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Guest Post Series: Five Questions on…Cultures (with Kristi)

fivequestionsonCultures

with Kristi Rice

1) Describe your experience in other cultures and the attitude toward/relationship to body image you observed there.

Bob and I live in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). This is a region plagued by extreme poverty, but where the people are resilient, loving, and often hopeful in the midst of their daily struggles. Disease, hunger, and even malnutrition are common.  There seems to be a pretty clear distinction that people who are larger (weigh more), tend to be those who are more well-off economically. Among the population in general, people admire and envy people whose bodies are larger – because usually they perceive that those people don’t have to walk everywhere or are able to eat meat or rich foods more often. People generally prefer to have a little ‘cushion’ on their bodies, perhaps so that they have some ‘reserve’ in case they get a sickness that causes them to lose weight.
 
During our first year in Congo, we spent one month in a rural area to focus on language learning. We did a lot of walking in hot weather during that month and by necessity ate a lean diet. We had no intention of losing weight, and did not even realize that we had until our Congolese friends expressed concern and dismay upon our return to the city. “You’ve lost so much weight!”, some would say, “That trip was too hard on you.” They wanted to feed us well so that we would return to our former ‘healthy’ weight.
 
Congolese tend to be conservative in how they dress. Women (married women, especially) have at least two layers in their skirts, and wearing shorts would be considered nearly obscene. Yet, sometimes they also seem to have an open-ness and acceptance about their bodies that surpasses ours. Sometimes when we visit someone who has had surgery, they are eager to show us the wound, even if it might be in a less “appropriate” spot. Congolese are also not inhibited to comment on someone else’s body – “I wish I could be fat like you,” is one phrase that we have heard said. We have tried to observe and learn so that we can respect their culture well and live within it.
 

2) How has that relationship/attitude affected the way you think about your body and/or your self-image?

I find that in one sense I am more conscious of my body because of the frequent comments from friends or strangers about my body. If I have been away for more than a week, people who I greet on the street are likely to make an assessment like, “You’ve gained weight! Must have been a good trip.” Or “Did you get sick? You’ve lost weight.” Often, we will hear both paradoxical perspectives in the same day, so we’ve learned to laugh and not take it seriously. Yet, the Congolese perspective has made me less self-conscious about my body size also. I have learned to appreciate being healthy more than having certain image. As white people living in an African country, we are often stared at, scrutinized, and touched simply because of the novelty of seeing a foreigner up close. So – it really helps to be comfortable with who you are!
 

3) How has that relationship/attitude affected the way you relate to others?

I feel a greater sense of freedom in relating to others. Joining the Congolese in their culture of being frank and open about our bodies seems to help me be more “real” in other aspects of the relationship. Last year I shared with Therese, a Congolese friend, about my embarrassment and annoyance when people on the road would make comments (sometimes shouting comments) about my body as I was jogging. Therese laughed, shared her own even more humiliating experience, and told me I should not let it bother me. Those shared experiences are so encouraging and helpful!
 

4) How has that relationship/attitude affected your spiritual life?

Living in Congo, where we are daily confronted with people who are hungry, sick, or desperately poor, has prompted me to be grateful for the simple, basic things in life, like being able to choose the food I eat or walk up the stairs. I am grateful that God made me the way he did…in my case, it is much more valuable for life in Congo that I don’t have food allergies than that my body were thin or beautiful. The nudge to be grateful as well as the openness about body image in Congo has enriched my sense of who I am as a creation and daughter of God. In spite all of my faults, sin, and stumbling, I know that I have nothing to be ashamed of.
 

5) What word of wisdom or encouragement would you offer other people on a similar journey?

Reiterating what I have learned to appreciate about Congolese culture, take a risk with being open and honest –with yourself, with others, and with God. And be grateful … for whatever your body looks like and the way God created you to interact with the world.
 
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What about you?

Have your own answers to these questions? Why not share them? Email your responses and a recent picture to bodytheologyblog at gmail dot com.  You can also post anonymously if you wish.

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Guest Post Series: Five Questions on…Cultures (with Matthew)

fivequestionsonCultures

with Matthew Knowles

1) Describe your experience in other cultures and the attitude toward/relationship to body image you observed there.

I have lived, worked and studied in China since 2009. The first thing that comes to mind is Chinese people are envious of foreigners figures. The girls all want to have white skin, protruding noses and double-skin eyelids. Many even go as far as skin whitening and plastic surgery to achieve these changes.
 

2) How has that relationship/attitude affected the way you think about your body and/or your self-image?

I like being tall, but I hate when a billion Chinese people call me tall everyday.
 

3) How has that relationship/attitude affected the way you relate to others?

I get annoyed more easily because I’m tired of hearing the same words out of everyone’s mouth.
 

4) How has that relationship/attitude affected your spiritual life?

It’s made me frustrated more, depressed some, angry often, and overall pulled me away from God.
 

5) What word of wisdom or encouragement would you offer other people on a similar journey?

I need the encouragement! … But really, have anchors in your life. Get out and refuel when needed. Iron sharpens iron.

matthew

 

What about you?

Have your own answers to these questions? Why not share them? Email your responses and a recent picture to bodytheologyblog at gmail dot com.  You can also post anonymously if you wish.

 

Saturday Sex-versations

As part of the on-going series, the links below will take you to current conversations about sexuality and relationships as well as issues related to the other three categories of holistic body theology: community, cultural discernment, and service.

Stay informed about what the world and the Church are saying so we can discuss the issues, discern healthy, holistic body theology, and discover God’s truth in the midst of many opinions.

Here’s this week’s installment.  (Links are organized roughly by date and similarity of content.)

Don’t be shy.  Share your thoughts in the comment section, or join the original conversations via the links provided.

Physicality: Body Image, Sexuality and Relationship Issues

1) In which I am on my soapbox about shame Has shame ever helped a woman? This is just the other side of that same “You’re not enough” coin.

2) The Secret Sexual Revolution If this generation wants to reverse the trend and reduce the number of Christians having premarital sex, the first step is trying to figure out why so few are waiting.

3) Clothing In Church: Why It Matters The way we dress is frequently an external expression of an internal reality, a way for “the body, or even the self, to communicate itself to society,” in the words of theologian Tom Beaudoin.

4) Sex Is A Big Deal And I Wish Someone Had Told Me No one ever talks about the casual dating and casual hook up aftermath. Instead, it is glamorized and a fun, sexy, effective fix-all.

5) Transfiguration and Beauty We offer the Lord these forty days because we believe God loves us. We believe that when we let go of control, we will see more clearly the movement and the beauty of Jesus.

6) The Secret Life of Hasidic Sexuality Actually, the main purpose of sex — as explained by Jewish law — is to create something called devek, best translated as an intense spiritual/emotional cleaving between the couple.

7) Veiled Muslim women and revolutionary modesty Whether we’re wearing hajibs or jeans or baggy t-shirts or mini-skirts, are our clothes making us slaves to patriarchy and consumerism?

8) Resurrection Spirituality And this kind of eschatology leads to body image problems now, not to mention lack of care with creation and lack of concern with any sense of salvation having to do with creation and cosmos and new creation.

9) When Your One Beauty Goes Gray But then there are the days when I find that pesky, out of place gray hair, and I wonder.  Will anyone love me with gray hair?  Will anyone think I’m beautiful if it was gone?

10) Dear Victims of Rape and Sexual Abuse No Shame. No Guilt. No Excuses. No Blame. No Heartache.

11) Phyllis Tickle & Doug Pagitt: Welcome to Ash Wednesday Of all the observances of Christianity, Lent is far and away the most physical, starting not with Ash Wednesday but with Mardi Gras. [The last minute is especially wonderful.]

12) Transgender kids get puberty-blocking drugs, sex-changing hormones; MDs say numbers are rising Switching gender roles…is common in young children. But these kids are different. They feel certain they were born with the wrong bodies.

13) Seven states sue government over contraceptives mandate “This lawsuit is about protecting religious liberty and the rights of conscience, our most basic freedoms as Americans.”

14) The Millennial Church: The Future of Christianity (Pt.5) At the heart of the loss of virginity before marriage lies a bigger issue in the eyes of millennials, morality/ethics.

15) ‘Am I Ugly?’ Videos: Young Teens Ask YouTube Users Whether They’re Pretty Or Not But, in a world of carefully curated Facebook profiles that put personal lives (and looks) at center stage…it’s perhaps unsurprising that young people are sharing their body image anxieties in such a forum.

Media Literacy/Cultural Discernment

1) Erasing Women: How Both Sides Contribute to the Media Blackout on Female Pro-Lifers But as all this happens—and it is happening, however slowly—mainstream institutions such as the media, the government, the schools, and the entertainment industry need to recognize that these women exist and have voices worth hearing.

2) The Final Freaking Rose. [H]ave we grown so apathetic to the human condition that we’ve turned Love into a gameshow?

Community: Equality and Other Issues

1) there are a lot of ways to pastor [T]he world is crying out for more “pastors”, people who will bravely and freely extend Christ’s love, hope, care, mercy & justice in a broken & hurting world.

2) Mimi Haddad on Gender and Equality in the Church Now, you can hear more from Dr. Haddad, president of Christians for Biblical Equality on gender and equality in the Church.

3) We Need the Full Vocabulary of God To my mind, the church today has impoverished itself by praying with and singing with and thinking with such a small set of the many images for God found in the Bible.

4) And Daniel Kirk Said This Too! How are we to assess these women who, in the narrative world, are outsiders, on the margins?

5) Our Problem is Authoritarianism and Not Legalism Nowhere in the New Testament does it say that a Christian, because of title or position, has moral authority over another Christian.

6) Male and Female God Made (Most Of) Them: Part 2 Christians cared for people no one else cared for.

7) When Church Becomes a Verb Instead of going to church to be fed, to be welcomed, to be loved, why don’t we go to church to feed, to welcome, to love?

8) A Little Grace for Masculine Christianity I am saying [masculine Christianity is] one way—it’s part of the truth, just as God’s more traditionally feminine qualities are part of the truth—and for some people it’s critical.

9) Women of valor at Truett Seminary I can’t help but smile to myself when I think about the fact that over the next ten years, those who think that women should be banned from church leadership will have to contend with the talents and enthusiasm of these women of valor!

10) Evangelical 2.0: The Deception of Mark Driscoll’s Acts 29 Network Acts 29 commits itself to “…get behind the men (emphasis added) who are planting churches by…networking with men in different denominations and networks for the kingdom good of the city.”

11) Women in Ministry Series: All Are Invited to Talk I struggle as a woman in a conservative church. Do I stay and work for change? Or do I escape to enjoy freedom elsewhere?

12) What Diversity Should Look Like [T]he temptation is always to elevate your own experience over someone else’s. Within the Church, this can lead to conflict, division and sorrow. But those differences can also be the glory of God made manifest.

13) Is There a Place for Creative Christians? In community that is caring and healthy, an artist brings not only beauty and inspiration but also powerful observational skills and spiritual awareness.

14) Phyllis Tickle & Doug Paggit: The Physicality of Lent In the third installment of my conversation with Phyllis Tickle about Lent we talk about the physical nature of spirituality.

Service: Social Justice Issues

1) The Santorum Question: Should Theology Affect the Way We Vote? Faith and politics are enmeshed with each other in both vital and destructive ways.

2) Counting the Cost I have learned, however, that when you take these numbers and put them within context and place, these numbers actually tell a story.

3) Justice in Guatemala: Man Convicted for Raping His 15-Year-Old Daughter And the conviction sends a strong message to the entire community that sexual crimes against children will not be tolerated under the law.

4) A Savvy Peacemaker Building Across Missouri’s Race Lines The divide has resulted in tension between the African American community and the predominantly white authorities and social service agencies. Lawson sees his calling as bridging that gap.

5) The Significance of Linsanity Fortunately, the symbolism hasn’t been wasted; rather, it has turned into a fascinating conversation about the need for forgiveness and humility.

6) Role Reversal: The Problem of the Increasing Marginalization of Men And the Khasi men are experiencing the crippling prejudice, discrimination, and oppression that women throughout history have known all too well.

7) Haitian millionaire determined to build back better Now the 45-year-old is using his entrepreneurship to benefit communities uprooted by the devastating 2010 quake.

Saturday Sex-versations

As part of the on-going series, the links below will take you to current conversations about sexuality and relationships as well as issues related to the other three categories of holistic body theology: community, cultural discernment, and service.

Stay informed about what the world and the Church are saying so we can discuss the issues, discern healthy, holistic body theology, and discover God’s truth in the midst of many opinions.

Here’s this week’s installment.  (Links are organized roughly by date and similarity of content.)

Don’t be shy.  Share your thoughts in the comment section, or join the original conversations via the links provided.

Physicality: Body Image, Sexuality and Relationship Issues

1) Beautiful Sex and the Impact of Porn in Marriage  Incorporating the use of pornography is as beneficial to your marital sex life as having a threesome with a disease ridden meth addicted hooker.

2) ‘Love InshAllah,’ Newly Released Book Shatters Stereotypes on Muslim Women, Sex and Love “There are still misconceptions about Muslim women, because Muslim women, their bodies, their lives, have been so caught up in political debate,” Mattu said. “I feel like this is a way for people to connect with women who are revealing their full humanity.”

3) Love You! Now, the Difficult Stuff… Once people decide they are in love…too often they will duck tough conversations for fear of undermining what they see as a magical connection.

4) Should the Church Begin Arranged Marriages? With children hitting puberty earlier and earlier, and the level of sexual brokenness in our culture, having arranged marriages provides people with, hopefully, a healthier sexual outlet at a younger age.

5) 10 ways to have a horrible first date if you’re a Christian 7. Tell him you play handbells at church. And then, play them during your entire date.

6) Sex change British man gives birth to son Last night medical ethics experts called for a full inquiry into the issues surrounding transgender births, saying the interests of the child should not be risked to “fulfill the rights of an adult”.

7) Country’s first openly gay bishop preaches inclusivity beyond hospitality He called on the 300 people in the pews before him to work harder to integrate gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people into their spiritual lives.

8) To the Girl Who Has Never Dated Dating seems to have fallen into this weird category in Christian circles where we are either one date away from marriage or ruining the rest of our lives. Talk about extremes.

9) What Is Love? The Soul Knows If God is one and love is infinite, why limit ourselves when it comes to choosing a partner?

10) Interracial marriage in US hits new high: 1 in 12  “The rise in interracial marriage indicates that race relations have improved over the past quarter century…but America still has a long way to go.”

11) Unplanned Parenthood: The Blessing of an Inconvenient Pregnancy [F]ertility and childbearing highlight my addiction to control more than almost anything else…. Women are, after all, trained to control our bodies. Managing one’s appearance and conducting one’s body in a way that honors God are common female virtues in the church.

Media Literacy/Cultural Discernment

1) Kelli Anderson – Disruptive Wonder for a Change The world is full of order that doesn’t necessarily deserve our respect. Sometimes there is meaning, justice, and logic present in the way things are — but sometimes there just isn’t. [Her thoughts on media literacy begin around 9:30 with an astonishing prank.]

2) The Truth About Disney Love  What Disney fails to tell us is that when you wish upon a star, it usually doesn’t come true.

3) Why Pretty Women Are Overrated Don’t let culture define you.

Community: Equality Issues (There’s so much happening this week in the wake of John Piper’s remarks that I thought it deserved its own category.)

1) The Rhetoric of Masculine Christianity Yet the most important issue is not that Piper’s view would be misunderstood.  The absolute fundamental problem would be that it would be mistakenly taken as good news.

2) John Piper’s Masculine Christianity There is certainly a masculine feel to Christianity; but does this masculine feel necessarily exclude an equal female feel? Aren’t there aspects of the Christian faith that have a feminine feel to them…and should we also seek to promote these?

3) Lecrae, 116 Clique and John Piper — 100& Masculinity I assert that it is not masculinity that saved us from femininity; rather, that love compelled Christ to come and save us from fear, hate and darkness; that love compelled Christ to sacrifice all to save us from ourselves, our sin and our selfishness.

4) Writing for a Sexist World  [A]s women who write we have to be feminist, explicitly feminist—because the reception of our work will often be sexist.

5) Women’s History: Give Credit Where It’s Due Motivated by the belief that men and women were made in God’s image to “rule the earth” together, these pro-woman, pro-justice believers sought to right wrongs for those who had less social power. Isn’t it time we reclaimed our own story?

6) Masculine Christianity’s Problem One of the major issues today is the rise of education among women, making some men feel intimidated.

7) Unbinding the Feet: Women in Ministry In hindering some women from the fullness of their callings, we hinder the entire Body of Christ as well.

Community: Other Issues

1) seeds matter. we don’t have to keep perpetuating systems we fundamentally disagree with.  we don’t have to pass on a legacy of inequality and sexism to our children.  we don’t have to comprise our integrity  to keep fitting in. change starts with us.

2) Interview with Dan Brennan [W]e should never treat persons as instruments for achieving our own agendas….This is foundational for a life-giving, holiness and reverence between the sexes in marriage and friendship.

3) Does Anyone Actually Belong in Church? I want to step back and ask, “What do we mean when we say we don’t feel like we belong in church?”

4) Why Young People Are Feeling Conservative Evangelicalism The report cites the tension felt by young adults who find it difficult—if not impossible—to remain “sexually pure,” especially since most heterosexuals don’t marry until their mid-to-late twenties.

5) A love note to the workaholic One of the most commonly held and dangerous myths about vulnerability is that being vulnerable means being weak.

6) Why Jeremy Lin Matters Given Lin’s clear profession of faith, Asian American Christians in particular embrace him both as fellow ethnic kin as well as a fellow believer.

7) Christianity Out, Religion In?  In fact, these days more and more Americans are discontent with religion, and instead turn to spirituality to reconnect with God, themselves, and others.

8) When Words Become Flesh Our words must become flesh.

9) What’s the Point of Church Membership Perhaps the actual problem is that we don’t want to commit to a bunch of broken people who will inevitably hurt us and let us down. So we settle for tarnished intimacy and feigned vulnerability.

10) Gong Story My real agenda was not even to disciple her, but to make her more like me – and she saw straight through it. Who wants to be like a gong?

11) Amazing Gift: Stories of Faith, Disability and Inclusion “Anybody working toward including a particular group,” said Hartmut, “soon discovers that inclusive ministry does not stop there. It leads to many other groups, whose access to the holy table deserves equal attention.”

12) The Challenge of Disability to Christianity Persons with profound cognitive disabilities tend to teach us that the truly significant thing, the main thing, is located at the ineffable core of our being.

13) In which there is a crack in everything  Here’s my own life, I’m determined to share it, to pour it out unfinished, imperfect.

14) Five Principles for Surviving Community [Community] is a purposing to stand hand in hand with a variety of others, for a variety of reasons, and to say somehow–”These are MY people.” while not obscuring the fact that countless others, yet unknown, could equally fit such a description.

Service: Social Justice Issues

1)Stolen Childhood: How Do We End the Use of Child Soldiers?  [A]lmost 40% of child soldiers are girls. Not only do they serve as combatants, but many are also taken as “bush wives”, a term used by militia commanders to refer to sex slaves.

2) Crocheting for a Better Tomorrow [T]he cards are meant to serve as a reminder that we should remember to feel compassion and love for our neighbors both locally and globally.

3) Do We Have to Forgive Chris Brown? Something is very, very wrong when a story about Jesus protecting a woman from male violence is being used to protect a violent man from feminist criticism.

4) Finding Our Political Will to End Poverty Remarkably, we made it through 2011 without any major cuts to programs focused on hungry and poor people. We maintained the safety net in this country, and it is doing exactly what it is supposed to do.

5) Cost-Effective Compassion The difficulties in assessing the impact of antipoverty efforts only magnify the need for understanding the impacts of different types of programs.

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