Sunday, June 10, 2012
Taking up the fight against obesity...
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.