Yeah, that’s a thing. Have you noticed it?
Our youth minister really liked the line. One of our health and healing workers at the church, an acupuncturist, made sure to relay the scene to him. Smiles and laughs followed.
But man if there isn’t some truth there, right? The popular church sure does hold up beauty in its pastors and people.
Look at some of the popular pastors you know: T.D. Jakes’s suits cost more than most of his parishioners’ monthly incomes; Joel Osteen’s teeth and hair are never unpolished (cue the “Soul Glo” theme from Coming to America); Joyce Meyers’ earrings could double as nunchucks they’re so big and sparkly; Mark Driscoll’s tight jeans betray their price tag shock value by looking just a little too distressed to be naturally distressed…
We love attractive people telling us about God. Perhaps, then, we’ll begin to believe that God is attractive (have you seen Jesus without ripped abs?) or that God wants you to be attractive.
In a blog post by Mark Driscoll, “16 Things I Look for in a Preacher,” coming in at number 11 snuggled between Driscoll’s desire for the pastor to be emotionally engaging and not be a “coward” is the exhortation that the pastor needs to “look like they have it all together.” From clothes to haircut to overall presentation.
When I read that I ran and vomited in a trash can.
Look, you don’t have to go far to find that the church worships beauty, especially physical attractiveness. The apostles are all ruggedly handsome in their depictions. The various Marys in the Bible are never overweight, never suffering from hair loss, and certainly don’t have any moles to speak of.
In fact, in the recent movie Son of God (which was surprisingly un-bad), Jesus’ mother Mary clearly has had plastic surgery, making her look like an odd choice for the role.
Beauty and aesthetics have their place within the worship of a God who encompasses beauty. I’m not denying that. But take a look at the stock photos on church websites: happy families with bright teeth and 2.5 kids all around, often representing a racial diversity not present in the congregation.
And all the while we’re reading and hearing ancient stories of Jesus touching lepers, healing the sick and the lame, loitering suspiciously at well-known watering holes.
It doesn’t sound very “stock photo” to me.
I think it’s a little bit of an illness that we have here. This idea that God or Jesus is “put together” and expects/desires/wants/needs for us to be so, too. Even the local evangelical church-plant pastor who I hear all the time say, “The church is a hospital for sinners, not a museum for saints” never leaves home without his tragically hipster jeans and plaid shirt…
It may seem like all sorts of judgment on my part, but I’m trying more than anything to be observant. Because my faith, more than anything, tears me a part in all sorts of helpful ways…ways that allow me to not be so tied to appearance and the necessity of having it all put together in deference for letting go of appearances and engaging life, and others, more fully.
It’s sad that “youth pastor hot” is a thing. It’s sad that it is based in reality.
When the writer of Ecclesiastes penned, “Vanity, vanity…all is vanity” it wasn’t a prescription for the church.