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