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Much of our isolation is self-chosen . . . This self-reliance has many attractions. It gives us a sense of power, it allows us to move quickly, it offers us the satisfaction of being our own boss, and it praises many rewards and prizes. However, the underside of this self-reliance is loneliness, isolation and a constant fear of not making it in life.
Henri J.M. Nouwen, Here and Now
I think the cultural monuments of celebration in our time, Culture Making Celebrations (Oscars, etc.), Sports Championships (Super Bowl, Olympics and such), Political Victories, and Holiday Festus all speak clearly and loudly to what we value as a society. This has historically been true as we have seen these celebrations and the values the exemplify change over time. Pre-modern Worship Ceremonies typically highlighted fertility and agricultural production; The Roman Circuses and Gladiator Battles promoted the cultural of warrior strength and patriarchy; The Saint’s Days of Old Europe highlighted piety and community (and often ironically debauchery). So what message is heralded from Hollywood last night?
I think there a many…some good, some bad. But perhaps the loudest voice was the ghost of Ponce de Leon harkening us back to the fountain of eternal youth. Nothing is celebrated quite like perpetual agelessness. To be honest this was my first thought after seeing Gravity. I could not believe how good Sandra Bullock looked at 49 – good for her, she looks healthy and agile. But my reaction should be telling because it was what was echoed throughout the celebri-verse for weeks surrounding the film. Botox, surgery, crash diets, and Photoshop are nothing new to the visually heavy industries but the extremes we have gone to promote false vision of beauty are becoming disturbing.
Absolutely nothing displayed this fetish more than the presentation of Best Actor category by Kim Novak. The 81-year-old actress most famous for her role in Vertigo nervously clung to the arm of her co-presenter as she approached the stage. It was clear this once popular sex symbol had undergone some zealous plastic surgery in an attempt to blend into the sex-sheen of Tinsel Town. Needless to say 81-year-old+sexpot+rhinoplasty+narcisistic audience=epic fail. Most of Hollywood turned on Novak like a sickly runt in the coupe…plucking the few remaining feathers of dignity she had until they were healthy and better by comparison. Film critique Farrah Nehme sums up the situation so well:
So let’s say — just as a hypothetical for-instance — you are an 81-year-old star whose last movie was in 1991 and who hasn’t been to the Oscars in many a long year. Not that you were ever nominated for one in the first place; you were, after all, a sex symbol for most of your career. As the evening approaches, the anxiety sets in. Harsh lights, you think. High-definition cameras. And a public that remembers you chiefly as the ice goddess whose beauty once drove James Stewart to the brink of madness.
And even back then, when you were 25 years old, you worried constantly that no matter how you looked, it wasn’t good enough.
It seems the zeitgeist, the ghost of our age reverberating out of Los Angeles and embraced by large sections of our world is: “Your Body Isn’t Good Enough”. Most of us are not quite as self-obsessed as Hollywood because we can’t afford to be – plastic surgery, personal trainers and expensive skin care are out of our reach…but we all have a choice in our death! Take the issue of creamation…That is right, cremation speaks to how we view our bodies. Cremation in America has risen from 3.5% in 1960 to 45% today…and we are projected to grow 10% in the next ten years. I see this as reflecting two trends:
Traditionally in Western culture to burn the body was a curse…because the body is seen as an important component of life, not just a disposable vessel that is actually in the way of finding your “true self”. Now, I’m not actually opposed to cremation, I have friends and relatives who have been cremated and depending on how poor my surviving relatives are, I might be too. It is interesting however, to see the rise of this trend follow the rise of plastic surgery, image altering and visual media.
Eventually, might we twist, alter and distort our bodies until there is nothing let that resembles or original form?
“Art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable.”
Being a disciple of Jesus is more than a statement of faith or way of thinking – it means we say the things he said and do the things he did…
“Those who aren’t following Jesus aren’t his followers. It’s that simple. Followers follow, and those who don’t follow aren’t followers. To follow Jesus means to follow Jesus into a society where justice rules, where love shapes everything. To follow Jesus means to take up his dream and work for it.”
― Scot McKnight, One.Life: Jesus Calls, We Follow
If our community is to embrace the disabled as being made in the image of God we are called out of individual, self-relying, self-reinforcing “religion to a communal, dependent, embodied relationship with God and each other.
Would Jesus Go to the Super Bowl?
Yes. And No.
Today I reposted a blog on sex-trafficking and the Super Bowl…the traction and debate it generated really surprised me, so in the spirit of avoiding an endlessly repeating cycle of Facebook comments (most of which no one reads before posting their own thoughts) I will offer a more detailed, nuanced look at this Sunday’s super game.
“Jesus would totally go to the Super Bowl!”
“Jesus would brandish a Pig of Nineskins and clear the stadium!”
So would Jesus go see the Seahawks and the Broncos show down this weekend? It depends on where his Father was leading. If it was the moment to be with some people that are going to open up and be vulnerable to him…I could totally see Jesus hanging at the game. However, it seems the Super Bowl is far more against the values of God’s Kingdom than aligned with it. Does the game explicitly mean idols and exploitation? No for most people it is a family tradition or the culmination of a season competition. But if we think about the deeper meaning of what it has mutated into over the last 30 years are we called to reexamine this national event?
I tried to picture Jesus going to the Gladiator games or circuses in Rome…they were hedonistic expressions of violence, sexual debauchery and emperor worship. Is the Super Bowl that far away from Roman chariot races? If anything it may be more exaggerated and wide spread? I think one of the reasons my earlier post on FB rubbed quite a few people the wrong way is that sports can be major idols in our world. There is no direct vice in watching the game (the halftime show is a different story). I think this is where the confusion comes in…we can watch the game while still following and staying in the will of Christ, but should we? The answer is Yes. And No. If we are gathering to be together, reach out to our neighbors and enjoy community it can still be a great event (despite the underbelly of the beast…Jesus didn’t condemn nor support the Roman army) or it can be a time to revel in fantasy, lust and envy…what are you going to make it?
I genuinely think God loves football…not sure about the NFL though. What do you think? I’d be curious to hear from some football fans on this.
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