I hope Jesus was ugly. I really do.
As a Christian, I am well-aware that Jesus was a different kind of King, that he helped liberate the oppressed and that he practiced unconditional love throughout his ministry. Jesus, in my opinion, is the best model for social activism we have. He was fearless and bold, yet he didn’t use violence (ever) to get his point across. He was kind and prophetic, yet he didn’t rub this in people’s faces. He was God incarnate, a living-breathing-walking-Perfectdude. Mr. Perfectdude himself (that’s got to be in one of the gospels, right?) Suffice it to say, Jesus rocked. As a proponent of justice myself, I have had no trouble using Jesus as the example for how to combat certain social injustices. You want to punch your bully in the face? Sorry, Jesus wasn’t about violence. You want to practice bigotry toward racial minorities? Sorry, Jesus said prejudice toward others who look different from you is a no-go. You want to pay men more than women for the same amount of work? Strike three. Jesus was a women’s advocate to the core.
But what about looks?
As a young woman living in the United States today, I am constantly reminded that my physical appearance just doesn’t cut it. Here is the breakdown: My culture sends me the message through magazines, television shows, and movies that in order to be valued, I must be physically flawless. In order to be physically flawless, I must strive to look like the women I see in ads and shows. In order to do that, I must spend oodles of money and time molding myself into the ideal woman. Hairless, flawless, weightless. I should be thin, have white skin but be tan. My hair should look like a fan is blowing on it at all times. I should always smile like I have a secret. I shouldn’t have body hair but I should have a body: a curvy body at that. I could go on an on but you get the point. It’s a lose-lose situation. I am doomed to fail at something that that no one can win. I have been given a definition of beauty that is so impossible to obtain, it must be a myth. It’s easy enough to recognize the injustice here. Women and men in our culture are fighting to possess a beauty that has nothing to do with their heart, their soul, or their faith. The results are not only expensive, they are emotionally and spiritually damaging.
This summer I have seen too many young women look at themselves in the mirror with disgust. I have heard too many painful stories from campers who are so dissatisfied with their God-given appearance that they go to drastic lengths to change themselves. They hate the shape they are in. They wish they could look like the famous so-and-so with her tight butt or so-and-so with her stark white teeth. Clearly, we’ve got a justice issue on our hands.
This isn’t just a justice issue though. It’s a God issue. If we as human beings cannot find it within ourselves to love ourselves, we are telling God that he/she did a bad job creating us. When we believe that we are ugly or unworthy of receiving love because of our physical tissue, we are rejecting the idea that God made us in God’s image. As a loved, whole human. Zits and all. I have heard the “love your neighbor” and “love your enemy” shpeel quite a lot, but what about the “love yourself” message?
It would probably be a whole lot easier to love ourselves if we knew for certain that Jesus himself was ugly. Just a simple little verse is all we need! Here’s an example: “Phillipians 13:2 reads ‘Looks don’t matter. I myself am considered an ugly dude and don’t fit society’s standards of beauty at all and I am still the Savior!'”
Maybe if Jesus was ugly, we would all give ourselves a break. We would stop loathing our natural bodies. We would embrace our imperfections, our lumps and bumps. We would learn to love the skin we are in. Maybe if Jesus was ugly, we would stop treating people with physical disabilities, scars, and physical abnormalities as if they aren’t a whole human.
Maybe if Jesus was ugly, we would live our lives not only following his actions but following his opinion on people’s looks, which seems to be “none.” His humble physical features would allow us to dismantle social hierarchies as well as hierarchies based on
At my last camp in Montana, I had the youth write a letter to anyone they wanted. It could be a close friend, a sibling, or the world at large. The contents of the letter could be anything as long as it related to beauty. One camper wrote to her sister, saying, “I want you to know that I love you just the way you are. Just because you aren’t “perfect” looking doesn’t mean you’re not wonderful! You deserve the best and all the happiness in the world.” Another camper wrote to her best friend saying, “You may have things about yourself that you find unattractive or even ugly but truly you are beautiful inside and out. You don’t have to strive for perfection. You are perfect just the way you are and you deserve to be treated that way.”
One camper wrote a letter to no one in particular. In it, he urged his reader(s) to consider the following: Look with your mind, not with your eyes. Because with just your eyes, you’re blind.
May we all strive to do just that. To look with our mind, our hearts, instead of our eyes. May we recognize the spiritual blindness that comes from living in a culture broken down by a beauty myth. May we begin to “call out the beauty beneath so that all may see,” as a camper wrote in his letter. And may we learn to love ourselves, our shapes, and our lumps in the process.