Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Why Fighting 'Thin is in' is a Spiritual Matter

In this post, I talked about how Hollywood and the fashion industry do young women a disservice by pushing emaciation as a "good look." Some may wonder why I, as a Christian pastor, feel that this is such an important issue.

To me, fighting the "thin is in" emphasis is not just a health issue, but also a profoundly important spiritual one.

At the root of any eating disorder is a deep-seated struggle with self-esteem. As a Christian, I believe that God has repeatedly revealed that no human being should ever suffer from a poor self-concept.

One of the things I sometimes tell my Catechism students to do is to rewrite the Bible's most famous passage, John 3:16, inserting their own names in place of the world and everyone. For a child named Mary, the passage might read:
For God so loved Mary that he gave his only Son, so that when Mary believes in him she may not perish but may have eternal life.
The point is clear: Every individual has infinite value in the eyes of the God of the universe. Some people may deride us because we don't conform to their arbitrary norms for us. But God was willing to die and rise for us and values us for all eternity.

An important concept for Christians is stewardship. Usually, people think this only has to do with financial management. But in fact, stewardship is the grateful management Christians are called to apply to all of God's gifts to us: our relationships, our time, our talents, our minds, and our bodies.

A passage in the New Testament, First Corinthians 6:19 says that "your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God." The verse goes on to say that our bodies aren't really our own, but God's. The specific issue addressed by the passage is sexual immorality. But it also tells us that we should avoid abusing our bodies, whether by failing to exercise, overeating, or undereating.

In my earlier post, I made the point that parental love could drown out the siren song of "thin is in." It's important that parents take up the call to build up their kids.

The Bible says that encouraging their children is one of the most important functions of parents. Discipline and love is to be applied to help them not only to learn to love God and love neighbor, but also to feel confident about life. For example, at one place in the New Testament, the apostle Paul urges fathers to be restrained in the use of discipline. "Fathers," he wrote, "do not provoke your children, or they may lose heart" (Colossians 3:19).

All children are precious. I wish that all of them could know that.

[FOR OTHER TAKES ON THIS ISSUE, see here and here.]

1 comment:

John Schroeder said...


You know a little my weight issues. It is a huge problem that people are dying for thier weight, but its the dying that's the spiritual issue.

I've had way too many people tell me my overweight was a spiritual issue - made it impossible to solve becasue it gat all wrapped up in emeotions and identity, and other stuff we struggle with our whole lives.

My problem has been solved when it became a simple physical matter. My knees hurt so bad I had to lose or become crippled.

For these tragic women the message is simple "Gain weight or die"