Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Bible Belt to Stroke Belt

Seems eating all that "good American food" sends us to heaven sooner than we might think. The New York Times  reports that the Bible Belt with its deep fat frying and bad eating habits could  be renamed: Stroke Belt.

Preachers name all kinds of sins and their congregations know they should repent. Lying, stealing, drunkenness, cheating, disorderly conduct... Yeah, we confess our faults and ask God to help us do better.

Gluttony. We pig out as though this privilege of eating and drinking is ours to abuse any way we want. Big greasy breakfasts. Large and hearty lunches. Huge buffets of appetizers, followed by a main course, stuffed down our gullets with dessert. Oh, rather, main courses, then desserts. Washed down with calorie-rich drinks.

Some of you may call me judgmental. Uncaring. Unkind even. But it's not me... it's scripture that calls gluttony a sin and failure before God.

Why do so many of us overindulge in this pleasure and call it good, while shaking our finger at the abuse of sex, drinking, and other things? It's not as though God likes us better if we're eating healthy! But are we living as holy temples of the Spirit when we deliberately ruin our bodies and defy medical evidence for the benefits of moderation in eating and the need for exercise? Are we wise stewards of God's investment in us when we tie up health resources and gulp pills because we've eaten and drunk to the point of needing medical intervention?

I'm reading USA history of temperance and emancipation after the 2nd Great Awakening (Finney, Moody, etc.) The church took its responsibilities to society seriously, and tried to legislate away the abuses of alcohol and slavery. Some of our Christian fellows try to do the same with morality today. 

Removing slavery and apartheid from the American legal system took over 100 years, yet many hearts are still hard today between those whose families enslaved and those who were enslaved. Prohibition led to home-brew and secret drinking clubs for those who wanted alcohol. So I'm not suggesting we make it illegal to eat more than 2500 calories a day for all but athletes and construction workers. Morality is a matter of heart rather than law, though the law can act as a tutor.

In Seattle, one of the cultural values is fitness. Some of our sins are easier to hide than others, and everyone can see that fat means eating more than we exercise (with a few rare exceptions. Let's not exclude the responsibility of people who ruin their glandular system by overindulgence - and then blame their medical issues on their glands.) Seriously folks, what kind of a testimony is it to outsiders who come into a congregation of unhealthy believers? Do they want to be like us? Can others judge our lack of inner discipline by our outer lack of care for our bodies? Maybe, maybe not. But they do... I've heard and overheard such conversations.

Ok, I'm convicted. (This is actually what God has been dealing with me about this week, so don't be mad. I was venting my frustration at the requirements of scripture for MY life today.)

Eating healthy doesn't guarantee a long life. Also, we can't compare ourselves to others and say, "Better than they are!" I'm not looking at anyone's sins because I know how broken my own heart is in this and other areas. I love to eat unhealthy foods, drink pop, and sit around.

God says he holds each of us accountable for our own life, and our days are numbered. "I'm talkin' to you, Rosemarie!"

SO, I'm removing the Swiss chocolates from my desk as soon as I hit "Send." And alright already, Jimminy Cricket. I'll get up early for that exercise class again on Friday. Ugh. Ugh. I'd rather sleep in!

What's for dinner tonight? 

Read more:
*Lot took a long look at the fertile plains of the Jordan Valley in the direction of Zoar. The whole area was well watered everywhere, like the garden of the LORD or the beautiful land of Egypt. (This was before the LORD destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.) Lot chose for himself the whole Jordan Valley to the east of them. He went there with his flocks and servants and parted company with his uncle Abram. 

So Abram settled in the land of Canaan, and Lot moved his tents to a place near Sodom and settled among the cities of the plain. But the people of this area were extremely wicked and constantly sinned against the LORD. Genesis 13:10-13 NLT

*But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressionsit is by grace you have been saved.

And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faithand this not from yourselves, it is the gift of Godnot by works, so that no one can boast.

For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:4-10 NIV


  1. As much as I'd love to overlook this area as a sin, you nailed it Rosemarie. How we (I!) need the Lord's help to bring all my excesses, whatever the category, to Him. Well said, dear friend!

  2. I got quite a few private comments on this blog, both thanking me for addressing this controversial and painful subject and chiding me for insensitivity. I also got several notes and had a few conversations with those who struggle with gluttony as I have and beyond. Here is a followup to that:

    Thank you for your note about your own struggle with food and exercise. When I wrote the post I was responding to a general misuse of God's blessings, the richness of drink and food available to us. I wrote because I also struggle with food, with no shut off appetite, but thankfully only in seasons. Seems for me to have something to do with winter and low light, less movement. 

    Tthe most obvious way to illustrate the issue was with size, tho as someone pointed out in a comment, some gluttons are skinny because of high metabolism or activity. An eating contest photo might have been less offensive?

    I regret the pain i caused you as reader. My apologies,(name). You are dear to me. I am glad that you continue to engage the issue, knowing that God is with you, helping you. One of the things I struggle with is what to write and how transparent to be in my personal struggle. Do I skirt issues that strike a nerve because of readers and issues some of us face? (I'm not talking about issues as things we necessarily choose, but those broken points of humanity where we seem unable to break habits and patterns. I know those in myself and loathe who I am at those fissures. Only God can love us completely, as we are, it seems.)

    Gluttony is an issue, especially In the West. So is alcoholism, sexual addiction, smoking, etc. The fallout from other addictions is not always as obvious as extra pounds. But who among us can say we have  completely conquered what draws us away from wholeness, wherever we are broken? Many in our culture reject gluttony as a serious addiction. After  uncontrolled snacking -again- I wrote as I did, looking the evil beast in the eye with a cry to God of "here we are again. HELP!"