Spiritual girth, bust size and two inches of holiness

charm_school_measurements

Measured appeal?

The students at my particular right-wing school were measured in all sorts of ways on a regular basis. The principal or his wife (beehive hairdo!) would walk into class for a dress code check, for example, and everyone would stand. For boys, hair had to be a half-inch above their shirt collars, or something like that. For girls, skirt hemlines had to fall at least two inches below the knees. Then the wardrobe & hair check would be over, and we returned to studying our conspiracy-theory curriculum about how the United Nations was a plot to spread communism to the United States. All in a day’s education.

When the hour for Christian Charm Class rolled around, though, the Charm Marm really kicked the measuring stick up a notch. One page of my workbook includes instructions about how to accurately measure your bust, waist, hips and so on, with a chart to fill in the numbers. A handy note advises that “Bust and hips should be equal, with waist ten inches smaller. A variation of two inches is allowable.”

So … Jesus wants us to be pin-up girls?

The next page asks how we measure up spiritually, with checklists to report on our use of “spiritual vitamins” and our “healthy appetite for God’s word.” (I guess one could get a little overly voracious and end up spiritually chunky?)

The real stroke of madness comes on the page about “spiritual proportions.” Another checklist awaits the maidens under the heading, “Am I in perfect form?”

  • Is your head of moderate size? Or do you act as though you know more than others?
  • Are your shoulders broad enough to bear others’ burdens? Do you cheerfully lighten the load of those around you?
  • Are your knees limber, ready to kneel in submission?

Yes, it really says that. I swear on my holy measuring tape that I’m not making this up. We’re evidently to believe that God wants us to take our spiritual vitamins, so that our bust, waist and hips are in proper proportion. Then we’re to be sure the rest of our body is performing admirably as well: Our head mustn’t be big enough to reveal that we know more than others, our shoulders must serve the sole purpose of bearing other people’s burdens and our knees must be limber enough to show submission on a dime.

In other words, we’re supposed to look voluptuous but only speak or move when we’re humbling ourselves or helping others. It’s this kind of thinking that led the early church fathers to invent the story about Mary Magdalene being a prostitute. We’re to be as meek as Mary the mother of Jesus and as alluring as Mary the mythical hooker. Can you say “hooker with a heart of gold”? I think I need another spiritual vitamin.

Undo the Charm Marm: Whatever body you have, it’s none of the Charm Marm’s business. Besides, I’ve been told that you’re shockingly beautiful.

That aside, wouldn’t the Charm Marm also have to admit, according to her beliefs, that God seems to make bodies in quite a few shapes and sizes? And if we’re following the Bible here, didn’t Jesus say to love not only others but also yourself? Oh, and wasn’t there something about not judging? That seemed important at the time.

So let’s rethink the list about heads, shoulders and knees.

  • I’ll tell you what’s important about your head: Pay attention to your ideas, and share them. Act on them.
  • As for your shoulders, take on the responsibility of your own happiness, which will include avoiding situations with harsh measuring sticks.
  • I’m not sure what to say about your knees. Symbolism should only be taken so far. Go ahead and keep them limber, I guess, so you can keep walking after you turn 100. Take your calcium and vitamin D, too.

Instead of worrying about having proportions that will make you the next Pin-Up for Jesus, give yourself a good proportion of care. Leave the criticism, um, behind. Because believe me, two inches never mattered so little.

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3 Responses to “Spiritual girth, bust size and two inches of holiness”

  1. Emma Says:

    Hey I love this blog. I can see the time and effort put into this.. Thanks!

  2. Michael T Says:

    Is it scary to say that perhaps in another life I was a Charm Marm? Forget being Cleopatra, Alexander the Great, or some other historical figure.

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