Response to Obsessed with Beauty

(11) Coffee.jpg

I’m tired of hearing Christians rag on Instagram and social media.

A reminder: people have the right to control how much stewardship they exercise over their technology.

An observation: your cynicism, which you disguise as critical insight, is misdirected and unfruitful.

A side note: I promise this article is not actually on technology and social media. Bear with me. I also apologize for all the times I use the word, “beauty.”

An article was published in the last Bagpipe, entitled, “Obsessed with Beauty,” in which the author dealt with the “apparent overwhelming necessity” to feel and wonder at beautiful things. While I do not deny that this pressure exists, I think a distinction must be made between sentimentality and beauty itself. From what I can understand, frustrations arise from forced sentimentality and excessive emotion, especially in the context of social media. A problem occurs when your disillusionment with sentimentality leads to a cynical view of beauty. This is where I take issue because, as Christians, we should never tire of beauty, taking the time to wonder at all that stems from the Creator.

And yet I am aware that everyone experiences beauty differently. Beauty is kaleidoscopic, broken in many ways, but allowing of individuals to appreciate distinctive facets. Some of my close friends are sentimentalists when it comes to their experience of beauty, and I honestly wish I could feel the way they do. But I don’t think it is fair to them, or to beauty, to judge their behavior as cheapened or a “misdirected philosophy.”

So what’s the real issue with posting a picture of steam from your coffee cup? Maybe it’s because it was uploaded by your attention seeking friend, April, and you know she just cares about how many likes she gets. Okay, so that’s annoying, but have you actually just stared at the steam rising from a mug of good coffee? You can’t deny the beauty there. My point is, humans are fallen and they will get in the way of real beauty, so we must exercise grace.

Like almost everything that exists, there is the danger that beauty could be idolized above the Creator. But an almost equal danger exists in becoming cynical towards it. The moment a believer ceases to search for beauty in life is the moment she gives up on hope and sees the world without reverence. Gerard Manley Hopkins says, “The world is charged with the grandeur of God,” so I don’t think I can afford to worry about whether I appear childish in my delight of the things I find beautiful.         

In his book, Beauty, Roger Scruton writes that, “There is a desire to eliminate beauty, to rub it out.” Culture has a general mistrust of anything beautiful and of anyone who admires it too loudly; people are suspicious that it is inauthentic and clichéd. I couldn’t really tell you why ripping into beauty is a current and appealing trend, maybe because Christians fear that too much emphasis on beauty will make you forget your depravity. If anything, I think beauty points us to our brokenness. And so often, our brokenness is beautiful. How can we look in the face of tragedy and refuse to find the redemption? Have hope: if all beauty stems from the true Creator, then it won’t burn in the end because God is making all things new and reconciling them to Him.

A concluding thought: fight the inclination to trivialize beauty and, yes, post pictures of coffee on Instagram.