Thanks to Jodi Belcher of Building Faith for this exceptionally thorough and body- and life-affirming guide On Not Taking Lent out on Our Bodies.
While there are certainly far more diverse views on fasting than those presumed by Belcher, many of her underlying assumptions are broadly held – and many of their implications are broadly experienced. Belcher’s thesis is that with ‘all the threads’ of ‘fasting and self-denial, reckon[ing] with our sin, and follow[ing] Jesus’s journey to certain suffering and death… our faith can get tangled up in confusing and even harmful messages about our bodies”.
- Bodies are sinful or shameful
- Bodies are weak
- Bodily needs should be suppressed, especially in relation to spiritual needs
- Bodily suffering is part of God’s will
- God won’t forgive me unless I steep my body in guilt and shame
- Bodies don’t matter to God”
We might also add:
- Bodies can’t be trusted
- Bodies should not be liked
Belcher urges us to challenge these assumptions and norms so that Lent can be more about ‘discerning body-affirming ways through the season’. She then discusses:
- Addressing Sin
- Jesus’ Suffering and Self-Denial
Each segment includes discussion questions for a planning team; tween/teen, adult, or intergenerational study group; or body-affirming spiritual support group.
This might be its own Lenten focus/study. Pair the article with:
- Unbound’s Interactive Journal on Christian Social Justice: Disabling Lent: An Anti-Ableist Lenten Devotional
- Illustrated Ministry’s This Is My Body Lenten Devotional, An Illustrated Lent for Families: This Is My Body, and This Is My Body Lenten Worship Liturgy Set, which explore ‘how Jesus lived in his body’… and invites us ‘to take care of and embrace the goodness of our own bodies’
- Anne Cumings’ My Body Is Good: Embracing Body Positivity and Giving Up Diet Culture for Lent (Upper Room), written for women, ‘with the intention of healing from diet culture’, affirming that our God-given bodies are good
- UCC pastor and educator, Anastasia Kidd’s Fat Church: Claiming a Gospel of Fat Liberation (Pilgrim); visit the Fat Church website here
- Lyndsey Medford’s My Body and Other Crumbling Empires: Lessons for Healing in a Sick World (Broadleaf; March, 2023); an excerpt, Embodying Repair in Ourselves and the World is here.
- Or other books or articles from our Pastoral Care Body Image lib guide
The RCL Year A is full of texts with specific things to say about our bodies – and with all that is happening in the world intent upon defeating us, body and soul, it may be a wonderful season of affirmation, learning, and growth with regard to our relationships with our own bodies and with the bodies of others – including our planet!