|Bitmoji Julia enjoys tea|
The reality is that a person who is under the influence of legal or illegal substances and often displays impaired judgment can still tell that body shaming- comments about shape, appearance, or size- is a way to lash out at someone who is frustrating you. That means those words and that way of using them are deeply rooted in our culture. An additional truth is that when we, as a congregation, attempted to console and listen to those who had been hurt in this encounter, I don't know that we said anything about the slur "fat ass" being wrong. "You shouldn't have to hear that" or "I'm sorry that happened" is not the same as "That was a crappy thing to hear, especially since it's untrue."
|Bitmoji Julia doesn't care for this.|
The church is the place where we are supposed to reveal an inclusive welcome, open arms, and a reflection that all people are children of God. What happens when we don't include size- fatness and thinness- in that conversation? When our scripture readings are about banqueting, feasting, rich wines and marrow, open tables, hospitality, and eating in community, how often do we subvert that welcome and the joy of creation by creating binaries about what we should and shouldn't eat, can and can't wear, do and don't look?
|Bitmoji Julia feels this more than real Julia|
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Romans 12:1
|Bitmoji Julia tells it on the mountain|
So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.1 Corinthians 10:31
So, what do we do with this? How do we move to make sure that body shaming is not part of church culture and that health, wellness appreciation, and confidence in God's creation is?
1. Do not make food "good" or "bad". All food is a political choice. When we decide what to eat or what to provide, we are deciding where to put our money, our community resources and time, our energy, and our support (expressed and unexpressed). Think about what you want to communicate about how you perceive God in farming, ranching, research, community life, and vocation through the food you provide or consume- both as individuals and as a congregation.
2. Fat people know they are fat. They probably know better than you what they weigh, their measurements, and where they can find clothes and where they can't. Do not participate in shaming by ignoring or by patronizing. Also, do not assume they have no idea how to make correct food choices or exercise habits. Don't moralize size.
3. Consider what it means that a sedentary life is more dangerous than being overweight or obese. Who do you know who might need a walking partner who is understanding and willing to go slow? Who might need a friend to come by a couple times a week for a low-impact exercise video? Who else might need to know that they aren't alone in having Type 2 Diabetes? Could you rideshare to the hospital's T2 class or organize a presentation with a nurse at the church for the community?
4. Do not assume that all health issues are related to weight or that weight is automatically related to stress. Sometimes yes, but sometimes no. Are you the doctor of everybody?
5. When someone struggles because of their size (thinness or fatness), do not pretend that their body is not a real thing. Being rejected from an exit row seat because one needs a seat belt extender isn't actually an FAA regulation and it is pretty insulting. Acknowledge that this is a hurtful thing and be willing to listen to what it stirs up in the person. When someone is called a "fat ass", listen to that story. Maybe it hurt them, maybe they dismiss it. Acknowledge that this is about an attempt to embarrass them about their body- a reality of their world and how they are created.
6. Do not participate in body shaming of any type (yourself or others), including when it happens to people you don't particularly like. Loving your neighbor means critiquing their behavior with an eye toward repentance or metanoia (turning around), not being cruel about something that is part of how God has made them.
7. The Body of Christ is the body of Christ. Sometimes it has a soft, squidgy tummy or flappy upper arms or large strong thighs or round face. The fat body of Christ can still come to your house and do a load of laundry when you are flattened by chemotherapy. The underweight body of Christ can still bring a pizza to a family after an adoption. The roly-poly body can collect your cups after communion with Spirit-filled smile and the body that cannot keep up with its metabolic disorder can still read the gospel during Bible study. The Body of Christ is the body of Christ.
What would it look like for the church to embody this?