Christianity And Beauty

Christianity has not, on the whole, been very serious about breaking with our hardwired assumption that external beauty is an infallible sign of interior merit. If religion were really an escape from the tyranny of beauty – if religions really meant what they said about the “spirit”, the “inner” person (whatever that means) being more important than the “flesh” – then we ought, for example, to be seeing at least occasional statues of the Virgin Mary portrayed other than as the contemporary ideal of a supremely beautiful woman. So where are they?

Even medieval ascetics and mystics were quite convinced that noble blood, good looks and sanctity were indissolubly interrelated; unlike ourselves, they were unable to pay for physical perfection if they lacked the bloodlines back to some Germanic tribal hero. Worse still, the mystical writer we know as Pseudo-Dionysius identified Eros with the Divine Nature. Does that mean that, if you are too ugly to get laid, then you cannot meet God either?

On the other hand, Greek theology asserted that Christ had a plain and undistinguished body. And indeed, given the way in which human beings give preferential treatment to their physically attractive fellows at every stage, incarnation as a beau or hunk would have represented only a partial kenosis, that is, Christ’s renunciation of his divine attributes in order to step into our world and share our lot.

Posted on November 24, 2009 at 10:15 by Hugo Grinebiter · Permalink
In: BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, The Myth Of "Inner Beauty"

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