Due to the shear train-wreck that is the new TLC reality show, Toddlers and Tiaras, my wife loves to watch. I actually think it’s one of those “sad train wrecks” and not the “entertaining train wreck” that I usually enjoy watching; but since my wife and I only have one TV, what we decided to watch we both watch. The show is about the inner-workings of, as the title so eloquently states, toddlers (and their [crazy] parents who try as hard as they can to project normalcy in front of the cameras) that are involved in child beauty pageants.
I have seen two episodes of this show, and both times they have left a tremendous impact on me—socially and theologically. The first show featured the pageant age group of 0-11 months, as well as the 12-23 month age grouping. My favorite part of watching these age groups (and by favorite I mean the part that makes me want to throw up more than anything), is when the parent’s hold up their 0-23 month old kid in the air to show them to the judges like they are an idol of beauty and perfection. Their pose reminds me of another similar picture I seem to remember from my childhood (see below).
No Joke! That is literally what the parent's do...
And it also reminds me of another picture ingrained in my head from childhood—one that was shown in the movie Roots as the slave traders tried their best to make their “cargo” look acceptable so rich white people would give them money. Sound familiar?
Last night’s show just solidified all of this in my mind. It didn’t just show the actions of what these people believe the ideal of what a perfect perception of beauty is; it was also vocalized by the judges. At the end of the show one of the judges was asked,
“Why, and how did you determine the winner?”
The judge’s answer:
“I was looking for the glitz and glamour over natural beauty; it showed me whose parents were willing to go the extra mile and spend the extra money to make their daughter look the best.”
No matter how many times the moms might say "beauty is on the inside" (which one of the girl’s moms reiterated throughout the show), their actions always prove otherwise. And to the girl who won? Her winning response was:
“I’m excited that I won because it makes me feel beautiful.”
That’s coming from a 10-year old girl whose self-identity, worth and sexuality are being indoctrinated into a culture that extols unrealistic ideals that a pageant beauty of big money, fancy clothes and altered features = societal acceptance and love. All I kept thinking about was: Where does this leave the church and how are these kids, and all of the other kids watching this program supposed to know and understand true unconditional love from God?
I believe that these types of pageants are nothing more than child prostitution. And you can quote me on that.
In the first century church the philosophical pagan thought of the day was that the body was inherently evil, and thus the pagans adorned themselves with jewels, fine clothes and loaded themselves with lots and lots of ritual sex that was supposed to bring pleasure in order to cleanse their evil nature (hence Paul’s treatment in 1 Corinthians 6:12-20) that reminds the Corinthians that their body is a temple of the Holy Spirit—countercultural to what modernity (at their time and ours) believes.
The problem is that the Church is not doing anything to reverse the societal trends of what it means to live a distinct, beautiful life in Christ. That type of life is one that is not focused on sexuality (straight or gay) by not having to live in the ideal life that communicates the only acceptable means to existence is to grow up, get married, have kids and reproduce the cycle all over again (whether in a straight life or in a gay life that believes the same).
I believe God’s original intent in creating humans was not for them to exist how we exist today, but rather His creation was to live in relation to the Garden, and live in relationship with Him. Pure. Plain. Simple. The Trinity recreated in real life. And yet overt sexuality has become the dominant trait and characteristic of what is normal and acceptable (Christian, secular and gay communities). Doing my graduate seminary work at Moody Bible Institute—those who attend MBI call it Moody Bridal Institute.
Everyone thinks that is funny. I don’t. It’s sad, and it’s very, very pitiful. That just shows us where the lines have blurred into living with the “ideal mindset of human life” focused on a social and Christian norm that has been reverted back to a first century pagan belief system—not how God originally intended. You can talk to me about the Fall as being the cause of this mess, but with every ounce of my being I believe that we have already won the battle with evil through Christ’s death. And thus, we have an ability today, in 2009, to make countercultural decisions that reclaim God’s goal of an ideal human existence: live in relation to the Garden (or the earth today) while living in relationship with Him. Pure. Plain. Simple. The Trinity recreated in each one of our lives.
Until Churches, parents and leaders start to reorder their, and the younger generation’s priorities of what is to be acceptably mainstream (both mainstream secular as well as mainstream Christian—which has almost been just as deadly), we’ll just keep producing more well intentioned people believing that unconditional love can only be birthed through actions revolving around what is believed (Christian and secular) as an ideal sexuality.