University of Winchester

News/The Fat Jesus

The Fat Jesus – University Professor sparks theological debate on women and body image

Professor Lisa Isherwood from the University of Winchester has aroused impassioned debate amongst theologians with her latest book The Fat Jesus.

“We’re living in a food and body obsessed culture,” said Professor Isherwood who is also the Founder Editor of the Feminist Theology journal and a Professor of Feminist Liberation Theologies. “Thousands of women die each year from eating disorders and many more live tortured in their own skins, striving to achieve an unrealistic body image by either extreme dieting or plastic surgery.

“My book looks at these phenomena in light of the Christian tradition, which has often had a difficult relationship with sexuality and embodiment.

“There’s no doubt that Christianity has promoted ideals of restraint and asceticism over the years. Part of the reason for the current obsession around weight and size is that the secular society has unknowingly absorbed much of these negative attitudes from its Christian heritage.”

Lisa Isherwood’s book also suggests that the spiritual realm is not immune from such pressures. “There is a flourishing of weight loss programmes such as ‘Slim for Him’, that encourage women to lose weight physically and gain spirituality,” she explained.

“I believe strongly that this is wrong; it is almost as if fat has become an individual moral weakness. There seems to be a strong racist underpinning to some of these messages too.

“There are resources within Christianity that can free us from this thinking and lead us towards a more holistic, incarnational view of what it is to be human. The Fat Jesus has had a very positive reception – hopefully my book will force women to look at their bodies in a whole new light.”

4 February 2008

[Text taken from press release]

Back to the News Page