Faithlink Discussion: Obesity, a challenge for the church

by Jacob Juncker

Have you ever noticed that if you go to the Doctor who is on the heavy side he/she will probably not talk to you about your weight?  I believe this is also true in the church.  We, as a church BODY, do not really discuss this topic too much, other than an occasional diet group, as we might be called to change our own habits.

from “Childhood Obesity and the Church” at Real World Martha’s blog, November 4, 2007

Well, I just checked my Body Mass Index (BMI) and, with a BMI of 30.2, I’m considered obese.  It’s not something I’m proud of.  It’s not something I can ignore.  Staying healthy–maintaining an appropriate weight and level of fitness–is something people of faith must talk about.  And, I refuse to be one of those obese (fat) pastors who ignores the subject all together.  Thus, I’m grateful for this week’s Faithlink.

Many Methodists do not know that the most widely read book John Wesley ever wrote was on health: Primitive Physic: or, an easy and natural method of curing most diseases  (when attempting to read this text remember that, in the 18th century, an F was used in place of an S).  The book was intended to provide simple remedies to common ailments.  It was targeted to the working poor who could not afford many of the medical resources available in their day.  While most of the remedies may seem silly to the modern reader, it was viewed at the time as a helpful resource in gaining back the health God graciously intended for us at our creation.

As we grow in our Christian walk with God, we mustn’t ignore our physical health.  Indeed, our physical health and spiritual health are directly linked.  Disciplining the body through regular exercise and diet is no different from disciplining the will through the regular practice of the means of grace (personal and private worship, reading of Scripture, partaking of the sacraments, etc.).  Wesley writes:

The passions have a greater influence on health, than most people are aware of.  All violent and sudden passions dispose to, or actually throw people into acute diseases.  The slow and lasting passions, such as grief and hopeless love, bring on chronical diseases.  Till the passion, which caused the disease, is calmed, medicine is applied in vain.

The love of God, as it is the sovereign remedy of all miseries, so in particular it effectually prevents all the bodily disorders the passions introduce, by keeping the passions themselves within due bounds.  And by the unspeakable joy and perfect calm, serenity, and tranquility it gives the mind, it becomes the most powerful of all the means of health and long life.

from the Preface of Primitive Physic: or, an easy and natural method of curing most diseases  by John Wesley (London, June 11, 1747).

True, there are ailments that cannot be cured by controlling the passions, and those “diseases” should be treated by a professional.  But, as we grow in faith through the grace and love of God, we will find a renewed vitality and youthfulness.  So mind your faith in order that you might be healthy; and, mind your health so that you might do all the work God has called you to here on earth.

Interesting Resources

To learn about the effects of obesity on the U.S. economy, check out:

To find out your BMI and find ways of keeping your weight in control, click here.

Much of America’s obesity can be linked to our laziness when it comes to cooking.  We eat a lot of prepackaged foods that are high in salt and fat.  Grace Before Meals is a ministry of Father Leo Patalinghug.  It is a great place to find simple recipes.  Fr. Leo’s ministry “is centered on one fundamental concept: the simple act of creating and sharing a meal can strengthen all kinds of relationships.”  Try the fajitas!  Fr. Leo’s fajitas beat out Chef Bobby Flay on Throwdown with Bobby Flay.

How do you think the Church should respond to the obesity epidemic in the United States? or should it?

My comments are based upon the resource: “Faithlink: Connecting Faith and Life.”  Faithlink is a weekly adult discipleship resource published and Copyrighted by Cokesbury.  If you are a member or constituent of Christ United Methodist Church (Lafayette, IN) and would like to receive this weekly discipleship tool, simply email to express your interest and you will be put on the weekly email list.