6/22/2006

Speaking of Theology of the Body....

Let me count the ways in which this article disturbs me.

From the article:
"But some sociologists and medical ethicists say that using liposuction — which can cause complications ranging from infection to death — for such tweaks raises profound questions about the increasing risks cosmetic doctors and patients are willing to take in the name of perfection. They say these microprocedures may signal a shift in beauty standards in which people come to regard the body the way they do their cars or kitchens: as an object able to withstand never-ending renewal and modification.

And they worry that the idea of precision liposuction carries an inherent suggestion that everyone should have surgery, even those who are already beautiful.

'The goal posts are changing so rapidly that what was once considered cosmetically unnecessary is now considered helpful,' said Victoria Pitts, an associate professor of sociology at the City University of New York, who teaches a course called Sociology of the Body. 'As calves, ankles, knees and even genitalia become zones of perfectibility, we will feel more and more pressure to get involved in projects that improve them.'" (emphasis mine)
When the body exists, not as an invaluable gift with which to live a life of worship and service, but as a fashion accessory used to seek power, status and sex, this is what happens.

I confess I never really 'got' why the Church warns against cosmetic surgery until now. Mea culpa. Like the slippery slope of the contraceptive mentality, the cosmetic enhancement industry devalues God's creation bit by bit and allows mere mortals to believe they can do better than He can, whether it's to decide which lives are allowed to come into this world, or what the ones who are already here should look like.

Don't assume that this will stop with the privileged classes in New York and Sao Paulo. Twenty years ago, breast enhancement surgery was something that jet-setting millionaire models, actresses and trophy wives had done in Beverly Hills. These days, it's just a graduation present. Even people of modest means are willing to save, beg, borrow or steal the $5,000 they need to buy "perfect" breasts, often at the far greater expense of being unable to use them for their intended purpose (infant nutrition) down the road. Nonetheless, it's seen as an "investment." In another ten or twenty years, I can see little Junior and Juniorette begging Daddy to pay to get rid of their knee fat. "But DA-A-A-D-DY, no one will ever want me with these chubby knees! I won't even be able to get a job!" (The sad thing is, their whining probably won't be too far off the mark. Witness a culture that calls anyone over a size 2 voluptuous-- or worse. Criticizing the size 2'ers for their "knee fat" can't be far off.)

When society gets to the point that even God's most beautiful creations are viewed as ugly mistakes and human meddling is viewed as "fixing the problem," we are in dangerous territory, indeed. Wanting to be the best you can be is admirable (though a focus on physical improvement to the exclusion of spiritual and mental improvement is worrisome). Wanting to be something entirely different than you were created to be is a disorder. Unfortunately, this culture is all too encouraging of disorder (see: homosexuality, divorce, fornication, etc.). Let's pray to God and work to change that, before it's too late.

ETA: Check out this timely post from an atheist who gets it:

"Preferable is the Biblical ideal -- '[t]he LORD does not look at the things man looks at . . . [m]an looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.' Even so, the LORD is not portrayed as completely insensible to looks. He recognizes physical beauty, which implies he perceives 'ugly,' too, and all the gradations in between. His talent, then, is apparently in disregarding it in favor of each person's moral worth."

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3 Comments:

Anonymous Rebecca said...

Do things like braces and highlights and tanning cream count? I am torn on this stuff.

6/27/2006 02:46:00 PM  
Blogger C.C. said...

One important factor regarding all of your examples is the utter lack of risk. You are not going to damage your body or die an untimely death because you got your teeth straightened or went blonde for the summer. Plastic surgery, on the other hand, always carries a risk of death or permanent injury.

I guess the question is, is it morally acceptable to risk one's life or long-term health for vanity?

6/28/2006 12:02:00 AM  
Anonymous Rebecca said...

But in the original post, you focused more on the idea that it "devalues God's creation" and "allows mortals to think they can do better than He can." That holds true for tanning and braces and similar things. In fact, if you are using a slippery slope argument, you could argue that any kind of attempt to change the way you look, including make-up, girdles, control-top pantyhose, etc. are all disrespectful to God's creation. If God made me heavy, with pimples, crooked teeth, and gray hair, than who am I to decide I can improve on his creation. It seems true holiness would be accepting that He has made me the best me He could, and while I should take care of my temple (exercise, eating properly, brushing & flossing, etc), I shouldn't try to CHANGE my appearance for vanity's sake.

It shouldn't make a difference how dangerous it is, should it? the issue at hand is respecting or disrespecting God's creation, i.e. the appearance.

I think an equally strong argument could be made for the fact that God doesn't give two figs what your breasts or stomach or teeth look like, so alter them or don't as you wish; that's not what He is concerned with.

6/28/2006 08:18:00 PM  

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