I have always been a little bit concerned about the emphasis on fasting during Lent, but I could never quite articulate why. In my personal history, particularly in high school and early college years, using religious fasting as an excuse to not eat was part of my eating disorder/disordered eating (at times my behavior qualified for the DSM-IV diagnosis “Bulemia Nervosa” but at other times it, while disordered, did not). It became a part of the binge/purge cycle for me, and I often used it to try to “prove” to others that I was not one of those fatties who couldn’t go for a day without a twinkie (despite the fact that I haven’t had a twinkie since I was five years old). I knew, personally, that religious fasting is not going to work for me, but I still felt there was something theologically wrong with taking the example of Biblical fasting and trying to apply it to our life today.
Cleric At Large posted her Sunday sermon that is about this topic and when I read it my whole body said, “YES!” She has really nailed some of the theological concerns with fasting in modern society.
Here are a couple of excerpts, but please, go read the whole thing.
But if we do fast, we do it in a time and a place very different from Jesus. The idea of re-establishing a right relationship with Creation or Creator by disrupting the natural rhythm of consuming and being consumed- implies that we regularly maintain a natural rhythm of consuming, and being consumed.
Our reading from Deuteronomy lays out what a natural, normal connection with food might look like: The harvest- the gathering up of stuff of the earth for the purpose of eating it- is marked by thanksgiving, and celebration. It is a moment for remembering the past, and looking to the future. It is a time for joining together with friends and strangers- to celebrate together that the Lord has given sufficient abundance for all.
If that is the hallmark for what “normal” eating might look like, then we fall short.
Someone please show me where the reset button is on our “normal” relationship with this basic life-giving act of eating, with the natural rhythms of interconnecting with the Creation by consuming it. We are, I think, in deep need of both a symbolic and a concrete way to ‘reset’ a right relationship with both the Creation that we incorporate into our selves- and the Creator who brought it all into being.
I’m just not sure that more abstaining, more declaring this or that food to be ‘off limits’ is the departure from the normal order of things that we’re looking and longing for.
I also just want to point out that neither Cleric at Large nor I are anti-fasting. I just think her sermon can open up an excellent discourse about how we fast, when we fast, and why we fast (or why we don’t fast). So yeah, go read it!