One of the central themes of holistic body theology is cultural discernment. Our culture has many valuable gifts to bestow, but there are also many lies and harmful beliefs perpetuated. That’s why media literacy is so important. We have to recognize the messages around us and decide for ourselves whether we will accept them as truth or not.
But before we can even develop that discernment, we have to first know who we are. If our identity is not sure, then we are so much more easily swayed by others’ attempts to tell us who we are or who we should be. As Christians, we identify as children of God. The foundation of our identity is built on Jesus, the incarnate divine being, perfectly holy and fully flesh.
Holistic body theology, then, is about realizing our embodied holiness in our everyday lives. This is hard enough for those of us who live out our lives in quiet and relative obscurity. How much greater the struggle for secure identity and wise discernment among the many messages of our culture when in the unique opportunity to create those messages for ourselves.
I don’t usually engage in ongoing conversations about the latest thing in popular culture, but Sinead O’Connor’s open letter to Miley Cyrus carries too important a message to worry about getting caught up in current debate. Regardless of the various opinions floating around about Ms. Cyrus’ motivations, etc., Ms. O’Connor’s effort still gets kudos from HBTB for being willing to speak hard truths about the reality of sexual exploitation of women working in the music industry.
Here are some highlights from her letter:
[…]Nothing but harm will come in the long run, from allowing yourself to be exploited, and it is absolutely NOT in ANY way an empowerment of yourself or any other young women, for you to send across the message that you are to be valued (even by you) more for your sexual appeal than your obvious talent[….]
I’m suggesting you don’t care for yourself. That has to change. You ought be protected as a precious young lady by anyone in your employ and anyone around you, including you. This is a dangerous world. We don’t encourage our daughters to walk around naked in it because it makes them prey for animals and less than animals, a distressing majority of whom work in the music industry and it’s associated media.
You are worth more than your body or your sexual appeal. The world of showbiz doesn’t see things that way, they like things to be seen the other way, whether they are magazines who want you on their cover, or whatever … Don’t be under any illusions … ALL of them want you because they’re making money off your youth and your beauty…
Real empowerment of yourself as a woman would be to in future refuse to exploit your body or your sexuality in order for men to make money from you[….] And its sending dangerous signals to other young women. Please in future say no when you are asked to prostitute yourself[….]
Whether we like it or not, us females in the industry are role models and as such we have to be extremely careful what messages we send to other women. The message you keep sending is that its somehow cool to be prostituted … its so not cool Miley … its dangerous. Women are to be valued for so much more than their sexuality. We aren’t merely objects of desire. I would be encouraging you to send healthier messages to your peers … that they and you are worth more than what is currently going on in your career[….]
The value of Ms. O’Connor’s open letter is that her message is for more than just Miley Cyrus and other women in the music industry. It is also a message for those relative-obscurity-living-in people like you and I. We have a responsibility to engage wisely in the world around us. When we buy magazines or watch videos on Youtube or tune into entertainment news, we are telling the media and the world what we are interested in. “Sex sells” is a well-known and proven marketing adage for a reason. Sex sells because people buy it.
So, my dear lovely readers, here is my open letter to you:
Know who you are. Make choices that reflect your identity and honor your worth. Live a life that sells what is truly worth buying. Live a life worthy of the precious, beautiful, unique, beloved child of God that you are.
You, dear readers, are worth more than your body. You are worth more than your sexual appeal. You are too valuable just because of the simple fact that you are a human being on this earth to believe anything less about yourself or about any other human being on this earth. You are worth more than the low, base messages in the media. You and I, and Ms. Cyrus and Ms. O’Connor, and every other person deserve better. We all deserve to be known and honored and valued and loved for our whole selves — mind, body, and spirit.
Let’s sell that for a change.