Lk. 23:34 π 1 Pet. 3:3-4
There are times when you are confronted, from the weirdest of sources, with a slice of life, a panoramic perspective on an otherwise unviewed cross-section of the human existence. Such a confrontation occurred when I was reading the "educational page" (otherwise known as the comics) of the newspaper. In this comic strip called "Shoe," Cosmo, a fat old bird, is sitting at the diner counter talking to his waitress friend, Roz. Roz asks, "Something bothering you, Cosmo?"
"No," Cosmo replies. "Everything is bothering me. Roz, you're my friend. You can level with me. Why can't I find the right woman? I have a good heart, don't I?"
"Sure," she replies. "But it's encased in a body that looks like an avocado. And your wardrobe is from the Broderick Crawford Collection. You only have eleven mildly amusing stories, eight of which are insulting to women. And I know inmates who are on a better career path than you."
Giving a deadpan look, Cosmo says, "Thanks. I feel a lot better."
Roz closes the strip with, "Hey, what are friends for?"
Sure, this is only a comic strip designed to get a chuckle. But there is something concealed within this "innocent" comic strip that needs brought into the light and examined for what it is. And that is, namely, the warped perspective of male-female relationships that has crept into our country as a result of mis-information, little or no accurate education, and little or no adequate role models of appropriate, mature, and loving behavior.
First, is Cosmo's question, "I have a good heart, don't I?" Why do we judge ourselves by our intentions and others by their actions? Roz' list of qualifications for choosing a man has a certain amount of validity because a man is more than his intentions - his "good heart." A man's true manliness is to be measured by his actions as well as by his intentions and motives - especially in regards to the areas of responsibility in his life. When a man is not held accountable and does not make every effort to live up to the responsibilities that his actions or his situations have brought upon him, he is only a little boy emotionally and his physical age and maturity will count for little in evaluating such a man as a potential husband, friend or companion.
Second, is Roz' response. While there is a certain element of wisdom to be exercised in making a good choice of a man, Roz' list of qualifications seems to reveal a superficial understanding of life and relationships that is prevalent in our culture today. I believe there is potential to dissect this moment of life and learn a great deal from the interpersonal interplay that is occurring in this comic strip.
When we examine Roz' qualifications in this comic strip, we see that she first downgrades his physical appearance. While there is much to be said about being healthy and fit, our culture exhibits an obsession with appearance that is, baldly stated, unhealthy to the point of pushing ourselves towards extinction. If a man is not an Arnold Schwarzeneggar and if a woman is not a Heather Locklear, then there is not much potential for romance or relationship. In just a few short years, Arnold may be a victim of some muscular and mental disease and Heather, unless she spends a fortune at some doctor's office, will soon have as many wrinkles and sags as any other woman who is experiencing that dread disease called aging. We, as a culture, are obsessed with appearance and if we do not learn to look beyond the superficial and the trivial to see the eternal and the important, we will die wondering what went wrong with our lives.
Second, we see Roz comment on what Cosmo wears, comparing his clothes to an old actor who went out of popularity several decades ago. And in our culture, there are those who will dismiss you as less than human if your clothes aren't the latest design from the most popular designer of the moment. These people are so caught up in the trivial pursuit of who's wearing what that they have missed the fact that there are people who are naked or poorly clothed, starving or poorly fed, maybe even dying while they are worried about what color scheme someone else is wearing. While some people are fighting and killing or abusing each other, these people's main concern in life is the color of their clothes or their hair or the way a certain piece of jewelry fits in with the overall design of their costume for the day. See anything wrong with that picture of human existence?
Peter's instructions to the women of his day is applicable to our culture, even the men, today: "Do not let your beauty be that outward adorning of arranging the hair, of wearing gold, or of putting on fine apparel; but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible ornament of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God." ( 1 Pet. 3:3-4; top ) Again, if we do not learn to look beyond the superficial and the trivial to see the eternal and the important, we will die wondering what went wrong with our lives.
The third comment that Roz makes is, "You only have eleven mildly amusing stories, eight of which are insulting to women." There are two warped perspectives buried in this comment that we would do well to examine. First, Roz seems to believe that a man needs to be a good entertainer in order to be a good husband. And while there is a certain amount of wisdom in choosing someone who is not boring, there is, in our culture today, an emphasis and reliance upon entertainment that is as unhealthy as cancer or leukemia to a human body.
Entertainment on the scale that we see it exercised today has never before existed in human history. Even the extravagant Roman decadence that led to the eventual demise of the empire was restricted to the very rich and the very powerful. Never before has 24 hour, 7 day per week entertainment been available. And while the perversions of sex and violence have been this wicked before, there has never before been the ease of continual access to such entertainments. We as a culture have become addicted to experiencing exciting, vicarious adventures and to viewing superbly romantic, sexual relationships and no longer have any drive to live our own lives and be content with our own relationships. Fictionalized life has become the standard for existence and we are unable to comprehend why real life does not match our expectations.
The second warped perspective concealed in Roz' third comment is that most of Cosmo's stories are insulting to women. At the risk of being accused of being sexist or chauvinist, I believe that two aspects of the superficial nature of our culture are revealed.
First, there is much to be said about many women of our culture that, were we to express these things in blunt and objectively honest terms, these women would probably consider themselves insulted. There is very little to compliment the vast majority of American women on. The average American woman is emotionally immature, often unstable, or else caught up in the pursuit of self-centered careers or education to the exclusion of the pursuit of eternal goals and truly important matters of life. Of course, the same is true of the average American male - so please don't think me sexist. I say once again, if we do not learn to look beyond the superficial and the trivial to see the eternal and the important, we will die wondering what went wrong with our lives.
The second aspect of our culture's superficiality that is revealed in this comment is the thin-skinned nature we have come to possess. In days past, an insult led to a fist fight which quite often led to genuine respect and friendship. Now an insult leads to a lawsuit and an out-of-court settlement for as much money as can be picked from the deepest pocket. What we call insults today were, in times past, often honest and objective statements of fact that were pointed out to correct or change behaviors and attitudes. Now, when we are "insulted," we stick our noses in the air, turn and find as many who will take our side of the issues, and call up our lawyer to see what kind of money we might be able to get out of this mess. Perhaps our culture needs to be insulted because it is in sad shape because we refuse to turn to the one Person who could resolve our problems, Jesus Christ. We refuse to grow up into the image of Christ who, when He was insulted and spit on and humiliated and mocked, only said, "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do." ( Lk. 23:34; top )
Roz' fourth and final comment is that she knows "inmates who are on a better career path than you." Again, I see two superficial aspects of our culture behind this comment. The first contains an element of truth. One should look for someone who has potential and who will be a good provider for his wife and children. But to look for a man who is on his way up the corporate ladder is to ignore a great number of things that will later prove detrimental to any relationship. In today's corporate environment, nice guys most often finish last - or are finished off rather quickly. To climb to the top, where there is very limited space, most often requires cut-throat, back-stabbing, leap-frogging techniques that are inconsistent with the Christian nature and not very good qualifications for improving family life. Oh, there are many blessed examples of strong Christian leaders who have refused to participate in these methods and who have been raised to these leadership positions by God for His purposes, but these are unfortunately the exception and not the rule.
The second superficial aspect of our culture that I see revealed in this comment takes the sting out of Roz' remark. It is most often true that criminals and inmates often have a potentially better future than does the average working man. Criminals who go to jail are housed, fed, and educated at taxpayer expense and given early releases for "good behavior." Often when an inmate gets out of jail, he has been educated in how to do the same crime again with less likelihood of being caught. Jails have become schools that make smarter and more dangerous criminals and have lost their value as a deterrent to crime. Where some swift and retributive justice would go a long way to solving our crime problem, we continue to pamper and "rehabilitate" the criminal. Again, if we do not learn to look beyond the superficial and the trivial to see the eternal and the important, we will die wondering what went wrong with our lives.
Finally, in this comic strip I see yet another set of superficialities revealed that we would be wise to examine more carefully. Cosmo comes to Roz, his friend, and expects her to tell him the truth. That is all well and good and is a viable aspect of true friendship. We should be able to go to our friends and expect the truth. But how many times do we get treated as Cosmo did here? Roz did not dump truth on him, she dumped all her warped perspectives on him. And in the end, he thanks her, and she acts as if she has done her duty. May the Lord deliver us from such shallow friendships!
Again, I am aware that this is only a comic strip and that this does not completely represent real life. On the other hand, it is also true that our art and our humor is often a reflection of our deeper beliefs and attitudes. We would do well to utilize whatever "mirrors" present themselves so that we might better see our hidden sinful presumptions and learn to forsake them.
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