Fitness, faith and reason

Posted: June 16, 2011 in CrossFit, Exercise, Fitness, Health, Uncategorized
Tags: , , , ,

When I began this blog, I really had no plans to bring my religious/spiritual beliefs into it. I tend to roll my eyes when people laspe into Christianese, having grown up with it and watched people exploit it to manipulate others.

But a few unrelated incidents have made me decide to broach the subject, although I wonder if I can keep the cup from running over once I start. First, there was the “Cheesus” episode of “Glee,” which cleverly and thoughtfully explored some of the issues that arise whenever we grapple with the question of why we exist and whether there is a God. Second, there have been some discussions around my house about different family members feel about what God is doing in their lives. Third, I noticed Mike Miner‘s link to CrossFit Faith (which, let me stress, I haven’t had time to fully explore, so any comments I make here are no reflection on anything there; I’m speaking strictly from personal experience.) Last, I realized that the year of being almost completely incapacitated was a blessing in disguise since it, in a way, allowed me time to reflect and reboot, and I’m weirdly thankful for it.

The short version is that I am a Christian in the vein of C.S. Lewis, Rob Bell and Phillip Yancey, all of whom I appreciate for their intellectual honesty. None of them were afraid of the questions that people pose in the age of science, where reason and accuracy are valued. I consider myself an analytical thinker, and although I’ve never come quite to the point of denying the existence of God, I’ve certainly gone through plenty of phases of doubt. Some doubt is caused by the simple problem of proving God exists (pretty much impossible; every proof I have is subjective and not capable of withstanding the scientific method, but I don’t think that’s what the scientific method is meant for), some from the evil in the world, and a good deal from the sheer volume of judgmental self-identified Christians.

Having said that, I do think that spirituality is another aspect of wellness. Whatever your faith, it seems that a belief in something more than yourself helps you reach higher and overcome obstacles. Meditation, empathy, forgiveness and concern for others are all aspects of belief that, when practiced, improve not only the world around you, but, paradoxically, will improve your own outlook and well-being.

On the other hand, there’s a deep and wide streak of antipathy to the body in Western religious tradition, and asceticism is practiced in many world religions, so taking care of your body is almost contrary to many implicit theologies. For example, if you take Paul’s discussion about “buffeting the body” too literally, flagellation results. Working out is good; taking care of your body is good. But every virtue has its corresponding weakness when overdone.

I don’t have a lot of patience with dogmatic Theology with a capital “T.” Theology in the sense of “how I make sense of God and how stuff works” in a personal vein is not a problem, but Theology in the sense of thou-must-agree-with-me has historically been associated more with power than with faith.  The Byzantines made a habit of riots, murders and mayhem whenever there was a theological dispute between either the secular or religious leaders that was a proxy for a power struggle. If you want to see how it worked once Constantine got involved in Chritianity, read “The Closing of the Western Mind” by Charles Freeman. In order to decide who got governmental benefits, Constantine needed to know who the “real” Christians were; hence some of the big church gatherings to decide what theology was in and what was out.

But  for everyday life, what you believe matters. One of my husband’s nieces heard we were doing CrossFit and joked that she thought that was a cult. Any activity, particularly one which creates a community, can become cultish if it is not kept in balance with the rest of your life. Spirituality, relationships, healthful living, fitness: They are elements of becoming a better person in this life. Whether that is carried over to the next is something you have to determine for yourself, but I think it’s the process that matters, not the outcome. This is what I have learned from my bouts with illness and my newish attempts to re-invent myself as a healthy, more balanced person.

So enjoy CrossFit, but don’t let it be all there is in your life. Eat healthily and well, but don’t let food be all there is.  Read, socialize, take part in recreational activities you enjoy and intellectual activities that stimulate your mind, too. Take time for all the parts of your being, body, soul and spirit, and share those benefits with others, but don’t force them on anyone.

One of the things I grew up with and learned to dislike immensely was the notion of “witnessing” as cornering some poor stranger (or acquaintance) with the dreaded “Is Jesus your savior?” After law school and trying cases, I realized what a witness is. A witness can only tell you what they’ve personally experienced, and their character is always on the line for the questioner to determine their credibility. And witnesses generally only tell their experiences after being asked. So it’s the life you lead that matters, not the ideas you have.

So, yeah, I’m kind of preaching here. But I really don’t mind if you disagree with me. Believe it or not.

  1. Laura says:

    Ahhhh great post. You’d be surprised how much guilt you relieved me from. Thanks for putting this out there.

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