Behind the blog title: explaining broken cameras & gustav klimt

Upper_Belvedere,_Vienna

 

For more than two and a half years I’ve been writing in this space with the label Broken Cameras & Gustav Klimt above my posts. And I’ve probably not done enough to explain it. I’ve roamed around the topics inspired by it, and thought one day I would offer an eloquent explanation. This is not that day, but perhaps an explanation of any sort is overdue.

The questions often come, enquiring what it’s about, what informed it. Whether there’s a reason behind the cryptic title.

The truth is a combination of the spontaneous and the profound.

The spontaneous is that on an early August evening in 2011 I decided to start a blog. I was annoyed about something someone had written on the internet – a trait that has become far too common in my blogging experience. And I wanted to write something in response. I had no platform, no place to put my words, my concerns, my disagreement. So I set up a blog and the following morning posted for the first time.

The title was what immediately came to mind. I put it in the wordpress title field and have stuck with it.

But the reason I plucked for this obscure combination of words has a longer history. To a week and a half spent in Alpine Europe a few years before.

I went away, I took some time out, I travelled, visiting 5 cities in 10 days. And I wrote. I wrote a lot, from the first evening I arrived under a lamp while sat on a park bench in Salzburg, to coffee shops and McDonalds and a hostel in Geneva while watching Million Dollar Baby.

I got home with pages scribbled, then put onto a computer and the word count clocked in at something a little over 12 000. And the title I gave to that compilation was Broken Cameras & Gustav Klimt.

I’ve played with those words since, toyed with whether there might be something more to them, or if they were potentially part of something bigger. But mostly they were a wrestling of faith. Of finding words to explore what I was thinking and feeling and experiencing. Words to give voice to my hope and my dreams and my fears and my hesitations.

And two motifs came to the fore to describe the way I experience my faith coming to life and bringing life. A broken camera and the work of Gustav Klimt.

On only the second day of my trip I broke my camera. In fact it wasn’t even mine, it was my parents, borrowed for the trip, to take photos of the places I was visiting, the architecture, the cathedrals, the castles, the beautiful rivers winding through ancient cities. But I broke it.

I spent that afternoon in a melancholy mood in Vienna. I was disappointed, that something could go wrong so quickly. I had put so much hope in having a great trip and my way of recording it and giving witness to it to other people, was dealt a brutal blow. I walked through a grand park to the north of the city centre and I reflected on things going wrong.

I have sometimes had this arrogance that I could do anything if I set my mind to it. I could be who I wanted, achieve what I wanted. And then things began to go wrong. I didn’t get the job I wanted, I wasn’t sure who I was or what I was doing. And I broke a camera.

Sounds ridiculous. It was.

But if God can speak to Balaam through a donkey he can speak to me through a broken camera.

Things go wrong, that is part of life. And as much as our faith is about following Jesus and growing in likeness, it is also doing this in a context where things go wrong. Living out faith in a broken world.

The last day I was in Vienna Gustav Klimt got me thinking about beauty. Before I went away I had been chastised for never having visited an art gallery. I was not particularly bothered about this, I had never been very interested in art. But as I sat in the garden of the Belvedere Palace, quietly miffed it was an art gallery and not a museum, I realised I would be in for even more of a scolding if I only did not go somewhere because it was an art gallery. So I walked through the doors.

From the little I know of art, I knew I liked Gustav Klimt’s paintings. As I looked at ‘The Kiss’ I tried to work out why this was such a magnificent piece. It is one of his most famous, and from the case it was housed in, most expensive paintings. But it shouldn’t be any good. It does not provide a likeness, the colours are all wrong; I couldn’t even find any deep symbolic value. Yet somehow this chaotic collage of gold leaf, silver and oil creates something quite incredible.

Some time ago Portsmouth University advertised its courses with the slogan: “What comes after the Internet?” unfortunately the answer does not lie in any of their courses, or those of any other university. Innovation cannot be taught only inspired and encouraged. Likewise, beauty is not located on a map, there is no guidebook, no x marks the spot. Beauty may be captured but it cannot be controlled. Something truly brilliant and beautiful, existing on the very brink of chaos, is so finely tuned the faintest shift can lead to disruption and failure.

Beauty exists on the edge of chaos, in places that don’t make sense.

Faith is worked out in a broken world.

Hence Broken Cameras & Gustav Klimt.

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Am I Beautiful? A review

20130828-083734This isn’t a review of whether or not I am beautiful, although it’s a question I’ve asked myself more this week than ever before. I’ve found myself looking in the mirror, taking in my appearance, thinking about how I choose what to wear.

I’ve wondered what people think about my appearance, what assumptions they make based on what I am wearing, whether I have brushed my hair (in all likelihood probably not). On my weight and my height, on the shape of my face and the colour of my skin.

I was bouldering on Tuesday evening and at one point as I was watching one guy tackle a particularly feisty route I found myself remarking on his muscled form. It’s not the sort of thing I usually do. I would certainly hesitate from making comments like that about a girl, I’d phrase it differently, I’d focus on her abilities and not her attributes, I’d say she was a great climber.

Because beauty and appearance has become commodified and traded, it has been weakened and abused. Beauty has become the thing we cannot ever fully achieve and certainly not retain. Yet it is something, which in the US alone $5billion is spent trying to enhance, recreate, and manufacture. Beauty is not just assisted by products it has become a product. Continue reading

It’s a bubble wrap life: thoughts on modesty

Heart of Tuscany July 2013 054 ModestyLast night I ate at Nando’s. I went for a half chicken marinated in mango and lime dressing and it tasted good. I could have gone for it naked (or plain as they prefer to put it), but we all know that chicken tastes better when dressed. It made a good thing great. And it’s the same with people and clothes.

No it’s not.

I can’t do it. I can’t write an important piece about modesty, attraction, responsibility and liberty premised on an extremely tenuous food metaphor. I’m not going to suggest it’s like putting meat on the BBQ and then telling someone they can’t eat it, or anything about chocolate cake, sweets, or any other edible. I’m not going to say it’s like taking an alcoholic into a bar.

I’m not going to use any of those examples because they are about consumption. We eat food, we drink beer, we do not consume another person. And too often that is the problem when we talk about modesty and attraction: we do so from the mindset of a consumer. We think of other people as an it, as something that we either consumer or do not consume. And in doing so we deprive other people of agency. Continue reading

Beauty, attraction and modesty – a five act thought process

 I

A couple of weeks ago I went to Scotland and it was beautiful.

It is as easy and natural as that. The description of beauty was done without any further thought or consideration.

Last night I went out and met a beautiful girl.

Well actually I didn’t, I stayed in on my own and watched a couple of episodes of The Pacific. If I had used a real life scenario it would have suddenly become awkward. And that’s my point. When we talk about beauty and it relates to some feature of nature or a work of art it does not provoke the same array of inquiries as to its meaning or subtle squinting of the eye to work out where the statement in question originated.

If I say a girl is beautiful it is taken to mean something more than just a factual observation. In short you’d probably assume I was interested in her romantically. And I might be: because I’m a guy and have been known to be interested in that sort of way.

But it’s also far too reductionist and it takes a whole swathe of compliments out of use. While I am sometimes attracted to a particular girl because of her beauty, that does not mean I am attracted and seeking to romantically pursue any girl I consider to be beautiful. Continue reading

The faded certainty of attraction

I thought that I would know. I thought that the moment the right person walked into my life all would become clear. Sirens would scream, lights would flare, passions would ignite and all doubt would be banished.

I thought that one day I’d be mature enough to move past the waves of attraction that fade in and out like the intermittent reception on the battered transistor radio placed between the paint and tins of nails in the garden shed. I hope in some recess of my mind that certainty is still only the right person away. But that hope recedes into the realms of fantasy.

Because what I learn each moment that I pass through life is that affection and attraction are fickle friends. And knowledge and certainty are elusive ideas that once found only present more dilemmas. Following yesterday’s post on Vaughan Roberts’ interview, I thought I’d ponder a little more. This is a tad more theological that I originally intended, maybe all a smokescreen to protect my fragile emotional state!

In response I, and you, and anyone else, could take either of two divergent paths. Either we see the doubt that lies before us and turn and run away. We could opt for what we know, what is safe and what is comfortable. In the most relativistic sense we rely on where we are to authenticate our ability to decide truth. We either allow comfort to lead to inertia or dissatisfaction to prompt change.

The second option is to live in the light of what Francis Spufford in his new book apparently labels with the acronym HPtFtU. I haven’t read the book – it’s on my ever expanding list – and for the sake of modesty I won’t unravel the abbreviation, but it’s what we in more biblically literate times might label as sin. Stuff goes wrong, and we do not see clearly how things can work themselves out. We live in chaos and confusion, and in the most enlightened of moments only have hazy clarity and even then we might be kidding ourselves.

So the gaze of attraction I cast toward a lady in my midst might be motivated by lust, or it might be the beginning of a love that she is due. And in most cases it is probably a little bit of both. Because even if I get married I will not be free from lust – I’m told that enough by my married friends – I will at times lust after my wife, and other women I encounter.

But all this talk of lust scares me off. It makes me worry that any attraction is motivated by my nefarious desires. Somehow this needs to be redeemed. Beauty is not bad, attraction is not bad.

Beauty must be appreciated for what it represents. It represents God’s creation and his love for us. It is not just the physical but it is the physical. We are not to get so spiritual that we deny what is literally right in front of us. Something I have to repeatedly remind myself is that finding someone attractive is not a bad thing.

It leaves me embracing uncertainty, and learning that as much as I might like things ordered and classified, colour coded and project managed, that’s not the way life works. There is ambiguity around every corner, there is discernment over what needs discernment and what needs a shunt of courage to spur us to take risks when we will never know all we wish we did.

Doubt lurks around every corner waiting to cripple me and hold me back. Whether it is my worth, my value to others, my abilities, or the prospects of love, doubt undermines your security and tries to tell you your identity is in whether you overcome these frailties, and if you don’t then your identity is as a failure.

But doubt is the door through which redemption arrives. We learn that we cannot do it on our own, we are weak and we are frail, and we are broken and lost, and these will not be cast aside any time soon. But when we learn that we cannot overcome all that might try to drag us down we look up. We see that in the mystery and confusion, and the uncertainty and unsettled resolve there is a place we can be secure. And from the place of security we can go on adventures unshackled by doubts and fears.

Appropriate attraction

Vaughan Roberts has won plaudits for the incredible honesty and bravery he has shown in his interview with Evangelicals Now. Those I share and add to: I think the words of a man highly respected for his commitment to biblical truth and Christian ministry describing his struggle with same sex attraction could potentially be a game changing moment for the way such issues are understood and handled in the church.

What Vaughan Roberts says, and the way that he says it, is a mark of maturity. It has and will continue to attract attention because of the subject matter and the highly volatile current political debates around same sex marriage. I encourage you to read the interview in full, but to summarise he outlines that while he has struggled with same sex attraction this has not diminished his commitment to living a life that upholds the orthodox Christian understanding of sex as reserved for a man and a wife. For him, this means he lives a celibate life.

Each of us have things in our life which pull us away from the type of life God would prefer us to lead. For each of us these are different in their specifics, but hallmarks ring loud and clear. Sexual attraction of one sort or another ranks high, as does a desire for power and authority, a propensity for self interest and greed dominates too many of our lives. We put ourselves above God and choose to let that which is not God take priority in the ordering of our lives.

In the interview Vaughan Roberts studiously avoids describing himself as gay, a demarcation that has already generated discussion. This is interesting because it raises the question for all of us of how we define ourselves and what identifies us from the crowd. I recall a quote which I’m failing to attribute, whoever it was he was asked whether he was homosexual or heterosexual, to which he responded neither. He said that he’s not attracted to men or women but to one woman, his wife.

What struck me as I pondered Vaughan Roberts’ words is that it’s not as simple as same sex attraction is something which we should flee from. I think there are good and bad forms of attraction, the good form, when we indulge it we are actually becoming more human in the giving of ourselves to another. But there are other forms of attraction that we choose to spurn because we believe them not to be in tune with a way of life that honours God.

The most refreshing part of the interview was the implicit acknowledgement, and if I am reading too much into it then I apologise, of the present continuous nature of his struggles. It’s something I’ve been toying with for a few months, how we handle the fact that we don’t just move past our struggles, that they often continue to walk with us. Roberts puts it like this:

While homosexual sin must always be resisted, the circumstances which often accompany same-sex attraction should be accepted as a context in which God can work. There is, without doubt, a difficult aspect to those circumstances, such as, for example, the frustration of not being able to experience the intimacy of a sexual relationship or a feeling of isolation because of the sense of being different.”

He goes on to say: “This perspective should transform how we view all the difficult circumstances in our lives. We’re not called to a super-positivity which denies the frustration and pain; nor are we to embrace a passivity which spurns any opportunity to change our situation. But we are to recognise the loving hand of God in all we experience and see it as an opportunity for service, growth and fruitfulness.”

Because we are not defined by whatever brokenness exists in our lives we are defined by who we are in Christ. Dallas Willard writes in similar terms about our lostness, not something that we resolve as soon as we trust in Christ but a path we will frequently find ourselves on once again.

In a bonus track on the new Mumford and Sons album they sing: “Wanting change but loving her just as she lies, it’s the burden of man who’s built his life on love.” I could take that as how God views us.

So to me. If the only appropriate attraction we are to indulge sexually is between a man and a wife where does that leave me, a single man attracted to women. I hope that for one of those I find my heart stirred towards, that might one day be what we are to each other. But for now I find myself attracted in different ways, at various times, in degrees of intensity to different women. And not all of that can be wholesome. Not least when confusingly they overlap.

There is a goodness in some of my attraction that needs to be discerned. There is prospect for an intimacy where that attraction will be fully indulged. But for now it is as much a temptress as a guide.

And then there is this other thing. The damage we do with only associating beauty with sexual intimacy. A friend recently suggested guys need to do a better job of complimenting girls for how they looked, regardless of whether they were interested in them. And in theory I agree. But first of all I might need to get better at doing it for girls who I am interested in.

Finding Wonder

Tonight the Olympics begin. And they begin with the spectacle of the opening ceremony grandly titled ‘Isles of Wonder’. From what I’ve heard it’ll be quite a show, around 160 000 people have seen the two rehearsals this week meaning enough has seeped out to wet the appetite, explanations of scenes that can probably only be seen to be appreciated, all no doubt part of a clever marketing strategy. Glimpses of grandeur hidden behind calls to #savethesurprise. A couple of moments, so I’ve been told, that will make the hairs on your arms stand on end.

It’s not only the cold that gives you goose-pimples. My old drama teacher used to refer to that as his measure of whether a performance was hitting the high notes he was looking for. It happens with scenes taut with emotional suspense, it happens when things occur which defy expectations. Or when someone goes above and beyond. The three men who stood in front of their girlfriends as the shooter spewed bullets and death into the Aurora theatre last week. Such goodness defying such madness.

Wonder.

We find it in landscapes that speak of God the great artist. And in constructions and paintings that display his hand behind ours. It’s there in the laws that we use to explain how the universe sits in its fine balance. In the equations that come together out of mind boggling complexity. I once declared that a proof was pretty. My friends mocked my choice of words and my teacher was complicit in their reproof. Beautiful, elegant perhaps, but she had never heard a mathematical proof described as pretty.

My life is too crowded with notifications and appointments, demands and deadlines, responsibilities and expectations. I schedule activity to the most infinitesimal degree, even when I have nothing to do. I plan and scheme and orchestrate. And often I miss these moments of wonder.

But sometimes things go wrong. That’s what lies behind the ‘broken cameras’ part of this blog’s title. I was in Vienna on the second day of a break on my own escaping it all and my camera broke. No more pictures of European cathedrals. No record of my travels across the cities of central Europe.

I didn’t want to break my camera. I generally don’t like it when things go wrong, but it serves the essential purpose of reminding us that we do not live in a perfect world. In short: things go wrong.

A different trip abroad took even less time to go wrong. I had only just picked up the car from the rental agency in Portugal when while fiddling with my wing mirrors I managed to take one off another car. This little adventure underlined the truth of the well worn phrase,’less haste, more speed’. I was just trying to get on my way, but ended up shaken up, with a lighter wallet and it slowed me down.

Ironically that was exactly what I was trying to do.

Escape the rush of life, the busy diaries. The need to feel like I was busy when really I was not. Contrast the guilty pleasure of a quiet day with the faux contentedness of continual nights in. The pressure to seem like your life is full can be quite a draining exercise, leaving room for little else.

And then the real contrast. The village with seven inhabitants. The nearest shop a service station on the motorway that passes by without a sideways glance. The goat bells ringing their very own dawn chorus. The gnarled olive trees that litter the landscape. From the shops on the street corner that simply do not ever close transported to a world where a loaf of bread is unobtainable in the early evening setting sun.

Even on a last minute trip to the Portuguese wilderness there is the temptation to set agendas, daily reading targets, plans for action. So perhaps it was better that I got a bit of trouble early on to remind me that the perfect break is not going to happen quite yet. Each time I have to learn to stop.

And relax.

And watch.

The world go by.

Even if it is the distant hum of traffic or the crickets in the trees.

And watch the sun as it stoops low in the sky before titling below the horizon. The long shadows it cast vanish and all that is left is a gentle hue of colour where the sun once hung. And as the colours turn to dark and the sky lights up with countless stars, those names and unnamed.

Because that”s the other part of this blog’s title. I’m not particularly well versed in art and its appreciation. When I was in Vienna I thought I was going round a grand old house and it turned out to be an art gallery. Being the philistine I thought I might be I set to walk away but I saw it housed a collection by Gustav Klimt so instead pressed on. I stood before ‘The Kiss’ and gazed in wonder. This painting should not work, it is a catastrophic mix of colours and forms, with oils and gold leaf and other materials overlapping in a chaotic collage.

But it is beautiful. Somehow the wonder transcends the mechanical list of compounds. I want to be overcome with wonder more. I want to look at the world and fall to my knees. I want to see in those around me the reflection of the love of God. I want to see in myself the unending grace of God as he finds ways to surprise me.

I’m beginning to think that disruption is at the root of wonder. Only when we break from the normal, stop our routine, step out of the comfortable, do we see the wonder of God that surrounds us.

To close, a poem from Gerard Manley Hopkins, and from whence comes the title of a book by Eugene Petersen that I’ll be rereading this summer.

Beauty, lust and attraction

My view of what makes someone beautiful is distorted. It swings like a pendulum. From beauty in the eyes of media buyers and fashion columnists, to a rejection of physical attraction as somehow beyond the realms of what I am supposed to feel.

Sara, in her guest post focused on the former trend, so I’ll give less attention to this. But I will say a bit because I’m a guy and I see things a bit differently. I guess this is sort of a part two to her post at the weekend.

It will come as a shocking surprise to no one that the way I look and think about women is not always with the purist motives. I could blame it on a culture that has promulgated the Barbie doll image as the best way to get attention, snag a husband, and achieve generic happiness. I could blame it on television programmes that slip sex scenes into disconnected plot lines. Or the magazines that brandish nearly naked women as the way to get ahead. Or I could go the whole hog, blame the internet, it’s turned porn from the furtive acts of men in trench coats to the very next thing you see on your screen.

Last year a survey of Christians in Northern Ireland found that 65 per cent of men under 35 have intentionally accessed porn. It was more prevalent among church leaders, who also had a higher rate of affairs. Gareth Davies has recently suggested it might need addressing in sex and relationship education at schools due to the harm it causes.

Porn does things to your brain. It makes you think something is normal which is not. It provides a go to destination for lust and temptation. But it does something more. It alienates relationships from sex. It offers what you think you want in a way that comes without a cost. So when we look at an attractive girl we see sex, and when we encounter the challenges of living life with other people we opt for the easy casual disconnected option.

In See Me Naked Amy Frykholm tells the story of a man addicted to porn:

“Pornography had provided Matthew a safe place, deep inside himself, for pleasure. But the connection to another human being was part of the fantasy. Images of naked strangers provided the illusion of openness, as if the woman whose photo he looked at was making herself available to him. Pornography had the capacity to make him feel both fleetingly alive and simultaneously numb. Fantasy replaced the nuanced intimacy demanded of him in his everyday life.”

As well as being a guy that finds girls attractive, I am a single guy that finds girls attractive. I may have been a little less than serious with my step by step guide to marital bliss, but there are things that are in my mind when I weigh up if I’m interested in a particular lady. And physical attraction is on that list.

Should it be?

Should I find girls attractive, and should I use that judgement to decide who I want to spend my life with? I think so. I think otherwise I am abusing beauty in just as destructive way as the covers of magazines that portray a mirage of beauty painted onto a hollow shell.

Appreciation of physical human beauty is supposed to be off the reservation. It is akin to lust. It is gazing at what causes us to sin. So we should cover it up and avert our eyes. Beauty is not without consequences. I am guilty of only a little hyperbole.

Because when I walk down the street and I see a girl sunbathing in the park my eyes linger longer than they should. When I’m standing in church supposedly singing songs of praise to the God I love, I find my love annexed by the girl I am presently smitten with. My appreciation of human beauty is so often lust, it is so often unhealthy, and it ingrains in me a suspicion of that particular emotional reaction. When I see something that is beautiful I think that it is wrong that I have come to that conclusion based on my instantaneous and almost involuntary registering of attraction.

There is such a thing as lust. But beauty isn’t just found in those people to whom we are attracted to, or to use the infantile but efficacious expression, people we fancy.

Why has my view of beauty become so defined, so contingent on a message that beauty is a sexual thing, and sexual things should be desired after, and if I want something sexual then I should be able to get it? How have I let myself become consumed by a vision of sex that is so commodified and mangled into a shape that serves what I think that I want in that particular moment?

In pursuit of beauty

This is the 100th post on Broken Cameras & Gustav Klimt and I’m delighted that it’s the first ever guest post. And it’s a stunner from Sara Kewly Hyde. If you want to write a guest post please get in touch. 

What is beauty?

A philosophy? A physical attribute? Something that grows from the inside out? Does the way I choose to define beauty tell you about me, or more about the society I live in?

The ancient Greeks used it in the phrase kalos kai agathos (approximate transliteration), which literally meant beautiful and good/virtuous. But it was also used as a coverall term for the perfect and balanced gentleman. We used to write it in cards to each other in sixth form as a compliment “Carry on being your kalos kai agathos self, I love you” (I then failed the Ancient Greek exam).

The Bible uses the term both to describe physical beauty like Queen Esther’s, and also to point to something much deeper in a verse like Psalm 27:4 “One thing I ask of the Lord… to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and seek him in his temple.” Although the use of the word “gaze”, may still point to something observable.

For my new year’s resolution, I thought that for every penny I spent on my outward appearance, I’d give the same to charity. And in so doing I’d understand more tangibly how much I throw my resources after the pursuit of the external.

I haven’t done it, I was too lazy, too scared. How do I perceive beauty? Is it about my desire to look like Jessie J? Or is it about small moments of kindness, a smile from my baby niece – interactions that make my heart cry out that was just beautiful?

So I believe beauty can be a heart attitude, but I’m going to focus more on the physical, on the external, on the industry. I am a slave to the beauty industry, to 21st century consumerist capitalism. We cannot divorce the ideal of beauty that constantly surrounds us, telling us how to be a woman, how to be human and the huge market forces behind it. I see an image in an advert of a woman. I compare myself to that. I find myself hideously lacking. I spend lots of time thinking about how I could look more like that. I start to turn the thought in to action and buying products and clothes to make me more like that.

More acceptable aesthetically. More likely to succeed. This works for me, I feel momentarily better, I feel more attractive because I am a millimetre closer to her “perfection”. Rinse, repeat. Each image I see feeds my insecurity that I am not physically up to scratch, each product I buy tells me I can fix it with an item acquired by financial transaction and then the bar is raised higher the next time. I know what the ideal is, an ideal that I’d need to be an anorexic with a boob job and permanent real-time air-brushing to achieve. Good-o. The beauty industry laughs all the way to the bank, while we’re left trying to force our bodies to conform to the market’s latest aesthetic ideals and grappling with even bigger insecurities.

Who cares? Why does this matter? We need to ask who is setting the beauty agenda. Who gets to say what is beautiful? We need to wonder why only one kind of aesthetic rules. We need to think about how this impacts upon our treatment of those who lack representation in the “ideal”, the disabled, the disfigured, those unable to afford the right clothes or products to reach the beauty bar. It becomes a discriminatory issue. Getting caught up in a paradigm that privileges the visual, turns women into sexualised objects whose value is solely contingent on their appearance and denigrates many other types of beauty, is a dangerous one-way street to misery. We will never be good enough. Women will punish their bodies in to further conformity. Men will measure women more against the model standards. Our humanity, our capacity to interact, to love and be loved is reduced by the fantasy world projected all around us. We try, we succeed, we fail, we learn. But in a world of perfection, where is the room for failure? For humility? For recognising our brokenness and need of each other?

I say I only want to be a slave to Christ, to righteousness, but if that is true, why do I shave my armpits, worry that my grey hair will render me undateable and my large pores be the death of me? I know too well the verses about God looking on the heart and not on the external and I’m glad about that, but what about my potential partner? How can I focus on developing what’s on the inside when if I went to work in the same clothes every day for a week and no make-up, HR might pull me in to have a word?

We need to be honest about the impact that our visual culture has on our faith. I love the Message translation of Romans 12: 2, it is a constant reminder to be aware of my context at this point in space and time “Do not become so well adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking”.

What happens when the church pursues the beauty myth? We get our priorities wrong in what we are for and who we welcome most.

We spend too much money on assuaging our insecurities when we could be more generous to those who really need it. People get lonelier and we are alienated from our humanity. We need to reclaim beauty, to wrest it from the oppressors and celebrate the beauty in the small, the everyday, in every one who is made in the image of God. I’m still learning how and I’m getting it wrong, but I have to try because Jesus came to set us free.

Sara Kewly Hyde is a theatre maker and thinker who works with women in the Criminal Justice System. Follow Sara on twitter or find out more at www.kewly.org