Toddlers and Tiaras: God is Lost in Sexuality

Due to the shear train-wreck that is the new TLC reality show, Toddlers and Tiaras, my wife loves to watch. I actually think it’s one of those “sad train wrecks” and not the “entertaining train wreck” that I usually enjoy watching; but since my wife and I only have one TV, what we decided to watch we both watch. The show is about the inner-workings of, as the title so eloquently states, toddlers (and their [crazy] parents who try as hard as they can to project normalcy in front of the cameras) that are involved in child beauty pageants.

I have seen two episodes of this show, and both times they have left a tremendous impact on me—socially and theologically. The first show featured the pageant age group of 0-11 months, as well as the 12-23 month age grouping. My favorite part of watching these age groups (and by favorite I mean the part that makes me want to throw up more than anything), is when the parent’s hold up their 0-23 month old kid in the air to show them to the judges like they are an idol of beauty and perfection. Their pose reminds me of another similar picture I seem to remember from my childhood (see below).

No Joke! That is literally what the parent’s do…

And it also reminds me of another picture ingrained in my head from childhood—one that was shown in the movie Roots as the slave traders tried their best to make their “cargo” look acceptable so rich white people would give them money. Sound familiar?

Last night’s show just solidified all of this in my mind. It didn’t just show the actions of what these people believe the ideal of what a perfect perception of beauty is; it was also vocalized by the judges. At the end of the show one of the judges was asked,

“Why, and how did you determine the winner?”

The judge’s answer:

“I was looking for the glitz and glamour over natural beauty; it showed me whose parents were willing to go the extra mile and spend the extra money to make their daughter look the best.”

No matter how many times the moms might say “beauty is on the inside” (which one of the girl’s moms reiterated throughout the show), their actions always prove otherwise. And to the girl who won? Her winning response was:

“I’m excited that I won because it makes me feel beautiful.”

That’s coming from a 10-year old girl whose self-identity, worth and sexuality are being indoctrinated into a culture that extols unrealistic ideals that a pageant beauty of big money, fancy clothes and altered features = societal acceptance and love. All I kept thinking about was: Where does this leave the church and how are these kids, and all of the other kids watching this program supposed to know and understand true unconditional love from God?

I believe that these types of pageants are nothing more than child prostitution. And you can quote me on that.

In the first century church the philosophical pagan thought of the day was that the body was inherently evil, and thus the pagans adorned themselves with jewels, fine clothes and loaded themselves with lots and lots of ritual sex that was supposed to bring pleasure in order to cleanse their evil nature (hence Paul’s treatment in 1 Corinthians 6:12-20) that reminds the Corinthians that their body is a temple of the Holy Spirit—countercultural to what modernity (at their time and ours) believes.

The problem is that the Church is not doing anything to reverse the societal trends of what it means to live a distinct, beautiful life in Christ. That type of life is one that is not focused on sexuality (straight or gay) by not having to live in the ideal life that communicates the only acceptable means to existence is to grow up, get married, have kids and reproduce the cycle all over again (whether in a straight life or in a gay life that believes the same).

I believe God’s original intent in creating humans was not for them to exist how we exist today, but rather His creation was to live in relation to the Garden, and live in relationship with Him. Pure. Plain. Simple. The Trinity recreated in real life. And yet overt sexuality has become the dominant trait and characteristic of what is normal and acceptable (Christian, secular and gay communities). Doing my graduate seminary work at Moody Bible Institute—those who attend MBI call it Moody Bridal Institute.

Everyone thinks that is funny. I don’t. It’s sad, and it’s very, very pitiful. That just shows us where the lines have blurred into living with the “ideal mindset of human life” focused on a social and Christian norm that has been reverted back to a first century pagan belief system—not how God originally intended. You can talk to me about the Fall as being the cause of this mess, but with every ounce of my being I believe that we have already won the battle with evil through Christ’s death. And thus, we have an ability today, in 2009, to make countercultural decisions that reclaim God’s goal of an ideal human existence: live in relation to the Garden (or the earth today) while living in relationship with Him. Pure. Plain. Simple. The Trinity recreated in each one of our lives.

Until Churches, parents and leaders start to reorder their, and the younger generation’s priorities of what is to be acceptably mainstream (both mainstream secular as well as mainstream Christian—which has almost been just as deadly), we’ll just keep producing more well intentioned people believing that unconditional love can only be birthed through actions revolving around what is believed (Christian and secular) as an ideal sexuality.

Much love.
http://www.themarinfoundation.org/

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About Andrew Marin

Andrew Marin is President and Founder of The Marin Foundation (www.themarinfoundation.org). He is author of the award winning book Love Is an Orientation (2009), its interactive DVD curriculum (2011), and recently an academic ebook titled Our Last Option: How a New Approach to Civility can Save the Public Square (2013). Andrew is a regular contributor to a variety of media outlets and frequently lectures at universities around the world. Since 2010 Andrew has been asked by the United Nations to advise their various agencies on issues of bridging opposing worldviews, civic engagement, and theological aspects of reconciliation. For twelve years he lived in the LGBT Boystown neighborhood of Chicago, and is currently based St. Andrews, Scotland, where he is teaching and researching at the University of St. Andrews earning his PhD in Constructive Theology with a focus on the Theology of Culture. Andrew's research centers on the cultural, political, and religious dynamics of reconciliation. Andrew is married to Brenda, and you can find him elsewhere on Twitter (@Andrew_Marin), Facebook (AndrewMarin01), and Instagram (@andrewmarin1).

  • Rich Wooten – Naperville, IL

    Thanks for a great post. I share your view of the adolescent and pre-adolescent pageants. Thanks for speaking a voice of reason to a troubled culture.

  • Rich Wooten – Naperville, IL

    Thanks for a great post. I share your view of the adolescent and pre-adolescent pageants. Thanks for speaking a voice of reason to a troubled culture.

  • Brad

    Beyond sad, I think it is actually destructive and is very much at the core of a violent society that is very much fueled by image. It feeds an obsession and a competition that has little social merit. It also feeds a narcissism that does little to promote compassion and love for others. I have often felt that, rather than having fights over things like gay rights, let’s come together to promote a healthier society that speaks against and organizes against things such as this programs that completely dehumanize people.
    thanks for pointing it out.

  • Rachael DeWitt

    I feel that the desire of women and girls to be beautiful is God given. God obviously values beauty, just look around at the world he created. But, we are to take our quest for beauty to him, to be beautiful as he defines beauty, which has more to do with character than with outward appearance. The problem is that our culture values the outer, and has taken a desire given by God and perverted it into the sick and twisted things we see in these pagents. Thanks for pointing the finger at the church, and calling for action to be counter-cultural, as we are called to be!

  • michael daniel

    when does a pageant not become prostitution anymore?

  • Mallory

    I agree. There are many tv shows or other media (is the the plural of medium? I don’t think it is mediums in this case?!) that portray beauty looking at all the wrong things. I believe our view of ourselves and our view of God can be tilted by how we are raise… how our parents see their childern, how we see our parents relationship.

    I was watching the show “The Bachelor” and it really made me sad, because so many of those people are looking for love, but they are missing the point, love has an intimate nature (at minimum PART of an intimate nature). Trying to find love in a public setting with millions watching, with the idea that all are competing for the prize of this man’s affection can fool someone into thinking she really loves him, when really she has merely been gaining more affection than others.

    I believe it was in the book Sex God by Rob Bell that discusses that somethings in a relationship are for the couple, and God to share only… not all of America. It makes the relationship more than a triangle, thus breaking more easily.

    I hope this relates to your topic. If not, at least your post stimulated mine enough to ponder what I just talked about! :)

  • Andrew Marin

    Thanks for the comments. I just think this is one of those small snip-its in society that is totally generalizable to the broader culture and what it means to lack intimate integrity of relational means to be in, and with Christ. I strongly feel that it is the Chruch's duty to step up and start countering the easy means of traditionally falling in line with what simply works – in both the mainstream Christian and mainstream secular worlds (not that tradition is wrong, but rather that tradtion, in and of itself, can only take you so far). A life, Christian or otherwise, that has reverted back onto the broader first century pagan ideologies of sex, love, acceptance and intimacy – and how that relates to relationshps with self and God – are killing our minds and practical expressions of what it means to follow in a unique belief in God, first and foremost. And until churches stop becoming Match.com's for Christians, nothing will ever change. How about those people, and the others already professing a countercultural faith in the One Holy God, immerse themselves in following Christ's footsteps in the places no one wants to go instead of self-contained, man-made constructs of what relationship is supposed to look like? Relationships are askew anyway – as I said in the post, God's origiinal intent for relationships had nothing to do with the context of what we know of as marriage today. But, you know, it's only my thoughts.And Mallory – it's totally relevant and you're dead on!!! :)

  • Guido

    I told folks I don’t like gay magazines, because they are sexualized with club adds and other stuff. I then added, I don’t like my hot wings sexualized either so I don’t go to Hooters.

  • Diana

    That’s a great post. My husband and I had a good talk last night about the world’s standards of normalcy and healthy versus God’s standards. We’re so inundated with the world’s standards that even if we are able to achieve right thinking in one area, we realize we have unhealthy thinking in another. Plus, sometimes we KNOW in our head what God’s standard is, but unconsciously slip back into the world’s thinking. I guess the best solution I can think of is that if we are surrounded by the world’s way of thinking whether we want to be or not, we must choose to inundate ourselves with God’s truth by spending time with Him and staying away from the shows, movies, books, etc that can warp our thinking.


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