You Neglect the Weightier Matters of the Convention
Monday, I shared with you an article talking about the pervasive obesity in our land, and it looks like, well, we could be neglecting the weightier matters of the convention. In the Chicago Sun-Times, Cathleen Falsani wrote an article on August 25 called "Weighty Matter: Is Religion Making Us Fat?" In the article, Falsani explains the epidemic today:
is becoming known as a nation of gluttony and obesity, and churches are a feeding ground for this problem," says Ken Ferraro, a Purdue sociology professor who studied more than 2,500 adults over a span of eight years looking at the correlation between their religious behavior and their body mass index. America
"If religious leaders and organizations neglect this issue, they will contribute to an epidemic that will cost the health-care system millions of dollars and reduce the quality of life for many parishioners," he says.
Falsani then makes the connection that some of the most religious people are also some of the most obese people in the country. Here is some of her analysis:
Ferraro's most recent study, published in the June issue of the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, is a follow-up to a study he published in 1998, where he found there were more obese people in states with larger populations of folks claiming a religious affiliation than elsewhere -- particularly in states with the most Baptists.
So it's not surprising that Ferraro's latest study found that about 27 percent of Baptists, including Southern Baptists, North American Baptists, and Fundamentalist Baptist, were obese.
Surely there are several contributing factors to such a phenomenon, but when Ferraro accounted for geography (southern cooking is generally more high-caloric), race and even whether overweight folks were attracted to churches for moral support, the statistics still seem to indicate that some churches dispense love handles as well as the love of the Lord.
Having attended a Southern Baptist church for most of my formative years, I was hardly shocked by Ferraro's discoveries. From the coffee (and doughnuts) hour after Sunday-morning worship, to the huge potluck dinners and the Sunday-night ice-cream socials, there was always food around, and it was rarely the lo-cal variety. Ambrosia salad. Seventeen different kinds of chicken/broccoli/cheese casserole. Banana-and-Nilla-wafer-pudding. Fried chicken. Barbecue chicken. Sweet tea.
Those were the elements of our social sacraments at the Baptist church.
The rest of the article is worth reading, so I would encourage you to check it out. Coming from a secular newspaper, this should remind us that the watching world is paying attention to our hypocrisy when it comes to our "resolutions." While it would be easy to pass resolution #62 on the issue of alcohol, I seriously doubt we can pass the first resolution on fried chicken or Krispy Kreme doughnuts. Some would argue that we need to implement into our church growth strategy a "weight watchers" program or start an aerobics class, but we are missing the heart of the problem. Inasmuch drunkenness is a sin and abuse to the body, so is the abuse of food and gluttony. The question is whether we will be consistent or not. And what makes it most difficult is that we are developing the idea that nonessential matters (adiaphora) are important enough to determine whether or not we can partner together in the gospel. Well, we will see what happens in the years to come. In the meantime, can we say that whether we eat or drink, or whatever we do, that we are doing it for the glory of God?