Friday, October 24, 2008

My Love/Hate Feelings for Alec Baldwin (and others)

What can I say about Alec Baldwin? I have watched him for years on talk shows, and in comedic appearances on T.V. and movies, and the guy never fails to make me laugh. And I mean big time laugh, complete with gasps for air and "spit-takes". But then I remember his politics and it makes me want to engage in a whole different kind of spitting up. How can I love a guy so much who I so can't stand? Such paradoxes make me feal as if my head is going to explode (or at the very least I'm going to do a lot of spitting).

Baldwin's charmingly self-deprecating cameo on Saturday Night Live the other night with Sarah Palin was hysterical (only William Shatner self-parodies better, imo). His gracious defense of her SNL appearance in his blog entry on the Huffington post was quite noble. But the almost sure fact, SNL hyperbole aside, that he actually does think she is "that horrible woman" is infuriating. Alec, why can’t you just be consistently despicable so I don’t go through these emotional rollercoaster rides?

Alas, if only Alec Baldwin were alone in producing this struggle in me. Unfortunately, he is just the third leg of the stool. Shirley McClain and Barbara Streisand also drive me nuts by delivering stupendously wonderful performances in the execution of their art while simultaneously delivering stupendously horrific performances in the elucidation of their politics. What is a media loving conservative to do?

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Was "Hot Babe" a Prerequisite in Eve's Design

Sometime in the last couple years (I'm not so good with dates), my daughter (early 20's) and I were having a discussion about boy/girl relationships and the topic shifted to "beauty". She related to me that she had recently read in a book (direct quote forthcoming) that Eve, being the crown of creation, was the most physically beautiful of God's creations (that is what the book said, not her position). We talked a little more on the subject and then moved on, but this notion that Eve was some ravishing beauty, and even more so, that physical beauty was a necessary and purposeful element in God's design for Eve, has always bothered me.

More recently, as I have significantly increased my reading on such topics as marriage, relationships, and gender dynamics, as well as my study of the Genesis creation narrative itself, this presumption of Eve's beauty, and even the necessity for it, has appeared more than once. Here is just a sampling from some books I have read:
"The construction of the [Genesis 2] narrative highlights in this case the qualitative difference between the man and the woman on the one hand and all other living creatures on the other. 'This', cries the man - in his delight 'he names three times 'this', the beautiful creature whose presence astonishes and charms him' - ..." Henri Blocher quoting M. J. Lagrange, In The Beginning[1]

"She [Eve] is suited to him [Adam] (Gen. 2:23), and he revels in her beauty...She is a kind of crown to humanity, the most beautiful creation of God..." Rebecca Jones, Does Christianity Squash Women[2]

"Adam, seeing for the first time the curves and beauty of the naked woman, is caught slack-jawed. He is flabbergasted. He gasps." Walt Larimore, His Brain, Her Brain[3]

"Eve is the crown of creation, remember? She embodies the exquisite beauty and exotic mystery of God in a way that nothing else in all creation comes close to." John Eldredge, Wild at Heart[4]
Celebrated youth and relationship author Joshua Harris (I Kissed Dating Goodbye) extends this presumption into a prerequisite. According to Harris, physical (i.e. sexually attractive) beauty, particularly in women, is necessary for us to fulfill our mandate from God to "be frutiful and multiply" (Genesis 1:28). Listen to what he says in his book Sex Is Not the Problem (Lust Is):

"He [God] really knew what He was doing, didn't He? 'Be fruitful and...multiply,' he commanded mankind (Genesis 9:7). And then just in case we'd be tempted to slack off in the task of populating and subduing the earth, He made us sexual creatures and wired us with this incredible thing we call a sex drive...Isn't it wonderful how God has made men and women to interact with each other? He made men visually oriented then made women beautiful."[5]
Apparently, without the God created provision of sexual attraction via physical beauty in women, we men would have no reason to go and "be fruitful". I wasn't aware that my hormones were able to see, let alone judge whether or not a woman was beautiful enough to lift me off my behind to pursue her. The implication for Eve is clear. In Harris' view, had she not been "hot", Adam would not have had sufficient distraction or motivation to draw him away from his duties tending the garden to pursue her and begin multiplying at all. Thank goodness Eve was a babe or we might have never come to be.

Unfortunately, it doesn't end there. Best selling author John Eldredge stretches this obsession with beauty even further. In his ground breaking work on the masculine identity, Wild At Heart, Eldredge incorporates the need for a beautiful woman into a man's core reason for living. His section titled "A Beauty to Rescue" begins with this revelation of what turned him from mere friend into boyfriend in his relationship with his future wife.

"I met Stasi in high school, but it wasn't until late in college that our romance began. Up until that point we were simply friends...Then one summer night something shifted. I dropped by to see Stasi; she came sauntering down the hall barefoot, wearing a pair of blue jeans and a white blouse with lace around the collar and the top buttons undone."[6]
The implication here is clear - had Eldridge not been triggered sexually toward Stasi because of her physical attractiveness, he would have never pursued her maritally and would have abdicated his obligation to "be fruitful and multiply". Her outer beauty was THE triggering factor in his moving from friend to lover.[7] Providing living proof of Harris' theory, Eldredge makes the beauty of Eve (and all subsequent women), not only a blindly accepted reality but a design prerequisite in order for human's to fulfill their godly mandate.

But Eldredge takes the beauty bias even further in Captivating, the companion book to Wild At Heart co-written with his wife. The authors begin their worship to the physical in the section titled "The Crown of Creation", repeating and amplifying John Eldridge's theme from Wild At Heart quoted in the opening of this post.

She [Eve] is the cresendo, the final, astonishing work of God. Woman. In one last flourish creation comes to a finish not with Adam, but with Eve. She is the Master's finishing touch. How we wish this were an illustrated book, and we could capture this, like the stunning Greek sculpture of the goddess Nike of Samothrace, the winged beauty, just alighting on the prow of a great ship, her beautiful form revealed through the thin veils that sweep around her. Eve is...breathtaking.[8]
A few pages later, in the section titled "Beauty to Unveil", John Eldredge takes the pen alone and fleshes out the thesis in full.

Beauty...That we even need to explain how beauty is so absolutely essential to God only shows how dull we have grown to him, to the world in which we love, and to Eve. Far too many years of our own spiritual lives were lived with barely a nod to beauty, to the central role that beauty plays in the life of God , and in our own lives...

Beauty is essential to God. No - that's not putting it strongly enough. Beauty is the essence of God.[9]
Lest one think he is talking about some mystical inner beauty and not the physical, outward appearance of things and people, he elaborates.

The first way we know this is through nature, the world God has given us. Scripture says that the created world is filled with the glory of God (Isa. 6:3). In what way? Primarily through its beauty.[10]
He concludes this idolatry of the physical world with one of the most absurd statements I have ever read (and remember that this is a book I generally recommend):

Nature is not primarily functional. It is primarily beautiful. Stop for a moment and let that sink in...[Believe me, I did]...Nature is not primarily functional. It is primarily beautiful. Which is to say, beauty is in and of itself a great and glorious good...Nature at the height of its glory shouts, Beauty is Essential! revealing that Beauty is the essence of God.[11]
In fairness, I will acknowledge that the Edlredges do eventually try to strike a balance. John speaks later on of both outer and inner beauty and Stasi dedicates a whole chapter to inner beauty toward the end of the book.

But the question remains for me, "why any focus on outer beauty at all?" Or more importantly, "what does God have to say about the subject?" You see, what I have recounted so far from the Edlredges, Harris, and all the others, amounts to opinion at best and down right ungodliness at worst if it is not backed up with scriptural teaching. So, what scriptural support do these authors offer up? The answer, in a word, is "none!" Not one "jot or tittle" is provided which justifies such a reverence for the physical or even claims that God thinks this way. And that is what makes my head just want to explode. Rather than point people to a godly view of our world, and more importantly, our most intimate and important personal relationships, they offer up worldy justifications for fleshly behaviors and attitudes.

So, does God have something to say about physical beauty, Eve, creation, nature, and the rest. You may be surprised to learn that, not only does God have plenty to say, but He says it quite forcefully. In this post I have explored the worldly teaching by well meaning but flawed human authors. In the next two posts I will further examine two of these authors and their conclusions: John Eldredge and Joshua Harris. In the final posts of this "Hot Babe" series I will highlight the godly teaching on these same issues from the inspired authors of the bible.

1. Henri Blocher (English translation by David G. Preston), In the Beginning (Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1984), p. 98. Lagrange quote: M. J. Lagrange, 'L'innocence et le péché', RB 6 (1897), p. 349.
2. Rebecca Jones, Does Christianity Squash Women? (Nashville, TN: Broadman and Homan Publishers, 2005), p. 170.
3. John Eldredge, Wild at Heart (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 2001), p. 217.
4. Walt Larimore, MD, and Barb Larimore, His Brain, Her Brain (Grand Rapids, MI:Zondervan, 2008), p. 191.
5. Joshua Harris, Sex Is Not the Problem (Lust Is) (Colorado Springs, CO: Multnomah Books, 2003) p. 33, 85.
6. J. Eldredge, p. 215.
7. Of course, Eldredge may have found another "beauty to rescue" had his future wife not "tickled his fancy". The point is that outward physical appearance was the tickling agent. Rather than be stimulated to pursue her because of her inner beauty, which we assume he was well aware of because of their long-standing friendship, Eldridge seems to completely disregard the inner beauty until after the outer has taken hold of him. Only then, after being startled by the outside, does he consider her heart and how she may compliment him as wife.
8. John Eldridge and Stasi Eldredge, Captivating (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 2005), p. 25.
9. ibid. p 34.
10. ibid.
11. ibid. p 34, 35.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Sarah Barracuda vs. Crazy Uncle Joe

The hype was certainly there...and the manipulation of expectations. But overall, I think each candidate stuck primarily to their game plan and pulled it off pretty well. I scored this one close to even, with the slight nod to Gov. Palin simply because she didn't deflect and criticize Sen. Obama quite as much as Sen. Biden deflected and criticized Sen. McCain, and inexplicably, Pres. Bush. (Last time I looked, President Bush wasn't running and nobody wants to claim him for their "side".)

Anyway, the rest of those gathered with me for our debate party extravaganza were quite differing in their scores. Some graded it very close while others found it to be a Sarah Barracuda Biden-fish chompin' runaway. The only consistency was, whether close or no contest, everyone scored it a Palin victory. And yes, we did have some traditional Democrats in the group.

Most of all, it was very fun. I have always liked Joe Biden because he is kind of like that crazy uncle in every family - you just never know what he might say. Uncle Joe kept it pretty close to the vest last night but he still chalked up a few "derangement" debits from our pundits. And you can't help but like Sarah Palin, with her "aw shucks" down home approach to weighty issues. She even got a few resounding "oh snap!" bonuses the couple of times she gave that little wink and then skewered good old Joe.

There may not have been any issues resolved, or any voters swayed by last night's main event, but it was a good helping of American politics without the acid reflux causing biterness we often devolve into. So a resounding "good show" to both candidates. Now we wait to see what the rest of the country thinks.