Marathon Update: Holy Street Harassment Batman!

WTFFriday night I did my weekly “long run,” this week it was a 6 mile run/walk combination.  It wasn’t a great day but I’ve learned that there are good and bad days and that’s cool. So it wasn’t as fast as I wanted it to be, but it was faster than I did the same week of training last time so I’ll take it.  Everything was fine until the last half mile of the run.

On my marathon route there is a church about a half mile from my starting point. When I started training for my marathon last year they were just starting renovations.  By the time I was doing my marathon the renovations were done.  Throughout the time the church was always packed with people often out in front of the church for fellowship with themselves and their minister.  They would typically spill onto the sidewalk and I would always smile and say a general hello when I walked by.

Tonight they were in church when I walked out, but on the way back they were on the sidewalk.  The minister stepped in front of me, and then this happened:

Minister:  I’ve seen you walking out here for a long time.

Me:  Open my mouth to explain that I’m training for a marathon (like every other marathoner I know, I’m always grateful for the chance to tell someone that I’m doing a marathon without having to work hard to get it into the conversation)

Minister:  I know it hasn’t been working, but don’t quit, you will lose the weight.

Me:  Open my mouth to explain my SA/HAES philosophy.

Minister:  Puts his hands ON MY HEAD and says “Jesus, this girl works so hard, please heal her from her obesity, Amen.”

Me:  Discover that my Catholic upbringing trumps my self-defense reflexes and I narrowly avoid punching a minister in a the face, I lock eyes with him and say with as much intensity as I can “Get. Your. Hands. Off. Me.  How DARE you ask your god to change my body?!  How DARE you suggest that my body needs changing?!

This is a show stopper, the 20 or so people who are on the lawn have stopped what they are doing and are staring at us.

Minister:  I was just trying to help.

Me:  I don’t need or want your help.

I walked away before he could say anything else.  Coincidentally, my column this month for Ms. Fit is about diets that are run by religious leaders who conflate body size with the success of one’s religious practice, but this is a whole other level.  Honestly, I think I prefer it when they throw eggs. If it hadn’t been for the distraction from a combination of shock, and worrying about missing my time goal this might have ended very differently, since he could easily have activated my face punch and profanity-laced monolog reflexes.

I mentioned this on Facebook and people responded with an amazing outpouring of support and suggestions.  They have commented and sent me e-mails suggesting that I do everything from charging him with assault to thanking him for his good intentions. We all get to choose how we deal with our oppression and both of those are fine choices, but they aren’t my choice. The first thing that I’m going to do is refuse to change my life for this person –  I’m going to continue on my marathon route as I always have.  And I’ll consider being ready to sacrifice my time goal if I have an opportunity for a teachable moment with him or any of his congregants. I’ll also continue to be open to receiving his heartfelt apology for his completely inappropriate behavior.

That was something crappy, here’s something awesome:

flying rhinosWanna Be a Flying Rhino?

I am so very, very excited about this!  The Flying Rhinos are a way for people of all sizes who want to carve out space and obtain visibility and respect for fat people in the fitness world to be public about our involvement, show our pride and solidarity, and recognize each other when we’re out and about.

What Do the Rhinos do?

We live our mission out loud, wearing our official Flying Rhinos shirts in everything from our own movement activities and classes, to organized races, sports, and events.  We have our own group on the Fit Fatties Forum to discuss our training, get support, swap stories and race reports, talk about events we’re in and plan meet-ups offline to do events together and/or just hang out.

Our shirts help us show our pride and recognize each other. If you want to order a shirt either for you individually, or for your team (whether it’s for an organized sport, a 5k, a charity event or whatever) just e-mail me at ragen at danceswithfat dot org with the size(s) and I’ll get you the details.  We are taking requests for the current order until Wednesday, June 11th, then we’ll get the best deal we can for the number of shirts we have and split the cost evenly among the people making the order (no upcharges for larger shirts and nobody is making any money off the deal except whoever we hire to make the shirts!)

Who Can be a Rhino?

Everyone, of every size, who participates in movement at any level and is committed to body positivity is welcome to become a member of the group, and wear the official shirt.  Wear it to yoga, wear it to roll your wheelchair in a 5k, wear it at the pool, wear it to your Krav Maga class, wear it to Zumba, wear it going around your block or in a marathon, put together a softball team or a team for a charity race and we’ll get you some shirts. Roll with the Rhinos for a fun, supportive, body positive, rocking good time.

How did this come about?

It started as a discussion on Ragen’s Facebook page about ridiculous names that haters call us – landwhale, hamplanet, and that day’s offering – land blimp.  Seriously, land blimp.  People started coming up with their own ideas and Nora suggested “Flying Rhinos”.  We had been thinking about starting a group like this and the name struck us as perfect.  Nora agreed to let us use the name, Sara H. designed the amazing logo and The Flying Rhinos said “Hello World!” on May 30, 2014.

Of course this is totally optional – while fat people absolutely deserve to be able to participate in whatever movement we want without shame, stigma, bullying, oppression, or unwanted laying of hands- and deserve to have spaces to talk about that – participating in fitness doesn’t make a fat person better or worse than anyone else – it’s not an obligation, a barometer of worthiness, or a reason to treat someone differently.  The good fatty bad fatty dichotomy needs to die.

Like the blog?  Consider becoming a member! For ten bucks a month you can support size diversity activism, help keep the blog ad free, and get deals from size positive businesses as a thank you. I get paid for some of my speaking and writing (and do both on a sliding scale to keep it affordable), but a lot of the work I do (like answering hundreds of request for help and support every day) isn’t paid so member support makes it possible ( THANK YOU to my members, I couldn’t do this without you and I really can’t tell you how much I appreciate your support!)   Click here for details

Here’s more cool stuff:

Are you looking for a way to do some fun movement this summer (and get prizes for it?)  Consider a Fit Fatty Virtual Summer Vacation!

My Book:  Fat:  The Owner’s Manual  The E-Book is Name Your Own Price! Click here for detail

Dance Classes:  Buy the Dance Class DVDs or download individual classes – Every Body Dance Now! Click here for details 

If you are uncomfortable with my selling things on this site, you are invited to check out this post


42 thoughts on “Marathon Update: Holy Street Harassment Batman!

  1. Preacher – ugh, lame. My brand of humor would have had me say “Well, gee, isn’t the body the Lord’s temple? Why would you want to minimize His space within me? That’s rather sacrilegious of you!” But that’s the writer side of me speaking. I most likely would have been dumbstruck, staring at him wide-eyed and muttered an awkward “Uh… thanks, but I gotta get back to my marathon training.” and shuffled off.

    Shirt – awesome! Just wish our paychecks weren’t already spoken for for the next 8 weeks. v_v

  2. Sometimes outrageous behavior needs to be answered with outrageous behavior. In this situation, if I would have my wits about me (and to be honest, I seriously doubt I would), I would turn around and put my hands on the minister’s head and invoke the name of Jesus to heal him from both his arrogance and his ignorance!! (Ha! Even funnier since I consider myself to be a recovering Lutheran who is currently Buddhist with a side of Wiccan, LOL!!)

  3. As I was about to crawl into bed just now, still thinking about what happened to you, Ragen, a thought occurred to me: What if we as a community blessed this minister with a healthy helping of education? How would you feel about sharing the name and location of this minister’s church so we could send him some polite feedback on his inappropriate behavior?

  4. I think your reaction was great. It’s probably been a long time since he’s been told his touch or help are unwelcome, people usually don’t say stuff like that for “politeness” and social conditioning. I hope (although not necessarily expect) that it makes him think twice before doing shit like that in the future.

    1. Funny thing is, although unasked-for touch is never okay, there are so many less shitty ways he could have played it “help this woman keep the motivation she has to reach her goals”, “give this woman a second wind when she reaches the runner’s wall”, “spare this woman from runner’s nipple”…

      Still inappropriate to talk over a stranger, grab their face and assume your religious intervention is welcome, but at least there would be marginally less assumptions being made!

  5. Okay this isn’t very eloquent but first, all I can say is, the fuck?! Second, good for you for not tolerating his shit!! Joyce, that’s a good idea. That douchebag needs some major feedback.

  6. SMH. I’ve encountered similar attitudes among people of faith before, where somehow “God don’t make no junk”, unless you’re fat. Fat, to these people’s way of thinking, is always, only, a “consequence of your actions”.

    I always wondered what translation of the Bible said such a poorly-informed, judgemental thing. I never found that chapter and verse when I read it.

  7. As an agnostic who taught both the Tanakh (formerly Old Testament) and the New Testament for a Freshman Interdisciplinary Seminar a while back, I seem to remember that “fat” references in the Tanakh are positive. I don’t recall any references to fat in the New Testament. Someone should reacquaint the minister with his seemingly forgotten sources.

    1. That’s because the Jewish people originated with a group of Zoroastrian exiles from a port city called Ur, during the period of the Babylonian Empire. The language of the empire (or at least the formal language) was called Akkadian. (I’m convinced that the first Hebraic laws were put down in Akkadian.) The word kabaatum meant “to be(come) fat,” “to be(come) important or honored,” and “to be(come) difficult or painful.” It’s similar to English weight or weighty, but without so many negative attributes.

      Interestingly enough, one of the noun forms for fat is lipûm. I haven’t had a chance to research the root, but I don’t have time for anything anymore. XD

  8. I would also like to share here a quote (on an unrelated topic) from my much-more-devout-Christian sister: “We should strive to think and behave in a way that draws others to Jesus, not makes people want to run screaming in the other direction from him.”

    That there belongs right over the church door next to “He Is Risen”.

    1. If Jesus were alive today, or if his resurrection’s kicking around heaven somewhere (not sure I believe that personally), there is one thing I can promise:
      He does not care if you’re fat.
      He does not care if you’re gay.
      He does not care if you are ill or have a disability.
      He does not care if you have a mental illness.
      He does not care if you worship him or not.
      He only cares about how you treat other people. That’s why he gave the commandment “Love each other”. That is the meat of the matter, the take-home message. No, I haven’t read very much of the Bible. No, I don’t go to church. I don’t care, I know this in my heart to be true.
      If Jesus were alive today, if he came back to earth, he would be crucified all over again. And not by the non-believers (or the normal believers) but by the hypocritical idiots who constantly purport to be Christian, but in reality would agree with Jesus on nothing. The people who think it’s someone’s fault if they’re poor, the people who want to control women’s reproduction, the people who are all caught up in the sexual lives of consenting adults, the people who are ardent capitalists even though Jesus lost it when the moneylenders or whatever tried to do business at his temple… These people wouldn’t recognize Jesus if they saw him and spoke to him. They would think he was a false prophet. And if he gathered followers again, they would be very afraid. Afraid of the threat to the social order and to their privilege.

      1. I’ve long said that if Jesus came back, he’d never darken the door of an extreme fundamentalist church. He’d be too busy partying at pride parades, handing out food to the homeless, working suicide hotlines, and keeping a friendly eye on the hooker strolls to keep the girls (including the transexual ones) safe.

        You know, like the stuff he’s supposed to have done the first time around.

        1. You get a bevy of interesting looks in Oklahoma when you say things like, “Jesus hung out with hookers and dock workers,” and, “Oh, come on. Jesus told fart jokes. Look at who his friends were!”

            1. And the equivalent of, “What’s brown and sticky?”


              “A stick.”

              Oh, and knock-knock jokes. And possibly the occasional evening with too much wine and the phrase, “No, really, it’s shallow! Look!”

              A small caveat, I’m convinced the oral tradition of Elijah and the bears involved all the kids in the camp getting together to listen and get more and more and more involved in the story until….


  9. Dear Mr. Preacher Man,

    You have been watching Regan train for marathons for over a year now. Yes, marathons. Have you ever participated in one? This is her second. She is also an award-winning dancer.

    But even if that walk/run you see her do every day or two past your church were the only physical movement of her day and it only lasted a half hour or so, DON’T YOU THINK IT’S ALREADY HAD ANY EFFECT IT’S GOING TO HAVE ON HER FIGURE????????

    Further, do you really think that people who are not members of your congregation seriously wish you to do an unannounced laying on of hands???? You do not know Regan’s religious background nor her current views on the subject. You do not know whether she is Catholic, Baptist, Presbyterian, Jewish, Muslim, Wiccan, agnostic, atheist, a Satanist, or a worshipper of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Okay, you can probably guess that she’s not a current member of the Amish faith, what with how she dresses, but seriously, you don’t know much more than that she is a generally cordial person who lives nearby from the fact that she passes your church and greets people as she passes. Next time you wish to lay hands on someone you don’t actually know… it would be a good idea to ask their feelings on the subject first. It could save you a bloody nose or an assault charge. Or a long diatribe of language you probably find offensive.

    You have every right to your beliefs, as guaranteed by the Constitution of these here United States. But you know what? SO DOES EVERYBODY ELSE. And just as my right to swing my arm ends where it is likely to come in contact with someone else’s nose, your right to believe in the efficacy of laying on of hands does not give you the right to (a) lay those hands on someone who does not consent, nor (b) to choose what that person wishes changed about themselves.

    I have no reason to believe your intentions were anything but kindly. I’m sure you meant to help a sufferer to be healed. The thing is the only thing she’s suffering from is the random assumptions of people just like you.

    So please, have a chat with your good buddy Jesus. Maybe he can help you heal.

  10. Yikes. This “girl” works so hard? Last I checked, you’re a grown-ass woman – so his words were not only immensely arrogant, but he also attempted to belittle you in front of his deity. FFS.

    So much offensiveness in one gesture. So much arrogance, so much assumption.

    There is so much about our current culture that I find abhorrent. But maybe this above others: When did it become acceptable to accost passers-by on the street, and comment upon their bodies (or upon anything else about them)?

    I am very proud of you for not decking him one. I don’t know whether I could be as self-possessed as you were; I’d like to think I could be, but I’m not at all sure. People touching me when I didn’t invite it is one of my hot buttons.


  11. Great response, short and to the point! If you run into him again, hopefully he will apologize and listen to you.

  12. Wow, I am so sorry to hear that that happened. So invasive and inappropriate of him to touch your body without your permission. I agree with the above commenter about the use of the world “girl” to refer to grown women. We never call men “boys.” It drives me nuts!

  13. Fuck! That was my reaction to the story. But after mulling it over, I realized a lot of Christians have this sort of arrogance, not just ministers.

    Love the flying rhinos, which I were not currently unemployed. 😦

  14. Wow. I am utterly gobsmacked. I’m still grappling with him putting his hands on you, never mind ‘healing’ your obesity. I don’t people hug me until I’ve known them AT LEAST 6 months. Jeebus.

    I applaud your restraint in not twisting his wrist backward. Or poking him in the eyes with forked fingers. You met him on his own level–not too much or too little.

    Although I would’ve been tempted to lay hands on him and say loudly, “And Lord, heal this narrow-minded man of his bigotry and let him be warned not to touch another woman just freed from prison for decapitating a holy man who touched her uninvited.”

    Or something more profound.

  15. As a Christian, my reaction to the minister’s presumption wasn’t much different than yours. Particularly when dealing with someone who is NOT a member or regular at the church, it is simple common courtesy to ASK if the person minds if you pray for them, and to also ask what they are working towards, so that the prayer is appropriate to the situation. In any situation, it is also not only common courtesy to ask before touching someone, but also a matter of helping protect one’s self from possible legal consequences.

    Some people don’t mind having others of a different belief or philosophy pray for them, but there are some who do not want it, regardless of the motive or content of said prayers. We all have the right to believe as we see best, but with that right comes the responsibility to respect that others have the right to believe differently, and to extend to them the same courtesies we wish to be extended to us.

    This minister presumed you would be okay with him praying for you, assumed what your goals in your workouts were, and ended up representing himself and his church poorly because of it.

  16. Did this guy get his ordination in a Cracker Jack box? For Pete’s sake! I was actually TRAINED! You don’t touch someone, even to “heal” them, unless they ask, and you certainly don’t assault people on the street. Because touching someone against their will IS assault!

    And to assume you needed healing in the first place is typical of the arrogance, sadly, that we see in a lot of clergy. Bah! As my husband said, when I read this to him, his heart may have been in the right place (jury’s out on that one, IMO) but his head was firmly up his ass!

  17. Oy, oy, oy. I’d have done exactly the same thing.

    There are some Christian clergy who seem to get a kick out of “laying on hands” on people they see as different. I do NOT understand this. I agree with preacherjean, touching, “healing,” and praying aloud for people should only be done at their invitation.

    Hmm. I am wondering about a tee shirt: “God Made Me Fat. Deal With It.” It doesn’t really square with my theology, but gosh, it’s tempting.

  18. AH! SO many things wrong with this! You are awesome for speaking out against it while at the same time NOT attacking him. I’m not sure I could have done either myself though I probably would have slunked away dying of embarrassment.

  19. I heard this story from someone on one of my knitting groups a while ago, and, er, filed it away in case it ever became necessary to use it.

    When she was thirteen, she went to camp with a friend for the weekend. Only thing is, her friend didn’t tell her the camp was a revival. Given that this person was raised agnostic, she thought it was a low blow. It only got worse that night after dinner. Everyone piled into the tent… and it turned out the “friend” had put this person’s name in to be called on stage for a laying on of hands.

    Now, refusing would only make it worse. So would pretending to convert. So she racked her brains as she walked to the stage, and the moment the preachers put their hands on her, she went RIGID. Then she tipped her head back and said in what she called a gnarly voice, “THIS BODY IS A VESSEL OF SATAN, A FALLEN ANGEL OF THE LORD, AND MUST REMAIN PURE FOR HIS USE.” Then she screamed at the top of her lungs, collapsed, and pretended she didn’t know how she got to the stage.

    They, uh, got her dad to pick her up that night.

    Apparently, he said she’d done well, because it made them stop touching her.

    Oh, and the “friend” never spoke to her again.

  20. That’s shocking. And unusual behaviour from a minister of religion. He assaulted you, verbally and physically. Wrong. Just wrong, no matter what his intentions were.

    Well done on your run/walk. The hard sessions that feel as if they last forever and never hit a rhythm are as good for marathon preparation as the ones that just flow.

    I rode in a bike event today. One of the things I love about cycling is that because it’s non-weightbearing it’s possible for a fat person to be fast, and to be able to ride all day. I’m tickled by imagining one of the writers of magazine articles offering advice about diet and burbling on about the power-to-weight ratio gasping out, “You’d be so much faster if you lost weight,” to the big lads thundering past them up the hills.

    Funny how there are no articles in cycling magazines with titles like, “Get Fatter, Get Stronger.” Or personal interest stories like, “I gained XXlb and got faster and fitter.”

  21. Very impressed with your justified response to the preacher and wish I’d had your strength to avoid the “profanity-laced monolog reflex” on a couple of occasions. Plus, very strong of you to continue with the same training route. All power to you! Thank you for sharing this inspiring story 🙂

  22. That’s really horrible. I’m glad you were able to respond and let the minister know how inappropriate that was. No telling whether it penetrated the veil of stupid or not…

  23. Good for you for telling him off! I think I know the church you are talking about, I’ve had similar issues with them being pushy. I sent them a nastygram through their website…hopefully they’ll send you an apology.

  24. Wow. That just blows my mind. The sheer entitlement alone!

    I don’t know if you’re looking for suggestions, so if not, just skip this. If you are, I would suggest writing a letter, or preparing some sort of written pamphlet, and carry it with you to hand to this man next time you pass by. If you see him on the yard, it won’t add much to your time/distance if you veer a bit off the sidewalk to approach him and hand it to him.

    Of course, he might run away at the sight of a Flying Rhino. LOL. I LOVE that part of your post.

  25. Ragen – this is my prayer for you – May you have safe and happy training sessions, gain strength and stamina, improve your run time, and mostly have an amazing marathon experience, without accident, illness, or injury.

    1. Whoops! Having read the other comments, I now realize that it was presumptive to pray for you without asking, first, if you want it. Please just consider it as good wishes your way, and I hope I did not offend you.

  26. Now, I’m not the most well-versed Biblical scholar in the world, but I’m more than reasonably sure that Jesus never tried to heal anyone who didn’t ASK for the healing. Everybody else he just took on as-is on pretty much the sole condition that they wanted to be a better person and make the world a better place.

    And besides, he was most certainly not trying to help. Even a true-but-misguided attempt to help would have been done with some discretion and concern for your privacy. He was just plain showboating, which Jesus had a huge problem with. I would love to be able to explain this to him in a reasonably Christian way, but I totally understand why you’re not outing him on here.

    I honestly can’t figure out if this offends me more as a Christian or as a fat person.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.