By Jacqueline J. Holness
I read a Facebook post by gospel singer Mandisa about why she chose not to attend the Grammy Awards this year, although she ended up winning two Grammys (for Best Contemporary Christian Music Song and Best Contemporary Christian Music Album). I was inspired by her transparency.
Among several reasons why Mandisa did not attend the glamorous and star-studded music awards ceremony was that she did not want to be a target of scrutiny. “I can’t tell you how little I enjoy people scrutinizing what I am wearing and how I look. I’ve been on the receiving end of such mean comments coming from the other side of the anonymity the World Wide Web provides,” Mandisa wrote on her Facebook page.
She explained she had gained weight by “managing my emotions by stuffing them down with food instead of facing them, isolating myself by ignoring my Spirit-filled friends who contact me because the Lord has placed me on their hearts, and giving in to every physical craving I have.”
A Growing Struggle
But Mandisa is not alone in her struggle against weight gain. According to a 2012 study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 42 percent of Americans will be obese by 2030. More than 68 percent of American adults are either overweight or obese, said a report from the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
While Christians are to be witnesses of victorious living in Christ, our penchant for potlucks is not helping. Young adults who regularly attend religious activities are 50 percent more likely to be obese by middle age, reported the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in 2011. “It’s possible that getting together once a week and associating good works and happiness with eating unhealthy foods could lead to the development of habits that are associated with greater body weight and obesity,” said Matthew Feinstein, lead investigator of the study.
A Church Challenged
But thankfully, some Christians are addressing America’s obesity epidemic within the church. Rick Warren challenged his Saddleback Church to lose weight with him in 2011. In his book The Daniel Plan: 40 Days to a Healthier Life, Warren said, “Wow! Everybody’s fat! That shocking thought kept reverberating in my mind one bright spring day as I was baptizing 827 adults.” He also admitted to himself that he was overweight. More than 12,000 at Warren’s church signed up to lose weight with him. He named the plan after Daniel in the Bible “who refused to eat junk food and challenged a king to a health contest.” Members lost more than 250,000 pounds.
Gospel music singer Kirk Franklin is one of several celebrities who teamed up with the Power To End Stroke Campaign, sponsored by the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association. As high blood pressure (which can be caused by excess weight) is the primary cause of strokes, Franklin’s voice will hopefully inspire Christians to consider their diets and weight.
Also Donna Richardson, a Christian fitness instructor, has brought her “Sweating in the Spirit” gospel workout DVD to churches throughout the country.
A Biblical Directive
While some Christians may believe that the primary purpose of the church is to attend to the spiritual rather than the physical, several Bible verses demonstrate that taking care of our physical bodies is also important:
• “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies” (1 Corinthians 6:19, 20).
• “For drunkards and gluttons become poor, and drowsiness clothes them in rags” (Proverbs 23:21).
• “Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things” (Philippians 3:19).
What can churches do to help members struggling with their weight and their sicknesses developed due to excess weight—other than add them to the prayer list? Do we have to serve food at every fellowship event? Or if we serve food, can we offer healthier options? Can we host community fitness events? Can we open our church doors for health and fitness groups to meet there? Can we offer weight and fitness Bible studies?
These are just a few questions that churches may want to ask as we endeavor to honor God with our bodies as well as our souls.
Jacqueline J. Holness, a member of Central Christian Church in Atlanta, Georgia, is a correspondent for Courthouse News Service,
an online, national news service for attorneys. Contact Jacqueline at afterthealtarcall.com.