In which the blogger Deep Strength illustrates my points about exercise, health and idolatry

Apparently when I reblogged his post, wordpress interpreted it as a comment on his post, and so I got a response notification.  Having finally had a chance to look it over, I’m going to blog the comment, because it so perfectly illustrates all the points I already blogged and noted.

My responses are in bold, since he’s fisking my commentary.

And as usual, TPC proves my point by making random assumptions that aren’t true.

Another Christian falling prey to the idea that lifestyle-identity is great when it’s also idolatry.

Healthy living is now an idol. You heard it here first.

Yes the phrase “healthy lifestyle” is correlated with idolatry in the form of identifying with something that doesn’t require a distinct identity in the first place.  Pursuing more physical activity and eating wholesome foods should not be labelled “healthy lifestyle” because that is a consumerist view of the matter, which should be holistic for us Christians.

Going to a gym is not the only possible healthy lifestyle and the entire concept of healthy lifestyle is consumerist, not Christian. Living a life where physical activity is just part of life is the historical human norm and wealth means most people now have to spend money to live that way. But sneering at them for not adopting that particular mode of consumption (which in the case of this blogger happens to be self-serving “I work in the fitness industry”) is not exactly Christian or loving.

What consumption?
Gym membership? It’s certainly easy to work out at home. I’ve done it for years before.

It’s not easy to work out at home if you’re exhausted from a 3 hour roundtrip commute.  Or four kids under age 6.  Or taking care of your husband’s father with dementia and three kids under 5.  Or any number of other typical examples of what Christian families face as obstacles to working out even at home.  And that’s not getting into equipment (how to afford it and where to put it), since bodyweight exercises alone are not remotely enough to maintain physical capabilities into old age. Funny how these single men with no responsibilities always say the same old thing about how it’s soooooooo easy.  Yes, if you devote yourself to your idol, you mysteriously have plenty of time to spend worshipping your temple-body. 
Nutrition? It’s easy to buy cheap healthy foods if you look for sales, use your local co-op, and buy cheap starches like rice and potatoes. Eating junk food may be slightly more expensive at best, and is definitely more expensive in the long run when you run into health problems.

Cheap nutritious food requires a lot of cooking time, time which can’t be spent exercising and often not child-caring for the Christian SAHMs who tend to carry a little extra around.  People who home cook are sometimes quite fat despite using fresh ingredients and making everything from scratch.  And speaking of making random false assumptions, notice how Deep Strength is quick to assume I support or think people have to have junk foods, and how he also assumes a false binary between “junk food” and “cheap healthy food”.  He also assumes a co-op is readily available all over the country, in every county, city and town, which is a completely false assumption.  Most conservative Christian married couples with children (the people I am primarily concerned with and a big part of the group “Christians” Deep Strength was saying hatehatehate eating decently and being physically active) do not live where they have access to a co-op for food purchases in bulk.  

And I am not going to delve into the bitter hilarity of this single guy handwaving the logistics of shopping with little kids for bargains as “easy”.  

 
Ah, yes, working in the fitness industry is now “self serving.” I see where this is going.

Instead of “working in the fitness industry” helping people near him do more physical activity in their daily lives without going to a gym would be another option.

Already give free nutrition and training advice to those in the Church that ask for it.

“I hector people who need real solutions about how it’s super easy to work out and eat cheap nutritious food and then pat myself on the back for a job well done.  Wait, isn’t that what you said I did, but I got mad about the way you put it?”

Get back to us when you’re doing shopping trips, meal planning and cooking for the people who ask you for help.  Or when you’re giving them free personal training and spotting on equipment.  Or lending out exercise equipment you’ve moved beyond or aren’t currently using.  Or opening your home for people to come work out in, which is something that happens among men who don’t write screeds about how “Christians are allergic to health, except me!”

Mostly people have real obstacles to getting more physical activity, like working very long hours and/or care of others and living where it’s very difficult to do much physical stuff outside or inside.

Already give work-around advice, such as meal planning (mentioned above), brief workouts, bodyweight training, and motivation.

“I already SAID I HECTOR PEOPLE.  Isn’t that enough woman!”

This is particularly the case with Christians, who are more likely to be caring for little kids or old people, including the men.

Being “busy” is not mutually exclusive from being a good steward of your body. Another false dichotomy.

“Those people are obviously just lying about how hard it is to wrangle kids, get meals together that everyone in the house can eat and still find time to do physical activity for themselves.”  

It actually is very nearly mutually exclusive in a car-based society.  Which again, most Christians are stuck in.  I’m also quite upset by Deep Strength’s dismissal of real labor caring for the bodies of others with his sneering little quote marks.  Way to tell SAHMs how you really feel about their work as women, how valuable and womanly you think it is while promoting the notion that Christian women should want to do it.

Anyway I reblogged this because it’s an increasingly common knife jabbed in the ribcage of Christians by (usually single, childless, responsibility-free) men. I hope to do a bit more of a post later, we’ll see.

You know what responsibilities I do and don’t have… Interesting.
This is your only warning for being deliberately antagonistic and assuming evil of others. The next offense is a ban.

lol, just lol.   I think we’re done here.

 

Perhaps Deep Strength is out there shopping for ten SAHMs per week and doing childcare for their 35 children so they can all go to the gym as a group or something.  Or perhaps he’s organizing group cooking sessions of healthy cheap foods like the Mormons do with their canning centers.  

Somehow, though, I think someone who was concretely pushing against the major obstacles to healthier eating and physical activity would have written a very different post instead of “Christians are allergic to healthy lifestyles”.

But I’m just a housewife who tosses the occasional hay bale when my health permits and whose household typically eats locally produced meats, vegetables and produce, with very little grain consumption (we are a Primal household, to use a consumerist term to describe our overall diet).  And my children are in great physical shape and wear out all the adults around them and all the other children around them as well.  But the adults aren’t at that youthful level of vigor despite eating well and running around with them.  That’s my point, I guess.  We went to a lot of trouble to raise our kids somewhere that they could develop great habits and build a “lifestyle” if you will where being physically active and eating delicious healthy food was “my normal day after I wake up”.  And the costs for us and the many Christian families we know that made similar choices are that we can’t have that life for ourselves because there are things called learning curves, physical impacts of sitting in a car or on public transit for hours per day, and the idea that we’re all allergic to being as robust as our kids is the real evil-assuming.    

 

Why widows came to be treated poorly, or, single mommas have always been around.

The modern hyperfocus by some Christian-identifying conservatives on how *widows* should be treated better because they’re not at all like those wicked, awful, hypergamous single mommas is basically the result of broken tradition-passing and a complete inability to understand that the “grass widow” has been with humanity for a very long time.  Women sometimes claimed to be widows when they were not but as the story of the Samaritan woman and Jesus shows, there were plenty who didn’t even use that fig leaf.  The text does not definitively indicate she was widowed five times.

The Bible repeatedly refers to the fatherless, and also widows, but it would not have had the precision understanding it has when it’s used to justify giving nothing but rude words and a closed church door to single mothers and divorced mothers.

Christians, Jews, and Muslims are specifically told not to sexually regulate and speculate on just how the “widow” came to have “fatherless” children.

The fruits of patriarchal regulation are specifically commanded to be shared with the naughty.

I think the strain of disgust and revulsion these types have for single mothers and divorced mothers having any kind of support for their children comes from the individualism that conservatives are so prone to. Since they don’t understand or want to be part of real patriarchal social structures, they can only think about support in the narrow, literal terms of marrying such a woman or paying child support to her.  There is so much more than that in caring for others in your neighborhood and church though, and none of it involves “man up and marry those scandalous dames” at all, not even a lil’ bit.

It’s worth noting none of these guys are beating the bushes to go provide support to those saintly, superior literal widows and orphans, of which there are still plenty around and about.  No, it’s all talk and justification for not doing anything for women you can’t have sex with or don’t want to have sex with.  And as for the women lining up to concur that only the right kind of individual woman is entitled to help with her children, that was a driver of fun stuff like socialism, other women not wanting to deal with the wrong kind of woman.

Single motherhood does have a sort of status in wider society in that single (and to a lesser extent divorced) mothers are more willing to bully or beg people (nearly always other women, which makes the panic over some stray man having to do anything for them even more sadly funny) into helping them with child care so they can work.  And people will give them verbal encouragement.  This is real, I won’t downplay its existence.

But it’s hardly some carefree, easy path.  And contrary to popular belief, a lot of explicit law and social norms work to sharply limit the number of children such women do have.

And related to this, raising children has historically not been so totally expected to be the work of individual parents to individual children at all.  It was much more collective.  Jane Austen’s mother bore seven children, and every last one of them was shipped off to be raised by *gasp* another man and his wife! when they were infants and then brought back to their parents when they were around toddling age.  That particular kind of foster care is but one of the many traditions among Western societies in which raising other people’s children was just part of the social fabric.  Apprenticeships for both boys and girls at ages seven or eight were also one such tradition.  And many of those kids, particularly the boys were quite utterly raised by a man who wasn’t their dad.

Weirdly, all this is mysteriously ignored by people who freak out about a child having strongly masculine, healthy and Godly men in their lives if mom was improvident about how the kid got into the world.  Christ’s love isn’t zero-sum.  You can love the grass widow and the not-grass widow and their children.  This very issue is, incidentally why we have so many of those awful government programs and nonprofits for supporting single mothers’ children.  It was the increasing unwillingness to share with the naughty and take on the burdens.  Some frontier woman turning up at her city sister’s doorstep with five kids might well be a widow, but it was just as likely she “married the wrong man” (as Betty MacDonald put it in a sequel to The Egg and I) and just left and wanted to come home to family.  And fewer and fewer families wanted to deal.

Never-married motherhood is terrible for kids, and the harshness of taking away the children of those women to be raised in other families was an attempt to compensate for that.

If the Christian manosphere wants wives, they should be nicer to middle aged married women

Despite the generally hilarious claims of the manosphere’s Christian rump to be interested in traditional sex roles and traditional understandings of marriage and authority, they ignore the obvious traditions when those traditions mean some woman somewhere might have actual social status and a respected position in her community beyond being a wife or a mother.  They write endless screeds on marriage readiness as a sort of role playing game where it’s just a matter of hitting some benchmarks with “the current girl” enough times and you’ll get to the final boss fight (wedding ceremony) of Marriage: The Quest for a Purest of Pure Godly Submissive But Also Hardbodied Wife.  Or they write about finding a wife as though it’s about sifting through character traits like a basket of costumes, wearing only the ones “women care about the most”.

Left out of all this, of course, is going to the conservative Christian women who are most likely to be swimming in under 25, chaste, often Christian young women who want to marry and be housewives.  That is middle aged women in their 30s and 40s.  Older such women usually have all the kids out of the house and are mostly around career types or caring for their relatives’ kids.  Younger such women are swimming in very young kids of their own or working.  But women in their 30s and 40s usually have at minimum stuff like the teachers and administrators of their childrens’ activities and school (yes, even homeschooling women) or their own teenagers/young 20somethings heading into marriageable age range.  Some also have the (usually young) women who help out around the house and/or younger female relatives who really like children enough to buck social norms and hang out with them a lot.

Middle aged married women used to serve as a bridge between young single men and young single women, gently and sometimes not so gently guiding compatible personalities towards each other even in ye olde times when marriage was supposedly never about romantic attachment, just babies and property.  And yet, those women are no longer treated as valuable assets in the quest for a wife by young Christian men.  The Christian manosphere is just jerky and disrespectful about it rather than oblivious.  As a result, even though many middle aged married women are still able to have acquaintance with young marriageable women, they don’t get any opportunities to revive the old traditions of guiding and matchmaking compatible young people towards a clear marriage path (no long engagements, as one example).

In a legitimately Christian patriarchal social structure, married women have real social power as a result of being married women.  This is something the Christian manosphere doesn’t get about the realities of Christian patriarchy.  Non-Christian patriarchy can be this way, but needless to say, women have more freedom in Christ and that extends to their roles in a patriarchal system too.  One of the ways you can tell the manosphere talk about restoring traditional sex roles is not “sex realism” is that they don’t believe that the state of being married confers real status on a woman.  They believe the status conferred is just stuff in her silly female brain, that the only real status accrues to men.  This is a lot of things, but it’s not very traditional for Western Christian societies.

Even in our deracinated, atomized society, middle aged married women are the ones who are around the kind of teenaged and 20something young women who still want marriage and babies and staying home with them more than any other group of people and therefore the fact that nobody knocks on middle aged married womens’ doors offering to help them throw parties and social events to bring together young singles in a neutral but emotionally complex setting that allow for getting to know someone’s personality and attitude (they don’t) is part of why the Christian marriage situation is so dire for men and women alike.

Practical Definitions: Sustainable Natalism

Natalism in the common parlance usually refers to government policies designed to make people want to have children.  Practically speaking, that puts the cart before the horse.  I favor natalism that starts with social norms and then is reflected in government policies.

Sustainable natalism is arranging society so that children are acceptable parts of the public sphere at all child ages.  It’s making sure women aren’t broken and worn down by the stresses and strains of bearing and caring for little ones so that they have energy to pop out more than a couple and raise them to adulthood afterwards.  It’s also about granting higher social status to married mothers and fathers, so that marriage is once again considered the correct place to bear and raise children in.

Sustainable natalism is people setting things up so that women feel that they can handle 3-6 kids, so that men can marry before age 30 because they have a good shot of being able to support three or four kids and a wife, and helping parents by being the real village, full of loving friendships and support.  It’s discouraging atomic living and moving every couple of years for a job, it’s encouraging social norms that have extended family nearby.  It’s remembering the value of cousins and siblings and aunts and uncles.  It’s restoring healthy relations between single childless adults and children.  It’s creating a social milieu that leads to grandkids and great-grandkids as a norm.

Tax credits are neat and stuff, but they won’t do the job.  Society has to be oriented strongly towards children as a good in themselves, living the idea that they are a blessing, because modernity shows us that once any ethnicity or culture gets rich and bloated with cheap consumption, they get very uninterested in having children.  Children are hard, even easy ones are hard.  Without lots and lots of explicit support and status accorded to motherhood and fatherhood, people simply don’t bother.

 

Young marriage isn’t very traditional

It’s a prosperity artifact that has occurred in a handful of short-lived bursts of prosperity and then things go back to normal.  It is a fine thing to support and encourage as a conservative, but it can’t be advocated in a vacuum that presumes it is a historical norm.  The historical norm is to marry when it’s affordable, which was usually not when the girl was sixteen and the guy eighteen.  It was gasp when the girl was in her mid-20s and the guy a little older.

Funny how it’s now sooooo impossible for guys to wait until their mid-20s to marry for life and girls are dooming themselves to a river of cats and despair if they wait until after age 22 but in reality-land, it was always perfectly traditional and people found ways to deal with the lack of sex until marriage.  This mostly consisted of not having sex.  Shocking, I know.  It’s quite interesting that conservatives and liberals come together as one voice to declare that continence is impossible for humans, simply can’t be done, can’t expect it of anyone, so don’t even try.

The truth is that young marriage, if truly widespread, carries with it a higher risk of dissolution even when divorce isn’t “easy”.  All are not called to marry and conservatives really need to get back to accepting that reality and recognize just how much social pressure is necessary to prop up widespread marriage of young couples who are not necessarily fit for the institution.

Marriage is a social good, but you can have a society where 40-60% of people marry and you can have one where 75-85% of people marry, but the latter will have certain instabilities despite all the marriage that the former will not.  With the current economic and social turmoil and relentless promotion of abnormal things as normal, it’s difficult to understand the push for young marriage with no real social support or financial/economic support by conservatives all along the right-wing spectrum, from mainstream to odd internet subculture.

Marriage is traditional.  Young marriage is a nice to have, not a requirement for a normal society.

Have Stay at Home Daughters support the community and not Daddy’s ego

yep, I went there!

I am aware it’s a small subculture within conservative American Christianity, but it’s a reasonably influential one even given that, and like youth groups being about short-term narcissistic moral feelgoods instead of sustaining community, it’s also a movement in which the focus is not on total real community but on aggrandizement of men who are doin’ it rong when it comes to patriarchy.

Embrace amity, reject the husband-wife relationship as the sole dyadic one

This is partly a response to a comment I got about a post on SAHM socialization that I didn’t let through because it commits an all too common error of conservative thought, which is that the husband-wife marital relationship is the only really important lifelong one to have.  The commenter literally could not see outside the husband-wife relationship in terms of social outlets for a married couple.  There was nothing else they could think of, if the husband couldn’t provide all in all, there was no other way for a SAHM to have social time with other adults.

The inherent lunacy of this position should be more obvious and yet it dominates many conservative subcultures.  It is partially an outgrowth of marriage-as-romantic-companionship, but it’s also an outgrowth of American atomization.  I have noticed this pattern quite often, when social outlets for SAHMs are brought up.  It’s defined solely in terms of the husband and wife hanging out with each other more.  The idea that the domestic sphere would be a social sphere, where women came together and had their girls’ days and evenings and outings *with each other in groups small and large* is so alien as to not even be understood by many conservatives.  It is a curious sort of historical ignorance.

Amity, by the way, is simply a way of talking about lifelong friendships as deep as Ruth and Naomi, or David and Jonathan, that can occur alongside a marriage or persist long after a marriage ends due to untimely death of a spouse.  Back when childbirth, wartime and infectious disease could shorten the duration of a marriage, amity was well accepted.  Now that marriages are not cut short by environmental factors but all too often by personal dissatisfaction, amity has fallen by the wayside and the marital relationship is supposed to be the sole lengthy adult one.

Needless to say, this doesn’t work so well in practice.  What I mean when I say that SAHMs need community support in their social outlets, is that other women with leisure have to start the ball rolling and open their homes and provide that woman to woman support.  Of course it’s hard, awkward and not easy to begin, the broad-based social capital of previous eras is gone, gone, gone and will not return.  All we have is the locally-based capital of smaller communities, and it will have to be the starting point.

It is not something to be left to husbands at all, really.  It is female labor, deeply important female labor.