Question: Should an Orthodox man, who wants to lead a Gospel-driven life, goes to church and participates in the Sacraments, watch beauty pageants?
Answer by Fr. Sergius Timoshenkov: It depends on the reasons. If I watch a beauty pageant to see beauty – and ideally that should be the case – I don’t find anything reprehensible about it, theoretically speaking. Let’s recall the idea expressed by Saint Augustine: Female beauty is important because when this world comes to an end and all people are resurrected and gather in front of God, each female will shine with amazing beauty – such beauty that the rest of the humankind, i.e., males, will praise her Creator. If you look at a beauty pageant in this context, it is permissible. The problem is, who is capable of looking at what goes on at those contests without being aroused by passions?
Of course, we all heard a story of a saint who saw a pretty girl known for her unchaste behavior. Everyone looked at her disapprovingly and averted their gaze. The saint sighed and said, If only we cared about the beauty of our souls as much as this girls cares about her looks. He used this situation as a way to turn his thoughts back to God.
Frankly speaking, it is unlikely that we will have the same attitude to a beauty pageant. It will arouse dirty feelings in our sinful nature in any case. That is why I wouldn’t recommend even a loving Orthodox couple to watch modern beauty pageants. We have to be aware of the fact that sins related to insubordination between the sexes are fairly frequent. If one isn’t inclined to preserve inner chastity – which one can be only if one has a strong and firm faith in God – sex-related sins will devour him or her. The person who tasted that fruit will not be able to live without it in the future. It isn’t an exaggeration. It’s something I see every weekend when I hear confessions of dozens of people. Therefore, you shouldn’t go to the place where you can expect to be tempted by lust. Theoretically and ideally, it’s all about beauty – it’s like going to an orchard – but practically speaking, you’d rather not go and watch it.
I recall a fairy tale written by V. Veresayev where two artists exhibited their masterpieces to the public. The older artist painted an ethereal princess from a strange land. When the public saw his picture, they all shivered as if there was a gust of cold wind on the square. People saw that her ethereal beauty had nothing to do with their loved ones. Men turned away from their beloved women, and the women realized that they couldn’t compete with the pretty lady portrayed on the canvas. The other artist portrayed his wife washing the dishes and wearing a pajamas. People saw that she was like their own wives, and it felt like a warm breeze. Beauty is inside.
The incentives of the organizers are also worth considering. They may be promoting beauty products and brands of clothes. The beauty contests may motivate people to buy more wellness and beauty products and other attributes of physical beauty.
Nowadays, beauty pageants take after ancient pagan cult of the body. If we examine the images that mass media disseminate, they seem hardly, if ever, achievable for most people. We see perfectly photoshopped human beings looking at us from all billboards. That is possibly the reason why we are so keen on external beauty disconnected from inner beauty. It may be the reason we have so many divorces.
Translated by The Catalog of Good Deeds