UK apologist Calum Miller has a long post up at Dove Theology about people making judgments based on physical appearances.
Here’s the part that really struck me:
Quite obviously, most people put an emphasis on physical appearance. They decide who to date or be friends with at least partly on the basis of physical appearance, and by doing so they create an expectation of the opposite sex (or the same sex) looking good enough. They make comments about people looking good or looking bad. They make comments about people wearing nice or unimpressive clothes, or combinations of clothes. They spend obscene amounts on improving their appearance. They include physical criteria in their lists of what they look for in a partner. They reject people because they don’t match some physical criteria. They ogle at others, sometimes making comments to their friends while doing so.
Sometimes they do much of this non-verbally: they make faces to indicate disgust (or something less extreme, but of the same genus) if a suggestion of romantic or social interest is raised regarding someone who has an obvious deformity, or who is wearing something unsightly, or who is too short, or whatever else. Or they gesture to direct friends’ attention towards a good-looking person, it being incredibly important that such a person be noticed and lusted after.
Men and women both do this, and do so to enormous degrees. The fact that men have less resources to change how they look, or that some people go to further extremes in their shallowness, or that some people make these ratings and judgments quantitative, is not really the main problem. The main problem is these underlying attitudes and behaviours pervading society at a much deeper level. I know very few people of either sex who don’t make comments about others’ looks, height and clothes, and that includes champions of these recent campaigns which claim to challenge such shallowness.
The fact that this image seems so farcical is a testament to the fact that this shallowness is something propagated by both sides. The fact that many women will spend their time looking at topless men in magazines while men peruse infamous lads’ mags confirms this further. And really, I will controversially suggest, there is not much difference between the woman who fawns over the face and body of a male model with her friends, and the man who comments, “nice t*ts” to his. The latter may be more extreme, more sexually explicit, and more crude, but it is really the same kind of thing: an objectification of the other sex, and an instance of lust, which is an indulgence in sexual attraction and the use of another person’s body for self-gratification, without the context of a marital commitment and the promise of life-long self-sacrifice and mutual giving.
And the most hard-hitting part of all of this is that Christians do all of this too, in my experience to just as significant a degree. Christians reject people on their looks, they include stringent physical criteria when looking for partners, they lust regularly and verbalise their lust to their friends, and by doing all these things they create expectations which others feel obliged to fulfill, and which make others feel inadequate and excluded when they don’t fulfill them (either because they don’t spend extortionate amounts of time and money doing so, or because no realistic amount of time and money would suffice to fulfill them).
Read the rest. I am not sure if I go as far as he does in the rest of the post, but I definitely agreed with him on the paragraph in bold.
This is something that struck me very hard when I was a young man, and it was especially annoying when Christians did it. I always believed that the most important thing about a person was their character, and that this would especially be true for Christians. Imagine my surprise when I found that Christians in the church were just as likely to judge on appearances as anyone else. There isn’t much that people can do to improve their appearance, but we can do a lot to have good theology and sounds apologetics. But in the church, it seems to me that theology and apologetics are on no one’s list of priorities. If our job was to preach the gospel, then it seems to me that we should be valuing skills that help us show that the gospel is true.
But there’s more to say. Everyday, Christians have to decide who to evangelize, who to defend the faith to, who to disciple, and who to make friends with. It seems to me that we need to remember that every person was made to know God. So we can’t be picking and choosing who to do Christianity with based on appearances. Furthermore, if you are assembling a team of Christian friends to serve as resources, we shouldn’t be picking on the basis of appearance, we should be picking on the basis of interest and aptitude. If your job as a Christian is to focus on theology and apologetics, and the application of that in loving God and loving your neighbor, then you will pick a completely different set of friends than if your job is to be popular.