Guest Writer: Charlie Becker Hornes “I Might Be ‘Fat’ Today, But God Knows I’m Happy”

Charlie Becker Hornes, M.Div. ’10 writes in response to the comments posted to the YouTube video about Glenn Beck.

The author in 2004

I have taken some pretty good punches this week on YouTube directly and indirectly regarding our Union’s response to Glenn Beck video:

• “I think that first chick missed the part about gluttony maybe? Kinda hypocritical.”

• “This vid is full of fail. The only reason a person who thumbs this up is if they hate GB.
You got a fat white b*tch telling that a class changed her life? Please, do mankind a service and stop consuming so much of our natural resources.”

• “This was very helpful. I now know of one school that my child will NOT be attending. Looks to me to be filled with wombats, freaks, losers, and asexuals.”

• “’You’re actually in a famous room where I took his class 70lbs ago. I want to invite you into this iconic room and just show it to you. Here’s a door. And wood. And oh look a chair. Is it lunch yet’ A lot of winners there at Union”

• “Why don’t you people dress a little better?”

• “Why are Americans fat?”

• “Is she pregnant?”

We have taken hits about our looks, our education, even clear concerns about our sexual orientation… to get straight to the point… some people have still very much missed the boat. I am fine if someone criticizes me or even disagrees with me when it comes to my opinion on issues. I am not fine when attacks are made based on straight-up appearance. This just underscores the heart of the Liberation Theology debate. This is one of the many underpinnings of the problems in our current world, especially here in the United States that clearly needs to continue to be addressed. People judging people based on what they look like. This has been going on for so long and people have been abused, killed, lynched and attacked because of it. Enough already.

Yes, as Mr. Beck clearly states, Liberation Theology has much to do with the two categories of the Oppressor and the Oppressed… but there is so much more to it than just that. And, no, it is not about Communism or even Socialism and Marxism. For me, it is about an attitude of compassion for each other and for the opportunity to allow God’s law to break into the world… not the law of humanity, which in the current state of our world, people are denied their humanity and existence based on externals such as race, skin color, sexual orientation, religion or even what country they originate from – not to mention what they might weigh. No, this is about granting basic human rights to our fellow humans at all costs, no matter what, because all humans deserve their dignity. This country has a poor track record in this department no matter how you decide to twist the historical records, and we white people have quite a lot to still answer for. Including you, Mr. Beck. Including me.

Union has changed my life, and it was not just Dr. Cone’s class – it was an intense, three year, grueling process of insane reading, junk food and New York City pizza eating, intense paper writing, all night-ers, discussions – even arguments and the breaking down of all of the preconceived, unknown and arrogant notions that I walked into this program with. In short, these past three years, although extremely difficult, have forever changed my life on my view of the world, how I view and treat other people, and mostly, how I now view myself as a small part of a greater community of many different types of people.

The term “othering” is seen in two ways. One has a negative quality in which we base a human’s worth on qualitative means such as skin color and “race,” along with other factors such as citizenship, sexual orientation, gender, religion, etc. In this way, we “otherize” another in order to, for lack of a more academic phrase; simply feel better about our own selves, which denies them their humanity and dignity. This is polarizing and divisive.

A more positive view comes from Fred Craddock when he gives a nuanced idea of what it means to come into the space of the “Other” in his aptly titled homely, “Othering.” In this light, we break down such barriers, and remove the boundaries caused by fear that keeps us from really coming to know the real humanity of those we deem “our neighbors” but whom we find different or other than us in one form or another. Especially those who might seem just so frighteningly different from who we tend to think we are.

It is sad that people like Glenn Beck make a living off of instilling these fears into the hearts of our nation and then plays off of them to make a buck, or to promote a form of clever-racism that has the obnoxious lead out of “folks, I am not a racist.” People like him are divisive. He is not one who falls on the side of compassion for others. Instead, he is preaching the poison of fear and the negative connotation of “Othering” that continues to feed a systematic machine in this nation, which only leads to more suffering, poverty, injustice, abuse and a climate of people who refuse to look out for the widow and the orphan in our very own communities – which is in fact what the New Testament teaches us primarily. It is not the widow or orphan that might look like us or think like us that is the only concern. What about those who are totally different from us, believe differently, look differently, and might have a different life style than we do? Do they not deserve humanity and dignity too? It is those others who also, if not more so, deserve compassion from each and every one of us if we are able to extend a helping hand, or at least an acknowledgment of their humanity if we are to truly “love our neighbor as our self.”

These are the things that I have learned at Union Theological Seminary. My belief today in justice for all of my neighbors exceeds race, borders, class, skin color, sexual orientation, gender and religious beliefs… just to name a few.
Today, if there is someone that I can help, I hope to be able to extend that hand. I hope to make it my life’s work.

My fellow students and I have taken some real hits this week, and that is okay. Most had little to do with what we actually said, and were, instead, focused on our external qualities.

For me, it had to do with my current weight.

Being healthy is a very important priority and it should be for all of us.

Well, there are a few things people might want to know about me. You might be surprised to now that I moved to New York City fifteen years ago to be an actress and a model, which I was relatively successful at for ten years. At least my husband is quite impressed with my CV.

I was a member of all of the Unions, and had a pretty extensive and impressive theatre, film, TV and commercial resume as well as a nicely put together modeling composite. Although I was consistently a size 6, and believe me, I worked hard to be that size, I was constantly told by my agents that I was always a borderline “plus size” model… and those are killer words in the modeling business. I have done my fair share of intense exercise, dieting, no carbs, crazy-healthy lifestyle and internal self discipline, self loathing and scolding just so that other people thought I looked “good enough” and let me tell you… I am tired of hearing about what people think I should look like.

I probably could have done pretty well as an actress. I worked hard and seemed to be relatively talented. I left the field of acting of my own accord, however. Though I am sure the business is great for others, I was never happy, regardless of how low my weight was, or what exciting new jobs I had coming up. For me, I had a constant feeling of emptiness and dissatisfaction with my life, despite some exciting successes.

Although I have always been a person of faith, over the years my connection to my Presbyterian faith was reawakening, and I was only finding myself truly ever happy when I was volunteering and being of service in my community through a relationship with God, which I very much believe God initiated within me. For me, helping others through my life of faith became the only true happiness that I have ever known. My career as an actress and model offered me no outlet to be of service to my community and I learned in time that I was just in the wrong career. I was always too busy running around completely self-absorbed and worrying what people thought of me to stop and help anyone else out for a change. Obviously, God had other plans for me.

Over the years, I have been able to find some real joy and contentment in my life, just being me, knowing that I am okay exactly how I am today. This faith based initiative I took on personally finally lead me to Seminary, and thank God, I was lead to Union because this institution is a place that instills the idea of service and justice into its students’ lives of faith in a most remarkable and life changing way. It not only changes our lives, it will change the lives of all of the people we help in our lifetimes. Coming here is an amazing experience.

I know first hand that our nation struggles with an obesity problem, but society is not completely responsible, with all of the chemicals we are being force-fed through advertisements. Hydrogenated oils, high fructose corn syrup, enriched flour, manufactured wheat, processed sugars, all at cheap costs that undercut any type of organic or non-chemical based product on the shelf, making piles of money for distributors who care nothing about what goes into products and its consumers; only the bottom line. It is hard not to buy the cheap stuff when you are on a budget. Fortunately, it seems like our selections and our consciousness is slowly transforming into a nation that cares about what we eat more than we ever have.

I know from first hand experience. Fast food is cheap… and I am a broke Seminarian pledging a life of service that walked away from a very lucrative career. I will probably just break even monthly once I start paying back my student loans. It is hard to eat healthy and exercise when you are broke, on a budget and on six deadlines. When I do have the time, I am so fried that watching TV with my husband just seems like the better choice. Clearly, there are things that I personally need to work on now that I have graduated.

For me, coming to Seminary and exercising my brain, for a change, these last three years straight, might have caused me to add on several pounds, but the weight I can lose with a healthier lifestyle… what I have learned in the process of getting this degree, I plan to hold onto for dear life. It is incredible for me to read comments about my weight today, so many years after retiring from a career where my weight was what engulfed nearly every waking moment of my self-centered life. I actually really used to care what other people thought and to a fault.

These last few years have been liberating for me. For the first time in my life, I am entirely happy with the person that I am becoming because, in this vocation, I know that I will be spending the rest of my life getting fantastic sleep, knowing that I spent my day helping my neighbor as best I can, whatever my neighbor might “look” like. I may not make my actress salary any more, but my internal joy and satisfaction is well worth the sacrifice. And now that I have my Master’s of Divinity degree… maybe I’ll have some free time to take up jogging again… but this time, only as a way to feel good, staying healthy and sharing a long life with my amazing husband who likes me just how I am.

So, being attacked about my weight might be the catalyst for this response, but my answer is that I might be fat today, but God knows I am finally happy. So for all of you who think that judging people based on what they look like is okay instead of airing on the side of compassion, I say to you… you really need to get a life. I have.

Guest Writer: Shannon Kearns “Open Letter to Serene Jones”

Guest writer Shannon Kearns, M.Div. ’09, responds to President Serene Jones’ recent open letter to Glenn Beck

Dear President Jones:

I write with sadness over your response to Mr. Glenn Beck. I understand that you were trying to counter his hateful speech with humor, however by taking such a tone you made his words something to be laughed at instead of  something to be taken seriously.

You insinuated in your response that Mr. Beck hasn’t read the Bible. I know it was an attempt to be funny but as someone who grew up in a conservative and fundamentalist church I assure you the one thing we did was read the Bible. In fact, I would say that in coming to Union I knew the Bible better than many of my classmates. I say that not to
brag, but to drive home the point that just because there is someone you don’t agree with doesn’t mean they haven’t read the Bible. What I needed from Union was Professors to put the content of what I knew into perspective and practice. I needed someone to explain Liberation Theology, to drive home the historical background of the Scripture, to make me aware of issues outside of my privileged, white upbringing. I got that education at Union and I am thankful for it.

Your response to Mr. Beck doesn’t provide any of that background. It doesn’t explain where he got it wrong. Instead it just sends humorous jabs his way as if Mr. Beck isn’t to be taken seriously. And this is the most dangerous attitude of all. I live in the midwest. Out here everyone knows who Glenn Beck is but no one has ever heard of Union Theological Seminary. When Mr. Beck mentions a book on his show it sells out at the bookstore where I work. He holds sway with many people that Union will never reach. By taking a tone that sounds as if Union is better than Mr. Beck we feed into our own arrogance; an arrogance that assumes that the world should listen to us simply because we are Union. When in reality, outside of elite and educated circles no one really knows who Union is or what we stand for.

As a graduate of Union I beg a better response to Mr. Beck. One that takes seriously the power that he has in the current political climate. One that counters his argument with intelligence, humility and grace. One that moves past poking fun and talks about why his comments are hurtful and harmful. A response that knows that words manifest into actions and that his vitriolic speech can translate into real violence. That is the kind of response that Union needs to be
presenting.

Sincerely,
Shannon T.L. Kearns M.Div. ’09

Sucker Punched

I am fifteen years old and have decided to run track. I’m no good but figured I should give it a shot anyway. I get up one Sunday morning before church for a run in Dover, NJ. After a two mile or so run I am about 5 blocks away from my home and I stop at a red light to check for traffic. A red car barrels up the street and screeches to a halt, “You are going to be the next Atlanta murder, victim nigger!!” is screamed at me by a car load of 5 white men. One of them starts to get out of the car and I start running for my life. The car’s tire burns rubber and the smell of that tire hits my nose and I am more scared for my life now then ever. Behind me as the car speeds up I hear the men in the car laughing hysterically. I jump over a fence and cut through a parking lot to lose them and run so fast…As I am running an image comes into my head that I just can’t get rid of–I see image of my mother and brother with their throats slit. I cry and run, my body on automatic pilot because I can’t see a thing. I run up the stairs 3, 4 at a time to see my mom sleeping peacefully, and my brother sleeping like an angel. I tiptoe to the farthest reaches of the kitchen and cry for 40 minutes.

You see this is the time when no one knew how or why little black boys and black teenagers were disappearing and turning up dead in Atlanta, GA. Those five white men in that car have no idea how much they scarred me that day. And even if they were to ever apologize, I’m sure they would say, “It was just a joke.”  You see they had the privilege to joke about things like that. That was their reality.

One person’s idea of reality can be so hurtful and damaging to another. And I must say, Mr. Beck, listening to your take on Liberation/Black/Theology (I lump them together because you did) I felt sucker punched. You have single handedly given millions of people permission to hate and distrust Black me simply because you seem to enjoy wanting the world to live in your reality.

I feel very much like that scared fifteen year old again. I can’t get the image out of my head of vitriolic hate speeches coming my way again. I can’t get the image out of my head of people in the name of democracy stepping on others dreams just to get ahead. And yes, Mr. Beck, it is this serious to me, I can’t get the image of dead black bodies turning up in swamps and city alleys out of my head. You give permission for hate, Mr. Beck. And whether or not you know it, I am the one who suffers for it. Me, this Black man, this African American, this Same Gender Loving human being who, as tired as I am, must keep fighting for survival because with each word you speak you unleash the hounds of hatred–against me.

I applaud my fellow seminarians and seminary President, Serene Jones for responding to your diatribe of intentional misinformation regarding Liberation/Black/Theology. I couldn’t watch more than ten minutes before my eyes streamed with tears for what you are doing to this country.

Please do come to Union, Mr. Beck. At least then you will have at least three years to try to digest the information we study, the Bible we try to live, the love we try to spew. If your staff can digest Black Theology in one day with the help of one person then you all deserve a theological scholarship to Union.

By the way, let’s clear up a couple of things. Mr. Beck, the Good Samaritan is a parable…Jesus’ teaching tool. Stick to Jesus’ script if you are going to use it and don’t add your take. It’s stood this long without your take on highway maintenance in the Roman world. The other thing, while we’re on the Romans. Be careful the way you spit out how the Jews killed Jesus and he would have come back to get ‘em. That’s the way you think, don’t put that on Jesus. And the last time I looked, it was the Romans that stripped Jesus, beat him, nailed him to the cross and pierced him in the side! No Jewish person had that much power under Caesar.

And one last thing, while my stomach is still in knots, while I still fear for the safety of those I call my own, and while I know that your work hurts me more than you will ever know…this one thing I can say:
I have nothing but the love of Jesus Christ for you and hope the Holy Spirit will crack your heart wide open so that you see the simplest words of social justice that Jesus ever spoke, ‘Love God, Love your neighbor as yourself’. If you can do this one thing for Christ, Mr. Beck, then you will see that everyone deserves to live in the bounty of God’s creation.

Glenn Beck Gives Union Extended Advertisement

Works of James Cone

There are those on the political right that make rational, consistent arguments; Glenn Beck is not one of them. If there is anything consistent about him, it is that he consistently preys on the worst fears of humanity – a consistency that certainly cannot be applauded.

This last week he took aim at Union’s own James Cone and the tradition of Liberation Theology. It was a surreal moment for those of us that saw it and are close to Dr. Cone. I respect and admire the influence of Liberation Theology, but most of us that study Liberation Theology recognize that it is not as prominent as it once was. It’s emphasis was destabilized by neo-liberal and post-modern theological critiques. Liberation theology was born out of the liberal school, pointing up the importance of experience and particularity as sources of spirituality that remain relevant to Christianity. After that, particularity continued on and on ’til metaphysical normativity became a passe thought of the Western world. All was finally contextual (as it always was), and universal truths had to be written in the ink of their historical, cultural and personal particularity. Most of us understand that Christianity and any religious expression comes into contact with historical contexts. Glenn Beck doesn’t.

I won’t spend this time arguing with his simplified, antiquated form of Christianity he learned from the Acton Institue and its Anthony Bradly. What I will say, as I have before to Mr. Beck, is THANK YOU. Thank you for introducing Dr. James Cone to his widest audience ever. Dr. Cone is an amazing theologian, and there is a sadness that he had to be introduced to such a wide audience by the likes of Glenn Beck in such a crude fashion; but what’s done is done. We can’t go back or shove the misguided, vitriolic words back in Beck’s mouth.

We can only hope and pray that Beck lives [some of] the words he spoke. Chrisitanity is about a change of heart, he said. “Works are a demonstration of our faith…” Then he stopped, realizing what he was saying, his polemic falling to pieces around him. You could see the wheels turning. “Does that mean I should change my heart about poverty, immigration or health care? Should I work toward the well-being of all God’s creatures rather than simply my vested interests?…” Time stood still for a moment. His heart beat grew faster, but not larger. That was only reserved for the Grinch’s redemption. Unfortunately, Beck’s remained ice cold and two sizes too small.

“We want to concentrate on Liberation Theology…” he started over, regaining his composure. I don’t know what I was expecting, maybe God’s grace and intervention. God was probably too busy weeping, though – as many of us were. Not for Beck’s sewage. I don’t know about you, but I’ve grown accustomed to it popping up in news feeds here and there. What we cried for was for the number of people that listen to his opinions for direction. His words are fingers pointing toward dead-ends, which only lead to anger and more polemic. Those that know the heart of the Gospel, like James Cone, know about compassion and grace. May Beck also have that conversion.

Re: Glenn Beck

MIKE PETERS / DAYTON DAILY NEWS

MIKE PETERS / DAYTON DAILY NEWS

Maybe its the longer warmer days that have me in more amicable spirits, but I couldn’t find a spark of anger when I heard Glenn Beck’s latest protest, encouraging people to leave churches that promote social justice — which all mainline churches do.

You know, Peter, I want to thank Glenn Beck more than scourge him. Maybe I’m banking too heavily on people’s ability to think rationally, but these are the comments for me that write him out. I can’t muster the anger to engage something so incredibly nonsensical. I can, however, see this as an opportunity to draw people’s attention to the term social justice, what it means and how it has become ideologically amorphous to the point that–as you so suitably put it–Glenn beck can throw sewage at it.

The term, though it has many manifestations in multiple socio-political arenas, essential entails an effort to correct those structures that allow for systemic and systematic poverty. Nothing, I would argue, seems more appropriate to the teachings of Jesus. Now, however, the term has become so common place that people confuse it for the likes of charity.

Currently President Obama, in full campaign form that has been absent for far too long, is urging the American people to support healthcare reform. Glenn Beck originally promised he would leave America if it passed. We can only hope, but as my grandfather used to say, “you can hope in one hand and…” I think you know the rest.

What it boils down to for me is classic fear–particularly the fear that accompanies change. For many, America has been a pretty secure place and a term like social justice remains anathema, as does health care reform. As long as I can pay the increasing premiums, why should I care about changing it? The end result is that a country banking on its prosperity will fight for an adulterated form of utilitarian security that neglects the less fortunate. Benjamin Franklin once said, “Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both.”

Glenn Beck lives in a world of security, the lose of which makes his blonde hair stand on end. Social Justice endeavors on the side of liberty and equity. May we continue to fight that battle and graciously turn the other cheek to those that operate otherwise.

John Stewart takes on Glenn Beck… Again

Christianity Today, Beck hunting Jim Wallis now