"Jesus didn’t turn away anyone/Weight Watchers meets here"

Ecce Homo by Fernando Botero

I was nurtured on the Kenneth Copeland gospel: “I used to be fat and then I became a Christian and became thin and rich.” Jesus was going to save us from fatness and poverty. From fat poverty. Indeed, all those pictures of skinny Jesus were nothing more than ads for the promised thinness: you, too, can look like you fasted in the desert for forty days! Not only is Jesus not going to turn away anyone, once he’s through with you, there’ll be less of you to turn!

I must confess, this thinning Jesus appeals to my ascetic sense. With the exception of books and pens, I collect nothing. My furniture consists of three or four pieces—and the sofa exists only because my living room looked silly—books and a router. Thinning Jesus might help me pare down, get to basics, shed all those “burdens.”

The Modern Language Association conference is a very thinning place: our palette is dark, with lots of black and gray (though I noticed neon hair this year); we are a motley assembly of (barely) grown-up nerds and geeks still desperately seeking approval, or attention; one of the major facets of the conference is interviewing candidates, sometimes in the very unfortunately nicknamed “bullpen,” where culling proceeds; words fly through the air to slice, to lacerate, to trim, to shave, to shape—we proliferate through subtraction; and we guard our gates jealously.

Fat Jesus would not be welcome at the MLA, not without a conference badge.

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