Body Image and the Traditional Family

Have you ever thought about how body image is directly related to the demise of the family in modern society?

The traditional family is not simply under attack, but at this point has been so viscously and repeatedly assaulted that she is no longer recognizable as the institution she was created by God to be. It is also indisputable, even by the most liberal among us, that women’s physical bodies are so manipulated and objectified that frequently they don’t operate as God intended either.

Considering the family, I give you the divorce rate in America, the number of children in single parent homes, domestic abuse, latchkey kids, grandparents raising their children’s children, the disappearance of discipline and the overthrow of family interaction by tiny, handheld computers.

Considering the female body, I give you airbrushed magazine covers, (interesting article here) innocent daughters on diets, (talk about that here) every conceivable product offering a plastic-enhanced, fat-free version, menus touting “guilt-free” so that women have social permission to eat, women who can never have children after putting their bodies through premature menopause due to eating disorders in their formative years (ask yours truly).

Well known, observed facts, all of the above. But what do they have in common?

…great masters [demon tempters] produce in every age a general misdirection of what may be called sexual ‘taste.’ This they do by working through the small circle of popular artists, dressmakers, actresses and advertisers who determine the fashionable type. The aim is to guide each sex away from those members of the other with whom spiritually helpful, happy, and fertile marriages are most likely.

Have you ever thought of that?
That our obsession with perfect bodies (at least what the momentary, finicky appetite of sexual desire deems salable) has distracted eligible men and women from proper interests in the other sex based on faith, commitment, intellect and prayer? That an attitude of entitlement lends to severed marriages as one partner selfishly believes they deserve to be happy at the expense of their vows?

We now teach men to like women whose bodies are scarcely distinguishable from those of boys. Since this is a kind f beauty even more transitory than most, we thus aggravate the female’s chronic horror of growing old (with many excellent results) and render her less willing and less able to bear children.

As a result we are more and more directing the desires of men to something that does not exist – making the role of the eye in sexuality more and more important and at the same time making its demands more and more impossible. What follows you can easily forecast.

What astonishes me, is that C.S. Lewis published The Screwtape Letters in 1942. Screwtape was right, what followed was easily forecast. Seventy-one years later, we are fulfilling his prophecy.

What came first, the chicken or the egg? What came first, the decline of the family as the foundation of society or the objectification of the female body? Regardless, if we intentionally address one, will we necessarily affect other?

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Reputable Fame

“Quantitative analysis revealed that fame was the number one value, selected as the most important value for participants’ future goals,” according to a study done by psychology professors at the University of California at Los Angeles.

In C.S. Lewis’ book, The Screwtape Letters, it becomes obvious on a practical level that Satan’s most fatal weapon is subtlety. Literally, all that God created is good. ALL. Evil does not manufacture itself and is only observable relative to its opposite: Good. So it makes sense then, that to trip up a generally good person, someone mostly moral, someone rightly motivated, someone who would see right through blatant evil, Satan’s tack must be almost good.

In the Garden of Eden, Satan walked Eve up to a tree that probably looked just like the others. It looked good. It was almost OK.

Last month, in my town, three teenage boys were arrested for making sex tapes with six, unsuspecting teenage girls. Their goal? Fame.

There is nothing wrong with wanting to be recognized. Proverbs, the Book of Wisdom, tells us that a good reputation is desirable over  great riches (Prov. 22:1). And in Prov. 31:23, a man is honored to be known among the leadership of his city. It is a God given desire to be loved by others, to have something to offer society and to leave our heel print in the clay of time. So Satan takes this righteous quality and pushes it just a little too far, just slightly over the edge. As we over indulge in our good reputation, it becomes self admiration and suddenly our hearts are warped. Warped just enough to mar the beauty of God’s reflection in us.

Left to ourselves in a broken world, we cannot help but pervert the complete goodness of all God’s gifts. Sex into promiscuity. Beauty into idolatry. Reputation into fame. Honor into pride. Hope into fantasy. Food into gluttony. Drink into drunkenness. Hobby into addiction.

Besides the redemption of our souls, maybe that’s another reason that Jesus had to come. More than to die and rise again, perhaps this is why He came and lived 30+ years on earth. To show us how to use all God’s good gifts for His glory.

Finding Wonder

The wonder of life is tarnished. For most of us, each year it grows a little more dingy, a little lest attractive. Even I have said, “Any day, God. Any day. I certainly won’t complain if you’re ready to call it quits for planet earth.” My heart is in the right place, I think, but the comment certainly expresses a lack of wonder at my current, pleasant surroundings.

The first two tarnished elements of life that Zacharias addresses in his book, Recapture the Wonder, are sexuality and money

The only way to transcend the physical and the sensual while retaining their essential features is to bind them to the sacred. pg. 65

“These days,” sexual encounters are a dime a dozen, or at least that’s what the culture-creators want us to think. Shows like Sex in the City, novels whose only purpose is to portray multiple explicit encounters, each more graphic than the last; the push for free and legal abortions so that no one bears the consequence of illicit sex, the view of sex as mere recreation…we have certainly divorced sex from the spiritual.

Can that explain our boredom with sex? Obviously, the constant trend to make it more and more sensational reveals that what once held wonder in and of itself, is now old news. Is there a limit? When does this chafing for more and dissatisfaction, dissolution with what once was wonderful end?

As for money. We all know, in our heads, that no matter how much we amass it’s never enough – but we certainly don’t live that way. I’m preaching to your’s truly.

The one possessing the wealth must know its real value if the possession is to bring wonder. pg. 70

With that truth in mind, does money really have any value? When I have bought a new pair of shoes, soon they aren’t new anymore. When I drive a new car, soon it loses that smell. When I buy a rich, expensive cup of coffee, soon it’s empty. When I pursue higher education, I discover there is still one more learned and therefore higher paid and then ultimately the wonderfulness promised by dollars is moot all over again. Do you see what I mean?

So what’s the solution? Where is the balance between enjoying temporal things and investing eternally in them? One thing I believe is true: the potential for joy in wonder is greater than ever, for sometimes it takes losing something to realize its true value. Let’s Recapture the Wonder together.