Gluttons for Jesus

The religious right seems to be a tad sensitive about their weight.

First, after First Lady had the temerity to tell their children to eat more fruits and vegetables, Sarah Palin told Mrs. Obama to “get off our backs and allow us as individuals to exercise our own God-given rights to make our own decisions and then our country gets back on the right track.”

Her ideological twin, GOP Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, pointed to the program as proof of a return to the “nanny state.”

Now, the American Family Association’s Marcia West is going after Saddleback Church pastor Rick Warren over his weight loss program, The Daniel Plan. Why? Because it’s simply not Christian enough. Warren teamed up with three well-known doctors—Daniel Amen, Mark Hyman and Mehmet Oz—to get the plan going in his church back in January. Instead of congratulating the shrinking Warren on his recent thirty pound loss—Marsha West takes Warren to task for losing weight with a New Ager, a Jew, and a Muslim.

Dr. Amen, who says he is a Christian, is criticized for his devotion to “New Age” practices of meditation techniques and Reiki. Dr. Hyman is skewered for being Jewish and for recommending Yoga—which we all know can be dangerous for Christians. Dr. Oz is, of course, the real demon here because he’s a Muslim, “and has been influenced by the mysticism of Sufi Muslims.”

Of course, the biggest complaint (pun not intended) echoes those of Palin and Bachmann: to lose weight, the Daniel Plan recommends people do it together … in a group … because “individuals” will not succeed, our only hope lies in “community.”

This sets West off into an anti-big government rant:

Most Christians know that our only hope lies in the Lord Jesus Christ. Our only hope does not lie in sustainable living designed to keep American citizens under a microscope and under the thumb of BIG government. America will not succeed because of BIG government; it is falling apart at the seams because of BIG government! Americans who are looking to the nanny state to cure their ills only need to take a gander at the European Union to the see the destruction BIG governments have caused—and it continues to get worse every day.

She might have a point if weight loss had anything at all to do with the government. Instead, the Daniel Plan simply follows good science. The American Psychological Association says people lose weight more effectively with the support of a group.

Aside from that, however, West’s head-spinning jump from Amen’s “our only hope lies in ‘community,’” to a rant about big government shows a deep misunderstanding of Christianity. American Christians have so reduced the religion to individual salvation that we can’t even talk about coming together as a community without someone screaming about socialists and big government. Jesus never talked about “individual salvation,” but instead brought communities of people together—an ‘ekklesia’—that continues today in the form of church communities.

West’s hysterics also underline the long lost idea of ecumenism within the Christian community. In the 1970s, Rev. Billy Graham tried to reach out with the idea of an ecumenical ministry, but that has long been scuttled by the right wing’s insistence on Christian exceptionalism and the rejection of a pluralistic society.

Their turn from ecumenism is so complete, in fact, that they’d rather be fat than lose weight with a New Ager, a Jew, or a Muslim, let alone all three at a time.

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