Monday, January 17, 2011

The Fat Christian. Temples Don't Have to Be Thin

Follow up on my earlier post:: Fat and Happy  (And I know I have some questions from the comments on that entry to answer. Feel free to ask more here and I'll try and do a Q and A post soon. Hopefully sooner than this appeared now that the holidays are over :) )

If you've been in church for any length of time chances are you've probably been given instructions on your body size. Perhaps a diet/weight loss group met at the church (I've even seen them promoted as Bible studies)  After all, we're suppose to honor God with our lives and our bodies - and that means being thin and "healthy," right? 

(Edited to clarify:  I've never heard a sermon on the topic of being thin. When I say "given instructions" I mean it has been used as an illustrative point, or has been mentioned (even in lighthearted tones), or statements that assume fat is sin have been made.)

As a teenagers I remember thinking in my moments of struggling with self confidence that if I was thin I could be a much better Christian - after all - if I could be pretty and popular then I could talk to more people and have more influence, right?   I remember once as a teen-turning-adult kneeling at the altar and literally crying because I just couldn't do it..I couldn't manage to get thin - and I felt like a failure as a Christian. I've heard diet and weight loss preached from the pulpit more times than I can count.

I want to start off by compiling a list of verses in the Bible that talk about Body, Health, Food, Eating, etc and look at whether they are discussing being fat or not. I've compiled these verses from both my own memory of passages that I used to support my weight-loss attempts years ago as well as verses I found by doing a google search for "verses on healthy living" or variants. A lot of people use the Bible to support the idea that a good Christian is a thin Christian. . and I think that is wrong and unsupported entirely. I know of many more non-Christians in the Fat-Activist and Health at Every Size circles than I know Christians and I find that sad.

The Bible makes no value judgments on the size/weight of people as far as I can tell (if you know of a verse, please let me know) - there are verses, as we will see, that talk about food and gluttony and honoring your body - but those don't mean "don't be fat."  And, of course, I'm going into this with the understanding that fat does not equal unhealthy. (I'll get to the more academic/scientific post about why that is one day - in the meantime feel free to check out this post by a Fat Activist. Disclaimer - it has cussing.)

I do believe that God desires for us to care for our bodies, to be good stewards of our bodies.I don't believe that being fat is anti-care - and actually believe that for many people the devotion to being thin is actually unhealthy and dishonoring to their bodies.

When I saw this first one on a list of Bible verses supporting dieting - I was appalled - this verse is so powerfully about loving your body, not hating it, that I'm amazed that it is so blindly accepted as "thinspiration"

Psalm 139: 13-16 (emphasis mine)

13 For you created my inmost being;
   you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
   your works are wonderful,
   I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
   when I was made in the secret place,
   when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
   all the days ordained for me were written in your book
   before one of them came to be.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts,[a] God!
   How vast is the sum of them!
18 Were I to count them,
   they would outnumber the grains of sand—
   when I awake, I am still with you. 

I guess the twisted reading of this is that since God made us we should be the best that we can be and the best is thin.

There are other verses that talk about us being made by God/in God's image that people use the same un-supported reasoning for. See:  Genesis 1:27

But it's not there - that's making it work for what you want. What those verses say is that he created me and saw both my frame and body before they ever came to be - - and that he made that fearfully and wonderfully  :)    That I am created in the image of God.

It does not say I was created to be thin. It just doesn't. 

These next three are ones that I have seen used most often as a an order or directive to "be healthy" (health meaning thin)

1 Corinthian 6:19-20

19 Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.

Let's  just back up a few verses and read something fabulous I like to call context - the passage is talking about sexual immorality. We are not do dishonor the temple of God by engaging in sexual immorality.  But if we're going to take the verse out of context and talk about honoring our temple period - then let's talk about the hazardous effects of yo-yo dieting and how it weakens the heart and the immune system and the strain that strenuous exercise puts on the body. (And how for the majority of fat people in the world those things don't even make them thin)

Luke 2:52

And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.  

This is the "shame" verse for me. As a teenager a group at church that I participated in used this verse to encourage "growth in all three areas" - we talked about being wise, loving our neighbor, and being of good "stature" - - which meant for that particular group that we tracked push ups and sit ups and  such. Growing in stature to be like Jesus meant being fit. Now, the person who organized this focus had one of the most positive spiritual effects on me from any person in church leadership from their example as a humble servant - so I certainly hold no ill will towards that person. But, the group was definitely not an exercise group - it was another enjoyable activity - and I stopped wanting to participate in that enjoyable activity because I was afraid my "stature" would be too poor.

And just what does "stature" mean, anyway?  From Strong's it is the Greek helikia - meaning -
1) age, time of life

1a) age, term or length of life
1b) adult age, maturity
1c) suitable age for anything
1d) metaph. of an attained state fit for a thing

2) stature, i.e in height and comeliness of stature

So, basically Jesus grew older and taller. I'm pretty sure I can handle that. (Well, maybe not taller now..but I could then.)  There is that "comeliness" word in definition two - but we're told elsewhere that the Messiah would not have any appearance that would draw us to him.

Romans 12:1-2

 1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.  

It does say LIVING sacrifices - so it's  probably going to be safe to assume I shouldn't kill myself with unhealthy dieting, right?  ;-)    This is like the Psalm verse to me - it's been twisted - yes it talks about honoring God and specifically mentions our body - - but no where does it say or imply that that body should be thin. Insinuating that your "holy and pleasing" body is a thin body is our society's obsession with a "good" body being a "thin" body.

Let's look at some "food" verses that talk about eating:

1 Corinthians 10:31

31 So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. 32 Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God—

and let's try that context thing again - - the passage is about eating food bought in the market, eating food at the homes of others, and abstaining from food that was offered as a sacrifice. From my understanding the command to not cause others to stumble has to with abstaining from the sacrificed food - not with abstaining from a slice of pizza in the fear that fatness is contagious.  Other translations say "give no offense" rather than "do not cause anyone to stumble" 

There are verses that deal with gluttony - typically describing someone as a glutton and often paired with "drunkard."  It's also one of the seven deadly sins.. 

Gluttony  is not the same as being fat - gluttony is an excessive desire for something. (In this case we're talking about food.)  I have often heard gluttony compared to fatness though - I've heard pastors and others say things like, "I do not want to be a fat person who walks around showing off my sin of gluttony."  I once knelt at an altar - praying over a trial in my life - and had someone come up to me to pray with me -  I didn't speak to that person bu they prayed.that I might be released from the sin of gluttony.

Being fat doesn't mean you struggle with gluttony.  There are people who binge eat - and those people can either be fat or thin - - and that binge eating can be symptomatic of disordered eating.  If anything though - gluttony is actually something our society supports.

"I'm staring my diet on New Year's Day - so I'm eating a ton of crap for Christmas!"

  "If you can eat this 5 lb sandwich and a pound of fries in 30 minutes then we'll give you a t-shirt and everyone will cheer you on!"

"I'm sad. So I'm going to eat a tub of ice cream and I deserve it because I never eat ice cream."

I'm still reading my way through Linda Bacon's Health at Every Size and learning a lot and seeking to make my body healthier. That will be another post. But, I hope, that these ramblings of mine have prompted at least someone to reconsider their society-driven assumptions that God wants us to be thin.

I'm going to try to do a part 2 of this post in which I discuss some of the positive food passages on feasting and tasting and enjoying food for a variety of reasons. For example, one of these verses is Acts 2:42 where we are told how one of the devotions of the early church was the "breaking of bread." We are commanded TO eat - break bread together, fellowship, share meals. It's part of community. It's part of what humans do to come together. Sprinkle a community meal with a million rules about points and carbs and worry about judgments on your plate and you're losing something (and what you're loosing is most likely not weight!)  I also hope to do a more "narrative" post on Fat within Christianity rambling about some of my observations and such regarding attitudes about fat in the contemporary Church. More on that later. :)

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Brave and Courageous: Wordy Wednesday

I have been pondering the idea of bravery and courage lately.

So, of course I looked them up in the online etymology dictionary. (Sidenote --I really need to buy some version of the Oxford English Dictionary)

Anyway, the etymology of  courage was not particularly shocking or enlightening.

Courage - in c.1300 from the French corage . . and also from other times the Latin coraticum, the Italian coraggio and the Spanish coraje.  All had to do with the "heart" (as in feelings, not the organ).  In Middle English it had the denotation of "what is in one's mind or thoughts" - and was broadly used for any sort of idea - not just our "bravery courage"

Brave(ry) on the other hand - that was interesting!

Here is the excerpt from the only Etymology Dictionary on brave: (emphasis mine)

late 15c., from M.Fr., "splendid, valiant," from It. bravo "brave, bold," originally "wild, savage," possibly from M.L. bravus "cutthroat, villain," from L. pravus "crooked, depraved;" a less likely etymology being from L. barbarus (see barbarous). A Celtic origin (Ir. breagh, Cornish bray) also has been suggested. The noun application to N. American Indian warriors is from c.1600. O.E. words for this, some with overtones of "rashness," included modig (now "moody"), beald ("bold"), cene ("keen"), dyrstig ("daring"). The verb "to face with bravery" is from 1776, from Fr. braver. Brave new world is from the title of Aldous Huxley's 1932 satirical utopian novel; he lifted the phrase from Shakespeare ("Tempest" v.i.183).

in the 1540s bravery meant "daring, defiance, boasting"

Brave(ry) has such a dark and cynical connotation in the global history. I had never before realized that to call a Native American a "brave" was an English term that said more about the colonist fear than the actual character of the first peoples of America.

Ok - so that's the history  - but neither of those etymologies really resonates with me as far as my understanding of the contemporary denotations and connotations - so let's just look at the dictionary -

Brave (adj)
possessing or exhibiting courage or courageous endurance.

Courage (n)
the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc., without fear; bravery.

And, also from

"Brave is the most comprehensive: it is especially used of that confident fortitude or daring that actively faces and endures anything threatening. Courageous implies a higher or nobler kind of bravery, esp. as resulting from an inborn quality of mind or spirit that faces or endures perils or difficulties without fear and even with enthusiasm."

These words have been on my mind a lot thanks to my recent trip back to Georgia for the holidays. I'd pay for something with a card, the cashier would ask to see ID, she'd notice that it was a different state and ask where I lived. When I replied, "Chicago" - I'd get a wide eyed stare of admiration and they'd share some story about a friend who lived in a big city or how they always thought about living in a big city or what not.

It reminded me of how when I moved I heard a lot of "you're so brave!"  and it confused me. I've talked to other people who had no issue uprooting their life and moving across the country from everything they knew - and they got the "you're so brave!" from their friends as well. So, it's not me that brings on these lauds - it's the fact that some action is happening. An action that many people find scary.

But does the fact that other people find it scary make ME brave? I did not face a threatening situation in moving. There was no one endangering my life or person. And while I did move to "the big city" with enthusiasm - there were no perils or difficulties (unless you count a 13 hour car drive as perilous)

I saw an opportunity and I took it. I made a decision. It's not bravery. Decisiveness? Impulsiveness? Adventurous? Maybe. 

So I don't feel brave for simply finding a new address and employer and it really makes me uncomfortable when people assign such a noble word for such a matter-of-fact circumstance.But, I obviously really value words and their meanings - so maybe no one else thinks it is such a big deal :)

Monday, January 10, 2011

Project 52: Week One

I'm seriously downgrading my Project 365 - I'm just going for one photo a week. I'm going to try aim for quality over quantity this time.  Quality of picture or quality of the moment or both ideally!

Here's Week One: I'm in the picture - so I obviously didn't take it - so we'll say this is quality of the moment. :)

Dad, Me, Michael, and Adam - Helen, GA January 2, 2011

About 20 years ago we took a similar picture on the same bench - complete with icecream (or without as the case may be) and the same body language. I don't think anyone outside of my family finds it as funny as we did to recreate the photo - but we had a lot of fun. It was nice to have the entire family together for a day to just hang out and have fun.  Mom and Michael's wife Mindy were the photographers.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

2010 in Review

In 2010 . . .

I took a lot of pictures as part of Project 365 - almost one every day - but not quite. And some days took many many more than one. As fun as it was and as nice is it is to have a photo journey of my year - I will not be doing this again anytime in the near future.

 I read some books - more at the beginning of the year than the end. And, left quite a stack started and unfinished the year ended.  I failed miserably at my hopes of reading more non-fiction. What can I say? The novels are called page-turners for a reason!

I'm taking an idea from a friend and listing some "firsts" that I experienced in 2010 . . .

I did a little bit of traveling  - first time visits included St. Louis and seeing the Gateway Arch (not as exciting as it sounds) and traveling to Memphis for a visit to Graceland (more fun that it sounds!)

I was on a diverted plane thanks to high winds that left my knuckles white and the plane unable to land. I am not easily scared and I was waiting for the oxygen masks to drop!

Experienced the wonder that is the Chicago Summer. Wandered around Millennium park surrounded by men in kilts at the Celtic Fest, went to America's largest picnic at the Taste of Chicago, and enjoyed local art at a variety of local street fairs. 

I made myself a purse. 

I hunkered down on the floor of a smoke-filled subway car because of a fire on the tracks and the train being unable to move to a platform. I'm ok with that being a first and last!

Did a cross-country drive by myself - Chicago-to-Memphis-to-Atlanta (in a car with a sunroof!)

I enjoyed some time in a luxury hotel.

I learned to make hand-thrown pottery and discovered I'm pretty good at it for a beginner!

I walked through thigh-high snow thanks to the drifts at the shore of Lake Michigan

I went to see an Opera - Verdi's Macbeth

I rode on a sailboat (and rekindled my dream to learn how to sail..maybe in 2011)

I made a snowman taller than a foot

I bought the most amazing grapes I've ever tasted from a Farmer's Market.

Cooked and ate lentils.

And, on another level I grew a lot in 2010 - - had a lot of progress in the way I think about some things and how I respond to certain situations. Grew some confidences, formed some opinions, lost some legalism, and strengthened some beliefs.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Fatshion: New Year's Eve Outfit

I had a blast dressing in sequins for NYE this year.

 I might as well be a Lane Bryant model in this picture -

From Lane Bryant:

Dark Plum Velvet Jacket
Purple/Black/Silver Sequin Tank
Skinny Jeans

Shoes are from DSW

Headband from Charming Charlie

Close-up of the headband

With the Jacket Closed