Memories from my book:
Reflections on Fasting and Tithing Turmoil
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When I lived in California many years back I visited a “radical” Christian church which teaches you must perform lots of good works and continually mourn over your human weaknesses in order to stay saved. One of the most sickening scenes I ever witnessed in any church happened there one night. A visiting speaker invited people up for prayer. One (very large) man went up to ask prayer for a bad leg. Hmmm….now there’s one sin a self-righteous Pharisee can sink his fangs into! Instead of seeing a fellow human being created in God’s image, all that beady-eyed “evangelist” saw was a fat guy who ought to be ashamed of himself! The preacher told the man he was sure his weight was to blame for his bad leg, and he needed to ask God’s forgiveness for being big. So in front of everybody present, the man had to repeat a self-flagellating “prayer of repentance” composed by that religious bully.
Think about it. What if some skinny teenage girl had gone forward to get healed of muscle atrophy, hair loss, weak bones and bleeding gums? Would the preacher have automatically accused the girl of starving herself, or would he have showered tender-hearted sympathy on her? Would the alleged anorexic have had to publicly “pray” for forgiveness for non-eating, even if her symptoms were caused by a rare metabolic disorder? Bigots can be very inconsistent. It is a SIN to judge men’s hearts by their outward appearance (John 7:24; James 2:1)!
If the fat man was a true believer in Christ, Scripture says this about him: He is the RIGHTEOUSNESS of God in Christ Jesus (2 Cor.5:21). Period. The Bible makes no exceptions for race, color, gender, or…size, which today, in 2007, happens to be the last acceptable bastion of prejudice. Before assembled witnesses the preacher made that man wallow in a hog pen of guilt, but there is NO CONDEMNATION to those in Christ Jesus. Until the Rapture changes everyone into beauty kings and queens, Christians come in all shapes and sizes. Christians are not like a pack of eggs, all white and weighing exactly one ounce! Most eggs are brown where I live, but they’re just as tasty as white ones!
Weight gain (or loss) usually has to do with simple math, not morality. I’ve known some people who can watch TV all day long and eat like a horse, but never gain an ounce. Normal people don’t have to pig out to gain weight. All it takes is consistently taking in just ten (10) calories more per day than you expend to put on one pound in one year. That doesn’t make God love you any less!
What the preacher made that poor man repeat was an outrage: “I am a glutton,” along with other rub-your-nose-in-it “confessions”. Not one word was asked by that spiritual butcher about the man’s overall health, or whether he was depressed or just needed a brother to just love him as a person! He got treated like a dirty dumpster by a beady-eyed bigot just because he didn’t have a bod that “glorified God”.
Larger people are stereotyped as stupid and lazy, too thick-skinned to have feelings. Some try to overcome their cosmetic handicaps through a jolly personality which can laugh off any insult. But many people, whatever their size, have been kicked around so much they’re fragile as glass and think they need some preacher’s approval to justify their own existence! If that poor guy had been aware of his own value in the sight of God, instead of groveling in front of that jerk he might have given him a stronger confession and walked out. I guess I didn’t have much self-esteem then, either. I’d been programmed to believe the widespread lie that preachers, as “God’s anointed” are beyond rebuke as being the Big Chiefs, while us poor peasants parked out in the folding chairs are just extras in God’s Kingdom.
After the big man sat down, I went up to tell the preacher I’d just gotten home from a bus trip and they’d lost my luggage, so would he please pray that I’d get my stuff back?
As if picking on the fat guy wasn’t enough emotional candy for the preacher, he sneered and asked: “Sister? Do you serve the Lord?”
I didn’t voice my thoughts, which went like this: I work like a slave everyday and when I get home, I’m dead. When do I ever get time to ‘do a big purpose in life’’?
What a loaded question! I said something like: “I think so” (at least I prayed everyday, tired or not).
He replied: “Sister, I serve the Lord, and I NEVER lose MY luggage when I travel. God takes good care of His slaves.” Does that smell of a “Job’s comforter”?
His words fit his theology, because he called himself God’s slave, not His son! He’d taken a big bite out of that fat man to punish him for an outward flaw that was visible to the naked eye. Now that preacher wanted to have ME for dessert, so he searched my heart for something to criticize. Even if I WAS better-looking than that preacher (at least I didn’t have a sour-looking face), most likely I didn’t “do as much for God” as he did, so there was something else he could chew on!
I should have told that preacher it’s easy to be “spiritual” and serve “the Lord” when you’re living off other people’s loot and don’t have to serve cranky customers day in and day out, so until you’ve walked a mile in my worn-out work shoes, buster, you’ve got no room to criticize ME!
But the fat man did get the worst of it. Even if it WAS his fault of for being big, was that rude preacher so without sin that God picked him to humiliate others before the whole assembly? While it’s unhealthy to devour twice as many calories as you need, “biting and devouring one another” just might be equally offensive to God (Gal.5:15). Today’s typical institutional church reflects not Christ, but the world and its values. Immorality and divorce abound. Where’s the outcry in the Body of Christ about THOSE sins of excess?
Even Christians lust for glory and gold (James 4:1-6). That’s what “success” is all about. Give to get, confess you’re blessed, pricey suits, loads of loot, detox and Botox can fix just about any sin under the sun that’s worth worrying about. Only cosmetic sins can cripple a Christian’s progress. Inward flaws can be airburshed away as lovable human quirks. But being poor, plain or plump is unforgiveable!
Oddly enough the New Testament has much more to say about greed for money than greed for a bucket of chicken. It says virtually nothing about outward beauty being a prerequisite for “representing Jesus”! Where’s the big outcry in the church about the rampant divorce rate in “church leadership” and preachers’ voracious appetite for women, fancy cars, money, mansions and power? So long as the preacher’s rich and thin, that kind of gluttony doesn’t merit mention, even if it does condemn a soul to the devil’s barbecue pit in the world to come!
Like a nodding sheep I let the preacher pray for the recovery of my lost luggage, but I should have put confidence in God only, not in some professional “pray-er”. That preacher made my skin crawl just being in his presence! Instead of exuding the sweet fragrance of our Savior, some “ministries” give off the odor of a rotting skunk! How could someone so unlike Jesus possibly claim to be His representative? I’ll NEVER let any arrogant preacher look down his nose at me ever again! Those days are gone forever! I wish I’d had the guts to stand up for that fat man and tell that preacher that God is more worried about people being “sinny” than staying skinny.
Since that phony Pharisee was into self-humiliation as being a cure for sin, whether real or imagined, what better penance could there have been for somebody like him than to take the same medicine he forced down other people’s throats! I’d have suggested a public confession that went something like this: “Please pray for me, saints. I’m a guilt peddler who pounds repentance into people I know nothing about. I’m a glory glutton who brags about my blessings. I’m a vicious vulture who feeds off the failures and faults of others. I’m a skinny scoundrel with a Texas-sized ego that constantly needs feeding. I’m a bitter little bully with a withered heart. I need to cut bigger people down to size to make ME feel bigger! Maybe there’s something to be said for eating and it isn’t such a big sin after all. If I kept my mouth busy on a burger or a bucket of chicken, at least I wouldn’t be binging on my big brother. So, y’all please pray for me that I’ll never again open my mean old mouth unless it’s just to eat. If I kept my big fat mouth shut the rest of the time, I’d do far less damage to the Kingdom of God! Can y’all say ‘amen’!
May the good Lord hasten the day that proud preachers who know all about everybody else’s sins become humble enough to see their own.
How horrible that such a thing happened in of all places, a place where God's people meet together. I, too, have seen many negatives take place, but I still believe the good far outweighs the bad, when it comes to fallible, imperfect human beings. There is coming a day of judgement, and a day of perfection. Your article is a reminder to me to allow God to use my own life as a minister of reconciliation, and then, to search my own heart and my own motives. Thanks for sharing!