As much as I critique Calvinism, I participate in its hardness sometimes. For instance, when I was employed in higher education I would’ve considered reception history—the kind of research I’m now doing—soft. My doctorate consisted of learning to read dead languages and trying to make sense of ancient religions where tons of lacunae existed. It was rigorous mental work. More modern studies, however, often look at the human (softer) side of religion. There are any number of approaches: gender studies, sexuality studies, disability studies, and plenty involving the social sciences. I was taken aback, however, when I first encountered fat studies. This is apparently a thing now. As far as I know it hasn’t been applied to biblical studies, yet. The title is intentionally somewhat derogatory, rather like queer studies adopted a term at first intended to disparage, but later taken as a token of pride.
Fat studies is a field that considers the acceptance of all body types, and the prejudices against those who might be called “overweight.” We’ve begun to reach a period of acceptance of difference—well, we had been getting there, until about three years ago. Academics are keen to explore implications of just about anything, and considering those who face acceptance issues due to weight, or body mass index (BMI), suggests itself. The media likes to cast us into various crises: an obesity crisis, an anorexic crisis, substance abuse crises, and satanic panics. Each of these crisis points eventually leads to some form of study. We want to understand this inherent complexity of being human. Some feminists expressed surprise when masculinity studies became a thing some years back. Being male, I see that the only way to break down seeing my own gender as normative is to put it under the microscope with all the others.
Because of historical developments, a particular subset of the human race came to see itself as the measure of all things. I doubt this was intentional, but over time the male of northern European persuasion, particularly the Protestant variety, came to be seen as the textbook human. He stood about six feet tall and tended to fit a certain BMI. He was straight. Like a ruler. All other humans were measured against him. This system of privilege is breaking down. Some, as we can see in Washington, are reluctant to let it go. Difference, however, is endemic to any species. And males are no more normative than females. Or those attracted to their own gender. Or who change gender. Or who weigh more than others. Until we learn to accept all humans, it’s only right that we study our assumptions. There will always be those who look at dead languages and some day we may want to study even them.