It’s Probably Time We All Talked About Obesity & The Church

Last week there was an article on NPR about NYC’s ban on big sodas in an effort to curb obesity in the city. The articles author astutely pointed out that the problem with these kinds of bans is that they’re based on values, and values are different from person to person. What is unacceptable to one might be perfectly permissible to another or even necessary.

I’m not interested in making a statement about what should and shouldn’t be public policy.

Here is what I do want to say: Even though there was no mention of church or religion, the writer of the article was pleading for the church to do its job, a job that it’s neglected for some time now.

If public policy is the government’s purview, then values are the churches.

The church is generally quick to point to the numerous instances in scripture where our bodies are described as a temple; those passages are convenient, when we want to address illegal drugs, smoking, and alcohol abuse. But rarely, if ever, do we address gluttony.

If I had to say why, I think there are a few reasons:

  1. Many of our pastors are obese. It’s tricky, because I can’t think of any other sin that you can see just by looking at a person. Gluttony may be the modern scarlet letter. Please, understand, I’m not saying that being heavy is a sin, but try preaching a sermon about gluttony, and lack of self-control when you yourself are standing before a congregation and noticeably overweight. Unfortunately, this doesn’t excuse us from withholding a part of the Gospel from God’s people.
  2. Many in our congregations are obese. Same as above; being overweight isn’t something you can hide. Many pastors or fellow church members just don’t want to offend or embarrass people, and while that comes from a loving place, remember it’s never fun to be called out on your sin; we have to find tactful and loving ways to be or brothers/sisters keeper.

Several years ago I was working at a youth conference and went to lunch with several denomination leaders. The conversations turned to a church in Germany that decided that they would no longer have beer at their fellowships (a cultural norm) because of a problem of alcoholism in their community. Everyone at lunch believed this to be wonderful because the community was looking out for the health of their people. I agree. But if it was so obviously the right and loving thing to do, why aren’t we applying the lesson to our own American churches.

If we are truly concerned with the health of our brothers and sisters, we would probably take a cue from that German congregation, and ask in kind and loving ways, that no one bring fried chicken, fatty biscuits, or large portioned desserts to the pot-luck. Whoa… I can hear my heresy trial being assembled as we speak. A move like that might rock the boat. It might upset the sweet old ladies that tithe O so consistently.

This isn’t a move we need to make flippantly. Christians, we’ll have to walk with each other through this slowly, carefully, and most of all lovingly. Those who don’t struggle with this one will need to be transparent about the weaknesses they do have, and be serious about those short comings too.

It will be a narrow road to travel, one with pitfalls on either side. The last thing we need is to turn the church into vain snobs, calling anything that couldn’t find its way into a grocery store magazine, sinful. We also can’t make it strictly physical, neglect the spiritual side, start a P90X class in the gym and call it done.

We were never promised an easy road. But, when we ignore the problem, decide not to be our brother’s/sister’s keeper, we stand by while people kill themselves slowly, and it will be yet another facet of life in which we are no different than the world around us. We’ve got to open our eyes and see that this obesity epidemic is the church’s problem.

 

What do you think? Do you hate me now? Have you ever seen a community address this issue well? If not, how can we do so?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

44 comments
DonFawcett
DonFawcett

The western church, and more specifically, the Baptists (my group), is not ready for this discussion.  It is easier to talk about homosexuality than it is this subject. This subject is the third rail. 

PeteZimmerman
PeteZimmerman

this popped up in my email because of my old post. I decided to google gluttony.


In his Summa Theologica (Part 2-2, Question 148, Article 4), St. Thomas Aquinas reiterated the list of five ways to commit gluttony:

  • Laute - eating food that is too luxurious, exotic, or costly
  • Nimis - eating food that is excessive in quantity
  • Studiose - eating food that is too daintily or elaborately prepared
  • Praepropere - eating too soon, or at an inappropriate time
  • Ardenter - eating too eagerly.

RemingtonHawk
RemingtonHawk

 gluttony is not a sin because it causes poor health, but because it is an economic sin. in ancient cultures the question that divided people according to a seminary professor was "do I know I will eat every day this year?" in roman culture those who were unsure outnumbered those who did. 


only in an industrialized bougeiose society would this sin be about "health" 


and speaking of fat issues:


such an uniformed view of why people are fat. In college the biggest gluttons I knew were thin. I new a man who always overate. he ate more than his share anywhere. ordering pizza with him was terrible. he would goto burger king for lunch and have 3 whoppers. he never exercised. but he was rail thin. my father and his brother grew up in a poor household and were literally given the same amount of food and one was too thin, and one was average. 


overeating in the bible is not about getting fat it is about scarcity of food. as in, you eat more than your share. 


I did not change my eating habits from the age of 18 to 30. But I found that eating the same amount of food over the years, while my metabolism slowed, was leading to fat. secondly, I went on anti-depressants. I was poor and ate the same cereal, same lunch, and same dinners as the months before. in 3 months I gained 40 lbs. I also no longer wanted to die. tradeoffs. I was really bummed out by the weight. 


a big fat comedian recently went from 450 lbs to 300. So when you see him, is he a Glutton? you might assume so but actually he is eating next to nothing and ALREADY LOST A WHOLE PERSON.  


what makes people fat? some now say it is evil carbs. others swear it is fat. my friend recently lost 100 lbs on the paleo. he said all his over-eating was carb related. now he eats what he likes, is full, never hungry, and down to the weight he was in high school. I did exactly what he did for 6 months and after the first 3 my weight loss stopped. why? high blood sugar. 


Rae
Rae

I do not have a medical condition and I am obese. While I agree that gluttony is a sin, I didn't get fat from gluttony. I really don't eat much. My issue is what I eat. First, the budget is tight...and unhealthy food is cheap. Second, although I like vegetables, I just don't eat them how I should. Third, I work on my feet all day, and I'm exhausted when I get home and never work out. I could say the skinniest person could be gluttonous scarfing down vegetables. I could also say a fit person worrying about this is vain. I hate being judged for my weight.

Fast forward a little...the above is what I would've written a couple years ago. I worked for 7 years straight on my feet, and finally quit my job after working through pregnancy to be a stay at home mom. (A huge financial sacrifice). I would say the damage I did to my feet took over a year to heal. I finally got to point where I couldn't stop gaining weight. Some months I only had $200 for diapers, food for 3 of us, plus any household necessities. I wasn't eating healthy food at all, but I also couldn't afford to eat healthy. This past January, I had had enough. Our family got approved for food stamps, and I immediately was able to change our diet overnight. I can now afford to eat low carb, no processed only fresh foods...and I've lost 75 lbs in 5 months (and my hubby has lost 85). I eat about the same if not more now. Yet, I get judged that I am gluttonous because of my weight. I still have about 150lbs to lose to be at an ideal weight, and I'm hoping to get there. But I will say that in the US, the processed, high carb crap that is passed off as a good dinner option is cheap for people who can hardly make ends meet. I am sensitive to judgmental thin people who assume if you are obese and don't have a medical condition, you are gluttonous. (I had someone say this to me at church today, no joke, and he and his entire family are tall and thin as rails.) I didn't want to go into extreme detail with him, but I caution anyone to have this sermon. It's one thing to have a sermon on gluttony and generalize that it can be with food, money, alcohol, sex, etc. each person can search within themselves if they have that issue, but to generalize in this way makes me sick.

wandarech
wandarech

Our pastor has not avoided this subject. I have heard many sermons on sin. No big sin  no little sin, sin is sin  over consumption has been discussed in the pulpit, many times  whether it be food , drink, adultery, ect. But I do not intend to be my brothers keeper, and would refuse that burden of anyone as being my keeper. Eating is the same as any other bad habit. It is up to the individual and it should be.  I am not fat because I ate at a church social. I am fat because of years of not watching every bite I eat, lack of exercise, medication, and thyroid surgery. Stress from working and trying to make ends meet. That's why people get fat. I don't need anyone to tell me I am fat I already know that quiet well. It's not my pastors responsibility to point that out to me. To try to legally restrict the size of a soda really, if they want a 32 oz, and can only buy a 16 oz., guess what they will buy two. That's crazy to assume you can control the size of a glass. The only subject that I have seen to be avoided in the pulpit is suicide. That's a subject that some pastors steer away from.  Yes I am from the south, and a Baptist church. We are known for potlucks,

LexingtonBobby
LexingtonBobby

This is an issue that is ignored by most all ministers because now 70% of Americans are clinically overweight (36% of Americans are clinically obese now). Ministers shy away from this for two reasons, in my opinion: 1. They fear the loss of members when they rattle this cage since the problem is more common than adultery, stealing etc. etc. 2. Many of the ministers themselves are, well, just fat. In a world of being "politically correct" and overly sensitive to people, even in the face of wrong, this has become the socially acceptable thing. In fact, numerous studies show an obesity rate much higher in Christians that attend church regularly, the reason being churches condone and over-feed during social gatherings. A shame that America has come to turn a blind eye to the obvious problem, we are destroying our bodies while increasing health care costs at a tremendous rate. -MS in Health 

AndreaHuffman
AndreaHuffman

This was your first post?! Way to start with a bang, man!

I know I'm almost a year late on this, but I saw another comment from July 2013 so I thought I could add something.

Unlike pretty much everyone else, I agree with your post. It IS a spiritual matter among Christians and as such needs to be addressed.

I also agree with some of the comments below regarding the stuff on the inside we can't see: like, if I am an overweight person (as a result of gluttony) and God deals with me and I stop sinning, then that's great, right? But the only issue is that you wont see the physical results of my change until months or years after my body has responded to the spiritual change that has occurred. So even though I may look like a glutton, I'm really not. I think thats where people were getting a little frustrated at their belief that you implied that overweight = gluttonous.

But there's also a word/phrase that I didn't read in your post or in any of the comments that I think is vital: spiritual discipline. I think the Church in America is wildly undisciplined these days, from the discipline of reading our Bibles to the discipline of prayer to the--I'd say--spiritual discipline of not eating in excess.

And I think our goal as Christians should be to bring every area of our life under the submission of Christ. For me, usually when I eat in excess it's because I'm angry or sad or bored or (insert another emotion here). Instead of taking my feelings and emotions to Christ I take them to the fridge. When I do this--whether I'm skinny or not, and whether I'm eating healthy food or not--I'm not allowing Christ to be the Lord of my life in that moment.

Gluttony and obesity and over eating are (as I'm sure you discovered from your comments because I sure did) really touchy issues that--even if its necessary and even if its as loving as possible--people are going to pissed about.

But if our churces could start stepping up and addressing all areas of spiritual discipline, including moment-by-moment submission to Christ in every area of our lives, gluttony would (and should) totally be included in that.

KimOsburn1
KimOsburn1

A great man once said: "I wonder how things would be different if the message matched the heart of God. If the instead the message was 'this thing you’re hanging onto is bad for you, and we love you and want good things for you,' and if we earned the right to speak into someone’s life first, before pointing out what’s weighing them down." ;)

 

http://www.shaneblackshear.com/veiled-judgement/?utm_source=buffer&utm_campaign=Buffer&utm_content=bufferba576&utm_medium=twitter

 

The overall premise of this blog post, regardless of how you try to sugar-coat it (pardon the pun), is that obesity always results from gluttony. You will never earn the right to speak into the life of a person who is overweight by assuming they put themselves in that position by their own sin. Ever. Proposing that overweight people in the church need to be "called out on their sin" amounts to nothing more than the "veiled judgment" you described in the above-linked post. "They're fat, I'm not. They're sinning, I'm not" with a justification of "I love them, so I'll 'point out what's weighing them down'" (see what I did there?) tacked on to make your assertion easier to swallow. (I'm a glutton for puns!)

 

Shane, I've been checking out your blog tonight and I LOVE much of what you have to say, but this blog post doesn't seem to fit within the context of the surrounding posts.

JonTettleton
JonTettleton

Bold. I Respect it. I don't really want to address it. To be compassionate and understanding might require preachers to be pastors, and churches to be families. Who would want to do that?

 

*Also, this is big step for me, entering the blogging world again. Thanks for the inspiration to interact, sir.

cyclinganderson
cyclinganderson

As a teacher, I value education.  Without education we lack the knowledge to make educated decisions.  At school I teach PE and health.  I teach children all the time about how to eat healthy and exercise.  This is a passion of mine.  I also know that a lot of food disorders are manifestations of other issues.  However, sometimes, it just comes from a lack of knowledge of what is healthy and what is not.  We live in a society that markets to peoples needs or wants.  People do not want to give up soda, so they can drink diet soda, which can be worse for a persons body.  It says diet, so it must be good.  To me this can be solved with education.  Now I am not going to promote one diet over another.  I grew up in a home in which my parents did and continue to do every fad diet known.  Some are more healthy than others.  What I do promote to my students is a well balanced and moderated diet.  On the other hand, different diets can be very effective for different health issues.  The glutton free diet has helped many kids with adhd behaviors as well as other medical conditions.  

 

Looking at this from a different perspective though, I struggled with pornography as a teenager.  No one really talked about it in church.  Part of me knew that it was wrong, but then again, no one was talking about it.  I actually started when a role model of mine, who was a christian, was talking with other guys about pornography that he was looking at.  I was then able to justify this in my own head.  With no one explicitly telling me this was wrong, I got sucked into this addiction.  Like all addictions, the first step was admitting that there was a problem.  It was then a struggle to get out of this addiction.  I even prayed and prayed to be freed from this addiction, but it wasn't until I confided in a friend my addiction and the fact that I was weak that God was truly able to free me from this addiction.  The truth was, my friend didn't even suffer from pornography addiction.  He did listen and keep me accountable in Love.  

 

Like my friend, as a church, we need to help people recognize the problem, whatever it may be, and help people get through the problem with love.  We need to know the people in our church enough to help them through the problems.  The church should be a place we can talk about our problems, no matter what they are, whether it is pornography, alcoholism, or gluttony.  This will only happen if the church is a place free from judgement.  I am completely against condemning people for their sins, but I am for the church educating people to grow closer to what God desires for our physical and spiritual lives. 

PeteZimmerman
PeteZimmerman

two separate streams of thought. a) banning beer is terrible idea. studies show that alcoholism is worse in cultures that have bad drinking habits or ban drinking. rates of alcoholism among jews, (with a wierd recent anomaly among orthodox which I think is about repression) are very low historically. don't ban drinking. model good behavior. and dialogue with those that break healthy patterns, and be willing to ask them to leave the community if they can't keep sober. 

 

 

b) gluttony. before we can talk about gluttony we need to talk about gary taubes. google him. humanity has been around for a long time, but carbs became major into our diet 12,000 years ago when we became agricultural.  then stupidly after world war 2, nutritonists decided fat was bad and carbs were good. secondly sugar is a drug. I had a friend who was 100 pounds overweight. he tended to overeat. was he a glutton? he cut out all carbs, and also dairy which also ups glucose. he ate if he was hungry. he had no more cravings for overeating. oh btw, giving up carbs was like giving up cigarettes. he said he nearly lost his mind. He said his body knew how to regulate what it needed when it had no carb interference. his problem was that his body had become carb sensitive. a year later, after eating whatever he wanted, he lost 100 pounds, and said he never really over ate. he said "overeating just meat and vegetables sounded and felt stupid."  

 

native americans on 3000 calorie dies (estimated) that was meats and vegetables) were buff, but then 50 years later on poverty diet of coffee and bread 2000 calories, 10% of women were underweight (not carb sensitive and not getting enough nutrition) but 40% were obese. obesity is an insulin/glucose related problem. carbs up your glucose. the more carb sensitive you are the more the "high" you get is from carbs and the worse the crash. 

 

that said gluttony then becomes the sin of "too much" -- it may even be talking about precursor to addiction and addiction. a "glutton" is a husband who comes home and watches 7 hours of tv and ignores his family. but is calling him a glutton a helpful language designation? "hey I prayed about it and you are a glutton."   I think the word glutton might be fine as an academic term but any word you have to redefine to use quickly becomes jargon. 

 

some people in the church are over-eaters. most of them are carb senstive with insulin issues and don't know it. but behind that is probably the emotional reality that carbs bring comfort as well. when I gave up carbs totally (I am now on a drug that lows my blood sugar so I can have carbs, trying to live carb free in america is really hard) I actually cried one day. I missed the emotional comfort. carbs were a comfort closer than a friend. 

 

interestingly, guess what helps lower blood sugar levels? fasting one day and then eating a normal diet the next day. 

chicoyaya
chicoyaya

Do I hate you? No. Do I think you are missing the mark? BY A MILE.

Why do people think that somehow "fat" people don't know they are fat? Don't know they have a problem? And why do they assume they are not already trying to do something about that problem? Why also do non-fat people assume that fat people "got that way" from a lack of self-control? 

Gluttony is not the only reason for obesity, not to mention gluttony is also not the only sin afflicting the Church.

Where are you going to draw the line here? Are you going to also tell the smokers at the back door "no tobacco on the premises, and oh, by the way, smoking is bad for your health."?  Yeah, I can see that flying in a Southern Baptist church... NOT. (At least not the one I grew up in.)

I think you need to back the train up and start dealing with the REAL issues of weight (and other health problems) and if people were to understand WHO they are in CHRIST, and really understand what their position is in Christ, it would be a monumental start on the road to healing. 

jem4him
jem4him

Obesity has many causes so automatically assuming that gluttony and obesity go together is ignorant and harmful. Our worth is not determined  by the number on the scale and our intimacy with Christ doesn't depend on my calorie intake.Maybe many churches don't preach on it because they let the Word of God and the Holy Spirit do the convicting.Check out Romans 14:1 "Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters. 2 One man’s faith allows him to eat everything, but another man, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. 3 The man who eats everything must not look down on him who does not, and the man who does not eat everything must not condemn the man who does, for God has accepted him. 4 Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.". All we need is church members monitoring each other's food intake and calculating waist measurement.

Many many years and diets ago I was having great success losing weight on the plan I was on. It included a baked potato at lunch. A co worker went off on me about how could I possibly lose weight eating that? In her judgement, in her lack of knowledge, she believed me to be "cheating" on my diet. Fast forward to this past August. At a birthday party I had someone criticize the eating of bacon. The Paleo eating plan includes bacon. I can list several "plans" that include food that others would disapprove. All of this sets us up to judge each other without even knowing the heart of another person. Yes, it would seem that those of us with weight issues wear ours on the outside. We have no choice but others are able to hide their "sins" away. 

Another thing about this whole notion that really chaps my hide is that just by looking at my appearance, you think you could judge how I eat or don't exercise. Would you know that I have been keeping a food diary for 3 weeks and I have to work to eat enough calories in a day so I don't get alerted that I am not eating enough? You can't tell that my metabolism is shot by the continual dieting and near starvation I've put it through in my life. You wouldn't know about the six months I spent in an eating disorders unit after drinking only shakes (under a doctor's care) for six weeks putting my heart into an irregular beat with my weight loss journey. If you didn't visit my home you wouldn't know that you will not find fried or processed food in my house. My pantry looks like a health food store but my body looks like I frequent McDonalds *shudder*. My heart rate and BP are well within the normal range but you won't see that in my dress size. You can sit back and discuss willpower till you are blue in the face but until you have sat in my place, until you have been part of my struggle your preaching will only create an environment of judgement rather than an environment of grace. Grace will eventually win.

Two recent studies have shown that two major factors to obesity are lack of sleep and stress. Are you going to ask pastors to monitor bedtimes and provide help for those of us caring for a disabled family member? (I sound stressed don't I?)

Gluttony can also be defined as someone who is so picky about food that they won't attend gatherings if they don't think they will like what is being served. Are we going to also rail against those who make food an issue in the other direction? Gluttony isn't going to be cured by asking someone to leave the fried chicken home. If gluttony is a spiritual issue, then you need a spiritual answer. Some diets give allowance for a biscuit, some bacon and even dessert. Focusing on the physical will just focus us all on the physical. Let us preach what really matters. Spiritual health, grace, love, relationship and the beauty that our Lord brings to our souls. Let the Lord speak into each individual if food is being abused or misused.  Thank you in advance for allowing me to vent. I'm sure it was inarticulate but I woke up several times through the night wrestling with this article. I just had to beat it out on my laptop before I exploded and before some churches started signing up their congregations for gastro bypass surgery at a group rate.

barnettjo
barnettjo

About four years ago our congregation began having lunch after morning service for the widows and widowers, so that they wouldn't have to eat lunch alone. It has turned out to be a luncheon for the whole congregation. Needless to say, I bet we have gained several hundred pounds together.

 

Not everyone in the congregation attend the luncheon, and it is very nice to get to spend this time together visiting... But it is amazing to watch how the folks have changed in their attitudes. At first people would wait in line to get to the tea and desserts or wait to see if there would be a stuffed egg left. Now they get their tea, their dessert and an egg. They don't want to miss out on getting the dessert and egg, nor do they want someone to get their "spot", so they set their tea where they want to sit. And if their cup is moved one seat over, it messes up their whole "chemistry" and they become a bit disgruntled.

 

Over the years I have had to battle the "greed" monster myself. You know what I mean, there is so many choices. It all looks so good. Your tummy is growling because you had to skip breakfast to drive the church bus or get the classroom ready for the children. The taste buds are watering before you get your flatware. You start out with, "I am going to be careful this time. I am going to make better choices. Only a taste of this or a bite of that..." And by the time you are at the end of the line the plate is heaping with food.

 

My husband is over the bus ministry. Many of those who ride the bus are children or the "un-churched." These weekly meals have given many opportunities of growth. First there are the children who have eyes as big as saucers, and then there are those less "taught" adults who either are hungry, they don't know better, or who don't have a "turnoff" switch for their tummies. At first these few would be first in line and would heap their plates so high without even realizing that they needed to share with those behind them.  Many times the meat dishes would disappear before everyone could get any (kind of sounds like the problem at Corinth.) No one knew what to say, especially to the adults. The hosts/hostesses grumbled and finally moved the meat dishes to the end of the line so that plates would be filled with veggies and salads first. But no one in the leadership ever addressed the issue of greed.

 

My husband and I finally pulled the children aside and were able to slowly teach them to limit their choices to 1 meat, a starch, a salad, a veggie and 1 dessert. (Not that this is what happens each time, but we try to remind them.) We didn't know how to handle the adults who over indulged, we just hoped that they would hear us teach the children. Finally when one woman had 2 strokes and a mild heart attack, we felt that we could be more forceful in keeping with her diet. (It's sad that we think that if we admonish one another we will offend. We don't realize that by admonishing we could save their physical life as well as their spiritual life.)

 

Admonishment does need to be administered, but first we need to teach as Paul states in 2 Timothy 3:16-17. We need to be taught that any form of gluttony is greed which is idolatry. Idolaters will not enter into the kingdom of heaven. We must flee from every form of evil. But in order to know these things we must first be taught. And we cannot be afraid to teach the truth, even if it does cause a brother to grumble. After all, to offend means to cause to stumble (to fall.) Will we be offending or just hitting a heart string and cause grumbling?

 

Over the years I have learned some valuable lessons about food. First in 2000 I was blessed to go to Ghana, West Africa. We were to carry with us food for 14 meals for ourselves and our interpreters. Now this amount of tuna, crackers, dried nuts and fruit can really add up. I followed the guideline and took this food only to realize that each day as I worked in the field there wasn't much time to eat a lunch. And when I did I had only time to eat a couple peanut butter crackers, sharing the rest with my interpreters. I also realized that I didn't have much hunger. My stomach didn't travel up my throat to see if my tongue had been cut or if my mouth had been tied shut. Upon reflecting why I wasn't hungry I came to understand that God's word was actually feeding me with each Bible study that I taught. His word became life for me! (Oh, we left a lot of food, and today we hardly take any at all.)

 

With more Bible study I realized that it is not the food that we eat, but the amount which we consume that causes obesity. There is actually much to say about the food that we eat, and the word does not tell us to limit the types of foods, but says to not have any god before our God. I began applying this knowledge to how I think about food. I still struggle. There are periods that I have more victory and times that I fall. I am learning to eat when I am hungry, stop when I am satisfied. When I obey God in my eating I have less indigestion, I sleep better, and I shed weight.My biggest problem is that when I eat according to what my body needs, I eat very little, and guess what? I don't like it! (There is the rub...the real issue...greed.)

 

I have learned that food has been an idol to me, that I didn't trust God to provide for me, and that I believed man's wisdom concerning foods (what is healthy and not healthy...) I also have learned that if I feed myself the word of God throughout the day I have more victories with food and even in other problem areas in my life.

 

Shane, I hope that you will continue encouraging the brethren to check their hearts and repent. We do need to be a people who honors God with our bodies in all things, and food is only one of them. Thanks for blogging. Glad I saw it. Love and miss you guys.

 

 

DonFawcett
DonFawcett

This is a timely and appropriate article with which I find agreement.  But from a pastoral perspective, it is THE third rail in theology and the church along with homosexuality.  No, it is a bigger third rail, because at least the church has been talking about homosexuality (albeit not always a productive theological discussion) for some time now, but almost no one wants to touch this one.  

 

We live in a "super-size" culture that is so food-oriented.  I think also the western church has developed an anthropology that leans heavily at times toward gnosticism, either spiraling off toward asceticism on the one hand or hedonism on the other.  Of course that characterizes almost every act in a fallen world- dis-eased people cannot find balance apart form God in Christ and abiding faith in him.  For me,  (getting dramatic), it took walking on a treadmill at 47 years of age and getting radioactive dye shot into my veins to test for blockage along with taking 2 blood pressure pills daily and a very powerful statin drug to lower a total cholesterol rate of over 1000!  That finally got my attention and I realized this was a spiritual issue for me.  I couldn't claim to be walking in the Spirit as I continued to treat my body like I had been treating it.    

 

But this is a swim against the tide.  I completed a revival last year that was totally food oriented (in the Baptist context). The people were God loving people, but honestly, there were 4 people out of 100 that showed up for prayer meetings before the revival but everyone showed up for the meals.  Traveling in other parts of the world where people live with food insecurity every day has totally changed my outlook on this.  Now I see how gluttonous this culture is.  Yes, we need to eat, and we can enjoy food, but I fear the reality in the USA is that we are increasingly living to eat, and not eating to live.  

 

Yet, I am not sure there is a more sensitive and emotionally charged issue in the church than this one, because food is closely linked with culture and emotions.  

 

I am aware of an associate pastor who just passed away at 50 years of age from obesity. He ate himself to death.  It was one of the tragic things I have witnessed.  

flaglady
flaglady

I've been wondering where this sermon was!  The churches I've been to sure talk enough against drinking and gambling, right after they stuff their faces with donuts and right before they load their plates at the pot luck!  I, for one, struggle with weight, but more specifically, gluttony.  Whew!  I said it!  That was a hard one to actually put in print!  And I think a lot of people struggle with the same thing! Churches I've been to usually have an unwritten and sometimes written rule about abstaining from alcohol, why not at least START talking about the sin of eating too much. After all, isn't self-control one of the fruits of the spirit?  Stepping on toes hurts, both the steppee and the stepper, but it's got to start sometime!  Thanks for getting the ball rolling!

HaplessMoran
HaplessMoran

You are absolutely correct. I am a pastor who weighs in at almost 300 lbs. I put on my facebook page this weekend that the sermon could have been ripped from the front page of The Onion. "Morbidly Obese Pastor Preaches About Hunger". It was a sermon helping to promote Crop Walk. Did I acknowledge the irony? Yes. Am I working towards losing weight? Yes.

beardonabike
beardonabike moderator

@RemingtonHawk You raise some great points. I've wrestled with the idea of changing some wording in this post and adding some other good points such as some of the ones you raised. 

I never meant to infer that being fat=gluttonous or that being fat is a sin. I could/should have made that more clear. 


Thanks for the comment.

beardonabike
beardonabike moderator

@Rae Thanks for reading and contributing. I hope this post didn't contribute to your feelings of judgement. I wrote this very early on in my blog and looking back I probably would have changed some of the wording in the post and made some other things clear (like medical conditions and other systematic problems that contribute to obesity that have nothing to do with self control).

Congratulations on your progress with your health. I hope it makes life more abundant for you!

beardonabike
beardonabike moderator

@AndreaHuffman Not THE first but one of the first. I still agree with the bulk of this post and main point of it. I will say that in hind sight I wish I had clarified some things and stated some other things differently. Also I think the order I placed things didn't help. I get the feeling by many of the comments that people are so mad after reading the first half that they don't read the second. 
You're comment is right on! It is an issue of spiritual discipline and perhaps because the church is lax in every other discipline it seems absurd to be concerned about eating/health habits.
Thanks for commenting! How's your blog going btw?

beardonabike
beardonabike moderator

 @KimOsburn1 Wow your comment was all over the place. I don't know if I should say thank you or just lick my wounds.

This is one of the first posts I wrote and haven't thought about the issue in a while. 

Ok first, you used my words about earning the right to speak into someone's life. As you'll notice this post was not speaking to a specific person. I wouldn't do that without earning the right ( and never ever ever in a blog post). You might disagree with my post, but it's in no way inconsistent with my "veiled judgement" post. We don't do each other any favors by never talking about this issue in the context of God's call to care for our bodies. I in no way said that obesity is always the result of sin. People have legitimate medical conditions. Our country has a major epidemic of people who are eating themselves to death, and all the while the church just sits back and watches. If your argument is that not all obese people are eating themselves to death, then my response is that this post is not addressed to those people. 

 

I'm really grateful for you as a reader and hope you keep reading, even if we disagree on this one.

beardonabike
beardonabike moderator

 @chicoyaya Thanks for not hating me. :)

Just a few words and then I'll defer to my other comments I've made before. 

I absolutely think those other issues are problems that need to dealt with. It's just that I see those problems addressed by the church often. Of course there are churches that don't address those things, like smoking, but they should. I talked in this post about obesity, because, I've never and I do mean never heard it addressed in church, while I have heard smoking and other issues addressed. I'm by no means drawing the line here, it's a just an issue the church doesn't seem to want to address. 

Thanks for your comment!

beardonabike
beardonabike moderator

 @jem4him First, thanks for saying that. I think your perspective was needed. 

 

I believe Romans 14 is referring specifically to people eating meat sacrificed to idols. Not a blanket statement about diets.

 

It sounds like you've encountered some food police in your day. I'm sorry that happened, that's not what I'm advocating.

 

Yes, others are able to hide their sins away. That's why I said in the post that those who don't struggle with this should be open about what we do struggle with.

 

You are completely correct in that the appearance of a person doesn't tell the whole story. In fact a few years ago when I spoke to my church about this, I had to confess that even though I wasn't overweight, I wasn't always eating in a way that honored God and had seen the outcome in my cholestoral. I only brought up the appearance thing, because I think that it holds pastors/fellow believers back from talking about it. 

 

I'm not for preaching "willpower", I think that for the believer, willpower depends on ourselves too much. 

 

The one place I think I can say that I disagree with your comment is when you said that "until you have been part of my struggle your preaching will only create an environment of judgement rather than an environment of grace." I think all preaching should produce an environment of grace. But just because someone hasn't struggled with: lust, dishonesty, coveting, stealing, etc, doesn't render them unable to walk with others who do struggle with such things. 

 

As for your first question: "Are you going to ask pastors to monitor bedtimes and provide help for those of us caring for a disabled family member?" For the first part of the question; No, I wouldn't advocate that kind of systematic "monitoring" of peoples time, I would however want pastors to encourage healthy sleeping habits as a part of an overall healthy and balanced lifestyle. For the second part of the question, I would absolutely encourage a church to provide help for those caring for a disabled family member, when it's needed. I don't see anything crazy or unbiblical about that at all.

 

Your second question: "Gluttony can also be defined as someone who is so picky about food that they won't attend gatherings if they don't think they will like what is being served. Are we going to also rail against those who make food an issue in the other direction?"I'm not going to, nor am I advocating "railing" against anyone, I tried to go to lengths not to set that tone in my post and if that's what came across then I'm very sorry. There is a way to walk with each other through our struggles, in love! And so to answer the question: YES, I would absolutely want churches/pastors to help anyone who struggles with food in any way (anorexia, bolemia), along with every other struggle. 

 

You said so well:  "If gluttony is a spiritual issue, then you need a spiritual answer." SO RIGHT! That was the original crux of the post: The government can't speak to our values, but the church can! This doesn't mean however, that the spiritual and physical can be completely seperated, the scriptures go to great lengths to debunk gnosticism. The spiritual answer may involve some physical actions.

 

As for the church signing up people for gastro bypass at a group rate; Ha, don't you wish that was far fetched?! We have a bad habit of taking what should be a proper balance into overkill in one direction or another and that can be just as bad as ignoring the problem all together.

 

It seems that the minor push back I've received from this post is on the execution side. No one seems to disagree that it's an issue that needs to be addressed. So let me be clear, I didn't and won't outline a step by step process for churches to deal with this issue, it's too sensitive a topic for a one size fits all blanket approach. Love is the only constant that needs to be present. 

flaglady
flaglady

 @jem4him Wow! That was beautifully put! May favorite part was the last paragraph, "Focusing on the physical will just focus us all on the physical.  Let us preach what really matters.  spiritual health, grace, love, relationship and the beauty that our Lord brings to our souls."   That was just what i needed to hear!  Thank you!

beardonabike
beardonabike moderator

 @DonFawcett You should have written this post. So well said. 

You touched on something - not only do we not deal with it, we encourage it. I don't know of any other time that we organize a time, as a body, to get together and sin. And to make it worse we do it under the guise of "fellowship".

beardonabike
beardonabike moderator

 @flaglady You know your comment and the previous one are leading me to believe that this is one of those situations in which we finally face something, and it takes its power away. Perhaps this issue although hard and tricky, wouldn't be all that intimidating if we just got it out there.

Yeah- self control, a fruit of the spirit, by the way we act in church you would think that those words don't exist in the Bible.

Thanks for the great comment!

beardonabike
beardonabike moderator

 @HaplessMoran We need more like you. I've said before that non-believers don't expect Christians to be perfect, but they do think we should be transparent about our struggles. The same thing could be said about congregants towards pastors. You'll be in a unique position to walk with others around you who struggle with the same issue.

KimOsburn1
KimOsburn1

@beardonabike Thanks for your reply. I do realize that you're not *intending* to say that all obesity results from sin. But when you say "I’m not saying that being heavy is a sin, but try preaching a sermon about gluttony, and lack of self-control when you yourself are standing before a congregation and noticeably overweight," you're affirming the fact that people naturally assume that the pastor's obesity results from his sin of gluttony, and therefore doesn't have the right to speak about it from the pulpit. In full disclosure, I'm extra sensitive about this issue because my husband and I both suffer from medical conditions that make it super-easy to gain weight, and ridiculously difficult to lose it. At one time my hubby weighed over 400lbs, despite eating a generally moderate diet. He's worked like crazy to take off 100lbs, but is still stuck at 300lbs despite his restrictive diet and exercising several times a week. When Tim was at his highest weight, we attended a church where the pastor decided it was time to confront the issue of gluttony in the church. One Sunday morning the pastor was encouraging the congregation to pledge a monthly donation to one of the church's programs, and said, "For the cost of a Big Mac every week, you can pledge to this ministry. How much does a Big Mac cost? I don't know... Let's ask Tim, he'll know!" Tim also applied for a youth pastor position, but was turned down because the church leadership were looking for someone "more athletic" (read: "not fat"). I get where you're coming from, and we *do* have a serious gluttony problem in our culture - not just with food, but overindulgence in general. My concern is that when I've seen churches/pastors try to address this it's been done way wrong, so it's hard for me to picture it being done right:

chicoyaya
chicoyaya

 @beardonabike  @chicoyaya Thanks for your gracious reply. Unlike you, I have heard this particular problem addressed, and I guess the reason I seem to react to it is that it usually comes across as addressing the surface issue while ignoring the deeper, spiritual problems that can contribute to unhealthy, self-destructive behavior. (Such as over/under-eating, as well as a myriad of others.) Having grown up in the church culture, I see the problem no matter where I turn. We tend to focus on fixing the outward man through renewing our efforts, while glossing over the fact that many people do not have a clear understanding of who God created them to be, and it shows in how they treat their bodies, their spouse, their children, etc. I realize I am over-simplifying my response, but I think you understand where I am coming from. 

jem4him
jem4him

 @beardonabike you said "But just because someone hasn't struggled with: lust, dishonesty, coveting, stealing, etc, doesn't render them unable to walk with others who do struggle with such things." You can walk alongside someone but trying to speak into it is clearly another issue. It's like someone from out ot town trying to give directions to somewhere he has never been. It makes more sense to leave it to someone who has lived there, gotten lost there and found a way out."No one seems to disagree that it's an issue that needs to be addressed." That makes me "no one" then. I see it as a distraction from what the church really needs at this time. We need to care about the hearts and souls of those whose aching has taken them to this place where food has become their companion and friend. We don't need to address it from the pulpits until we have addressed the beauty of grace and healing and intimacy with a God who sees inside.Let us start praying to see others how God sees them. It will do amazing things to your perspective on this topic. I promise you.

DonFawcett
DonFawcett

 @beardonabike  You are so right on the culture issue.  I was with a group of pastors today. The conversation turned into a fairly critical appraisal of the American mega churches and the construction of "coffee bars, gymnasiums, and racquetball courts," along with aerobics and other forms of "entertainment."  Why is helping stressed people care for the human body "entertainment?"  Does this fall under the rubric of gnosticism- the body is to be mistreated and abused since "salvation" is the casting off of the physical body for some kind of heightened "spiritual" existence in a place called heaven?  Paul stressed transformation of the body to the Corinthians.  He doesn't seem to indicate that dying is necessary to be with God (although most of us will), but rather, transformation is necessary to be with God.   

 

Thanks Shane for dealing with this.  This is a personal subject about which I am passionate.  Thank you for raising this issue.

jem4him
jem4him

 @beardonabike  @flaglady "Fruit of the Spirit" not Fruit of our Sermons or Fruit of our Best Laid Plans. Clinging to the vine and being filled with the Spirit is how the fruit grows. Now through meal plans and exercise classes. Abide in the Vine. Branches don't have to work at producing fruit. It is a natural consequence of abiding in the Vine. May that is what we need to hear from the pulpit. How to have intimacy with a God who loves everything about us. Just a thought.

beardonabike
beardonabike moderator

 @jem4him  I appreciate your discussion too Jem. Thanks for having this conversation with me!

jem4him
jem4him

 @beardonabike I do appreciate your willingness to hear me out and respectfully discuss this issue. It is at the top of my list right now so the timing was right and my emotions are high. I have tried to keep them in check. Thank you for overlooking that weakness.I have tried to just go by the words you have written. In your post you said "Many of our pastors are obese. It’s tricky, because I can’t think of any other sin that you can see just by looking at a person. Gluttony may be the modern scarlet letter" and then your last comment was ""You seem to think that I am labeling you or someone like you, a glutton, because of a physical appearance. I'm not. I do not believe that overweight=gluttonous, nor have I said any such thing. " That is where I got it. It sounded like you were equating obesity with the sin of gluttony.I will end with this: Losing weight is a very difficult battle. If it wasn't, we all would be thin. It is one of the few battles in life where we expect wounded people to fight and win. Can we just agree that this very important issue starts with healing from the inside? Shouldn't we consider equipping saints with spiritual armor before expecting them to have the strength to fight? 

 

I loved this paragraph: "This isn’t a move we need to make flippantly. Christians, we’ll have to walk with each other through this slowly, carefully, and most of all lovingly. Those who don’t struggle with this one will need to be transparent about the weaknesses they do have, and be serious about those short comings too"My suggestion is to focus on the soul and let the weight issue surface on it's own. That would be my encouragement and even my plea. Trust me, I have been on this road across four decades and I have learned much. I too ache for the same souls that you do. I am just seeing from a different point of view.Blessings and Peace,Jem 

beardonabike
beardonabike moderator

 @jem4him I'm not going to address everything here because I think that we'll begin talking in circles. I'll only say that I think you're attributing some thoughts and ideas to me that I didn't mention in my post and don't believe. You seem to think that I am labeling you or someone like you, a glutton, because of a physical appearance. I'm not. I do not believe that overweight=gluttonous, nor have I said any such thing. 

My point is that gluttony & self control need to be addressed, and the church should help people out of obesity. Should this happen from the pulpit? Not exclusively, and not out of any other context than love, compassion and grace, and not using shame or guilt. 

I've started a conversation about this issue and I feel as though you think, that I think that the conversation should be heavy handed, totalitarian, and judgemental, but I don't.

 

jem4him
jem4him

 @beardonabike  @jem4him Actually I disagreed that this issue needs to be addressed "from the pulpit", not that it didn't need to be addressed. My point is this, you are trying to cure the symptom with rules and regulations in the name of being our "brother's keeper". If you are truly being a brother, you would know someone enough to know how they got to where they are and offer a way out. Labeling someone a glutton and restricting their intake is as loving as forcing an anorexic to ingest a plate of Krispy Kremes.

Back when I went on a medical fast with five shakes a day would you have been applauding my escape from gluttony? Where would you have been when I tried to kill myself because the only way I had dealt with emotional pain was stuffing it down with food? I was trading one "sin" for another because I wasn't filled with the One who came to save me.  You know what, I'm healed  AND STILL overweight (or as my Wii Fit says "That's OBESE!").

 

You said, "It's only when I see the love that God has for people that makes me want to speak to the issues on our lives." Then please hear this, the issue ISN'T the food. You CANNOT tell by looking at someone if they are abusing "the temple". You don't know what medical condition they have that causes weight gain (I have two...lucky me). For those who do struggle with overindulgence, you'll have a lot better success ministering to their heart needs first and letting the Holy Spirit give them the strength to do the rest.

 

For the record, go to any Christian bookstore or bookseller online, you will find countless books and programs for losing weight. Weigh Down Workshop, Bod for God and More of Jesus Less of Me are just a few. If these plans were the answer, we wouldn't be having the discussion because everyone would already be delivered.

 

Thank you for your polite and respectful answers. As you can see, this is a path I DO know very well and it is my passion to see others navigate it in a safe and truly healing manner.

beardonabike
beardonabike moderator

 @jem4him I somewhat understand you mean, and I do think that for some, this issue as with others, needs a professional or at least someone educated on eating disorders, who can safely and responsibly help people by  "speaking into it." I would say that the church needs to help by pointing people to those professionals. 

 

You disagree that this issue needs to be addressed. But then you say that it doesn't need to be addressed "UNTIL we have addressed the beauty of grace and healing and intimacy with a God who sees inside." I whole heartedly agree with you. In fact, I think there's a huge problem if "the beauty of grace and healing and intimacy with a God who sees inside" is not being preached regularly. 

Now if you still say that the issue doesn't need to be addressed, period, then that's ok, and I'll be ok with us disagreeing on that.

 

To your last point, I don't believe that it is a lack of "seeing others how God sees them", that gives me my perspective. On the contrary, naturally, I would happily remain silent on this. It's not a fun thing to bring up. It's only when I see the love that God has for people that makes me want to speak to the issues on our lives.

 

DonFawcett
DonFawcett

But the "physical" is spiritual.  I think you have developed a "spirit" and "matter" daulism that is totally foreign to the New Testament teaching on the nature of reality and spirtuality.  That is the problem I see. 

jem4him
jem4him

 @DonFawcett  @beardonabike  @flaglady No one said totally passive. What was said was the most important thing to "do" is abiding in the Vine. How is that "totally passive"? You are doing what He calls us to do and in that, we get direction. Not from man made plans. What I am saying is that intimacy with God is a far better goal than focusing on the physical. 

DonFawcett
DonFawcett

 @jem4him  @beardonabike  @flaglady This is a strange dichotomy between "spirit" and "physical."  We don't do anything?  Spiritual life is a totally passive endeavor?  I am confused.

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  1. [...] you all know I like to write about foodish things. Yesterday, Pastor Shane Blackshear wrote a blog post calling for the Church to address the problem of obesity. I heartily agree that the pastorate would [...]

  2. [...] expanding and becoming larger then it shows that you will encounter grave spiritually in the future.To dream of your belly is a warning that appearances may be deceptive. The belly is connected to the…healing and you may also need to trust your own misting in the future. If you dream of a belly and [...]

  3. [...] While I was away a few weeks ago, regular reader and fellow blogger Charity Jill tweeted to me about speaker/blogger Shane Blackshear’s post “It’s Probably Time We All Talked About Obesity and the Church”: [...]

  4. [...] While we was divided a few weeks ago, unchanging reader and associate blogger Charity Jill tweeted to me about speaker/blogger Shane Blackshear’s post “It’s Probably Time We All Talked About Obesity and a Church”. [...]

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