07 October 2010

Deliberate unhealthiness poses dangers to genuine Christian faith

{a parody for your (dis)pleasure, regarding a subject I have no business writing about}

Should Christians Practice Lethargy and a Poor Diet?

Some questions we ask today would simply baffle our ancestors. When Christians ask whether believers should live sedentary lifestyles, while eating poorly, they are asking a question that betrays the strangeness of our current cultural moment—a time in which being deliberately apathetic about such matters seems almost mainstream in America

It was not always so (see Michael Powers and Jay Schulkin's The Evolution of Obesity for a good discussion on the morphing of humanity's activity into inactivity and its results). No one tells the millions-of-years-old story better than Powers and Schulkin, whose recent book is a masterpiece of evolutionary history as it relates to our expanding waistlines.

Childhood obesity, diabetes, and related illnesses are becoming major health problems in America, who are the second-flabbiest people in the world (the South Sea Islanders are larger). Parents' reluctance to monitor their children's eating habits; the marketing tactics of fast-food companies, which influence us to overeat; the preponderance of fad diets; the phasing out of physical education programs in schools; and the sale of fast foods at schools to save money on dining facilities all factor in to this mess. And, no surprise, lower-income families have higher rates of unhealthy weight regardless of race, ethnicity, and gender

To a remarkable degree, the growing acceptance of poor diets and sedentary lifestyles, especially among evangelical Christians, points to the retreat of wholistic thinking among believers, and indeed, a retreat of biblical Christianity in the culture. Deliberate apathy with respect to health begins and ends with an understanding of the body that is, to say the very least, at odds with the Christian understanding of a human being as a whole person—body and spirit—made in the image of God. Christians are not called to think with their stomachs or see the human body as a means of connecting to and coming to know one's hedonistic threshhold. Believers are called to act like their bodies are parts of Christ's body—not to treat it like it doesn't matter, to join it with all kinds of fat-inducing processed foods, to let it sit sedentary throughout the day.

Clearly, today's dilemma cannot be extricated from its evolutionary roots (see Powers and Schulkin above), but, still, most Christians seem unaware that lack of exercise and a poor diet cannot be separated into physical and spiritual dimensions. The physical is the spiritual in such a lifestyle, and its practice is meant to do little else than assuage the systemic narcissism and ravenous consumption in the name of Amorica, America's indigenious pagan deity (whose most common manifestation is the Self).

When Christians live lives like this, they must either deny the reality of what such a lifestyle represents or fail to see the contradictions between their Christian commitments and their embrace of such a way of life. The contradictions are not few, nor are they peripheral. The bare fact is that sedentary ways and a poor diet are vices by which its adherents are trained to use the body as a vehicle for achieving one primary goal—the fulfillment of their own pleasure (I do realize that the same could be said for those who are overly health conscious). Christians are called to consider themselves as very members incorporate in the mystical body of God's Son. We are not called to escape whatever it is we're trying to escape by overeating and remaining sedentary but to follow Christ in the way of treating our bodies as temples of the Most High.

There is nothing wrong with eating fast foods occasionally and not exercising everyday, and, besides, such isolated actions in themselves are not the main issue. But when these actions become the defintion of one's lifestyle, consider this—if you have to take medications to alleviate or avoid problems associated with type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high chloresterol, coronary artery disease, stroke, among other conditions, it is no longer merely something for which excuses can be made.

The embrace of deliberate obesity is a symptom of the systemic narcissism embodied by Amorica, and, to our shame, this exaltation of the sedentary lifestyle reaches into the church. Christians who practice this way of life are embracing, or at minimum flirting with, a physical and spiritual practice that threatens to enslave their own lives to Amorica. What? Don't you know that if you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, that you are slaves of the one whom you obey? Should any Christian willingly risk that?

"So then, don’t let sin rule your body, so that you do what it wants. Don’t offer parts of your body to sin, to be used as weapons to do wrong. Instead present yourselves to God as people who have been brought back to life from the dead, and offer all the parts of your body to God to be used as weapons to do right. Sin will have no power over you, because you aren’t under Law but under grace" (Rom. 6:12–14).


CG said...

Bringing untouchable subjects like this to light- That's why I love you, Donato! Greg and I have had many conversations about the overwhelming problem of gluttony in the church. It's truly an epidemic. Personally, I find that if I get lazy about eating well and exercising I find it easier to rationalize indulging further. "Well, I ate bread and cake, and now I feel sick. And too tired to cook dinner. Guess I'll order pizza since today is already ruined..." What if we had that attitude toward murder, lying, treating our spouse like crap...?

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