Truth be told, I spent a good portion of last week getting sad, concerned, and even angry. That’s what happens when you see things. What I saw last week was Kim Kardashian’s presentation of her self.. . more specifically, her presentation of her self as a posterior. But that photo shoot wasn’t just about Kim Kardashian. It was about our culture. . . our girls. . . and our boys.
In one sense, Kardashian is a product of years and years of our culture cultivating the belief that “you are what you look like. And, if you want to be valuable, then here’s the standard you need to meet.” So this week, that standard which is constantly morphing is all about the back side. Kim Kardashian’s choice to expose both her self and her beliefs is a reflection of who we are. But the millions of eyes that have and will land on Kardashian’s backside will be portals to hearts and minds – many of them very young and very impressionable – that will come to the conclusion that not only is this the way things are, but this is also the way things are supposed to be. In fact, hearts and minds beating with estrogen will seek to define themselves in the same way, and all of it will seem so. . . normal. And those hearts and minds beating with testosterone will be encouraged, once more, to look at and value a lady based on body rather than soul. These realities, I believe, are worthy of our sadness, grief, concern, and even anger.
As I blogged last week, Kardashian is not alone. If you question what this kind of stuff has done to us, go back and check out Adam Levine’s musical map and mirror that’s the music video known as “Animals.” Or, check out Pharrell’s “Hunter.” Or, Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines.” Or. . . well. . . you choose. It seems that we have become nothing but parts. . . with my parts driving lusty thoughts and aggressive behaviors towards your parts. . . and all that’s counts is that my parts are satisfied and happy. Who really cares about you and your parts?
All this came to a head for me on Saturday, as I traveled to speak to a group of mothers at the Unveiled conference in Philadelphia. They were there with their teenage daughters, most of those girls middle-school aged. The girls spent the day hearing from my friend Meghan Hutchinson and others, specifically hearing about the counter-cultural messages and realities of the Gospel that remind us that our identity, purpose, and healing are to be framed by the Gospel. Oh how badly we need to expose the cultural lies and reframe the conversation with the liberating message of finding our identity and seeing the identities of others NOT in our body parts and their functions, but in Jesus Christ. I spoke to the moms about how social media used destructively convinces us to see and treat our selves as objects and parts. Everyone there on Saturday. . . EVERYONE. . . male and female, young and old alike. . . we’re all being shaped (literally) by this foolishness.
First and foremost, we need to look deeply at our lives, our values, and our habits. Yes, we have been effected by these messages as well. It’s not just a kid thing. And, we need to make course corrections where course corrections are necessary.
Second, we need to look deeply at our culture. Kim Kardashian’s backside is not to be ignored. It’s out there and our kids are seeing it. They are swimming in a cultural soup that sends a consistent, powerful, life-shaping message that is destroying our kids. We need to know what those messages are for the simple reason that they can’t be fought unless they are known.
Third, we need to spend less time looking at pictures or curating our own image, and then re-invest that time into immersing ourselves in the Scriptures. If we are going to know the truth about our selves, we need to study the truth about our selves.
Finally, we need to push back. We need to tell our kids the truth.
I was reminded again this morning of Jean Kilbourne’s long-term commitment to helping young people understand the powerful role that marketing imagery plays in their lives. As we say here at CPYU, “Marketing doesn’t just sell product. It sells a worldview.” Kilbourne gets that. This morning I watched her TEDx talk from last May at Lafayette College here in Pennsylvania. It’s the same talk I’ve been hearing her give for years. It’s well-worth your time (see video embedded below). Be forewarned. . . the imagery is sometimes raw. In spite of that, it’s mainstream. And, while she might not share our Biblical world and life view, we do share many of the same values. Would I show this to my kids? Yes. . . for the simple reason that it’s pushing back on what the culture is constantly and consistently showing them 24/7.
Let’s pray that Kim Kardashian and the rest of us realize that identity, purpose, and value are found beneath the skin. May we hear, embrace, and heed the words of the Apostle Paul: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”