A Christian Theology on Plastic Surgery: Four Thoughts on Self-Image and Our Bizarre Ideas of “Beauty”

Anonymous asked:

Hello! As a pastor, I’d like to know your view on plastic surgery, specifically on breast augmentation. Do you think it a sin to alter your body in such a way? Do you believe we offend God by it, as He created us “in his image”? Thanks in advance!

Hey dear friend, I’m aware that not everyone will see eye-to-eye on this one and that there’s an immediate Christian reflex to answer a certain way – but I’d like to offer a few thoughts on this and to bring it together in the end. I hope you’ll hang with me, and I absolutely welcome disagreement and dialogue. As always, please feel free to skip around.

1) No one actually “needs” a make-over. 

On one hand, I hope we can really think through the ridiculous assertion that anyone needs plastic surgery or a changed appearance or even make-up and hair-dos, for any reason. Think of how crazy that is. No one should ever, ever, ever be quantified or qualified by how they look. But this is how we operate today. The modern merchandising of “beauty” has only exacerbated an aesthetic bias, and anyone who assumes they need plastic surgery is buying into a stream of Pavlovian-conditioned presumptions of image.

If we take a huge step back from our tiny chronological prisons of culture and just snap out of everything we’ve been told, the modern urge for make-overs is a false manufactured choke-hold of ideas that has zero basis in reality. Simply, it’s silly. It’s sort of insane. The world’s concept of physical beauty does not determine the “goodness” of a person. How could it?

I’m sure that sounds obvious and even pretentious – yet we’ve been so indoctrinated in the Lie of Appearance and the Idolatry of Youth that we’re conditioned to judge inherent value based on attraction. We tend to think good-looking people are “good people,” so we go way above our means to look “more attractive” to cover up a socially embedded insecurity.

We’ve not only been trained to judge every book by its cover, but to outright dismiss and reject things the instant they don’t appeal to us. Bad-looking people must somehow be bad. Certainly we’re biologically wired to enjoy what’s “visually pleasing,” but it’s become so emphasized that we hate ugly things. We connect the visual to value. We’re all addicted to what we see. Even overly prizing someone’s talent or brains or winsome personality is still a false beauty paradigm. And no one is above this, including me.

This is why we give more attention to people who are attractive, even in church. You pray for the “hot girl” and crush on the “hot praise leader.” A famous psychology experiment unequivocally proved that men who think they’re talking to an “attractive” woman over the phone also assumed they were good people and treated them better. The same men treated “less attractive” women over the phone with less interest, and thus closed the loop of a self-fulfilling prophecy. This type of filter prevents us from truly getting to know someone beyond our perception, which dehumanizes and demoralizes people who are considered “unattractive.”

I hate to be so pushy about this, but your idea of beauty has been forced upon you by a long history of escalated objectification and perpetuated marketing. In other words, our ideas of beauty are not original. They’re brainwashed. They’ve been put there by a bombardment of specific, strategic market goals from those who want to control what makes a profit. I really don’t mean to sound like an alarmist or a conspiracy nut. In fact, the people who market this stuff aren’t all bad people; they just bought into the same stream of lies. It’s our natural tendency to create an “exclusive inner-ring” of insiders, and physical appearance is one more dividing line that fuels our urge for superiority.

2) Appearance is such an ingrained part of who we are that it can’t be ignored. The reality is: we inevitably care about how we look.

On the other hand, I definitely understand why someone would want to change their appearance, whether it’s as drastic as plastic surgery or as simple as eye-liner. We can’t underestimate the power of self-image and self-regard, and though we shouldn’t primarily care about how others view us, we’ll inevitably care about how we view ourselves.

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