Sunday, June 10, 2012

Taking up the fight against obesity...

You heard about Mayor Bloomberg's decision to limit sugary soft drinks to 16 ounces.  You heard about Rick Warren's conclusion that he and his people are just too darn fat.  You may have heard about the churches that have put exercise equipment in their gyms to offer a religious outlet for their members who want to become or stay fit.  You may have followed certain Lutheran blogs in which the cause of an Atkins style diet is lauded.  You may have heard of weight loss programs that were designed to be administered within a church setting (what was it, weighed down).  It seems you cannot go anywhere anymore without somebody shoving your size back in your face.

My wife the nurse has some opinions about this.  She reminds me all the time that there are few really fat people age 80.  You know why.  They live shorter lives than more fit folks. She also reminds me that since we moved to Tennessee, we see more morbidly obese folks than we ever saw anywhere else we have lived.  I say this only to show I am not in denial.  I know I could lose a few (well, more than a few) pounds.  I think the healthy eating and healthy living movement is a good thing.  Not a few of our chronic ailments might be eased if we lost the extra poundage putting stress on our organs, our veins, our joints, and our backs.  Where I grew up the short but large physician, legendary in my small town, was well known for putting it bluntly when people did not get what was causing them their health problems:  You are too damn fat.  So I get it.  I just don't think that this is the cause of the Gospel.

My concern with the health craze is that when the Church takes up a cause, it becomes a spiritual cause, a cause of the Gospel.  Living healthy is a good thing.  Losing excess weight is a good thing.  But that is not why Jesus came into the world.  Your BMI is not what will get you in or keep you out of the kingdom of God.  I worry when causes, even noble and good causes, become associated with the Gospel in such way that the very word Gospel becomes diluted and its focus made more fuzzy.  It is diluted and fuzzy enough.  We don't need to help it along in that direction.  We have got some preachers preaching about sex lives and calling it Gospel and now we have preachers preaching about weight loss and healthy living and calling it Gospel.  Everyone who takes up a cause, no matter how noble or good, and calls it Gospel, ends up diluting, confusing, and distorting the real Gospel.

Weight Watchers and a million other programs offer us plenty of choices for good approaches to trimming away the pounds and taking out some of our preoccupation with fat in our diets.  The Church does not need to reinvent the wheel here or take up the cause as if it were what Jesus had in mind when He ushered in the Kingdom or promised abundant life (what irony -- abundant life by giving up favorite foods to take up less than favorite exercise programs -- oh, and to be sure, someone will say this is exactly the cross Jesus calls us to take up).  Yeah, I get it.  I think it is a good idea.  But it is not the Gospel and it is not the business of the Church.  The Kingdom of God is the business of the Church.

Just as Jesus was ascending, He made it clear what the message and the focus of the Church shall be.  [Jesus] said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.” Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, “This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem."  Let us not forget or distort His Words or His message.


Dixie said...

While I agree that churches needn't be in the weight loss business, I do believe it is important to struggle against the passions (or appetites, aptly called in this case). Gluttony is a sin, it should be confessed as a sin, there should be an effort to repent from the sin, there is forgiveness for the sin. But forgiveness is not a license to keep committing the same sin over and over again. We need to engage in the struggle. This is where the Church can help us understand it is a sin, to enable us to confess the sin, to help us engage in the struggle against sin and to provide the Eucharist to give strength and endurance. I can't speak for how the Lutheran church can best address the issue within the context of Lutheran theology maybe it is different? (BTW...I am obese, I am a glutton, I am in the midst of the ain't easy but it is necessary.)

Anonymous said...

The pastor needs to set an example
of a fit body to his congregation.
By staying in good shape he reminds
the parish that our bodies are the
temple of the Holy Spirit. It is our
actions that will speak louder than
word when it comes to physical
fitness. Pastors led by example.

William Weedon said...

Dare you, double dare you, to read and put into practice Primal Blueprint for ONE MONTH and then come back and talk about it again. The Church IS in the business of opposing lies wherever they proliferate, and we're being lied to BIG TIME about nutrition.

Dixie said...

I am not convinced there is a conspiracy to lie to us to about nutrition--rather, I think our nutritional science is deficient. I understand the special interests attempting to leverage pressure at the federal level but there are too many independent (from government) weight loss "businesses" and pharmaceutical companies that are not even remotely indebted to the food pyramid / now food plate plan. And it is in the best interest ($$$) of those entities to know what it takes to lose weight. The reality is that science has yet to reveal all the secrets.

My own opinion is that there probably are not so many secrets to unlock. Rather, the problem is that people want to eat as much as they can and still lose weight. (This desire for excess could be triggered by processed foods...don't know, it seems particularly prevalent in the US.) This need for volume is at the heart of many weight loss programs. "Eat all the meat you want!" "Eat all the vegetables you want!" Eat all the cabbage soup you want!" Rather than looking for the holy grail of eating large volumes and still losing weight we might do well to just begin to rein in our appetites. (And I write this as a result of my own struggle and experience. I am no stranger to wanting to "eat all I want" of something and lose weight.")

Rather than the church being in the business of exposing government inaccuracies or lies about nutrition (which are difficult to prove because of the limited knowledge we have and our science supports) I think the church is in the business of helping us control the passions. Over time the answers science gives change...remember when we weren't supposed to eat egg yolks because of cholesterol, but now eggs are OK? And remember when soy was "good" but now it is not so good for us? But at the same time there has been no change in the message from the church...we are called as Christians to control the passions. Sure, we will fall down and fail at it but we must get back up again and enter the battle and when we fall the next time, we need to get back up again. Well you know the drill.

I have no beef against primal (nice pun, eh?) I just don't think it addresses the real issue which is a heart problem...spiritually speaking.

William Weedon said...


I do not at all disagree that controlling the passions is a major issue in the whole matter. But I don't think the passions of people can possibly explain the obesity epidemic. I don't think we're, as a generation, more glutenous than our grandparents were. I suspect we're just showing the effects of longer exposure to genetically modified food, extensive use of frankenoils, and a number of other issues. No question that the Church's job is to proclaim clearly and to all God's Law and above all God's saving Gospel, and these don't change depending on the science of nutrition. But I think to tell the obese of today it is a problem with their passions, when so many of them try with many a prayer and tear and struggle and yet fail miserably - well, it's just not right. It's not that they have a struggle with their passions as much as that they've been sold a bill of goods about what they eat - and it's keeping folks fat, sick, and miserable.

Anonymous said...

Gluttony may be a sin. Obesity is not.

Something is broken. I don't know if I agree with Pr. Weedon but something is broken.

Anonymous said...

From a medical standpoint women with
thyroid problems can gain weight
against their will. Some forms of
diabetes make weight gain an unwanted
side effect. We need to be careful
when we talk about over-weight
people who have real medical issues.

Pastor Peters said...

While there are Lutherans promoting weight loss and good health, the good brother Weedon among them, so far none of them have come even near making this the holy cause that some churches have. In other words, in our search to be relevant, churches pick and choose needs and then speak prophetically and act to promote the answer -- when the relevant need and answer is nothing more and nothing less than the Gospel. My point was not that we should be living unhealthy lifestyles but that this cause is not the cause of the Gospel. I would rather say that living healthy is a positive fruit of the Gospel and our awareness that we are not who we were, we were bought with a price, and we belong to the Lord, to glorify Him in our bodies as well as our spirits.