By Joe McKeever
“…but let it be the hidden beauty of the heart…” (I Peter 3:4)
My wife said, “How did you get on this kick about beauty pageants?”
I had been in revival in the lovely little town of Eutaw, Alabama, all week and had brought my program on “lessons on self-esteem from drawing 100,000 people” to three schools, a private academy, the local high school, and two combined middle schools. And after telling the kids that the first lesson I learned from sketching people of all ages for nearly a lifetime is that “everyone is beautiful in some way,” I point out that “each one is different, and therefore, comparing one with another is pointless and can be destructive.”
That’s when I will often remark as an aside that “this is why beauty pageants can be so foolish.”
Suppose you have 20 young ladies, all of them lovely and winners in every way. But the judges tell only one that she is the winner and send 19 home as losers. What have we done? And why have we done it? And should Christians do this?
I posted a paragraph on Facebook suggesting that such pageants might be a sin against humanity.
The comments poured in.
Most agreed, but the comments of two groups deserve mentioning.
One group of Facebook friends spoke up for pageants such as Junior Miss which has such a wholesome effect on the girls. Another told of working with young ladies in such a competition and “I found them to be the sweetest, nicest, most confident young people ever.” Each commenter felt such competition builds character and confidence and should be encouraged for certain girls.
The other group was composed of people with thinking deficiences, I would say. After my suggestion that such competition sends most of the girls home as losers, a few people suggested “then we need to end football games” and “golf tournaments.” One said, “Then, we should not have fishing contests?” I answered, “As far as we know, these contests have no effect on the self-esteem of the fish since they tend to be dead at the time.”
Sarcasm? I was not trying to put the person down, but to answer with the same logic she had used.
Whatever a Christ-follower does, he/she should be guided by certain questions and principles. “Whatever you do, in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father” (Colossians 3:17) and “Whatever you do, do your work heartily as for the Lord rather than for men” (3:23).
“Thou shall love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and soul and mind and strength,” and “Thou shall love thy neighbor as thyself” (Matthew 22:37,39).
I’m not naive.
I know full well that there are people who call themselves Christ-followers who would say their pageants meet these standards, that they have prayer before/during/after the events, and there is no conflict.
I respond, “This may be so. I’m merely raising the question. I hope you agree that’s a good thing.”
You need to hear a story told me by Robert, a pastor friend.
“I was a young pastor and had led this couple to the Lord. They were heavily into pageants, with their 3-year-old daughter being groomed for everything her mother could never be: Miss (name of state), Miss America, etc. As their pastor, I spoke to the husband privately about how this beauty pageant culture is unbiblical and harmful to his family. He reacted negatively and went straight to tell his wife. She went nuts.
“Preachers should mind their own business,’ she said. Within two weeks, however, she and the husband and one of the grandmothers were involved in a brawl at one of these pageants which their little girl had won. They were fighting, pulling hair, calling names, making threats. Later, the young dad came to me and apologized and repented. The mother never did.”
“As a pastor, I learned two things: a) I was right about the pageants, and b) the people involved have no sense of propriety, balance or eternal perspective.”
One of my Facebook friends said beauty pageants are “the insecure being judged by the insecure to represent the unqualified.”
Are we saying no good comes from these things? Absolutely not. In fact, a member of our family was able to put herself through college (and later, go on for masters and a doctorate) by the scholarships she won in the Miss Alabama contest. For her, the news was all good.
To repeat, I’m simply raising the question.
As a pastor–and that’s always my perspective–the pageant culture seems, as my friend Robert said, unbiblical and harmful to children. Perhaps–just perhaps–when the young ladies are grown and can decide for themselves, it’s a different story.
As a parent of one daughter and grandfather of six lovely young ladies who are my heart, I will say this: If someone were to assemble my girls and name one as the winner and the others as losers, I would be so angry at him. They are all winners and we do not need his cheap little loving cup on the mantelpiece to know this.
I wonder if the Lord is not angry at a lot of people for the damage they incur on the souls and psyche of these young people by their pageants.
Now, shall we get into the question of football games and fishing rodeos?
Joe McKeever is retired missions director for the New Orleans Baptist Association. Before that Mr. McKeever pastored churches in Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and North Carolina.