A prominent pastor and theologian spoke at length earlier this week about why God might make some people unattractive. He lumped together “ugliness” with disfigurement and disability and then went on to explain that it all comes down to sin.
Honestly, I don’t want to offer any more of his words or arguments here because they are so wrongly confident, destructively simplistic, and theologically inaccurate.
Instead, as the mother of a child with Down syndrome, and also as someone who fits conventional standards of beauty and needs to understand beauty and wonder and creation in a whole new way, I want to remind us all of a few things.
Valuable and Beautiful
Scripture and theology can be and have been used to elevate some humans above others (see our history of colonialism), but the Christian tradition also has subverted this type of simplistic understanding of who is valuable and beautiful to God and to one another.
God Didn’t Create Ugly Humans
I’m reading Brian Brock’s Wondrously Wounded right now, and he traces the history of how Christian theologians saw “anomalous” births, babies whom we now would call “disabled.” The ancient Roman practice was to leave such babies out to die of exposure. The Christians insisted not only that these children deserved care, but that they were actually “wonders” of God’s creation.
Brock goes back to Augustine and Gregory of Nazianzus, who see God’s purposeful creation in the form of every human being. Sometimes we don’t have the capacity to understand the wonder. Sometimes we use words like ugly and deformed to describe those whom God has formed with love. These designations only expose our failure of imagination and our inability to celebrate and receive the diversity of whom God has made. God didn’t create ugly humans.
Effects of Sin
The effects of sin in this world are complex and varied. Yes, sin can be the cause of injury and disability and disfigurement (think of children affected by toxic chemicals in our air or abused by parents, for instance.)
But sin also distorts our view of one another.
An Invitation to See the Wonders of Creation
In keeping with Jesus’ invitation for everyone to come to him as they are, in keeping with Jesus’ “disfiguring” wounds that remain even in his resurrected body—God invites every Christian to affirm the beauty, purpose, and worth of every one of the wonders of God’s good creation.
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Learn more with Amy Julia:
- What’s Wrong With Having Down Syndrome?
- Is Disability (or Down Syndrome) Abnormal?
- A Good and Perfect Gift: Faith, Expectations, and a Little Girl Named Penny
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