaply,” he said.
But is this biblical? Something can be true and good and useful, but what if it lacks beauty?
I wasn’t so sure anymore. Especially with Reynolds’ example:
Jesus was enjoying a dinner given in his honor while visiting Bethany, where Lazarus lived. The “Sense and Sensibility” Eleanor and Marianne of the Bible, Mary and Martha, were also present. Sensible Martha served dinner, while Eccentric Mary performed a theatrical anointment of Jesus with expensive perfume.
This beautiful moment was considered outrageous to those present, who though that this money was wasted and could have been used to benefit the poor. This has become the anthem of many churches: Scrap on the unnecessary and give to the poor.
I guess that makes sense. My church meets in an office building. We wouldn’t dump out expensive perfume just for the sake of art. That’s irresponsible.
Reynolds said, “The person who said that [the perfume was a waste and the money should have been used for the poor] was Judas Iscariot. That doesn’t prove you’re wrong, but it should make you feel uncomfortable.”
“We [Christians] think of beauty and truth as the frosting on the cake, but we just want the cake,” he said.
But frosting is my favorite part!
“How can you attract people with your ugliness?” he asked.
Mental double take. He has a point. I do have a lot of ugly to offer to a world obsessed with beauty. The message we offer is attractive and beautiful, but how can we get the world’s attention? Why are we so afraid of beauty? Why do we lack appreciation for something that was conceived in the very mind of God?
“We are right, but we are homely,” he said.
How can we share this “right” if people aren’t naturally drawn to us even if the message we offer is beautiful? Would I listen to Christian music if I weren’t a Christian?
God is beauty. All of creation speaks of this beauty. Every human being is beautiful, made up of spirit and body in the image of the beautiful Creator.