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Thursday, February 28, 2008

O They Will Know We Are (Coptic) Christians By…

posted by on February 28 at 9:52 AM

…the way we starve exchange students.

Jonathan McCullum was in excellent health at 155 pounds when he left last summer to spend the school year as an exchange student in Egypt.

But when he returned home to Maine just four months later, the 5-foot-9 teenager weighed a mere 97 pounds and was so weak that he struggled to carry his baggage or climb a flight of stairs. Doctors said he was at risk of a heart attack.

McCullum says he was denied sufficient food while staying with a family of Coptic Christians, who fast for more than 200 days a year, a regimen unmatched by other Christians.

RSS icon Comments


I would have simply killed them. Dinner's ready.

Posted by Mr. Poe | February 28, 2008 9:57 AM

thats some discipline,tough people

Posted by linus | February 28, 2008 10:09 AM

His host father accused him of lying, and said he ate enough for "six people" at every meal.

I think this boy is the answer to America's obesity epidemic.

Posted by Gloria | February 28, 2008 10:32 AM

Here's a little background that the article should have clarified:

In the Coptic religion, fasting consists of following a vegan diet, not abstaining from food completely. So "fasting" for more than half the days of the year - including a two month long Lenten season - doesn't mean inevitable starvation. After all, many people do fine on long-term or permanent vegan diets.

In this boy's case, the host family may have been stingy with the lentils and rice, or simply had no idea of how much food an adolescent boy needs. Or, maybe he has a legume intolerance so he wasn't able to get adequate nutrition from the "fasting" food.

The vast majority of devout Copts - including teenagers - are not on the brink of starvation, though, as the 200 days of fasting might suggest. BTW, young children and pregnant women do not fast.


PS I lived in Egypt for a year, also on a youth exchange program, and participated in the local Coptic church - though I was responsible for my own food.

Posted by rhymeswithlibrarian | February 28, 2008 10:32 AM

@4: Interesting. I don't know anything about Coptic Christians. So they follow a vegan diet only on the days they are "fasting" but eat animal products the rest of the time?

Posted by Jo | February 28, 2008 10:40 AM

Was this kid chained to a bed or something?

Posted by SALLY FIELD GREENS | February 28, 2008 11:05 AM

uh, why the fuck didn't this kid call home to say he was starving to death?

I don't know the whole story, but based I what I've heard, the kid is a bit dumb and the host parents are criminally negligent, regardless of their fucking religion.

Posted by michael strangeways | February 28, 2008 11:06 AM

@7: Exactly.

Posted by J.R. | February 28, 2008 11:17 AM

well, he didn't die or have a heart attack, so no harm, no foul.

Posted by max solomon | February 28, 2008 11:17 AM

Obviously something was wrong. I am a 5'9" male and cannot imagine weighing under 100 lbs. Besides, wtf? This kid wasn't a Coptic Christian! Why should he be forced to "fast" with the rest of them? Bitches.

Posted by Ugh | February 28, 2008 11:22 AM

Memo to Hollywood Starlets: ditch the Kabbalah and go Coptic!

Posted by orangekrush | February 28, 2008 11:25 AM

Tangentially, my dad was working with a Coptic drummer one time and asked him "What makes a Coptic?" and the drummer said "Coffee and a box of doughnuts." Ba-DUM-tsh!

Uh...but yeah, I can't think of any religion that calls for complete abstenance from food. I mean, in Jewish and Muslim fasts, you eat between sundown and sunup (which is why my husband doesn't do Ramadan anymore).

But its true, he might have had an absorption problem, or maybe was getting ill from the fasting food. I always drop weight when I travel because it takes me a while to even LOOK at other foods.

Posted by Kat | February 28, 2008 12:04 PM

I'm fascinated by the host father's excuses. If the kid ate enough for six people, how did he lose more than 50 pounds?

Posted by keshmeshi | February 28, 2008 12:41 PM


Posted by Megan | February 28, 2008 1:55 PM

If he was eating enough for 6 people.
What would they call eating enough for 6 people.
6 crackers and a bit a cheese with a thin slice of cucumber..

Posted by deaby | February 28, 2008 8:39 PM

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