Fasting and Fight Club
“The first rule of Fight Club is: you do not talk about Fight Club. The second rule of Fight Club is: you DO NOT talk about Fight Club.” - Tyler Durden
“And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” - Jesus
A quick Google search reveals that I’m not the first to draw a comparison between Brad Pitt’s character in the movie Fight Club and Jesus, but an even quicker scan of other blog posts reinforces the obvious: It’s really not a good idea.
I hope to avoid the obvious pitfalls of this endeavor by limiting my thoughts specifically to fasting and not matters of character or doctrine. However, there is a certain parallel between a widespread group of very normal, unassuming people going about their regular, boring lives in public while privately subjecting their bodies, minds and spirits to a highly stressful experience… and Fight Club.
In the movie, there develops a community of men deeply devoted to a man and a discipline of combat that are nearly indistinguishable from each other. The experience of this ‘club’ is not a healthy one for a very obvious reason: Tyler Durden is a freaking nut-job. This predictably influences the members of his club to become, themselves, super-duper nut-jobs. I think the movie gets this dynamic correct. When you connect a strenuous, physical undertaking to a way of thinking or belief, an abstract concept becomes concretely encountered; galvanized in a ‘whole human’ experience.
But it’s kinda crazy. At least that’s what the general perception is amongst average Christians. With the good intention of following Jesus’ directive in Matthew 6, faithful followers (at least in my particular denomination) have unintentionally given fasting a bad rap. By not ever talking about fasting, we’ve made it into that thing that monks, nuns and wack-jobs do to see visions and con stupid people into buying our prayer shawl (made with a mystical fabric given to me in the midst of an extended fast!).
But that wasn’t Jesus’ point in Matthew 6. The point he was trying to make was: ‘Don’t be a jackass.’ Ok, Jesus said it nicer for sure. But He’s not declaring a code of secrecy or silence for those who fast. Rather, He’s chastising those who are turning this personal discipline into a public competition. It is certainly a fair warning for our day as well - but applying the ‘anti-jackass’ doctrine of silence to fasting has resulted in many not knowing about it and thus not engaging in it.
So, Tyler Durden can get bent. I’m going to talk about my experience fasting with the hopes that some insights here and there will encourage others to consider it at some point in their lives. I’ve developed a bit of a system over the years that I will happily share - but there are plenty of books out there that will do a far better job of that than I. What people often ask me is, in short, ‘what’s it like?’ So that’s primarily what I plan on sharing here. I think I can do it while still following Jesus’ directive to not be a jackass, but that remains to be seen. It seems like a good idea at the time of this writing - which is shortly before I will break a 56 hour fast. And everyone knows that when you fast you get the best ideas ever. Which reminds me…have I told you about the amazing faith ribbons God revealed to me yesterday? Only 19.99 if you act now…