It is a new year. That means that we have just had the Miss America Pageant™ and will soon be celebrating the results of a more ancient beauty pageant. The holiday of Purim falls on February 28 in 2010, and celebrates the salvation of the Jewish people from Persian oppression. That salvation was brought about, in part, through a woman named Hadassah (commonly called Esther), who was in a position to save her people because she had participated in a beauty pageant.
King Ahasuerus had demoted his former head wife for insubordination. Now, it is important that a king’s head wife not be ugly. She has to deal with heads of state, and the king doesn’t want them to think he is a loser. After all, look what problems Henry VIII had with horse-faced Anne of Cleves. (That marriage, never consummated, lasted three days over seven months, but at least she survived alive.) So Ahasuerus ordered all beautiful, eligible young women to participate in his contest to find a new head wife (not to be confused with a headmistress). Although of Jewish descent, Esther joined in the festivities. The Jews have long objected to such displays of physical attributes, and they were also less than the favored people of the empire. Without revealing her lineage, she participated in the beauty contest, and won.
After Hxaxmxaxn (the x’s are my way of making printed noise to drown out his name) got the king to decree the genocide of all the Jews in his domain (which was most of the Jews in the world), Esther was in a position to save her people. This is when Uncle Mordechai delivered the famous line, “Who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esth 4:14) He recognized that she may have won the beauty contest solely so she could be in that position at that time. She used her position to alter the decree.
Some people tend to emphasize the potential danger of her position. In point of fact, her beauty minimized that danger. In fact, her beauty helped her to seduce her enemy into a compromising position. The salvation that resulted from this whole situation led to the annual celebration known as Purim.
There are many people who object to beauty pageants, and sometimes for very good reasons. They objectify women. They are so competitive that they cause people to act in a variety of unkind ways. They even affect politics. (It is said that one of the main reasons Puerto Rico keeps voting down statehood in the United States is that they would lose their solo representation in the Miss Universe Pageant™.) Nevertheless, women of God have participated in these pageants with positive results. They have been positive role models to others in the pageant industry, sometimes leading them to faith in God. As seen last year, they have also been able to use the pageant as a platform for speaking out for the truth, even when they might lose the pageant by so doing.
Beauty pageants in the Bible have led to some amazing winners, such as Daniel and Esther. (Yes, the Bible has beauty pageants for men, too.) They have also had some surprising winners (David was the last choice of one of the judges in the King of Israel Pageant). One thing that can be said about them. They have afforded people of God opportunities they might not otherwise have had. The pageants have put people in various positions “for such a time as this.”