Friday, September 14, 2007

God the hairdresser

haircut.jpg I wrote the following for my fortnightly radio slot. Those who have seen me in the flesh recently might appreciate that this post has multiple layers.


Posted by steve at 04:20 PM

Friday, August 24, 2007

made in God’s image? guest post by Mark Stevens

A post of mine, large people and airplane seats, has set off a hailstorm of comments, and left me reflecting on how our Christian faith does, or does not, shape our perceptions of body image. How to talk about body size? Am I (Steve Taylor) personally hateful of fat people, as I have been accused of being? Why are we so sensitive, when our churches blithely proclaim we are “made in God’s image”? What on earth can “made in God’s image” mean in our world today?

So I have invited a number of people to guest blog around the theme of “made in God’s image.” Here is the first guest blog, by Mark Stevens. I welcome any other guest contributions, as we keep trying to talk (in contrast to shout) with each other about an issue that is deeply personal.

“Why, if Christians are made in the image of God, is it so hard to look at ourselves n*ked in the mirror?”

My first response to the question was a cheeky “speak for yourself”, however, the truth is, like most people, I find it hard to accept who I am in the flesh. I wonder why this is the case? It’s like the dream where we are n*ked and walk into a room, so we go out of the room and put clothes on and then re-enter the room only to find that we are n*ked again. Why don’t we just say “stuff it I’ll just hang around here in my birthday suit”?

I was recently reading an article about Angelina Jolie in which the journalist remarked, that in person her “features are disproportionate, almost cartoonish. What looks beautiful on film is actually outsized in person”. The same brave journo further remarked, “she is just a freakishly fortunate fraction of a millimeter off not being beautiful at all”[1]. Who decides the parameters of beauty in our culture? Obviously someone has set a benchmark against which this journalist can judge Angelina and by which we often judge ourselves. When it comes to body image it’s as if society is trying to build its own Babel of beauty; trying to create humanity in their image. When we look at ourselves naked in the mirror I don’t think we see ourselves, so we want to leave the room and get dressed and then re-enter. Often, unless we are very disciplined mentally, we see what society tells us we are not! The benchmark has been set, not by imago Dei but rather by imago humanas!

We are surrounded by images and messages telling us what our bodies are not. Unlike the journalist’s judgment that Angelina is a millimeter away from not being beautiful, we are told that our bodies are a mile away from being acceptable! The challenge is for us is to live in hope of God’s image for us. The gospel affirms who we are holistically, not just spiritually. When we look in the mirror we are often looking at the effects of sin slowly creeping across our ageing flesh, and, we are unhappy with this reality. In the immediate, there is nothing many of us can do (excluding exercise and healthy living, which I believe all of us can & should do) to stop this process. Nevertheless, God is redeeming us slowly. Like the Israelites longed for a land, we long for our new creation body so that one day we can hang around in our birthday suit without having to leave the room!

[1] The Australian Magazine, Being Angelina, p18, August 18-19 2007

Posted by steve at 12:39 PM