It’s not every day that you hear a sermon where the minister brings up the topic of underwear. That’s right… underwear. To be open and honest I myself have not broached the subject either.
Sure I have a heard a joke or two around the topic but never a frank, in depth discussion about it. If you were to search the Internet for a video of a minister railing against the ills of the world I’m sure underwear would be there but it would be lumped in with alcohol and some political rant not fit for the pulpit. Are there some subjects that the church is afraid to speak to or even unwilling to face head on? I am not speaking about those so called “hot topic” issues that are flooding the airwaves or social media but topics like body image or the sexualization of everything.
I asked parents about their understanding of how the church is speaking the issues that are facing if not plaguing teens and tweens. Many of them stated that the church is good about promoting good teachings of morality and civility but others stated that the church was not doing a good enough job in the realm of body image.
Body image is not just something saved for a random middle school church school lesson; the issue of body image is something that is being forced upon us each and every day and we as the body of Christ do not have a quality answer in response.
The Academy of Pediatrics states that every year adolescents are bombarded with 40,000 images on TV alone. Everywhere we look there is an advertisement waiting…. billboards, city buses, mall kiosks and even mobile applications. Through this medium marketers are able to shape and formulate an understanding of the ideal, of perfection with great ease. Computer manipulation with programs like Photoshop are able to take ordinary pictures and make them look unrecognizable. Through this process a standard is being set for men and women of all ages; women are to have flawless skin and be a size 2, men are to be muscle bound and enjoy hunting and fast cars. What is a young girl or young boy to do if she or he doesn't want to be in that mold? The struggle of adolescence is hard enough with hormones, changing bodies and being stuck between a kid and an adult. Why are we adding to this problem with accepting and even promoting stereotypes and body images that are attainable for 99.99% of the human population? Surely if God is able to be the God of all people, then why are we all trying to look the same?
I was thrown into this world when in March 2013 I composed an open letter to Victoria’s Secret stating that I thought their marketing practices were aiming toward a younger demographic. After posting it to my blog (evandolive.com) it went viral to the tune of nearly 4 million views in a week and a half. People emailed me and told me that they too were tired of the in your face sexuality and distortion of the human body. They were ready for a change and so am I.
Throughout Christian history followers of Christ and theologians have all tried to understand, quantify, qualify and articulate with precision and clarity the relationship between humanity and God. We look throughout the Biblical record to find instances of God and humanity co-mingling. In Genesis 2 we find that God is intimately connected with humanity, forming the earth and breathing into, walking around the Garden, interaction with the male and female.
Has the notion of the interconnectedness of God and the image of God been lost? In a sea of applications and advertisements have been sold a product that does not match the understanding of humanity that God has set out for us? We have been told have we are created in the image of God. It has been slapped on bumper stickers and t-shirts and for some has become a rote phrase there to pacify us during times of sadness and despair.
The image of God is not something that we can take for granted; it's a deeply theological and profound thing to say that we as a human are molded, formed, created and shaped in the image of God. This changed everything! Everything about our lives, our self-esteem, our notion of God changes we accept and believe that fact that God loved and cares for you so much and God made you just the way you are.
The church and followers of Christ are at a cross road in the 21st century; we know that images and marketing are in your face and distort the human form, but the answer the church has given lately is silence. This cannot be the case any longer; the church must reclaim our imperfections not as items that go against a social construct but something that makes you who you were created to be. You are beautiful, wonderful child of God created in the same of God.
May we be able to proclaim boldly and proudly that we are fearfully and wonderfully made.
Evan M. Dolive is an ordained minister in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and Associate Minister of Family Life at First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Longview, Texas. He earned his M.Div. from Lexington Theological Seminary. Dolive has appeared on Headline News, Huffington Post Live, and CNN. In 2013, People.com named him one of the "top five coolest dads" on the Internet. Dolive is married to his high school sweetheart and has three children.
To order his book, it is available through Pilgrim's Press.