Dark Brightness

Bleak Theology: Hopeful Science


At this time of the year, in New Zealand, people sit exams. It is the end of the academic year: the university students have gone home (and marking that lot took a couple of days), the last of the music exams for the year have been done, and most high school students are sitting either school exams or external exams. The parent network is keeping up to date on this. The prayer chain has a list of when people are sitting, and is praying for them.

This happens every year. We sit our examinations, then we review them and prepare for the next ones. Then we have Christmas and collapse: for two weeks (workers), six weeks (schoolboys) to twelve weeks (university students).

Now we expect examinations, and if we do poorly we expect that the response from those who are wise will be gentle but firm: learn from your mistakes and do better. It is a pity we do not have the same reaction in the church.

James 3:13-4:12

13Who is wise and understanding among you? Show by your good life that your works are done with gentleness born of wisdom. 14But if you have bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not be boastful and false to the truth. 15Such wisdom does not come down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, devilish. 16For where there is envy and selfish ambition, there will also be disorder and wickedness of every kind. 17But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy. 18And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace for those who make peace.

1Those conflicts and disputes among you, where do they come from? Do they not come from your cravings that are at war within you? 2You want something and do not have it; so you commit murder. And you covet something and cannot obtain it; so you engage in disputes and conflicts. You do not have, because you do not ask. 3You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, in order to spend what you get on your pleasures. 4Adulterers! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. 5Or do you suppose that it is for nothing that the scripture says, “God yearns jealously for the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? 6But he gives all the more grace; therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” 7Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9Lament and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy into dejection. 10Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.

11Do not speak evil against one another, brothers and sisters. Whoever speaks evil against another or judges another, speaks evil against the law and judges the law; but if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. 12There is one lawgiver and judge who is able to save and to destroy. So who, then, are you to judge your neighbor?

This is correction. This is blunt: James never uses a euphemism if a plain word will suffice. This is not about our self esteem. We are to lament and mourn and weep tht we have failed Christ.

We are not to let ambition drive us in what we do, not speak evil of another (indulging in gossip), nor be adulterous, envious, greedy and resist the truth.

But instead we hate correction. Consider this:

There are “overweight” marathon runners, “overweight” raw vegans, “overweight” people of every imaginable fitness level and eating competence. FA/HAES is all about telling people, especially women, that they are OK, that they are valuable, regardless of their weight, because that knowledge is freeing. It allows women to say, “You know what? I’m going to care for my body whether I lose weight or not. I’m going to choose to nourish my body with good food and movement because it’s good for me, not so that I can meet an external standard.”

Women are bombarded with the message that they are only as valuable as their dress size is small, as their waist is defined, as their thighs are smooth and hairless and perfectly tanned. They are constantly told that, if they are fat, it means they are lazy, stupid, worthless food addicts who just need to stop being that way so they can join society. While I agree that some of the FA/HAES tactics are sometimes too extreme (and often joined with the other problems of secular PC feminism), I think that, generally, the movement represents a much-needed corrective to that message.

Sorry for the long comment. I just feel like HAES has been a gift from God for me as a person who spent far too long connecting her dress size with her self-worth.

Well, it ain’t, folks, about self esteem. It is about being fit. If we are not fit, we need to seek correction from those who are good at this stuff before we find ourselves crippled by this. Yes, it is a struggle. But you need to keep up at it. Elspeth gave an example of how to correct when she said… in part

When I object to the fat acceptance movement, it’s not about whether or not society should be kind or accepting of obese people. It’s about whether or not we should be telling people that it’s okay to be unhealthy and to accept bad habits and bad health in themselves. Of course all human beings bear the image of God. I’m stunned that you think I was calling overweight people subhuman.


Being rather amazonian myself, I get the whole body type thing. However, I do agree with Lady that the notion of the rail thin person who doesn’t do much is oversold. I took the time to talk to two very elderly women in my family about this several years ago when I got tired of struggling. They both said that although they didn’t watch what they ate, they were also always moving as were most women of their era. They figured the combination of real food and constant activity is why you didn’t see many obese women in their day. Both women are over 80, still healthy and still with us. The fact that rampant obesity is a new phenomenon should be enough to make us question whether this is something we should just get used to.

One of the long term lurkers suggest that the women google “crossfit”. I do. Regularly, it gives me motivation.

The trouble, is that the same attitude occurs throughout our lives. It is always someone else’s fault. We are not responsible. We refuse to accept correction. Another example is from SSM:

 I cannot tell you how often I read about unbelievably poor financial management on spinster blogs.  One woman wrote about spending thousands of dollars on a rug; another wrote about spending way more than she could afford on a necklace.  Debt pressures are often the result of credit card balances that go unpaid from month to month.  If women are contributing less to their 401ks, then they are not budgeting properly due to screwed up priorities, and whose fault is that?  I know, let’s blame men!

If we are screwing up an aspect of our lives, we are not supposed to he happy. We are supposed to be unhappy about this. We do not measure our lives by our own estimation of our value. If we think we should have good self esteem, we better have good works done with gentleness to back that up.