When a teenage girl left the church stage after singing on a Sunday, a woman from the audience followed her into the bathroom and allegedly began “shaming” her over the outfit she wore to church. Disturbed by the woman’s remarks, the teen used her phone to record the encounter as she was berated over her attire.
Jenna Munger, a 19-year-old North Carolina teen, is known at Swansboro United Methodist Church for her beautiful voice. When she took the church’s stage during a contemporary Sunday service, however, at least one audience member was more focused on her attire than her song choice. The woman was so bothered by what she saw, she decided to address Jenna directly.
When the teen left the stage and headed to the bathroom, where she thought she would be able to check on a loved one’s health using her phone, she was greeted by a nasty surprise instead. The upset church member followed her into the bathroom and began verbally shaming the teen for wearing shorts, calling her fat, Jenna told Inside Edition.
“She had gotten up from her seat from out in the audience and had followed me in there,” Jenna recalled. “This is all happening during church, of course, so it was crazy.” Jenna said the woman told her she should dress like another “chubby girl” who wore what she considered more appropriate, longer clothes. As she continued to call Jenna fat and kept criticizing her, the stunned teen decided to record the encounter.
“So, you’re … calling me fat?” Jenna asks the woman in disbelief, to which the older woman responds, “Oh, you don’t think you are?” This pushed Jenna to her breaking point. With her voice shaking with emotion, Jenna tells the woman to back off, but she doesn’t relent, pointing a stern finger at the teen and continuing to scold her.
“Don’t come back on that stage with those shorts,” the woman says. “I’m warning you,” she adds, telling Jenna to lower her voice when the teen becomes obviously upset over the incident. It was particularly painful for the teen who had recently lost over 30 pounds by eating healthy.
Making matters worse, Jenna Munger has a legitimate reason for her weight struggles. The teen suffers from a thyroid condition. “I was having a bad time at college, I gained a lot of weight,” Jenna admitted. “Later, to come to find out, I have hypothyroidism.” But, she had been working hard to take the weight off.
“I have always struggled with my weight for the entire time I’ve been alive, it’s always been up and down, up and down, and so hearing that from someone who is either equally the same weight or even a little bit bigger than me, looking at me and saying, ‘You’re fat, fat girls don’t wear shorts,’ it’s like, what?” Jenna said.
But, this wasn’t the first time this same woman insulted the girl. She had previously complained to the church’s band director about Jenna wearing shorts. It seems the church sided with the teen then, and they are standing behind her after the most recent incident as well.
“We are shocked and saddened by this act. The church is supposed to be a place of safety, love, and acceptance,” Senior Pastor G. Kevin Baker said in a statement, adding that the church was taking steps to ensure nothing like this ever happens again.
As for Jenna Munger, she’s hoping she can use the difficult situation as an opportunity to remind others to love themselves. “It’s hard to sit there and say, ‘Do I love what I look like? Do I love the clothes that I wear?’ Because it’s hard. It’s hard to find that stuff,” Jenna said, struggling to hold back tears before reminding others to “always remember that you are loved.” She wasn’t done teaching very valuable lessons there, though.
When a church memo was posted online, identifying the woman in the video by name, Jenna reminded everyone what Christianity is really about: Forgiveness. After the church member who shamed her started being harassed, Jenna stepped up to tell people she doesn’t hate her for what happened and she wanted the bullying to stop. Because we believe it’s what Jenna would want, we’ve excluded the woman’s name from this article as to not encourage any further harassment.
“I want everyone to understand I do not hate her, I do not hate that woman and I could never hate her because that’s not what God told us to do. Instead, I forgive her,” Jenna said in a video she posted to Twitter, adding that bullying in any form is wrong. “Yes, the words hurt,” she said. “It hurt, but from this, I want people to take this as clearly bullying is wrong no matter who you are or what age.”
While there’s nothing wrong with wanting young girls to dress modestly, that belief shouldn’t be based on the girl’s size. Determining what’s appropriate attire should be a “one size fits all” policy. There’s also a right way to speak to others, and it should always involve kindness, which this woman’s words seemed to lack.
If a dress code wasn’t being broken, there was absolutely no reason to chastise this young woman. Jesus cares a whole lot more about what you are saying and doing to others than what you are wearing. The forgiveness that Jenna Munger demonstrated is going to be far more important to Him than the length of her shorts.