As a teenager, J. Nicole Morgan was fond of her reflection in the mirror. She liked her eyes and her smile. But then she looked at her arms and stomach and reminded herself that she was not pretty and could not possibly be the person God made her to be.
God doesn’t want you to be fat, she told herself. Fat can’t be beautiful.
It’s a message that stuck with her for years, said Morgan, author of a new book, “Fat and Faithful: Learning to Love Our Bodies, Our Neighbors, and Ourselves.”
Part memoir and part theological reflection on body image, community and food, Morgan’s book challenges congregations and people of faith to think about what it means to embrace one another as created in the image of God.
The book is not just for the evangelicals she grew up with, said Morgan. They taught her that God did not want her to be fat. But progressive churches can also have an anti-fat bias. Her conversations with people across the religious spectrum indicate that most traditions fail to teach or embody fat acceptance, though few are deliberately malicious.
“It’s more ignorance and misguided good intentions that actually do damage,” Morgan said.
Take the case of megachurch pastor Rick Warren, who once wrote a Christian weight loss book after the experience of baptizing fat people, lowering them into the water and raising them back out again.
“I literally felt the weight of America’s obesity problem and I thought, ‘Good night, We’re all fat!’” he told The Wall Street Journal back in 2014.
Morgan recalls feeling anxiety over her own baptism. Warren’s book, she said, sent a message that something was spiritually wrong with her.
“Warren used a sacrament that welcomes us as beloved children into the family of God to issue judgment on the very people he pronounced new life over as he lifted them from the water,” she said.
In addition to offhand jokes, body shaming from the pulpit and a stream of “diet devotionals” sold in evangelical bookstores, Morgan critiques a particular trend among popular pastors a few years ago: publicly celebrating their “smoking hot” wives.
SOURCE: Jacob Lupfer
Religion News Service