I’m guessing you’ve seen the duck-face? Urban Dictionary defines it as, “The face made if you push your lips together in a combination of a pout and a pucker, giving the impression you have larger cheekbones and bigger lips.” It’s such a common choice of facial expression for social media selfies that it was featured in a Super Bowl ad for a website building tool. The ad personified all kinds of scary online memes, one of which was the duck-face, represented by a cluster of attractive women with freaky big lips.
It’s a little disturbing to think that young women feel the need to contort their faces to fit the big-lipped, high cheek-boned stereotype. But we’re not going to do cultural criticism on beauty norms here. Stick with me.
As my teenage daughter flipped through her favorite selfies, I was happy to notice a distinct lack of duck-face poses. Instead, every pose was more of what could only be called a derp-face. (She calls this activity “facing”and no slumber party is complete without it.) There seems to be a trend among young women to see how hideous they can be, how many chins they can create, how much they can look like the Ermahgerd meme girl. (Google “pretty girl ugly face” to find all kinds of collections of girls trying out their “facing” skills. Or just go here.) If you’re still in doubt that this is a “thing”note that actress, Jennifer Lawrence has an entire blog devoted to the appreciation of her various facial expressions.
I may be reading too much into selfies, but I’m thinking this has some relevance for ministry. Duck-face represents a conformity to one ideal. The highest ideal is to be attractive and there is one way to do that—pouty lips and chiseled cheek bones. On the other hand, derp-face scrunches its nose at duck-face and says, “Attractive is okay. But I’d rather be fun. I’d rather be interesting, maybe even quirky.”
It seems to me that the Church has a serious case of duck-face. We have a narrow ideal and we’re all working to reach it somehow (sometimes contorting our natural features in order to do so). It affects how we shape our sermons and buildings and websites. It may even affect how we, as leaders, dress and talk. Without even naming it, we have in mind an ultimate, and we try to squeeze ourselves into it, in the process missing some strengths that may come more naturally.
But maybe “interesting” is more attractional than “attractive” is. Maybe “unique” or “quirky” is more appealing than “perfect” can be. Of course we want to be professional. But sometimes “professional” can mean doing whatever it takes to disguise the fact that something was made by a human being. What if we allowed our churches to look like they were created by human beings? What if we let our personality show through? What could it mean for how we dress? How we word our publicity? What would our teaching look like? Would it be okay to be funny, quirky, honest? We can put on our best impersonation of ideal church or we can be ourselves. And as we express our more interesting side, we may draw in some very interesting human beings.
Photo (Flickr CC) by Daniel Rothamel