January 16, 2021

We Interrupt This Religion To Recognize….All The Ugl….Unattra…..Uh, “Ordinary” Christians

I don’t really care for Susan Boyle’s voice. But I’m very interested in her looks.

I’ve always had a thing about ugly rock stars. Tom Petty. Bob Dylan. That guy in The Cars. The drummer in Cheap Trick. Willie Nelson. Ugly men. Seriously ugly.

Do you remember Dave Roever, the preacher who had most of his face blown off in Vietnam? I loved watching that guy work an audience.

One of my fellow staff members had a horrific gun accident years ago, and is seriously damaged. Watching students and staff encounter him for the first time is always interesting. He has a great sense of humor about it all that cracks me up, and I truly am in awe of his contentment in Jesus.

And let me get in here. I’m an ugly guy. You have to put a pork chop around my neck for the dog to come to me. I look like Johnny Bench if he’s spent his entire life in a buffet.

I can’t use the “u” word about women, but if I could, Susan Boyle would be a candidate, especially in her original, pre-makeover condition. (Courtney Love. Madonna. You know.)

Appalachia has a lot of ugly people. We produce a bumper crop of them, and you’ll find plenty of them in church, in Gospel singing groups and on local Christian TV. They’re ugly and unashamed. They aren’t here to sell their looks, but to testify about their Lord.

Southeastern Kentucky hasn’t yet heard the axiom that most of evangelicalism lives by: Keep the beautiful people up front and the ugly people out of sight.

Good looking hunky preacher boys. Gorgeous- and nicely presented- babe-ettes on those worship teams. Authors, speakers, teachers: good lookin’ and keep ’em looking better all the time. (Thank God for modern enhancements of the human body. Amen?)

Every see an ad for an evangelical church? Any Tom Pettys or Susan Boyles on that commercial?

Church web site? Oh my. Don’t use your own people. Use professional models. I want my senior adults to look like the happy consumers of various enhancement products. Smile Bob! Your hair may be gray, but the rest of you is 25.

Get us some cute kids. And Hollywood idol youth groupies. Get that worship leader who looks like Ryan Seacrest, and make sure the pastor’s wife is as hot as Victoria Osteen.

And Contemporary Christian Music? Susan Boyle types….your phone is NOT ringing.

No, evangelicalism may not come out and say it, but God really does seem to prefer his people looking good. I’m sure someone in Tulsa has a DVD series about this.

Fat people- you’re gluttons and in rebellion. You’re a bad witness because your sins are hanging over your belt.

Old and worn out. Get thee to a nursing home service.

Just ugly. Homely? Not much to look at? In need of several makeovers? Poorly dressed? Hair not good? Unkempt and a bit scuffed up? We’re glad for you to have a seat, tithe and applaud. Otherwise, stay out of range of the television camera.

I like churches with ugly people. I may not like much about Appalachian religion, but I like the fact that if Susan Boyle showed up, she could march to the front and sing, testify and even go on TV to tell what the Lord had done for her. If the Lord left her homely, it wouldn’t descredit her a bit.

We’re pathetic on this score. We’ve got Jesus building a church of the buff and the buffed; the tanned (at what an hourly rate?) and the fit; the slim, the well dressed, the vain, the hot, the sexy and the extremely attractive.

The ugly people are down at the inner city Pentecostal church. You might want to go there.

Yes, you might.


  1. iMonk:

    I live on the Mississippi Gulf Coast in what I would describe as an urban area, although the city itself is only about 26,000 or so.

    I grew up in a major city in the middle of South Louisiana Cajun country.

    Taking stats about the acceptance of facially deformed people in churches? :O)

  2. I feel we must make a distinction here between two different genres –

    Church Worship is about enhancing the worship experience with God – what you look like should not matter because it matters not to the one who is getting the attention – (i.e God) – for that matter, skill should weigh a little less then devotion to the task but I digress.

    CCM is a business – it is marketed, targeted, and prepackaged for human consumption, and in that regard, you are going to see it and the participants treated as a commodity where looks are important. It’s in Nashville, and that’s the way the town is, and the labels that generally own the CCM labels are usually owned be Secular record companies who see the music as a niche like Americana, Hip-hop, and Top 40.

    I used to play in CCM bands and work at CCM radio stations – that’s just business, folks – and it never changes, whether secular or Christian. That is how business operates.


  3. I attend church in Hollywood, California.(The center of the universe for vanity, if you will.) Ironically, I attend, probably the only church in all of LA where there are no “babes”. But I’ll tell you the truth, I couldn’t walk away from my church if I tried becuase the love of God is there. It’s the only church I’ve ever been to, where I feel like I am part of the family.
    If I ever get married to someone from my church, you can be rest assured that it will be because of love not looks, and I consider myself a 7 on a scale of one-to-ten.

  4. I, too, thank God for small Appalachian churches and inner-city ministries that look beyond the surface. We have one member with spina bifida (born with a hole at the base of her spine) who is wheelchair bound; her legs are very stunted. And we have a young couple whose first child has Pfeiffer’s syndrome, a cranio-facial disorder. Her little skull grows into a tower shape and her eye sockets are very shallow; the doctors have stitched her eyelids partially shut to keep her eyeballs from protruding; she has already undergone two major reconstructive surgeries and is facing a third. She also has a tracheotemy, which must be suctioned frequently–and this little girl is the joy of our church. None of our members are going to win any beauty contests, especially me, but we are beautiful in each other’s eyes.

  5. I had several thoughts on this matter. But the main thing that caught my attention was your comment about obese people. I am a worship leader and I try my best to make sure that the people on stage are not living in sin in any way, we are in front of the congregation and an example to them. If gluttony is a sin (which I think the Bible is clear on), then should I not treat that like the other sins that keep people out of the praise band? Or should I ignore the sin, and the obese people that it effects and start letting any person living in sin into the praise band.

    As a praise band we have not kicked anyone out because of their weight (we have 2 people that would fit into this category, and possibly 3 if I fit into the category), and I do not have any plans to do so. But as I think about this issue, as well as the church disciple issues you have written about recently, I wonder if we should be doing more to help these people get out of this life of sin, rather than praising them because they don’t fit a specific stereotype that we are getting tired of.

  6. “I am a worship leader and I try my best to make sure that the people on stage are not living in sin in any way”

    Patrick, this sentence bothers me profoundly. My initial response is, “Have you excused yourself, then?” The judgment and control evident in it are troubling. As the Man Himself said, only the sick need a doctor.

  7. Patrick:

    1) Why do you assume obese people are gluttons? I’m overweight, and I’m not a glutton. I’m not active enough. Many overweight people eat too much. Others have complex metabolical and nutritional issues. Women have different weight issues than men.

    2) In The Screwtape Letters, CS Lewis makes the point that gluttony is the insistence on gratifying the senses and has little to do with excess. It can be just as much a manifestation of control, so the skinny person who insists their salad be perfect and terrorizes the restaurant staff is a glutton by Lewis’s measurement.

    3) What’s the break point for being too big? I have girls at my school who weigh 120 and believe they are overwieight. Where does the “too thin” component of this come in?

    4) Where is the weight issue per se addressed in scripture?

    5) If you are on the right track, you’ve just emptied the pulpits of 90% of the Baptist Churches I know!

    6) Can a compulsive concern for personal appearance be a sin?



  8. I’m seconding iMonk that gluttony as a sin should be handled extremely lightly, if at all.

    St.Thomas Aquinas defines gluttony as excessive indulgence in food and drink and gives five ways such excess may occur: “too soon, too expensively, too much, too eagerly, too daintily.” CS Lewis says much the same thing in his Mere Christianity.

    St.John of the Cross also talks about a spiritual glutton, someone who is constantly seeking new religious experiences and more intense sensations. How many “praise bands” are guilty of this?

  9. David Crionix says

    Great post and comments by everyone. As a 44-year old whose youthful looks are fading a bit later than they perhaps should have (I still get pegged for early 30’s and when tanned, shaved and rested even younger), I’m currently in a bit of crisis– for that which I took for granted and essentially was meaningless can no longer be a refuge. How many times did I drag myself to the gym, afraid what might happen if I lost my physique and how many times did I fantasize about dragging a blade across my face, thinking that my looks were more of a curse than a blessing. So now I move closer to looking average— and realize there always was only One Refuge and it wasn’t in my public personal, intellect or accomplishments. It was the Rose of Sharon, the One whose Beauty was in the pain He experienced, the rejection He endured and in the glory He gives to us all, beauty queen or otherwise.

  10. krusty the clown says

    that worship leader guy just underscored how sick our North American Christian worldview is. lay off the donuts and you can play in the worship band? oh please.
    Worship leader — “hey Jesus, aren’t you proud of me for weeding out the fat people in the P&W band!”
    Jesus — “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”
    Are you kidding me?
    And the dude that said there’s no difference between worship music and CCM? (the latter is “just” business).. I can only imagine how pi$$ed off Keith Green must be…

Speak Your Mind