Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Advent, collagen, and the human condition

I personally knew the late Francis A. Schaeffer -- the Protestant cultural critic and Christian apologist who lived in the L'Abri community in the village of Huemoz sur Ollon in the Canton of Vaud, Switzerland. In the seventies, he and his wife, Edith, moved up to Chesieres, just beneath Villars, about a kilometer up the mountain from Huemoz, and set up their home in their chalet overlooking the Rhone valley and the Les Dents du Midi range across the valley. Once when I visited Francis there, he took me to his new office, which replaced his old one in Huemoz that had doubled as their bedroom. We talked there over tea, and part way through our visit he opened the pine-paneled door of a closet adjacent to us to show me that he had covered the reverse side of the door with hideous photographs and magazine pictures of starving and crippled children, war wounded, lepers, amputees, bloated bodies of flood casualties and massacre victims ... I felt a wave of nausea. He explained that sometimes amidst the natural beauty of these Swiss alpine surroundings, it was easy to forget the reason Christ had come, and he needed to be reminded of the reality of the human condition, the reason Christ had come.

Well, folks. It's Advent, and the world around us has already rushed headlong into commercialized Santa Time, and before the first of the twelve traditional days of Christmas is over, Christmas tree carcasses will likely litter the sidewalks outside your homes alongside trashbags full of wrapping paper and discarded boxes. So, amidst the saccharine surrealism of it all, here's a bit of rude reality to remind you of the human condition ... if you have the stomach for it.

Hold on to your stomachs and read no farther if you're amidst breakfast. You've been warned! The following comes to you from a lengthy special report in London's Guardian back in September entitled "The beauty products from the skin of executed Chinese prisoners" (Sept. 13, 2005), about a Chinese cosmetics company using skin harvested from the corpses of executed convicts to develop beauty products for sale in Europe and the U.S. Representatives of the firm told would-be customers that it is working on developing collagen for lip and wrinkle treatments. Who knows, maybe there's a market in the new blue state metrosexual male audiences packing the theaters for Brokeback Mountain. Using the skin from condemned convicts, they assured, is "traditional" and nothing to "make such a big fuss over."

Christ has died. Christ has risen. Christ will come again.

[A tip of the hat to Michael S. Rose, "The News You May Have Missed," New Oxford Review (November, 2005), p. 35.]

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