Archive for August, 2005

New informtion on Ocean Springs

August 31, 2005

I spoke with Al’s mother, Helen Sturgeon, this morning. Al and his family went to their house yesterday to see the damage. There was nothing left of the house. Mrs. Helen said that there were 10-15 families from the church in the same situation. Al found out that his insurance will not pay anything.

I made contact with the Church of Christ disaster relief organization last night and I gave them Al’s name and information on the Ocean Springs Church of Christ. They said they would try to make contact with them in the next couple of days. Mrs. Sturgeon will give Al the contact information for the relief organization the next time she talks with him.

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No Politics Today

August 30, 2005

I wish this break were under better circumstances. I was born in Biloxi and raised there and in Ocean Springs, went to college in Louisiana, and have many friends and family who were in the path of the hurricane. So this is hitting me pretty hard. I just talked to my friend Danielle who is from Diamondhead and now lives in St. Louis, MO, and she said it was really hard because she was expected to be working when all she could do is wonder if her childhood home was still standing. I have not been able to concentrate either.

At this point, the extent of the damage is still not known, but what we have learned is pretty much all bad. As I just said in my response to the earlier post, my brother (foolishly) elected to stay at my parents’ house in Biloxi rather than evacuate to Alabama with them. Their house is 5 miles north of the interstate in Woolmarket, so I assume that he is okay but there is no way to know. I can’t do anything but watch CNN and feel sad that my entire hometown has been destroyed and so many people have died. I wish I had something more profound to say but words fail me at such times.

Fasting and Prayer

August 30, 2005

I know it is not my day to post, but I thought this would be an invitation to all who would like to participate.

There are a few of us here in Tucson, Arizona, that fast on Wednesdays and come together to pray instead of eating lunch.

I know some reading do not have a lot of disposable income to help the relief effort for the hurricane victims, but here is a chance for everyone to do something.

I would invite anyone who is able to fast for 24 hours (from after supper today until supper tomorrow) and donate the money you would have spent for food to the relief effort. I would also encourage you to spend what would be your normal lunch hour in prayer for those hit by the hurricane.

There are two outlets for helping people. One is through this website Churches of Christ Disaster Relief Effort and the other is by sending donations to help Al’s congregation specifically to:

Helen Sturgeon
c/o 7th & Mueller Church of Christ
1000 S. 7th St.
Paragould, AR 72450

I’m sure there are other ways to contribute as well, and the comment board could be a good clearing house for posting ways to contribute.

Even if you do not have money or are not able to fast, please pray for those affected by this disaster.

Update on Al

August 30, 2005

Al spoke to his mother this afternoon and said that they are OK. It is my understanding that there was some damage to their church building. They have not been allowed to leave the building though.

Nature the Terrorist

August 29, 2005

I’m with Duane, praying for our Brothers and Sisters on the Gulf Coast. So far, it looks like N’Awlins has dodged a pretty big bullet. Unfortunately, that means someone else had to take the brunt, and coastal Mississippi looks to be getting the worst of it.

Watching the coverage of Katrina’s approach and the impending demise of the Big Easy got me thinking a bit. The doomsday scenarios were grim indeed. Massive flooding, total structural failure of large buildings, a cess pool of stagnant water, petrochemicals, and organic waste, death tolls in the thousands or tens of thousands… the prospects were frightening.

While the scale of the damage may not reach predicted levels, it will still be massive. There will be a significant human toll. If not in deaths, surely in suffering. There is going to be a huge economic impact. New Orleans is shut down indefinitely as a seaport, and no one can say with certainty what the effect on the petro-refineries will be. We may see a 15% drop in oil supplies and a corresponding spike in prices.

Still, our nation does not panic. We brace for the effects on our economy, but we are more focused on what will need to be done to help our friends, families, and fellow Americans affected by this storm. We don’t moan and wail about how this storm will “change our country forever.”

No… we save that kind of defeatism for the terrorist threat. Remember the fear and despair after 9/11? Remember the talk about how we would never be the same? Four airplanes crashed, two buildings were destroyed, and a third damaged. About 3000 people died. That was from a few airplanes used as makeshift missiles.

Now we have a storm releasing the heat energy of a 10 mega-ton nuclear bomb every 20 minutes. Multiply 9/11 by 20, 30, even 100 and you might begin to approach the level of destruction this storm could have brought.

Did you hear anyone talking about how our nation would be shaken to its core and brought to its knees?

Neither did I.

When does the Global War on Natural Disasters start?

Just kidding, of course.

My point is, if we can survive these storms that carry much more destructive force than terrorists could ever bring to bear, why do we fear Johnny Jihad with the dynamite life vest?

Homosexuality and the Bible—not the last word

August 29, 2005

I should start off by apologizing that I did not post anything last week. It was just too difficult with my wife’s birthday, our anniversary, and two cars (make that three) that just did not want to work. I’m back and as you can see dealing with a difficult topic.

I considered writing about the hurricane, but as Al sent out an email, I would also ask that anyone reading this who is religious in any way at all would lift the soon-to-be victims up in their prayers.

Just as a warning up front, what follows will simply be some of my ramblings on this topic and not at all a comprehensive analysis of this hot-button issue. In fact, I will likely take a few tangents so I apologize for that in a way, but also in a way you get to see somewhat of a stream-of-consciousness post. I suspect that is more true to what I’m thinking anyway. So, without further ado, here goes.

My problem with this issue first of all is that it is culture driven. If it were not for the GLBT (gay, lesbian, bisexual, transsexual?) pushing this into the public eye, I doubt we’d be addressing it at all in our churches. Why? Because when there are those in our churches who are GLBT, they are not outspoken, very likely because we’d kick them out if we knew about them. For example, a site by the pseudonym Gay Restorationist. He tells us that he writes anonymously so he won’t get kicked out of his church. But back to my point, if the whole issue of same-sex marriage was not in the arena of politics (from both sides, i.e. its advocates such as the ACLU and its dissenters, i.e. Focus on the Family), we’d probably not be talking about it much from our pulpits, or indeed, our blogs. Why? I would venture to say that it is not a primary concern of Scripture. We don’t have thousands of verses of our Bibles written about the subject. It is peripheral. One does not have to know what the Christian or biblical stance is on homosexuality to become a Christian. Not that morality is unrelated to Christian living, it is not, but for someone to become Christian, they don’t have to have all the beliefs down about such things. (If so, I think we’d all be in trouble.)

Because it is culture driven (as at least one of the reasons it is such a pervasive topic in Christian circles today), those who believe it is not sinful compare it to the slavery problem in this country. (I know some minorities that take serious issue with this comparison, and rightly so.) They suggest that churches that continue to believe it is sinful and condemned by Scripture are similar in that respect to churches that would not condemn slavery as it was practiced in the Southern states (I’ll just stay with slavery for now because discrimination and everything else involved in the racial problem that still exists today would be too broad for my posting.). From such a perspective, they would challenge us to reinterpret Scripture and come to a better understanding of it as they have (tongue in cheek intended), namely that homosexuality is not sinful. Just as slavery was cultural and Paul could not envision a world without slavery and therefore technically did not condemn it even though it was wrong, so also, the type of homosexuality he condemned was a cultural phenomenon and he could not have envisioned a loving, non-abusive, monogamous, homosexual relationship. What Paul saw of homosexuality was of two kinds—either idolatrous cultic prostitution or man-boy relationships at feasts that were unequal and would be pedophilia by today’s standards. The comparison is usually taken a bit farther along the lines of the head covering (if that is what it is) of 1 Corinthians 11. Just as that was cultural and Paul commands women to wear a veil (or have long hair, the issue is not clear) when praying, and we don’t follow it today, so also what Paul condemned in homosexuality was not the same as what it is today and so we should not follow it either. Since Paul did not know what we would face here in the 20th/21st centuries, he could not have condemned it and so the Scriptures that speak about it do not include monogamous homosexual relationships like we have today. I’m trying to give a fair representation of the issue, but realize that I will likely miss part of their point or misrepresent it and am open to someone calling me on it if they happen to read this article. For more on this, see the arguments, especially in the comments section of Wrestling with Gays, but I must warn you in advance that some of it gets very explicit in describing some behaviors so that you might not want to read that blog. The comments written, of widely varying views, are for the most part irenic, and that surprised me. For the purpose of discussion, I will give those with this view full cooperation in the nature/nurture argument. I have no difficulty allowing that it might be genetic, and if someone claims that in their case it is the way God made him/her, I will give him/her the benefit of the doubt and say okay, it is the way he made you. I don’t think that is the crucial part of the discussion here. I will also allow the point of comparison with slavery, but only where it fits. The only real point of comparison between homosexuality and slavery is that the church was not the front runner in the debate, but it was people from outside the church that brought up the issue and thrust it upon the church, helping the church understand how important it was to condemn slavery as it was practiced in America at that time.

One interesting side point is that the people who were “wrong” in the slavery debate were the ones who went to Scripture to try to prove that what they were doing was okay. The Bible does not condemn slavery, or even abusive slavery (see 1 Peter 2:18), and while I would have to agree with one of our ancestors in the faith, Alexander Campbell, in this respect, there are plenty of Scriptures that talk about how we are to treat one another as Christians, which should lead one to conclude that slavery as it was practiced in the United States was wrong. In other words, there was something more central in Scripture than slavery itself, namely the command to love one’s neighbor as oneself, that should override anything that seems to condone something that by its very nature disregards this important command. I don’t want to belabor this point, but it is curious to me that those advocating homosexuality as not sinful are on the same side in their use of Scripture as those who advocated slavery—they are going to Scripture to try to prove that what they are doing is not condemned. Anytime someone does this, I’m a little leery to say the least. I find that on a personal level, when I try to do this, I’m wrong 100% of the time, whether or not my interpretation is ultimately proven correct. It is my own denial of my sinful behavior and my attempt to rationalize it by going to Scripture to prove it is okay that scares me. When I’m in this situation, it takes someone other than myself to bring me back to reality.

Let me give you an example of what I mean. There are varying views on sexual self-fulfillment. (I wrote it this way because the actual term may set off warnings on the parental controls of most web browsers, but I’m sure you get what I’m talking about.) Since the subject is not addressed directly at all in Scripture (for those of you thinking of Onan, this is not what he was doing and it is not what Genesis 38:8-10 is addressing), we are left to our own interpretations as to whether it is okay or sinful. As it is practiced by most, I cannot accept it as being okay; it is sinful. (You might be convinced otherwise and I won’t take issue with that.) The Scripture I think applies is Matthew 5:27-28, which reads:

27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. (NRSV)

One who usually is a practitioner of this type of self-fulfillment in my experience is usually using some picture or mental image of someone other than his wife. From the other side of the fence, on the women’s side, it might not involve a picture, but is fantasizing about someone other than one’s husband typically. I think Jesus’ remarks in Matthew 5 speak to this situation and call it sinful. It is committing adultery by lusting after someone else and actually fantasizing about the actual fulfillment of that act. Now suppose I have a very strong sex drive (that is definitively a genetically inherited trait) and my wife/husband just can’t fulfill my desires as much as I need her/him to do this. Or, say I’m a single person. What is the answer? Experience tells me I will try to rationalize my own behavior and justify it by saying the Bible does not address it. Although this argument is technically true, it is not the end of the matter. Aside from using the Scripture I mentioned, I’ve counseled enough couples to know there are damaging effects this behavior has on couples’ intimacy similar in kind to the damage having an affair does. The point, however, is that I’m tempted to go to Scripture to prove that what I’m doing is okay. When I do that, I’m in dangerous territory, to say the least. It is too easy to find a way around what Scripture says so that I can rationalize away my sin.

One other case where I’m tempted to do this is when it comes to women’s roles in the church. It is somewhat confusing to say the least when we look at women praying and prophesying in 1 Corinthians 11 and then being told not to speak at all in 1 Corinthians 14. Scripture itself is not of one voice it seems when it comes to what women should do in the assembly. Phoebe, in Romans 16:1-2 was clearly a deacon as she is called such there and yet in some situations Paul seems to say women should not have authority over men (or is it their husbands?). Without going into detail here (and getting myself into more trouble), I think women were doing many more things than what we allow them to do today in Churches of Christ, but I will also say that some Scriptures seem to limit their role. It is sufficiently unclear that I hope that I am not letting my egalitarian nature drive my interpretation of Scripture, but I will admit that this is possible.

The Scriptures speaking about homosexuality, alternatively, are of one voice—it is sinful. One can argue that they don’t apply because of cultural reasons but one cannot say that there is a Scripture that discusses homosexual behavior and permits it. Even in attempting to rationalize the behavior, one would have to really twist Scripture around to say that Paul (or Leviticus) taught that homosexual behavior, as it was practiced then, was permitted. Although Leviticus discusses some things that seem strange to us and are culturally driven, the overriding point in Leviticus 18 (where male homosexuality is discussed as well as bestiality, but not female homosexuality [was it not even an option?]) is not to be like the nations who defiled themselves by doing everything that God commands the Israelites not to do. They are his people, whom he brought out of Egypt, and he has the right to command them when it comes to sexual morality. To do otherwise would mean God would punish the people and kick them out of the land he gave them. Paul, a Pharisee trained in the Law, does not suggest anything different from what Leviticus says. Although in Romans 1 he adds the female variety of homosexual practice, he does not go on to permit any form of homosexuality.

For those who think they know the mind of Paul well enough to say he’d permit their form of homosexuality, Paul recommends some things we would not today. In 1 Corinthians 7, he suggests people should get married if their passions are too strong (notice in the case above of a genetic predisposition of strong sexual desire, Paul does not recommend self-fulfillment, even for singles), that couples should not withhold sex, except by mutual agreement, that widows and single people should remain such, like Paul, because it is better and they can devote themselves fully to the Lord, that it is better to be married than aflame with lust, etc. Paul nowhere permits couples to live together and have sexual relations to see if they are compatible. (There are at least a couple of books out there that show how this is harmful to a marriage rather than helpful as is the typical reason for doing this.) In fact he does not permit pre-marital sex anywhere, but it is prevalent today. In fact, in the only situation I can think of right now where Paul deals with an actual relationship that involves aberrant sexual behavior, he tells the church to kick the man out (1 Corinthians 5 where a man has his father’s wife). It appears that in 2 Corinthians this was done, the man was repentant, and he was restored to the community (2 Corinthians 2:5-8). My point in this paragraph is that we do not know the mind of Paul, but only have some of what he wrote in our Bible. It is a common misconception that is also part of the WWJD (What Would Jesus Do?) bracelets. We assume we know what Jesus would do, but I doubt that we would think that when a Syrophoenician woman came up to him asking him to heal her daughter that he would call her a dog and try to send her away without helping her (see Mark 7:24-30).

One last word on this issue. Some will contend that when they make the homosexual issue a cultural one, thereby saying that Paul does not condemn the form of homosexuality they practice, they are being more consistent in their application of Scripture, considering everything in it to be culturally bound. This does not make me any less consistent simply because I think that Romans 1 and Leviticus 18 speak to our current situation. I am consistent in saying that any form of sexual behavior that is against God’s intention is sinful. That is the principle at work that I see in these texts. Paul thought that Leviticus 18 applied to his day in Romans 1 just like I see that both apply in our current context. The specific manifestations of the behavior are not at issue; the principle of sexual purity is, in Romans and in 1 Corinthians. (For another argument, that does not even mention homosexuality, in 1 Corinthians 6 Paul deals with people who go to a prostitute [culturally this is very likely a cultic prostitute in some form of ritual worship] and have relations with her. In his discussion of this issue [similar to Romans 1], he does not even deal with the fact that this involves worshiping an idol or another god. He goes directly to the problem with the impure sexual behavior. A person has become “one flesh” with a prostitute. His basic question is, “How can a person be united with the Lord and with a prostitute at the same time?” Such a sin is against one’s own body, which belong not to oneself, but to the Lord. The body is not meant for sexual promiscuity, but for the Lord [1 Corinthians 6:13], no matter what form of sexual behavior this takes.) When Paul takes this much of an issue with impure sexual behavior, I will probably not be convinced that he would permit the form of homosexuality that is practiced today, even if it is monogamous. Yet I am open to listen on this point to whomever would show me a text suggesting the behavior is not sinful. All I would ask is that one not try to point out all the aberrant heterosexual behavior to try to distract people from the main point and point fingers saying “they do the same things we do.” Keep in mind that I have not said those are permissible either.

Sorry for my rambling, but I hope you can take something from this. You at least know where I stand. Let me know where you stand. The crucial point here, though, is an irenic spirit in the discussion (which I hope I’ve demonstrated as well), and an attitude of love toward one another in spite of our disagreements.

Golf and Photography

August 27, 2005


While I was in college at Harding University, I decided it was time for me to cultivate a hobby. Knowing that I would be going to dental school in a few years, I decided to pick up the game of golf because, as everyone knows, doctors and golf go hand in hand. I received a set of clubs for Christmas my sophomore year and could not wait to try them out when the weather improved. Quickly I realized that I was not very good at golf.

As spring rolled around that year I began to go to the driving range and the golf course weekly. Playing more golf did not make me any better. The more I played I realized that every once in a while I would hit a Jack Nicholas type shot (Tiger Woods and John Daly had not come along yet). It was those once a round shots that kept me coming back to golf. Every time I played I would long for one of those great shots. If I were in the sand, if I were in the woods, or if I had to go over water, I would imagine hitting that great shot. Sometimes I would.

Now, I know you are wondering how this fits into a photography column. For me, golf and photography are similar in this way. Every time I go out on a photography expedition I long for that perfect shot. Sometimes I may go out and shoot pictures all day and not get a great shot. Then one day I get it. The shot. The Ansel Adams, Alfred Stiegitz or George Tice style picture. You know the one, the one that after it is developed or put on the computer you sit and stare at it and think, “Wow, that is a great picture!” It is after I have taken one of those pictures that I develop a fire in my belly to go out and try to masterfully compose another one that is even better than the last. If you are a photographer, I hope that you have taken at least one of those shots. If you have not, go out and keep shooting until you do.

What was your perfect shot?

By the way since no one submitted a photo for the theme joy we will postpone that until someone sends me a photo for that theme. My email is drwatson@grnco.net

SPORTS DAY

August 26, 2005

I’ve worn a few Housefly hats so far, and now it’s my turn to focus on Friday’s sports page. DeJon has promised to keep the comment board buzzing and fill in for me on days when I’m out of pocket, and he has full security clearance to post a second column anytime he wants to. Plus, Joe Longhorn is also ready and willing to keep the sports arguments going.

Speaking of sports arguments, let’s argue about two today.

THE JUNIOR CIRCUIT

If you missed it last week, the three of us offered our fearless picks for the National League playoffs in a little friendly contest. With a week gone by, DeJon’s looking a little better than Joe and I. If anyone else wants in (we’re just playing for bragging rights), feel free to add your picks this week.

Here’s a little recap for those interested:

Al:
NL EAST: Marlins overtake the Braves in a late upset
NL CENTRAL: Cardinals
NL WEST: Padres
WILDCARD: Braves
DIVISION PLAYOFFS: Cards over Braves; Marlins over Padres
NLCS: Cards over Marlins

Joe:
NL EAST: Braves
NL CENTRAL: Cards
NL WEST: Padres
WILDCARD: Astros
DIVISION PLAYOFFS: Cards over Padres; Astros over Braves
NLCS: Astros over Cards

DeJon:
NL EAST: Braves
NL CENTRAL: Cards
NL WEST: Padres
WILDCARD: Phillies
DIVISION PLAYOFFS: Cards over Phillies; Braves over Padres
NLCS: Cards over Braves

Now, it’s only fair that we pay attention to the Junior Circuit (I love using that term!). Let’s round out our little prediction war and see if any other sports fans are willing to join in our little August Madness contest. Ten points are available for each division winner and wildcard winner, twenty points each for each division playoff winner, forty points for each pennant winner, and eighty points for the World Series champion. For a tiebreaker, predict how many games the World Series will go.

Here’s my fearless American League picks:

AL EAST: Yankees
AL CENTRAL: White Sox
AL WEST: Angels
WILDCARD: Red Sox
DIVISION PLAYOFFS: Red wins the battle of the Sox; Yanks over Angels
ALCS: Sox over Yanks – again…

And in the World Series, Cardinals over the Red Sox in seven games in a much more palatable rematch.

Alright, step up to the table. Let’s see what you’ve got.

ARGUMENT #2: WOMEN’S SPORTS:

I’d like a little friendly argument on this topic: the present-day female athlete that is, by her persona, doing more to advance women’s sports than anyone else.

Some of you male chauvinist pigs will need a little help to get this discussion off the ground. I’m not asking who’s the hottest female athlete (i.e. the reason YOU may have a sudden interest in female athletes). Let’s take the high road and discuss who we believe it is that, by her athletic prowess, is causing more girls to take up sports as well as causing more people around the world to tune in and show up for women’s athletic events.

Okay, you’ll need a little primer. Let me offer whom I believe to be the individual that leads this concept in each individual sport – which may prompt some discussion all by itself. But let’s eventually take it one step further and offer up an idea of who does the most to popularize women’s sports among all of these great athletes.

Tennis: Serena Williams (with apologies to both Maria and Lindsay – girls want to BE Serena, and fans tune in to see her athletic dominance)

Motor Sports: Danica Patrick (too easy)

Golf: Michelle Wie (Annika may be better, but Wie brings more popularity)

Basketball: Sheryl Swoopes (with lots of competition from Leslie, Catchings, Bird, and Taurasi)

Soccer: Mia Hamm (easily)

Softball: Jennie Finch (another no-brainer)

Track & Field: Gail Devers (I guess. The only other name I recognized on the USATF website is Marion Jones, and it sure can’t be her.)

Swimming: Amanda Beard (I at least recognize her name)

Volleyball: Misty May and Kerri Walsh (they have to tie)

May I have a drumroll, please?

My overall pick? Serena Williams.

I know you all agree with me, right?

Who Cares?!

August 25, 2005

In the book Spontaneous Healing, Dr. Andrew Weil states, “More than negative feelings, apathy may be the major emotional obstacle to spontaneous healing.” He goes on to discuss our cultural epidemic—depression. “I experience depression as a state of high potential energy, wound up and turned inward on itself. If that energy can be accessed and moved it can be a catalyst for spontaneous healing.”

I bet that you know someone who is taking an antidepressant—maybe even you, yourself, are on a Prozac type drug. Question is—was it prescribed by a psychiatrist or simply by your gynecologist?

Granted there are people who need mood-altering drugs, but I wonder if our medical professionals aren’t just a little out of control when it comes to the way they handle people’s so called “depression.”

I have to agree with Dr. Weil who said, “…I worry about such enthusiasm for drugs that damp down passion, because I see intensity of feeling as a key to activating the healing system.”

Maybe it isn’t negative emotions that make you ill as much as it is the suppression of negative emotions, and I fear antidepressants lead to more and more suppression in general.

Lose apathy—gain passion. I applaud the “life purpose” movement.

I had the opportunity to meet a convicted murder in a Nashville prison last year. I was just visiting, thank goodness, but the prisoner I met, John, had been there for 30 years. He may never get out before he dies.

John has seen all types of criminals come and go, and he has determined that the most important and sometimes hardest thing a person can do is find their purpose. He is smart enough to know that purpose always has something to do with helping people. He said, “When you get out of self, you can move along in life.”

I have bouts with depression myself, and the only cure for me is to do like John said and “get out of self,” and I thank God, I didn’t have to sit in a 10’x10’ cell to learn that wisdom.

The little rooms in monasteries are also called cells. Our cells are what make up our bodies. Healthy cells make for a healthy person.

As a friend pointed out to me, cells eat, breathe, and eliminate. I’ve got the eating part down, but sometimes I forget to breathe, and from the looks of the stack of old boxes in the corner of my bedroom—elimination is a real issue as well.

So, as I ramble…it was something about apathy, depression, suppression, passion, and getting out of self. And, don’t forget “passion” means “to suffer.”

“But the truly wise, Arjuna, who dive deep into themselves, fearless one-pointed, know me as the inexhaustible source. Always chanting my praise, steadfast in their devotion, they make their lives an unending hymn to my endless love.” Bhagavad Gita (Stephen Mitchell)

Me Neither

August 23, 2005

Hi guys,
It’s been a really crazy week at work, and I have several things in the works but no finished product yet as of today.

I do, however, have a book recommendation that is not particularly political in nature. Last week I read The Obesity Myth by Paul Campos, a law professor at the University of Colorado. As someone who has really struggled with, and continues to struggle with, body image issues, this book was a breath of fresh air. He reviews the medical literature about weight and concludes that the health risks have been grossly exaggerated and that media reporting on the issue is almost uniformly distorted. He then discusses the political and cultural dimensions of our country’s war on fat. Some of what he talks about is intuitive: for example, that fat is the last safe prejudice, and we have decided that overweight people are overweight because of their own bad choices and uncontrolled gluttony even though that is rarely true.

In all, the book was very thoughtful, deeply felt, and honest. Campos sees what our culture does to women (and increasingly to men also) and doesn’t want it to happen to his daughter. It was an interesting decade-later bookend for me to The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf, which I read almost exactly ten years ago. The books share a lot of similarities actually, even aside from their titles and subject matters — both are a little polemical, a little scattered, very imperfect, but the kind of books that stay with you. The irony is that, despite the fact that we are approaching some clear biological limits with respect to what is possible for people to aspire to physically … nothing has changed in a decade with respect to how pervasive this pressure is. If anything, things have gotten worse.

In the course of those ten years, I’ve flirted with anorexia twice, had cosmetic surgery, and lost and gained the same ten pounds several times, all very self-consciously (as in, I knew what I was doing even as I had my nose cut off to spite my face). I’ve hated myself with unimaginable depth for not looking the right way, for not being beautiful and perfect. And no matter how enlightened I get with respect to anything else, no matter how much I have accomplished, no matter how many people love me, it can’t erase the cellulite or the weak chin or anything else that makes me “less than” in my mind and in our looks-obsessed culture.

People always ask me how I can feel these things and be a feminist. I say, it’s my Achilles heel. I’ve resisted in so many other ways it was inevitable that they would get to me somehow. But I acknowledge that feeling this way about myself does not comport with my values. It’s hard to resist a cultural pressure this strong. It’s so endemic to the particular segment of the culture I live in, too, that it’s hard to even carve out any psychic space that is free of it. It is no coincidence that my thinnest and fittest years were in law school, where there were very few overweight people (seriously, almost none) and tons of ultra-skinny women many of whom were rumored to have eating disorders. But I was at an Ivy League school with a bunch of rich white kids. This is a race- and class-bound issue as well as a gendered issue.

Campos’ most original and interesting argument comes right at the end, when he muses that perhaps upper-class Americans are so disgusted by the supposed overconsumption of the obese lower classes because we are aware of and secretly alarmed by our overconsumption of material things and natural resources. I’m not really doing it justice, since he also ties in the history of capitalism and the Protestant work ethic, etc.

Another thing that really struck me about the book is that, having no prior knowledge of his work, I could not tell what Campos’ politics are (other than the overconsumption part, which suggests that he leans left). And looksism, or whatever you want to call it, is one of those odd issues that doesn’t have a clear left-right split. No matter which side of the fence you’re on, the weight of public opinion (pun intended) seems to cut the same way. Beautiful and thin= good, Ugly and fat= bad. I knew that in kindergarten, when I first lied about my weight, saying that I weighed 35 pounds even though I weighed 45. I knew at age 5 that it was better to be ten pounds less than what you were. Surely that is an indictment of something about our culture.