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Katie Clausen, Published January 04 2014

Letter: ‘Daniel Fast’ takes fast to extreme

In response to “Strengthening faith through the Daniel Fast” (Forum, Dec. 28):

As a children’s librarian and believer in intellectual freedom, I’m glad The Forum published the piece. I respect opinions of women who fast. Here’s another perspective.

I’m for a healthy diet. I have “chos[en] brown rice over white, and eat more fruits, vegetables and nuts,” like Jennifer Lukens. But it stops there. I counted 10 repetitions of “denial,” “deprivation” and “elimination” in the first few paragraphs.

Why do we think God wants us to deprive ourselves? Why is suffering holy? As a single woman approaching my 30s, I couldn’t help my reaction to the photos: hands praying over an empty white plate, and then a beautiful woman in a bridal gown, proud of fasting. It’s as if the photos were saying: Starve yourself and you’ll get married.

Much of the Bible talks about strength in mind and spirit but also strength in body. Jesus broke bread and drank wine with his friends. He celebrated life with food, and this meal is a part of Christian worship. Do we really think Jesus had the body we often see in paintings – ribs showing and thin poles for arms and legs? If he was traveling and enduring long hours of physical exertion and performing miracles, he was strong in body.

Many Bible verses focus on strength, such as “I can do all things through him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13).

I know the women in the article are well-intentioned and not going to extremes. But for some readers, the practices could be interpreted as something more serious, like disordered eating or anorexia.

Does it sound right? In your gut, do you really think emptiness will bring you closer to God? Let’s not focus on suffering for spiritual awakening but rather on positive ways of reunion with God.

There are practices that have nothing to do with food or the lack of it: prayer, meditation, yoga, community, conversation, enjoying nature, listening to beautiful music – and more. The women in the article are strong; that is not in question. I’m not denying benefits of healthy food or the value of monitoring caffeine and sugar intake. I advocate a shift of focus from a method with potentially dangerous results (eating disorders, other mental illnesses, or hunger) to ideas with positive consequences (community, celebration, strength).

And finally: Why was the focus on women? It was written by a woman for the SheSays section, but I think the editors need to think about what is being said by the choice. Only women were interviewed. What are we telling women and men readers? That women should fast to be spiritually connected. Women should deny themselves food. That these are women’s issues only.

I think God wants us to eat, and to celebrate strength in body, mind and spirit. That’s what I’m going to do.

Clausen, originally from Moorhead, lives in Chicago, where she is studying for a master of library science degree.