A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life

A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life
I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this also I believe, –that unless I believed, I should not understand.-- St. Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109)

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Gluttony: A Deadly Sin That Can Kill

Jesus ate local.

He walked everywhere. He loved grilled fish dinners with friends. And even if drive-thrus existed in the first century, he wouldn’t have gulped down a value meal on his way to the office.

That's the message Tennessee's obesity fighters want pastors to convey to their flocks, captive audiences with a built-in support system — one another. And while the deadly sin of gluttony slipped out of church lingo decades ago, a gentler approach that emphasizes eating as a spiritual issue can work, they say.

Tennesseans are more likely to belong to a church than Americans in general, 56 percent compared with 49 percent, a new Association of Religion Data Archives survey shows. But the state also ranks among the highest for diabetes prevalence — nearly 11 percent of residents compared with 6.5 percent nationally — and fourth-highest for overall obesity.

It's vital that obesity be addressed from the pulpit, said Scott Morris, a medical doctor and minister who founded Church Health Center in Memphis. But church practices have to change, too, and it works better to demonstrate what Jesus would do than to pound people for being overweight.

"The least healthy meal you can eat every week is at your church," Morris said.

"The church has blessed the sin of gluttony. They have the hope of being able to draw people into the church in a way that is not necessarily great for the community."

"We have to change that."

That can be challenging when many pastors struggle with diet themselves — multiple surveys show they're more likely to be overweight than the general population — and a third of the congregation is likely to be obese.

Stephen H. Webb, a religion and philosophy professor at Wabash College in Crawfordsville, Ind., wrote the essay Whatever Happened to the Sin of Gluttony? He contends it got lost on its way from the ancient world to the 21st century.

In times of scarcity, gluttony was a sin because one person eating too much food would mean another didn't get enough, Webb said. That argument doesn't hold in a world where the economy runs on food conglomerates, grocery supercenters and dining out for fun.

Gluttony took another hit when Christians decided to ditch religious dietary restrictions, said Webb, who also wrote Good Eating, a history of food and religion.

He sees the idea of overeating as a sin re-emerging in a different context.

"We are recognizing as a society that there’s a cost," Webb said. "It's contributing to soaring medical costs and other social problems."
You can read Heidi Hall's entire article, "In age of church suppers, gluttony is the forgotten sin," here.

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