Wednesday, June 28, 2017

No Quick Fix

Things I would not have known if the media didn’t insist on telling me:

“Toymaker Mattel’s Ken dolls now come in three different body types: broad, slim and original. There are new cultural tweaks, too: An African-American Ken comes with cornrows, an Asian Ken rocks a sharp, design-director look and another version of the figure sports a man bun.”

Not quite so promoted but also available: the “broad” version, a 40-ish Ken doll that looks like a slightly better-dressed version of every dad you know, complete with flagging physique.

If they were selling these things to boys, they’d offer a couch, big-screen TV and a Denver Broncos jersey as accessories. But since they’re still primarily marketed to girls, I suppose an authentic Ken Sr. ought to come with lawnmower and a pair of garbage bags to lug to the curb on Tuesday morning. 

What Is and What Might Be

It’s not hard to figure out what’s driving this, along with other media initiatives: the suspicion that providing a mirror in which today’s young men and women can “see themselves” — toys that reflect what we commonly see around us rather than some kind of male or female ideal — could turn out to be a goldmine. A cash cow. An economic bonanza.

But when we talk about “seeing ourselves”, what we really mean is that all aspiration to be better than we are today is effectively history. What we are asking for is validation of our present status, a state of being that is easy as pie (since it’s our default) and is often not particularly desirable. The anti-“fat shaming” movement is another symptom of this mentality.

Humiliating the Obese

Now, I’m not for a moment suggesting that the calculated humiliation of the obese is somehow a Christian virtue. Let’s not start that. But what I am saying is that the Christian life is about a whole lot more than simply accepting what we are and, God forbid, celebrating it. Urk. Try as we might to squirm against the notion, the Lord Jesus did not save you and he did not save me so that we can start feeling peachy about our present character and behavior and just leave it at that.

Because some of that stuff I’m carrying around inside me has simply got to change.

Take this line from the apostle Paul: “Aim for perfect harmony.” That sounds like a lot of unnecessary work in an environment where everyone around us is telling us we can just demand that others be content with whatever we may offer them today. Best you’re gonna get, pal. Deal.

But the KJV renders the same Greek phrase, “Be perfect.” The ISV says, “Keep on growing to maturity.” Even the fast-and-loose God’s Word translation has to concede that an honest rendering of the Greek original at bare minimum demands “Make sure that you improve.”

Feelgood Panaceas and Transformation

Whatever feelgood panaceas the world is prepared to offer us, the Christian life is fundamentally about change, and about allowing ourselves to be transformed by the indwelling Spirit of God for his glory.

In short, the “broad” version of Ken does not provide acceptable shorthand for my state of being in Christ. Neither does “man-bun Ken”, “dreadlock Ken” or any other version extant.

We are called to a standard for which there is no convenient shorthand and no quick fix.

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