Monday, April 14, 2014

Lookism: Why Favor the Good Looking Over The Ugly?

“Lookism” is the preferential treatment meted to the good looking people (those conforming to the social standards of beauty). These words echo the theme at hand, “IT’S NOT your imagination: Life is good for beautiful people. A drumbeat of research over the past decades has found that attractive people earn more than their average-looking peers, are more likely to be given loans by banks, and are less likely to be convicted by a jury. Voters prefer better-looking candidates; students prefer better-looking professors, while teachers prefer better-looking students. Mothers, those icons of blind love, have been shown to favor their more attractive children.”1 This is a fact.

Disputing and negating “lookism” is impossible in reality. “Research and Markets,” a leading market research store, reports the surge of cosmetic surgery industry that complements ‘lookism,’ “Cosmetic surgeries…are increasingly being taken by the burgeoning middle class whose demand for them is based on their needs. At present, more and more men and women from the upper middle class group are opting for cosmetic procedures to get attractive looks in order to grab lucrative jobs, best possible marriage partner and mainly get rid of any deformity that they feel impacts their self-confidence and self-esteem.”2

The US cosmetic procedure industry is likely to generate US$ 18 billion by 2015. The Indian and Chinese cosmetic surgery market is expected to surge from $730 million in 2010 to $ 1.2 billion in 2017.3 This consumer trend is largely influenced by strict competition for jobs and the impact of media that glorifies good looking people. Ugly people are not in vogue.

Cosmetic surgery has its place in our life. For instance, if a person suffers burn injuries, then by all means he needs surgery to restore his lost features. Likewise cleft lips and other similar disorders needs surgery to repair and restore.

The universal desire of the heart - doing all that’s possible to look good, has been inflamed by media. Looking good boosts people’s self-esteem and confidence. The society glorifies the physically attractive; the unattractive or the ugly are largely relegated to its lower echelons.

But ‘reverse lookism’ is also a reality. Melissa Nelson, a 33 year old dental assistant was fired by her dentist boss, Dr. James Knight, in 2010 for being gorgeous. He was afraid that he would have an affair with her.

Apologies for my contemptuousness, but it is quite plausible that Melissa may have found another job. Since she was not ugly, she may have even found a better job.

Please allow me to digress.

Every image of the Lord Jesus Christ in a Christian home or institution would portray HIM as a handsome young man. But a verse in the Bible says that HE may not have been the handsome man these images portray HIM to be, “He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him” (Isaiah 53: 2b).

Excuse my dabbling in the counterfactual, but how would an average Christian respond to the Lord Jesus, if HE were not good looking? Would the Lord have been a victim of lookism? If HE were indeed ugly, would most of our homes have HIS picture in the most prominent location and other homes even have HIS picture?

Joyce Meyer is an epitome of miracle. It’s not easy for someone to be where she is after having been sexually molested by her own father. But I take exception to the fact that she had a facelift (cosmetic surgery on her face). She said, “"God doesn't love me anymore or less because I had some work done on my face," she said. "You know, I prayed about it a long, long, long, long, long time, because there again, I wouldn't want to do anything that I felt was going to be offensive to God. ... But I just felt like he finally just came to my heart, you know, it's your face, do what you want to. ... It was a really good thing that I did for me. It made me feel good. ... And you know, when you're in front of millions of people every day, you want to look your best (Emphasis Mine). 4

Does God prefer only the good looking? Does God preferentially treat HIS good looking disciple better than the ugly? Would God not prefer a dirty, shabby person worshipping HIM?

God, most surely, loves a dirty man as much as HE loves a clean and a handsome man. But would a Christian accept a dirty, shabby man sitting next to him and worshipping in a church?

Crucify me for saying this, but many Christians would actively and passively drift away from anyone who is dirty, shabby and foul smelling in church. They may even drive out the dirty and stinky! Why? (I am not verbalizing my random imaginations but I am speaking from a past experience where a dirty person was asked to exit the church.)

Doesn’t this person have a right to worship God? Even if one refuses to hug and kiss this person, why not give him a place in the church and allow him to worship God? This is lookism in its evil glory in the church of Jesus Christ. 

Wouldn’t an average Christian (following Joyce Meyer) be forced into looking better when Joyce Meyer performs a facelift to look better? The problem is in Joyce Meyer’s statement that God permitted her to do what she wanted to do.

Of course, God would permit anyone to do anything – with or without prayer! In other words, God would not, normatively, force anyone to obey HIM - that’s not love, that’s slavery. God is not a slave master.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not here to judge Joyce Meyer’s facelift. That’s her private decision, and she can do what she wants to do. But her statement to the press has smuggled in a theological implication.

On one hand she said that God loves everyone – the good looking and the ugly. On the other hand, she said that God approved her facelift. Does God’s approval tacitly suggest that HE desires HIS good looking people to look better? At what cost? What about those who do not have the money to do a facelift? Do they then unwillingly resign themselves to their ugly living?  

Joyce Meyer looked good before her cosmetic surgery. Primarily, she had the financial resources for a facelift, hence she did it. But is that how God wants us to use our finances?

Does Joyce Meyer’s action smuggle in a doctrine that ugly people should undergo cosmetic surgery to look good? How does the church of Jesus Christ approve and love the not-so-good-looking people?

If the church glorifies the good looking people, then by sheer implication, she crucifies the ugly. This is certain.  

How do people respond to the not-so-good-looking preachers? Do people flock to hear the ugly preachers? Can’t the ugly have their space in the platform (podium)? Can they not be leaders? By all means they can and they should be.

Are we to blame for our leader’s facelift? Are our leaders doing a facelift because they fear our (people’s) rejection? If so, we are to be blamed. In such a scenario, we should treat the good looking leader at par with the not-so-good-looking leader. Good looks should be irrelevant. This is our role in the society.

Not even for a moment do I think that one ought deliberately dress down or deliberately look ugly. No! We ought to look as we are.

Am I castigating cosmetic accessories (make-up)? No!  A mild accentuation of one’s physical feature is not to be condemned. So perfume, make-up kits and the likes do have their place.

But it’s surely unacceptable to be obsessed over looking good.

Looking good is not a mandate in Christianity. And we do not need to put our body under a knife or even take unnecessary medications so to look good. God loves us as we are and HE expects man to love each other similarly.

Should a Christian discriminate his brother or sister who does not look good? It’s a sin against God if such discrimination happens in a Christian life - home, institution or church.

Do we have to wear the best of our clothes and look our best while attending the church? I do not think so. While we do not want to deliberately look dirty and shabby, we do not make dressing-up or ‘looking good’ a mandate or a ritual.

Finally, what do we do when we find people being discriminated for their ugliness, be it anywhere – in the church or in the marketplace? Response ought to be two-fold:

A. Do not discriminate them.

B. Stand up for them when they are discriminated. Do not maintain silence when they are being discriminated. This is active love – a love that pleases God. 






Denny Benjamin said...

Good looks take precedence for us in our hearts and minds because we stop having God centred mindsets. We stop considering that other people are made in God's image 9(we forget the same about ourselves).
We don't let God's thoughts guide us but let our feelings do it.

Raj Richard said...

Totally agree with your thoughts, Br. Denny :) Thanks for sharing. God bless.

Àbhìshék Tìrkey said...

Excellent article. This whole 'look-ism' phenomenon is insidious, pernicious and has long since permeated the Christian church. Pray for God to open the eyes of those who sit in the congregation.

Àbhìshék Tìrkey said...

Excellent article. This 'lookism' phenomenon is rather insidious, pernicious and has long since infected the Christian culture. May God open our eyes.