canary of fun (songquake) wrote in fat_theology,
canary of fun

It's Easter, and LJ has been giving me theology-themed presents!

(also theology-themed Presence)

From windbringer1, we have The Hymn of a Fat Woman, by Joyce Huff

From revmak, we have Easter, Chocolate and Religion, with extra-thinky-religious commentary by me.

Also, hi everybody! we've been quiet lately.

I'm kind of thinking about the practice of fasting right now -- no plans to do it (even in my Catholic days I was exempt due to Type 1 diabetes), but thinking about societies in which it would spring up and who tended to engage in it.

And the answer? Er, poor people. People who had taken vows of poverty and/or simplicity (ascetics). In the Bible, itinerant prophets. You don't hear much about the well-off fasting as a spiritual discipline unless they're giving up their well-offness (e.g., Siddartha, Moses). And I wonder whether there is a class aspect to this: that perhaps the practice benefited the community as much or more than the individual.

But it brings to mind how in past cultures, being fat was how folks could tell you were healthy. Skinny people? Didn't get enough to eat. Now we've got fat folks who are malnourished, and people trying to gain status by losing weight, because fat has become (through the easy availability of "junk foods," high fees for exercise clubs/teams, and the fact that schools have largely eliminated recess and may only have gym class once or twice a week) the province of the poor. You see ultra-health conscious hip exercise fiends and yoga instructors (who aren't usually that well-off, but are in a segment of the luxury economy that is supposed to look as if they are) doing juice fasts, cleansing fasts, etc. all of it is done in the name of image, "health," and "cleaning the toxins out of your body." not for spiritual reasons.

You don't, i think, hear many ministers at well-off congregations preaching abstinence from food.

On the other hand, now there are churches in poor communities who are trying to do congregational fasts. When i did an internship at Progressive Community Church in Chicago a few years back, the pastor was encouraging the congregation to -- all together -- engage in a 40-day broth fast. There were several objectives: cleansing the bodies of the congregants of toxins, establishing healthier eating habits (er -- it explicitly regarded weight loss as one of the positive possible outcomes), and growing in the Spirit. There were Bible Studies involved. Another intern at the church did the fast, and BOY was she cranky while she did it. But she said that it did help her wean herself off of many foods that she knew were bad for her.

It was sort of fascinating, this idea of simultaneously shrinking one's body mass and growing in the Spirit. An almost Manichean dualism, really.

I don't know; I'm trying to pick apart fasting from an HAES as well as a food justice perspective. It definitely seems possible that limiting consumption for oneself can be a spiritual practice not only in making oneself more susceptible to accepting messages from God, but also conserving food for others in one's (impoverished) community, or even family.

But my sample size is teensy, and I'm interested to hear what others in this community have to say about the spiritual practice of fasting.
  • Post a new comment


    default userpic
Here is an absolutely stunning blog post on fasting written by a fat blogger who calls herself "Cleric At Large."

I haven't put together a lot of really coherent thoughts on this because my only experience with fasting was using it as an excuse to not eat around my friends in high school in what I now know was full-on bulemia. I too would be really interested to hear what others in this community would have to say about it.
I'm a bulimic and find any kind of food or drink restrictions triggery, which is definitely not conducive to a healthy spirituality. So I don't fast from food or drink, and given how prevalent eating disorders are, I'd hesitate to encourage others to do so, because any congregation of any size is going to have some eating-disordered people in it. Instead, I abstain from buying things during the traditional fasts of Lent and Advent, except for food and other basic necessities. It gets at the limiting consumption aspect without feeding into patterns I know are unhealthy for me.