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)

Signs of Sexual Rot: Diminished Masculinity & Femininity

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If you are looking for a book that will help you counsel someone with sexual problems or work through your own sexual problems then I would recommend Dr. Harry Schaumburg’s Undefiled.   Dr. Schaumburg at the time of this book (2009) had counseled almost 1,500 couples and has been counseling over thirty years with eighteen years devoted exclusively to sexual issues.  In one of the early chapters of the book he discusses how prevalent sexual sin is in the church.  He says that some research puts the number of church members watching porn at 50%. One mission organization told him that 80% of their applicants voluntarily indicated a problem with porn. One seminary professor said we no longer ask, are you using porn. But rather how bad is it? Dr. Schaumburg closes with this statement, “This rot in the church must be addressed or the devastation will be incalculable.” He then gives nine indicators of the problem. I will quote the first here and give the other eight in an subsequent post. Why quote the first one in full? It gets at one of the roots of our sexual malaise: rejection of created ordered and a failure to rejoice that men are men and women are women. Here are the two paragraphs under that indicator.  Continue reading

Mere Sexuality

cbmw

The Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW) released the Nashville Statement this week.  I have had more disagreements with the CBMW over the years. Initially I was enthralled by them. But more reading, in particular historical reading, has led me away from them. However, this statement is good. It lays out mere sexuality, as in basic, very basic, Biblical sexual ethics concerning marriage, sodomy and transgenders. Initially, I thought the statement was too basic to be worthwhile. But the response by many progressive Christians has vindicated the need for it. Surprise, surprise many Christians are not as firm on the basics as they let on.  Continue reading

Calvin on Men as Heads in General

Recently I got in an online discussion about patriarchy. I was told that “Patriarchy is NOT the historic teaching of the church.”  Whether this is right or wrong depends to a large degree on the definition of patriarchy. In the discussion patriarchy was defined as women submitting to men in general. It was assumed that wives should submit to husbands and that women could not be pastors. But men do not have a headship over women in general. By the logic put forth in other discussions, if this was the case, we would find men ordering women around everywhere they went.

There are several issue at play here. But in this post I simply want to quote John Calvin who clearly does assert that men are heads of women in general. And I doubt this led to the men in Geneva ordering all the women around.  This quote comes from a sermon on I Corinthians 11:4-10.

Now St. Paul is not speaking here of individuals, or of particular households. Rather he has divided the human race into two parts, as was indicated in the previous sermon. So there is the male, and the female. I say this, because even though a man may not be married, he still has this privilege of nature: he is a head. Of whom? Of women, because we are not merely to examine one house, but the order that God has established in the world. In the case of a widow, or of a young woman who has yet to marry, the subjection of which St. Paul is speaking still pertains to them. Why? Because it applies to the entire feminine sex…From this we see the stupidity of some who have expounded this text of St. Paul as if it referred only to married women. For, as I have already indicated, he is not dealing with each individual in particular, but with the general order.

You may disagree with Calvin. I do not. However, that is not the point. The point is a historical one. Calvin clearly did hold to the general submission of women to men. He did not restrict it to wives and husbands only. He says the same thing in his commentary on this passage.

Does this make women less than men? Are they not also made in the image of God? Does Christ relate to men in the same way as women? See this blog post where Calvin affirms that women are made in the image of God and salvation is fully their’s in the same way it belongs to men. In Christ, we are equal and all are made in the image of God. But “in this passing life” [Calvin’s term] there is a need for order. And God created men to rule.

 

Thin Bodies, Iron Yokes

chain-breaking
This is a re-post, with a few edits, from last summer. 

When Christ and His gospel are preached in all their fullness men and women are set free, not from rules and obedience, but from man’s rules and from obedience as the road to salvation. The gospel says that satisfaction has been made for all our sins. There is nothing we can do, say, think, implement, or learn that will take away our sins. Our sins are completely taken away in Christ. We now have an easy yoke and light burden. Our King is not a tyrant.  His laws are not burdensome.

But bondage is always out there stalking us like a pack of wolves. There are always men and women rattling chains, but claiming they are keys, slave traders promising freedom. They say, “Our yoke is better than Christ’s.” But the yokes of men are always iron. Continue reading

John Calvin on the Image of God in Men and Women

Man and WomanOne the advantages of reading those from the past is you realize that the question you are asking is not new and has been answered before. You may disagree with answer, but at least  you are kept from the proud idea that you alone or your generation alone has asked the question. For example, how can Christ be Savior of both men and women and yet Paul says in I Corinthians 11:3 that Christ is the head of man? Here John Calvin’s answer to that question. Brackets are mine.

There you have what we need to observe concerning St. Paul’s statement here, that the head of man is Jesus Christ. He is indeed the head of both men and women, as I have set forth. It is through him that we are joined with each other and united to God so as to be recognized and avowed as his children, and to have our refuge in him with complete confidence. Yet, be that as it may, as regards policy and order belonging to the present life, and without which men would be as dumb animals, Jesus Christ exercises the office of head over men. And let us observe that our Lord Jesus Christ thus affords us a double blessing: namely the eternal salvation of our souls [which applies to men and women equally], and the blessing  of order for this passing life [in which Christ is head of men and men are head of women]. Both of these things are quite useful, once one understands.

Calvin sees two levels at which Christ is working. First, Christ and the salvation he offers, as well as the benefits of that salvation are offered to and given to men and women equally. Men are not more saved than women. They are not closer to  Christ than women. We are all God’s children. But in this life order is required. Order demands hierarchy. This hierarchy is put in place by Jesus to guide us through this life with order and decency. Therefore men are the head and rulers in “this passing life.” Calvin states this another way in the next sermon on I Corinthians 11:4.  Continue reading

Conservative Moms & Stunted Masculinity

Weak Man 1

Earlier in the week I sent this Tweet:

As with most Tweets it lacks clarification and nuance. A friend of my said as much, so I decided to post a follow up explaining what I meant. By conservative, I mean religiously conservative, not politically. The description below will flesh that out a bit.

I have been a pastor in a conservative church in a conservative denomination for almost ten years. I home school and interact with the homeschooling community frequently. I have a wife and six boys. The point I made in my Tweet is one that I have seen in my own home, church, and denomination, as well as other conservative communities. Boys can have a hard time becoming men in conservative settings. The problem is not universal. Many, maybe even most, conservative moms and dads are doing a good job raising masculine boys. But the problem is not rare either.  This is not just the fault of these moms, of course. The culture, both broadly and in our churches, pastors, and dads all share the blame. However, mothers can and do undermine masculinity in boys.

Why did I single out conservative moms instead of liberal ones? Well first that is my audience. I would rather preach to the individuals I know than the masses I don’t know. But also because they have a difficult time seeing the part they play in the emasculation of their own boys. Conservative moms view themselves as going against the flow and fighting against the feminism in our culture. Many of them are stay at home moms or part time stay at home moms who have rejected a career to raise children. Most home school or send their kids to private school. They go to worship and are active in their church. They submit to their husbands. They read their Bible and pray. They dress modestly. These are all good things.  But as Doug Wilson has taught me when you go to algebra class you get equations. When you go to biology class you get problems about dissecting frogs. And when you have conservative Christian mothers you get women who do not see how they could possibly be a blockade to manliness in their boys and husband. They are the ones doing it “right.” These women are the ones least likely to believe they are the problem. I know many conservative mothers who are doing well at raising boys. But in conservative churches this is an issue and pastors ignore it to their own peril.  Continue reading