Yes, my ducks, PeaceBang is also disappointed not ot have been able to see her "Nightline" segment, which got bumped in favor of a story on dangerously thin fashion models and on the perils of SPAM.
She got a wonderful night's sleep and is looking forward to a stewardship campaign kick-off dinner tonight at church.
But she is thinking.
If we lived in a world where we could
convene in-depth conversations by way of late-night news, we would have been able to have a very interesting confab last night around the issue of body size. Say they had run the skinny models piece along with the piece on the ministry of clergy beautification. What an interesting conversation, if we had had time to explore it! But given that the "Nightline" team filmed PeaceBang and her congregation over two days and about 7 hours in order to get footage for a 3-minute segment, that's just not how it works.
I mean, how cool would it have been if they had actually done the pieces together intentionally, and I could have talked about the western world's long spiritualization of slimmness and demonization of fatness, quoting from Carolyn Walker Bynum's wonderful book, Holy Feast and Holy Fast
, about the "holy anorexia" of the most important female medieval mystics? http://www.amazon.com/Holy-Feast-Fast-Significance-Historicism/dp/0520063295
Welcome to PeaceBang's media fantasy!!
As George Bush, Sr. would have said, "NOT GONNA HAPPEN." But I am thinking.
PeaceBang has been watching in alarm as the American public gets more obese and more sloppily informal (this is not to imply that large-bodied folk are the only ones getting sloppier -- it's an American phenomenon, not a big-person phenomenon), our so-called icons of beauty are becoming increasingly Botoxed, sliced-up, plasticized and starved.
What is going on with this strange symbiotic relationship?
The exhausted, over-stimulated, perpetually distracted, information-and-entertainment crammed average American consumes the images of plastic skeletal goddesses inflicted on us by a fat-phobic fashion industry and Madison Avenue, and we devour them. Candy, candy, candy. Even if we do not devour, we can't look away, as the images are ubiquitous. We instinctually don't like what we're seeing, but we've been so well trained in the fashion and beauty industry's notions of beauty that we figure they must know what they're doing.
Because we've been assiduously programmed to think this way, we keep our distance: "Naw...this isn't a spiritual issue. I should just shut up. I'm not one of the beautiful people and never will be. People will just think I'm jealous if I decry all of this madness." Don't think that PeaceBang doesn't know that there's a little part of us that never graduated from the insecurites of 8th grade. That's the human condition, my dears. Unless we spend a tremendous amount of time and effort getting over it, there's always going to be that little voice inside our heads going, "Oh man, everyone else at this coffee hour is so much more cool and socially adept than I am. I think I'll go flush my head down the toilet."
But out there in the world outside your head, you're a theologically educated, spiritually advanced religious leader and so some of you have spoken out against the rampant objectification of humans in our society, and the fashion industry and Madison Avenue and Hollywood's role in that. When you did, was your public presence as vital, engaging, charismatic and passionate as Michael Kors' is? Or Isaac Mizrahi? Or Helen Gurley Brown? Do you see what I'm saying? We are in friendly or hostile competition with wonderful, engaging personalities on this issue and on every other issue of importance to the spiritual well-being of the world.
When we show up projecting an image that says, "Please don't notice me," we've lost the battle before we even open our mouths.
It just so happens that human beings are engaged by passion and leadership that projects a vision. And it just so happens that looking put-together and polished helps the vast majority of human beings on the planet feel more prepared to deliver their message, whatever it is. It just so happens that we in America live in a culture that is visually overwhelming and that everyone who lives in this country is being bombarded daily by millions of images being projected at us in the attempt to sell us something. Religious leaders who refuse to embrace that fact and meet its challenge with creative energy are, in PeaceBang's opinion, like sweet little ostriches burying their heads in the sand. Come on out, ostriches. We need you.
Meanwhile, PeaceBang can't help but notice that many clergymen and women are significantly overweight. Why? As an overweight woman herself, PeaceBang has a few guesses: we compulsively overeat to provide instant comfort in the midst of caring for others. We put ourselves last and our self-care practices suffer (exercise, carefully preparing healthful meals, stopping to eat something so we're not ravenous by dinner, going to bed early enough to avoid late-night snacking, etc.). We suffer from the ancient Augustinian mentality that elevates the spirit over the sinful body, and do not have a holistic experience of incarnation, living mostly from the neck up.
All the usual suspects. The same things that contribute to clergy addictions, repressions and eventually, those tragic scandals of acting out that make the front page of the paper...and the late-night news stories.
Then there's this: maybe by being significantly overweight, some of us are rebelling against conventional standards of beauty. Maybe some of us are making a statement with our bodies, saying "I refuse to take up a small space in this world. I am a person of abdundant spirit, and my physical presence reflects that. I am a person of extravagant appetite for all that life has to offer, and I will not be dictated to by any industry -- be it entertainment, fashion or medical -- that attempts to pathologize the way I am present in this world."
If that sounds like you, congratulations! You are an outlaw by today's societal standards, and there will be legions of doctors and health care experts lined up to say that you're unhealthy and in need of a conversion experience. They will be looking polished and slim and authoritative in white coats and tailored suits when they frowningly insist that we're in the midst of an obesity epidemic, and you're in denial. When you respond to this, you need to show up looking poised, confident, dignified, handsomely attired and full of God's love for your body and every body.
It's 2007 in the United States of America, is what I'm saying in my own long-winded fashion, dearly beloveds. People don't just hear our words. They see US.
Now get out there and be beautiful in that John Keats kind of way.
Labels: Theological Reflection On Your Fabulousness