Does my body look human in this?
Recently, after much prayer, I was delivered from the tyranny that Rene Girard refers to as "the slenderness imperative". Since then, I have been more able to observe just how much our culture is enslaved by Western dogma
regarding the proper shape, size and functionality of the human body. I see beautiful young women worrying about their holiday and how they will look in a bikini. I see middle aged Canutes attempting to hold back the tides of gravity and time, and I see older people trying to prevent loss of mobility through self-imposed food rationing.
As a normal middle aged woman, striving to keep my weight down in the hope of being more attractive (to who?), younger looking, and less likely to die before I'm ready, I came to realise that this constant see-sawing between denied hunger and guilty indulgence is probably not the life God intended for me. The politely suppressed mirth of some of my international friends at my virtuous rejection of their hospitality for fear I would get fat, was a real wake-up call.
It slowly dawned on me that the real issue was not my failure to attain a prescribed body shape, but the twin problems of greed and vanity, which in a society that values thinness will always create internal conflict, and which account for the see-saw effect, as one or the other wins the upper hand.
Having prayed that God would deal with both, greed has been more reluctant to leave than vanity. What this means in practical terms is that I'm getting bigger but I don't mind. I will continue to pray about greed, not because I want to be more attractive or to cheat the ageing process, but because my greed contributes to a lot of what is wrong in the world.
I find it remarkable that we Christians have succumbed to the slenderness imperative in the same way as the rest of society. Nowhere in the bible does it suggest that we should stay thin, although we are instructed to share our food with the hungry (Matthew 25:31-46). Nowhere does it tell us to stay young, but we are promised that those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength (Isaiah 40:31).
In our projects and our church outreach we are likely to come across some of the most vulnerable people in our city. How do we demonstrate the freedom that is in Christ if we ourselves remain enslaved to the world's irrational and impossible standards?
-- by Catherine Beaumont