The Beauty Myth

Broken Face

Last week I posted from Dr. Schaumburg’s book Undefiled one indicator of the sexual problems here in America. Here is another problem he has encountered regularly in his thirty plus years of counseling. He calls it “the beauty myth.”

For men and women, “beauty” has become nearly synonymous with “sexy.” The beauty myth, an obsession with physical perfection, holds women in bondage to hopelessness, self-consciousness, and self-hatred. It intertwines sexuality and beauty to create the idea that a woman must be “beautiful” to be sexual and desirable in a relationship. Women say they “feel sexier” when they lose weight, but female sexual pleasure doesn’t multiply with weight loss.  Compared with sexual sin, the obsession with beauty  may seem like a minor issue. In reality, the impossible-to-achieve desire to secure an external “flawless beauty” destroys a woman’s sexuality and spirituality.

The “pornography of beauty” reshapes female sexuality. You see this in everyday magazine ads and in women’s magazines. Users of Photoshop have taken the picture of a three hundred pound woman in lingerie and turned her into a sex goddess. There is little that is real about such an image, but men and women will worship it. The image altering software easily creates the perfect hair, skin, and figure. The message is clear: “Look like that if you want to fee like that.” 

Why does a woman go under the knife for numerous facelifts in a desperate attempt to look younger? Why are girls much more self-conscious about their appearance today? Why did my mother, in her early nineties, still dye her hair? The beauty myth has obscured what is truly beautiful in a woman…Today we are easily duped into thinking that external beauty is all there is to woman.

More and more women believe they must have that face and look to have their needs met. Like sexual pornography, the pornography of beauty is based on a myth and both types of porn make a woman an object. If a man’s image and understanding of sexuality is distorted by pornography, I suggest there is a parallel effect on a woman’s image and her understanding of sexuality in the beauty myth.

Unfortunately, the beauty myth is winning the battle against sexual purity. In reality the ads don’t sell sex; instead they sell discontent, shame, and guilt. A woman will say, “I hate my body, my hips, my thighs, and my stomach.” This is at the core a deep sexual shame, which is destructive both relationally and spiritually. And this focus on external beauty is in direct contradiction to what Scripture teaches-that authentic beauty come from inside a person:

Do not let your adorning be external-the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear-but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. For this is how the holy women who hope in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening. (I Peter 3:3-6)

Book Review: Adam & Eve After the Pill

Adam and Eve After the Pill: Paradoxes of the Sexual RevolutionAdam and Eve After the Pill: Paradoxes of the Sexual Revolution by Mary Eberstadt

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

An excellent book that covers the consequences of the sexual revolution and in particular the connection to birth control and pornography. She explains how the sexual revolution has harmed women, men, and society as a whole. As another friend commented, her chapter on food and sex was an eye opening chapter. She writes about how we now treat food like we used to treat sex and sex how we used to treat food. She is surprisingly optimistic about the ability to combat the sexual revolution. She believes that as studies continue to accumulate the sexual revolution will start to die, though the consequences have been and will continue to be heartbreaking.

The chapter on pedophilia feels dated even though the book is only 5 years old. She notes that prior to the priest-pedophilia scandal, sex with children was gaining steam. The scandal slowed that train considerably. But now, here in 2017, the objections to sex with children continue to erode.

One does not need to condemn birth control in all circumstances to see that easy, cheap contraceptives have dramatically altered our sex lives, including most importantly our approach to marriage and children, and not for the better. Thus we have a culture where the basic building block of society, a biological man and woman married and having children, is not the norm. She noted the upsurge of Protestant evangelicals who are questioning the rampant use of birth control. Since 2012 I have noticed an increase in pastors and leaders having 5, 6, 7 children and in writing more on birth control. This is encouraging and I hope it continues.

All in all, a book I would recommend though those who are conversant with more recent literature will have heard much of this before.

View all my reviews

Sexual Orientation or Sexual Temptation?

LGBTQ

I have been listening to Tim Bayly’s Shepherds’ Conference on ministering in a post-Obergefell World.  Tim has worked with homosexuals and lesbians in Bloomington for over 30 years. He is not speaking as someone who has read a book or two, watched a couple of Youtube videos, or had a homosexual friend in college. He speaks as a pastor who has prayed with and for sodomites, has loved them, preached to them, cried over them, and seen them repent. He has many stories about working with homosexuals as well as stories about compromise in evangelical circles. These add substance to what he is saying even if it makes him long winded at points.

He makes the suggestion that we drop the term “sexual orientation” and use sexual temptation instead.  So instead of saying “same-sex orientation” we would say, “same sex temptation.” I have thought about the term sexual orientation quite a bit lately as I read Preston Sprinkle’s book People to be Loved.  Terms and words matter. Sprinkle throughout his book nuances words to death. Every word is carefully chosen. He parses out why we shouldn’t use “homosexual,” “gay,” etc.  He knows words matter. Conservative Christians need to understand this as well. What words we use to describe things will often shape the entire discussion.  I like the suggestion of using temptation instead of orientation in connection with homosexuality for several reasons.

First, it will help us see sodomy as one type of the many sexual temptations we all face. Those who struggle with this sin are not worse than us nor better than us nor different than us. Tim talked about his own fornication and how when he got married his wife was pregnant. All of us struggle with sexual temptation of various kinds and to various degrees throughout our life. I saw my first porn magazine (yes real paper) when I was eleven years old. It lay beside the road. My friend from church said his dad, a deacon, had videos with more of that. We went back and watched porn on VHS. This struggled continued through Bible college and the early years of marriage until I was about 25 years old.  I am so grateful there was no Internet when I was young. Many of you I guess have similar stories. Some of you still watch porn on your phones during your lunch break or at night when your wife is asleep.  Some of you slept around in high school and don’t want any of your Christian friends to know. We could do this with any temptation not just sexual ones. The point here is if we label it temptation it puts that sin or the struggle with that sin on level with the sins all Christians struggle with. We are all sinners working, agonizing to fight the lusts which wage war against our souls (I Peter 2:11).  Continue reading

The Undefiled Marriage Bed

unmade-bed

Recently, I preached on Hebrews 13:4:

Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.

How do we keep the marriage bed undefiled? What should a Christian sexual relationship look like? When we ask this question we tend to begin with the sins. Is this a sin? Is that a sin? But that complicates things. The truth is simple to understand, but hard to live out due to our wayward hearts. The only proper sexual expression is between one and one woman within marriage. Every other form of sexual expression is a sin. Fornication, adultery, bestiality, rape, masturbation, sodomy, lesbianism, multiple wives, and pornography are all sins by the standard that is set in Genesis 1-2. One man and one woman in a marriage covenant until one is dead is the boundary for Christian sexual activity.

This does not mean that all of these sins are equal in their sinfulness. Is fornication as bad as adultery? No. Is adultery as bad as sodomy? No. Does this mean divorce is always wrong? No. Does this mean it is impossible to sin against your spouse sexually and yet remain sexually faithful? No. A spouse can never sleep around or look at porn and still be sinning in the marriage bed.  And yet despite all the “but what abouts” the Lord has given us a paradigm in Genesis 1-2. We love to find loopholes. What is allowed? What can I get away with? Is it really that a big a deal if I masturbate, watch a little porn, or flirt with the married man at work? However, our goal should not be to see how much we can get away with. Instead we should be striving for and teaching the standard the Lord set up: one man and one woman married to one another and faithful to one another in heart, mind, and body until death separates them. The question should not be how close is this to the line, but rather how close does my life conform to the Biblical standard.

Porn is Barren

barren-land

A good reminder from Pastor Douglas Wilson in his book Father Hunger.  Too many men want sex without children. Obviously this applies to porn, but it also applies to purposely barren marriages.

One of the things that should be most obvious to a man about the women involved in pornography is that such images, however appealing a man may find them, are images that can present him with no children. They are barren. They flaunt their breasts, but they will never nurse the children of those who gawk with them. The men who pursue such women are men who want such barrenness; they find it a selling point. Another way of saying this is that they don’t want to be fathers. They want the privileges of sexual release (after a fashion) but without the responsibilities that God’s wisdom necessarily attached to these pleasures.

What is Marriage For?

wedding-4

Here are some Biblical reasons for marriage.  The first five would be true even if man had not sinned. Only the last two are a result of sin in some way, though of course sin affects our ability to fulfill the first five. These are not in any particular order. 

First, God ordained marriage for taking dominion over the earth. Genesis 1:26-28 gives us God’s original plan for man.  Man was given dominion over the earth, he was to fill the earth and subdue it.  Eve was to be Adam’s helper as he subdued the earth (Genesis 2:18). Psalm 8 makes it clear that this dominion still belongs to man even after the sin in the Garden of Eden. Christ redeems us so that we might participate in His taking dominion over the earth.  Of course, a single person can participate in the dominion mandate. But typically we fulfill this command through getting married and having children. 

Second, God ordained marriage to be a witness to Christ and his church. Churches love to talk about evangelism, which is of course a good thing. But marriage is explicitly called a picture of Christ and his church. Ephesians 5:22-33 makes it clear that when a man and woman get married they immediately become a living, breathing painting of Jesus and His Bride. This means our marriages always point to something greater than the marriage itself. A failed or bad Christian marriage is a slander of Jesus Christ.

Third, God ordained marriage for our companionship. It was not good for Adam to be alone.  Over the years we are married there should be an emotional and spiritual intimacy that develops between husband and wife. There is a lot of sentimentality that surrounds marriages. People talk of “soul mates” and such things.  As Christians we should avoid this. But there is a kernel of truth there. God does want us to grow closer to our spouse. Husbands and wives should enjoy each other’s company and companionship more and more over the years.   

Fourth, God ordained marriage for the bearing of children. This is explicitly stated in Genesis 1:28. The Scriptures see children of covenant parents as a great blessing to God and his Kingdom. The Scriptures assume and expect that godly marriages will be fruitful and bear many children (See Deut. 28:4, 11, Psalm 127-128, I Timothy 5:10, 14, Titus 2:4).  A couple that refuses to bear children is violating God’s Word. If a couple cannot have children that does not mean they are not blessed by God. God intends to bless that couple in other ways and for them to honor him in other ways. However, most Christian marriages should result in a having many children and bringing them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

Fifth, God ordained marriage for our physical pleasure. Proverbs 5:15-20 and the Song of Solomon make this point. The sexual relationship is not just for the bearing of children or for sexual protection. It is also for the joy and pleasure of the couple. God intended for us to enjoy our spouses physically. Too many Christians find this a bit much, that God would create such a physical high. “Is that really spiritual”, we ask? But God made sex to be thoroughly enjoyed within marriage. It is not an idol to be worshiped. And your goal is not to have the “best orgasm in history” as the world tells us. But the marriage bed is meant to be fun and exciting. Those who tell you otherwise are liars. 

Sixth, God ordained marriage for our sexual protection. Paul makes this clear in I Corinthians 7:2-5. Getting married is one of the ways God keeps us from burning with lust. Long delays in getting married, which are common in our culture, make us more vulnerable to sexual sin including pornography and fornication. Marriage is not an automatic cure for sexual sin, but it does help. 

Seventh, God ordained marriage for our sanctification.  There are few situations like marriage and raising children that can show someone their sinful heart. We get married believing we are great and wonderful, only to find out there are a lot of ungodly thoughts and emotions that we need to repent of. Later we think we matured spiritually then children come along and the process starts all over again. God sanctifies us in other ways. But marriage is  one of the primary ways he helps us grow in the image of Christ.