Beauty & the Christian woman…Reclaiming Beauty for God.
For people of faith, a fuller understanding of beauty is that it always points us back towards God’s self and God’s goodness. If we Christians believe Scripture, then even though we recognize that all creation mirrors the beauty of God, we most fully recognize God through the person of Jesus Christ. To look for God is first to look to the Word that bears witness to the Triune God, and then to match up the witness of the illuminating Word with the Spirit’s movement in the world. Following this trajectory presumes that beauty is that which reflects the life of Christ.
Such reasoning offers a whole new landscape on which to spot and cultivate the multiple forms that beauty takes, including what we do with our bodies, and how we use our hands and minds to nurture the flourishing of those in and out of our communities. Consequently, a historical litany of the most beautiful women would include Harriet Tubman, Wangari Muta Maathai, and the numerous Argentinean women known asGrandmothers of La Plaza de Mayo. A God-centered hunger for beauty is most fully satisfied when we pattern our lives after what we know of God’s character through Christ. And this is by no means to suggest a Marcion reading, that we know God only through the New Testament. Rather, as Lutheran theologian Dietrich Bonhoefferposited so beautifully, we know God and his covenant story with humanity only by starting in the middle of God’s story, with Christ.
Our culture’s sinful emphasis on physical beauty doesn’t make it bad. As one naturally motivated and affected by aesthetics, I won’t deny the power of the human form in the peoples and cultures that reveal God’s incomprehensible, holy imagination. As a woman convicted that cultivating internal beauty both honors God and provides a way of living into God’s best for us, I also hold that women, Christian or not, can and should delight in the beauty of their human form.
Physical attributes of beauty are also a segment of beauty from the God-centered perspective. Our bodies are works of divine art, in all their shapes and sizes and various abilities or disabilities. It is always an act of faithfulness to delight in that which God delights, and I believe that God delights in what God creates. How one accentuates the beauty of the human form is another topic altogether, full of subjective arguments. But there is nothing inherently wrong with minding how we look and expressing our attempts, albeit at times quite fallen, to layer our multifaceted ideas of beauty upon that which is already beautiful. I am both playfully and sincerely grateful that I have the luxury to dwell on what I believe is most flattering to my human form, what dresses, occasional shade of lip gloss, or flimsy scarf makes me feel beautiful.
But while I delight in seeking to be beautiful on the inside and on the outside, I don’t hang my existential coat on this body. The grace of Christ and the power of the Spirit help me cultivate the former and hold the latter loosely. There is no doubt that Kanazawa was on to something in that beauty deserves attention. But that attention should ultimately point us back to God, “beauty’s self and beauty’s giver.”
By: Enuma Okoro, holds a Master in Divinity from Duke University.
A New Look at How to Glorify God in Your Body
What is beauty?
Some say beauty fits in a size 0. Some say beauty comes in all shapes and sizes. Some say beauty is only skin deep. Some say beauty is only a quality of the heart. Some say beauty is truth. Some say beauty is a lie. Some say beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Some say beauty is as beauty does. Some say Elizabeth Taylor and Grace Kelly are beautiful. Some say everyone is beautiful. Some say beauty is divine. Some say beauty is corrupting.
From all this confusion, one idea emerges clearly: The world knows beauty matters. They talk a lot about it, write poetry and paint paintings celebrating it, and spend $160 billion dollars a year on it. But what’s equally clear is that they don’t know what it is. The question is: Do we?
Today’s young Christian women have grown up in the most image-obsessed generation in history, a generation that worships some of the most twisted ideals of beauty the world has ever seen. But whether we love them or hate them… they tend to shape our own perceptions of what beauty is. Some of us accept its ideals, and struggle to fit into its mold – others of us are repulsed by it, concluding that physical beauty itself is immodest, worldly, and unspiritual, and reject the realm of beautification completely. But when all we’ve ever seen is the counterfeit the world offers, we can sometimes forget that the world did not create beauty – God did. And though we all know the world has a lot to say about image, we sometimes don’t realize how much God does too.
It’s time to reclaim beauty. For thousands of years, believers, pagans, Gnostics, Humanists, Neo-Platonists, iconoclasts, and creators of culture have battled over this critical turf called “beauty.” Today, we have only to look at who designs the fashions, markets the beauty icons, rules the red carpet, adorns magazine covers, crowns Miss America, and designs clothes-and-makeup advertisements, to know who is currently holding the turf.
It’s time to take beauty back. When faced with an industry that runs on photoshop airbrushing, plastic surgery, starvation diets, grotesque catwalk styles, and billions of squandered dollars, our response can no longer be, “Beauty is not for us.” It’s time for our response to be, “Get your flag out of our ground.” It’s time for us to be a light in a culture that uses beauty as a weapon against God. It’s time for God’s ambassadors to make His principles – such as modesty and femininity – look as beautiful as they really are. It’s time for us to show the world: Ugliness is not beauty. Emaciation is not beauty. Androgyny is not beauty. Immodesty is not beauty. Unnatural distortion is not beauty. From Genesis to Revelation, God paints a different picture of the inner and outer beauty of a woman, and it’s time to show the world what it really looks like – one soul, one body, one face, one closet at a time.
A Webinar on Reclaiming Beauty
with Anna Sofia and Elizabeth Botkin
This fall, the authors of So Much More and It’s (Not That) Complicated and producers of “Return of the Daughters” are launching an intensely practical, image-rich, 7-week webinar on the meaning and cultivation of beauty from the inside out. Join sisters Anna Sofia and Elizabeth Botkin as they dive into Scripture for the answers to an issue of great importance and frustration to young women: personal image.
Is it OK to look pretty? Wear makeup and jewelry? Put effort into my clothes? Take care of my body? Do I have to care about how I look? Where can I find modest, classy clothes without spending a fortune? What should my attitude be toward the latest fashions? How do I figure out what looks good on me? What is appropriate to wear when? What in the world do I do with my hair?
“Reclaiming Beauty: A New Look at How to Glorify God in Your Body” will cover topics ranging from such practical issues as skincare, fitness, posture, voice, modesty, home-made beauty products, and color analysis… to subjects as penetrating as personal identity, insecurity, comparisons, worldliness, vanity, idolatry, our attitude toward others, and the state of our hearts before the Lord.
- What it means to represent the Lord as His ambassadors to the world
- Where true beauty starts
- What the Bible says about beautification and adornment
- How we should respond to the world’s idea of beauty
- The history and philosophy behind the most popular garments
- The proper priority-level of beauty in the Christian’s life
- The biblical relationship between the physical and the spiritual
- What it means to be separate from the world
- What we can learn from the beauty industry
- What the beauty industry has gotten wrong
Get practical tips on:
- Clothing yourself better for a lot less money
- Making modesty and femininity look excellent instead of frumpy
- Making off-the-rack clothes modest
- Putting together great outfits with what you already had in your closet
- Using makeup tastefully
- Giving sloppy garments new life with minimum alterations
- Cultivating taste and style
- Getting out of a fashion rut
- Creating a minimum-time-and-effort plan for looking nice every day
A Webinar That’s Not Just Skin Deep
Webinar sessions will run every Tuesday evening, 7-8 PM Central Time, from September 25 to November 13 (excluding October 30). The seven sessions include:
#1. What God Says About Beauty and Beautification
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
#2: What Style Is Your Heart, Mind, and Soul?
Pardon Me, Ma’am, But Your True Identity is Showing
#3. Getting Your Temple in Order
The Physical Foundations of Beauty
#4. Fearfully and Wonderfully Made
How to Work with the Build, Coloring, and Natural Beauty God Gave You
#5: Putting Things Together
Composition, Style, Occasion, Accessories
#6: Acquiring New Pieces (and Revitalizing Old Ones)
How to Get What You Need with Minimum Time, Money, and Fuss
#7: The Focal Point
Being a Good Steward of Your Face and Hair
The webinar registration fee is $44 per family. It is recommended for young women 12 and up, although parents are encouraged to listen with their daughters. Visit http://westernconservatory.com/reclaiming-beauty-webinar
Starting out as aesthetic ascetics and determined frumps who were clueless about beauty and fashion, Anna Sofia and Elizabeth have had to build their understanding of beauty from the biblical foundation up (a work still in progress). They have no beauty certifications whatsoever, though they do have experience dressing for everything from speaking engagements to political events to concert harp performances to good old dirty work around the farm, and each get everything they need (clothes, shoes, hair care, accessories, cosmetics, etc.) for around $130 a year. They’re also interested in reclaiming the biblical family, film, art, music, and politics, and work with their family’s ministry, Western Conservatory of the Arts and Sciences.