Category Archives: Women

Where Do Our Notions of Beauty Come From?

As an Asian American man, I’m a little vexed when Asian American women are exoticized by non-Asians – “Me love you long time” sort of comments and notions of “war brides” make my skin crawl.

But what brings me pain is when Asian American women don’t see themselves as beautiful. And with technology and cosmetic surgery being more available, I found it problematic to hear of Asian American women flocking to get eyelid surgery. This is different than breast augmentation or a simple nip and tuck. Or is it?

Where do our notions of beauty come from? It’s not just a matter of wanting to look White. Obviously, even White women wrestle with notions of beauty…

This is where I wonder if imperialism by consumerism/materialism no longer needs a driver. A Frankenstein, a monster that now operates with no respect to its creator. Beauty then is one of those things that becomes encoded into the operating system of consumerism. And then many people (not just individuals, although there are certainly men who gladly influence and parade notions of what beauty is, but by themselves, they can’t account for the mass influence) begin to contribute to that definition of beauty and its pursuit — it is the democratization of oppression, so to speak.

But the decoding happens when we separate the notion of what is beautiful, an abstract, and wonder why in this particular case (and many particular cases), this particular woman finds her “eyes” unattractive. She herself doesn’t know why. But the pathology becomes apparent — there’s nothing wrong with your eyes. The reality begins to prove the abstract concept false.

In this sense, reconciliation is a very realistic process. It takes the abstract notion of love and peace into very real terms by decoding them into reality. Which is why when the Apostle Paul writes, “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”

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This Woman’s Work

I spoke too soon. Melody Hanson posted this link to the Samaritan Way Facebook page and I quickly answered that I would get a post up regarding it. I lied.

This is symptomatic of male privilege to begin with, I begin with that confession, to think that it would be easy to squirt out a reasonable blog post about such a complex topic in evangelical circles. In doing a brief survey, I was overwhelmed at the strength of the emotions expressed by people I would gladly call sisters in the faith.

And then in my “research” I was reminded of this song by Kate Bush that again captured some of the strength and toil of what it means to be a woman. I found it somehow affirming and ironic that Maxwell (a man) covered the song. Here’s a video with the lyrics; it’s actually a beautiful song – check it out:

Now, theology is not my department. I say that knowing that it is a cop-out, but as I’ve mentioned here on the blog before on other issues, there are other areas in the Christian life where the connection between what you think about an issue and how you behave is convoluted. In other words, much like the name of our ministry, Samaritan Way, one of the reasons why the Samaritan is good is that he didn’t have the concern of purity that the priest and the Levite did in reaching out to the apparently dead man on the road. In other words, while I believe that theology is important and doctrine is central to our beliefs, the posture and practice of those notions sometimes should be suspended (not dismissed) when reaching out and walking in the pain of others. As reconcilers, we begin with a sincere heart to listen to the pain. I don’t know what to say to a woman who says emphatically that complementarianism sucks; or that John Piper says it’s OK to listen to Beth Moore; or that as someone who grew up in Korean immigrant churches, I know that women were and are the backbone of many a church. The notion that we are equal in our inheritance in Christ, as we are equal in our depravity, as we are equal in value to the Lord doesn’t seem to quite scratch where egalitarians are itching. And then it seems that complementarians can’t seem to rise above this nervous twitch whenever a woman speaks beyond a traditional role, although there is clearly room to do so. In many cases, the polarized argument becomes either the baby never takes a bath, or we have tons of bathwater and no baby. Or for our purposes, no women in leadership at any capacity or women who are embittered and are more involved with rectifying problems in the church rather than witnessing to the world how great our God is.

As my opening foray into the discussion, I just want to begin by saying, regardless of theological position, there needs to be a loving posture towards the other side. I’m not saying we’ll agree — clearly there’s a difference in hermeneutic here. But what we need to acknowledge is the amount of pain and resentment this discussion can create. Similar to discussions of race and sexuality, there needs to be an awareness of the dimension of privilege and power at work here. And that is the first step. Some of us have never been dismissed out of hand, ever. We walk into a room and immediately feel as though we have the right to speak. But we need to humble ourselves and take on the posture of a servant, laying ourselves low, what is it like to not be asked to speak? What is it to speak and be ignored? What is it like to passed over time after time? Regardless of the “right” answer, a change of posture will change your voice, and the tenor of the conversation.