My last post promised theological reflections on the article, “Are you too Good Looking to Get Sick?” This piece bothered me and I suspect that it bothered you as well if you read it. In summary, a study indicates that the more attractive a person is the higher their good health quotient. According to the research people considered to be very attractive are statistically shown to have better health, avoiding a host of diseases and disorders.
Why does this bother me so much? Well to put it simply: it just does not seem fair! Before I go any further and find myself accused of hypocrisy, I admit that I want to be considered an attractive 63 year old woman as much as the next woman or man but I don’t want it linked to better health. Again, it just doesn’t seem fair but then who said life was fair? Right? I mean why do I get cancer and somebody else doesn’t? Is it because I’m not attractive enough? Why am I being treated with stage 3 breast cancer and the woman sitting next to me has stage 4 (metastatic cancer). That doesn’t seem fair to her, does it? Who knows? Maybe it’s because I have a small nose and she doesn’t (another positive physical characteristic listed in the article). Wait a minute, I don’t have a small nose. In fact, when I was 13 years old I tried going to bed with a clothes pin on my nose to stop it from growing any further. It hurt too much so I didn’t follow through. Maybe if I had followed through I wouldn’t have gotten cancer at 62. I know that these musings are degenerating into absurdities but some scientific research topics can sometimes be “crazy making”. They can tempt you into believing that it all comes down to whether or not you dodged a bad gene bullet or got more than your share of good genes in the celestial line-up. As it turns out Life appears not to operate like a functional family full of siblings; each one born into the belief that they have an inherent right to be treated equally.
First, the Gospel of Christ actually begins with an understanding that life is not fair. The world is damaged and people are damaged goods; that is why we need a Savior. Everything is out of kilter not “just our face symmetry” (another one of those hallmarks of attractiveness leading to better health). And there is a myriad of ways that that damage is reflected in our DNA, environment, intelligence, upbringing, life choices etc. etc. We are not wired to be perfect. The Genesis account of our creation assumes our predisposition to mess things up, even though it was not God’s intent in making us that way.
Second, read the Gospels in the New Testament and you quickly meet a Jesus who has a preference for the poor, marginalized, vulnerable, abused and sick. He says that he “came for the sick, not the well” which it turns out to be all of us in one way or another. Many would disagree with such a grim assessment of human nature but that is how I read the Gospels and the experience of history and the present realities of human affairs.
Third, there is no mention by the gospel writers of Jesus’ physical appearance in spite of the fact that we have had a feast for the eyes for centuries of a beautiful Jesus who is tall, Nordic, symmetrical, with eyes big and blue as the sky. (Thankfully, in recent decades we have had art and media depictions of Jesus with Middle Eastern good looks- not anymore helpful- but at least less racially biased.) So, why no mention of Jesus’ appearance in the Gospels or the Epistles of the NT? There is a lot of speculation. I’ll weigh in on this : it is irrelevant and a distraction to the gospel message. God in Christ has come to be with us, all of us. And maybe those in the world who don’t have good health, good looks or good standing and prosperity are better positioned to the kind of humility that brings souls to the fact that they are in desperate need of the Jesus who says,
“I am the bread of life” (the one who wants to feed the emptiness in souls)
“I am the Good Shepherd” who is willing to leave the flock to look for the one lost sheep. The one who is always with us through whatever circumstances we encounter.
“I am the light of the world” whose light exposes the darkness around us and within us and then shines hope and forgiveness, revealing the way back home to Himself.
The Gospel of John is the place in the New Testament that Jesus pronounces the “I am” statements like the three mentioned above. There are others. At different times in my life at least one of the “I am” statements have met a need; each one profound, personal, hopeful and able to penetrate the walls of resistance to His love, healing and grace. Not always but enough over the years to build a relationship of trust that is not dependent on beauty, health, admiration or even fairness.
Comic postscript: My husband, David, wonders when there is going to be a study on the health of people like himself who think they are good looking but really are not; but then again that would have to be a study that would take in a lot of the world’s male population. Ah, if we women could only have the confidence of boys!