The Puppy Post

If you’re wondering why the cute dogs and cat picture was deleted, it’s because I meant to post it to my other blog. I keep this one for fat acceptance, feminism, and religious posts, while Puppy Goes Zoom is primarily for cute pictures and thoughts about dogs, including training, rescue, and breed advocacy.

Fat-Positive Filmmaker Being Bullied

Ragen Chastain posted this morning about Lindsey Averill. Lindsey is making a really cool fat acceptance documentary called Fattitude. She still needs about 20,000 to make her goal, and has a little over a month to do it.

And of course, some jackass (or group of jackasses) decided that the best and most mature thing they could do in response would be to steal her trailer and post it on YouTube, interspersed with 9/11-related hate speech. When she reported them, they tracked down her phone number, as well as her husband’s business phone and her family’s phone numbers. They’ve also been posting backer info online, but I think that’s been taken down.

The ringleader of this little crew of scumbags uses the handle GODBLESSADOLFHITLER on YouTube and Twitter. He also likes to steal people’s photographs from the I STAND campaign. Because nothing says, “I don’t have a life” like hanging out on YouTube and Twitter all day harassing and mocking people.

So, I’m working on publicizing the project as much as I can, trying to get positive comments, money, and suggestions for dealing with the asshole brigade sent her way.

Marathons, Family, and Bodies

So, a couple weeks ago, I spent a weekend with my brother, including watching him run a marathon. (That’s kind of his thing.) This was a very good thing, since I don’t see my brother nearly enough.

And yet, at the same time, being around him and his runner friends dredged up all sorts of insecurities about my own body and my own lackadaisical exercise routine. Most days, I can do pretty well at accepting myself where I am, but around him, not so much.

But then, something cool happened. I was sitting on the living room floor doing some stretches after a walk. A walk that I’d done longer than I probably should have because I was comparing myself to my marathon-running brother. I was doing what, for me, is a simple, basic, easy stretch. Sitting on the floor, one leg bent, touching the other leg. (It looks like this.) In yoga, it’s called a head to knee stretch, but my head definitely doesn’t touch my knee.

My brother walked in, saw me stretching, and said, “I wish I could do that.” And I let that sink in for a moment. I, the fat, easily winded, non-runner, doing something that is easy for me. And my thin, muscular, 3:30-marathon-running, hundred-mile-a-week brother *wishes* he could do. (I don’t even consider myself terribly flexible–there are a lot of yoga poses I used to do when I was practicing regularly that are beyond me now.)

Bodies are different. Different strengths, different weaknesses, different potential. Not better, not worse, just different. And I know this, but a reminder is always good, and almost always needed.

Now, I’m going to take a walk, and do some stretching.

Trigger Warnings for What Now?

So, twice in the last week, I’ve seen posts in fat-positive Facebook communities with a “trigger warning” for “unpopular opinions.” It seemed like a snarky mockery of both trigger warnings in general and of people wanting to carve out fat-friendly spaces where diet talk is not allowed.

If you’re not familiar with trigger warnings, the concept is that for people who have been victims of various Really Bad Things, or who have mental health issues (or who have mental health issues because of past trauma), the internet can be a bit of a psychological minefield. You’re reading along and all of a sudden — BANG — a personal trigger smacks you in the face. It might trigger a panic attack, or throw up temptations toward unhealthy behaviors (such as purging or restricting for someone with an eating disorder). At best, it makes your day a lot worse—at worst, it can be really damaging.

For me personally, with anxiety disorder, it goes something like this. I’m scrolling happily through my Facebook feed looking at cat pictures and seeing what my friends are up to. And then, I see something graphically violent, usually a picture of animal abuse posted to “raise awareness.” I scroll away immediately, but the image is already seared into my mind. My heart rate and my breathing speed up, usually into hyperventilating. I struggle to get the image out of my head. I feel warm, and the room seems to close in on me. My brain kind of locks up, and it becomes really hard to put a coherent thought together, or to remind myself to slow my breathing.

To put it mildly, it sucks. And my experience, as triggers go, is relatively mild. A little panic attack, over in a couple minutes, with no real lingering effects (though it can’t be good for my blood pressure or overall stress levels). It’s not a flashback, like someone with PTSD might experience. It’s not even the more severe sort of panic attack, where you might have chest pains and feel like you’re dying, or that doesn’t fully subside for days.

So when I see people griping about being expected to use trigger warnings in certain Facebook groups or blog comment sections that try to be safe spaces, it irritates me. To me it implies both a presumption that you can walk into whatever space you want and expect to be catered to and a belief that a moment’s inconvenience for you is worse than ruining someone else’s whole day.

Adding to that, the specific trigger warnings or verboten topics commonly seen in fat-friendly spaces are for things that go against the whole intent of those spaces and feed into the default cultural narrative. There are a billion and a half places you can talk about weight loss online and in real life. Not just spaces focused on weight loss, but pretty much everywhere. And yet people still take offense at the idea that there should be anyplace anywhere on the internet where they can’t promote weight loss or talk about how bad fat is.

The general complaint is that people are “stifling disagreement” or “creating an echo chamber.” As if you aren’t free to critique any idea to your heart’s content on your own Facebook page, or your own blog. And as if even the communities with the strictest moderation policies (like Shakesville) don’t still have plenty of discussion and disagreement with a wide range of views.

So in that environment, a snarky “unpopular opinions” trigger warning insultingly minimizes actual mental health issues that would lead to someone benefiting from a trigger warning, implying that wanting to decide how much you want to risk a panic attack or an eating disorder relapse is equivalent to a whiny, fragile insistence that no one ever disagree with you.

Judging and Being Right

So, Matt Walsh says Jesus wants us to be judgey. He makes a couple decent points, but I don’t really agree with his conclusions.

My first big bone of contention with this article is the part where he does a lot of proof-texting where he grabs one verse out of context, with the implication that it supports his politics.

In actual fact, there are a lot of urgent truths and important moral lessons in the Bible. Interestingly, almost all of them have fallen out of favor in modern American society. Here are just a few verses that aren’t particularly trendy or popular nowadays:

(WARNING: Politically incorrect truths ahead)

[snip for just the quotes I'm referencing, there's also the badly translated gay clobber verse in there]

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart.”

“For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.” We hear that some among you are idle and disruptive. They are not busy; they are busybodies. Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the food they eat.”

Funny how the “inconvenient truths” line up with conservative politics, isn’t it? (Never mind that proof-texting is lazy theology and you can make the Bible say anything you want.)

God said to a prophet that he knew him before he formed him in the womb; therefore a blastocyst is morally equivalent to a born person. Paul said to a group who were sitting around doing nothing because they figured the end of the world was coming any day that they needed to work if they wanted to eat; therefore we should get rid of welfare.

I do agree that “Judge not lest ye be judged,” doesn’t mean “Don’t hold moral opinions on anything” or “Don’t criticize evil.” But I doubt, very seriously, that when he says he “judges rightly” that he holds himself to the same standard he holds others. When he talks about “standing up for truth,” it’s pretty clear that it’s about condemning homosexuality and abortion—all very easy for a straight male. It’s easy to feel brave and righteous when condemning actions you would never be tempted to. (See Rachel Held Evans’ “Everybody’s a Biblical Literalist until You Bring Up Gluttony”.)

But what sins does he talk about here that he admits he’s guilty of, or tempted to? Not a one. He makes a vague statement that, “I am a sinful person. If you would ever consider accepting and celebrating my sins for the sake of being “non-judgmental,” please do me a favor and stop doing me that favor. I don’t want to be made comfortable and confident in my wrongdoing. I’d rather have you hurt my feelings as you help me get to Heaven, than protect my feelings as you usher me right along to Hell.”

This statement does two things. First, it pretends that the only thing pro-choice women or gay people have to complain about from the church is “hurt feelings.” It glosses over gay kids being bullied and kicked out of their homes, it glosses over women being denied medical treatment in the hopes that the fetus growing inside them will survive. It pretends that judgment, as long as it’s right by *his* interpretation of the Bible, can’t hurt anyone. All the people who are “judging rightly” are doing God’s holy work, and anyone who’s harmed by that is just whining about “hurt feelings.”

The second thing it does is to assume that God is not strong enough to save us if we’re wrong, and makes salvation a matter of other people’s intervention rather than God’s. If my friend sins, and I don’t call him on it strongly enough, often enough, loudly enough, then it’s my fault if he goes to Hell. (And yet, I bear no responsibility if he cuts off all contact with me because all I ever did was criticize him.) Jesus’ death on the cross was not partial or conditional. It’s not only the sins you stop committing that you’re saved from. Yes, you’re supposed to repent when you know you’ve done wrong, and try to do better, but you *will not* become perfect in this life, nor are you expected to. Every human being on the planet dies with unrepented sins, and I doubt their salvation will hinge on whether someone gave them enough grief about one of the many things they did wrong.

This second bit also puts me in the position of supposedly knowing God better than my friend. Because sin is always supposed to be clear and black and white, despite the fact that the Bible is complicated, nuanced, and subject to a whole range of interpretations. But the assumption is not just that my interpretation is right, and I must educate my poor ill-informed friend, but that said friend has clearly not considered what the Bible says on the topic, clearly hasn’t prayed about it at all. It *must* be that I’m the virtuous defender, pointing out evil, and they’ve chosen to ignore God. It’s a nice story, but reality is more complex than that. Sincere Christians come to different conclusions about sin and morality *all the time.*

How about we don’t assume we’re judging rightly? Yes, call out wrong-doing when you see it, but be humble enough to accept that your view may be distorted. Accept, maybe, that other people have thought and prayed and wrestled with these things as much or more than you have. And accept that it’s not your job to drag them, kicking and screaming, down the path of righteousness.

I also find it interesting that the verses that support his politics (or kind of maybe do, if you squint) can be trotted out as “politically incorrect truths” that obviously apply across time and culture, but that a different standard applies to this one:

Judge not, that ye be not judged.

2 For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.

3 And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?

A Guilt-Free Thanksgiving

I hope everyone who celebrates Thanksgiving had a happy one. Mine was very good. Hubby and I made dinner for both sets of parents. Actually, he mostly made dinner, and I mostly made dessert.

Not a word was said about calories, or who’s gaining or losing weight, or virtuous or sinful food. It was glorious.

The fact that our parents, who hadn’t seen each other since our wedding more than seven years ago, actually got a chance to spend time together was also fabulous. (And everybody got along!)

Now, if I can just figure out what to do with all this turkey, I’ll be set. We made turkey nachos for lunch yesterday, and had hot dogs for dinner. I’m thinking “no more than one turkey meal a day” is a good rule.

Mental illness is real. In other news, water is wet, and the earth revolves around the sun.

Apparently good Christians can’t get PTSD. Kenneth Copeland, on his show, told anyone with PTSD to just “get rid of it,” claiming that psychology and drugs weren’t necessary because God’s promises in the Bible will fix it.

I don’t have words for how evil it is to tell people to go off their psych meds and God will heal them, and if you aren’t healed you’re just not a good enough Christian. The phrase “lie straight from hell” comes to mind, though.

I guess I can sort of wrap my head around with Evangelical Christianity is so hostile to the mental health field. They seem to view it as both blasphemy and competition, trying to accomplish with science what’s reserved for God. And they don’t view mental illnesses as real illnesses. It’s seen as a soul problem, not a brain chemistry problem.

But all you have to do is look around to see that being a Christian doesn’t protect you from mental illness. Mother Theresa apparently suffered from pretty horrific depression. Martin Luther dealt with intrusive thoughts, which are a symptom of OCD or anxiety disorder. And if you go into any church, anywhere, you will see the same number of people with depression, or schizophrenia, or OCD, or severe phobias, as you do out in the rest of the world. At least, if you count the ones who *used* to go to that church, but were shunned because of their illness:

A 2008 survey conducted by Baylor psychology professor Matthew Stanford showed that 36 percent of mentally ill church attendees (and former church attendees) were told their mental illness was a product of their own sin, while 34 percent were told their illness was caused by a demon. Forty-one percent were told they did not really have a mental illness, and 28 percent were instructed to stop taking psychiatric medication.

I’d like to tell Kenneth Copeland to read the book of Job again. The guys who told the suffering man that his torment was his fault, caused by his sin, were no true friends. And he’s doing the same thing to people struggling with mental health issues. At least Job’s friends didn’t tell him to do things that would actively harm him, like Copeland’s advice to quit taking psych meds, which is a good way to end up suicidal.

I would also like to ask if he’d say the same thing to someone with cancer, that if they’re still sick, they must not have prayed hard enough. (I know there are people who really do believe that, but they seem to be a fringe even among evangelicals, where “pray away the depression” is much more mainstream.)