[su_note note_color=”#d5d5d5″ text_color=”#91201f”]The following is the Letter from the Editor for Volume 4, Issue 5 of Christ and Pop Culture Magazine: “Body Wars.” You can subscribe to Christ and Pop Culture Magazine by becoming a member and you’ll receive a host of other benefits as well.[/su_note]

Few would contest that the human body is a marvel in the way it functions and operates. But the wonder is about more than anatomy. This is about one-of-a-kind physical design. Every aspect of our physical appearance is unique—height, shape, bone structure, hair color, lips, nose, hands, feet, fingerprints, teeth—all these and more add up to a person unlike any other. C. S. Lewis said it best in The Weight of Glory, “There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal.”

Feeling ordinary, however, is quite common. We look at ourselves in the mirror and see all that we don’t appreciate about our looks. We are too muscular or too lean, too tall or too short, too hairy or too bald. I know women who hate their ankles, knees, thighs, hips, stomachs, breasts, necks, lips, and ears. Once we’ve picked something to hate, we fixate on it, and that ugly part dictates how we feel about ourselves as a whole. Never mind that there are no ordinary people, that we are not mere mortals, that we are amazing creatures. We don’t believe it.

Well, perhaps we believe it in theory. But in practice? We want what our society has told us is lovely. This issue of Christ and Pop Culture Magazine looks at those norms and how they influence us all. Charlotte Donlon’s feature, “Ballet, Barbie, and My Body,” speaks to our obsession with being thin:

“The messages our culture and media communicate to me are just as loud. According to cultural preferences, I’m way off the mark. Thin is beautiful. Fat is ugly. Thin equals success. Fat equals failure. . .I don’t think there’s a different, better version of myself buried beneath my fat who’s waiting to escape and live a prefect life. My true self is my true self. I do believe I would be happier if I were thinner, though. But, when I was 50 pounds lighter, I also thought I would be happier if I were thinner. Will I ever be thin enough?”

Equating thin with happy isn’t the only fallacy we find ourselves believing. We use our bodies in lots of unhealthy ways in our pursuit of happiness. Some resort to bodily self-harm. In “Scars That Bleed and Wounds That Heal,” Jennifer Ditlevson Haglund shares her lifelong struggle with cutting and how the infliction of pain to her body brought relief—quickly followed by guilt and shame. Haglund explains a new way she’s come to frame the conflict with (and within) her body:

“Christ’s suffering on the cross accomplished everything I ever hoped to achieve in drawing my own blood. If I wanted to punish myself for mistakes I made, I didn’t need to. Christ’s blood, not mine, is my judgment. If I cut to avoid being vulnerable, I contradicted the only worthy blood shed: Christ’s wounds were the ultimate abnegation.”

Knowing that God’s grace abounds toward our weakened frames is key. And His grace allowed Amanda Martinez Beck to explore the possibility that there could be a time and place for purposefully going under the knife via elective cosmetic surgery. In “Christians and Plastic Surgery,” Martinez Beck admits:

“For a long time I considered the act of having cosmetic plastic surgery to be sinful. Mind you—if someone had experienced an injury or had a condition that rendered parts of their body scarred or deformed, it was absolutely valid to have reconstructive plastic surgery. But voluntary cosmetic plastic surgery? It was for people (mostly women) who didn’t believe that ‘God doesn’t make mistakes,’ for those who failed to try hard enough to believe that they were ‘fearfully and wonderfully made.’ Plastic surgeons were complicit in their sin, cooperating with the sinful desire of people who wanted to change how God had made them.”

Martinez Beck helps us process the complexities of this life we live in these bodies that are miraculous yet frail. Learning how to live well in the frame we were born with—or the one life has since handed us—isn’t easy.

We trust all the articles in this issue will help you live well in the skin you’re in. Perhaps you will even find treasure in these jars of clay, these vessels deemed common by society but are truly glorious.

—Erin Straza

Illustration courtesy of Seth T. Hahne. Check out Seth’s graphic novel and comic review site, Good Ok Bad.