Upon reading the recent reporting of a beauty pageant being held at City Harvest Church's (CHC) annual Emerge! (youth) Conference, I'm led to ask, "Is beauty pageant compatible with Christ, particularly within Christ Body, that is the Church?"
I'm all out for promoting aesthetics within churches and among Christians, but I have always referring to the architecture, the message, the public appeal of the Church and individual Christians. I have never thought about the physical appeal of the members of the Church. So yes I agree that beauty must not be overlooked in churches, yet when it comes to the individual Christians' adornment, I have yet to consider. Hence CHC's event is intriguing.
Since my approach to aesthetics is rooted within the purpose of such beauty (for eg. meaningful architecture that points to the reality of life and the transcendence reality of God) and our vocation to beautify reality, I think it does help to ask what values is CHC promoting through Beauty Pageant?
The only value that I can come up with is to present ourselves as decent people. Decent as contra to sloppiness, not ugliness. Hence we ought to beautify ourselves not to attract or seduce people, but making ourselves approachable by others. Here I'm indirectly drawing from St. Peter.
What St. Peter said about beauty?
In 1 Peter 3, St. Peter was writing to "wives", sharing some insights on how to be good wives. He remarked, "Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight."
St. Peter was trying to cultivate values that transcend the physical appeal. He emphasized the "inner" beauty rather than the "outer". Eugene Peterson paraphrased it well, "What matters is not your outer appearance—the styling of your hair, the jewelry you wear, the cut of your clothes—but your inner disposition. Cultivate inner beauty, the gentle, gracious kind that God delights in."
And it is interesting to place St. Peter's remark alongside that of CHC's pastor's judging criteria (included physique, confidence, eloquence and overall appearance). We find that St. Peter's criteria do not get along with those of the pageant. Both differ in their emphasis on beauty. St. Peter directs us to the inner beauty while CHC the outer.
Isn't it puzzling to see a CHC's event that does not conform with its own Statement of Faith that says, "The scriptures are infallible, inerrant and the sole and final authority for all matters of faith and conduct."