The day God got it all wrong?

Posted in Musings with tags , , on October 21, 2012 by johnfom

I have recently been given a book by my mother detailing the scientific and biblical rational for adopting a vegan diet called the ‘Hallelujah diet.’  On another front, my wife’s mother has also given us the book ‘Sweet poison’ by David Gillespe to review.  I want to say right up front that I respect a person’s right to choose a vegan diet as there are valid reasons for doing so (as a spiritual discipline or for a personal statement against ending an animal’s life) as I respect the right to limit the intake of sugar in one’s diet (I would recommend this).

Nevertheless, in perusing these two books I must admit that I have been rather disturbed by the tendency of the respective authors towards demonising a particular food group they deem to be unhealthy.  In the case of the Hallelujah diet meat is presented as a food that damages one’s health and must be avoided at all costs.  In the case of Sweet Poison it is sugar, namely fructose, that is the enemy that must be expunged from our diets if we are to maintain our health.  This would include cutting out certain fruits containing fructose.

The problem with both of these perspectives is that their plea to expunge a food group from our diets for the sake of our health is not based on good science.  In the case of sugar, David Gillespe points to certain studies ‘proving’ that fructose damages the health of animals.  However, more than one dietician (the scientists behind nutrition) has pointed out that these studies gave the test animals 200 times the normal intake they would normally have.  Of course this will cause problems.  But this does not mean that there is no safe level of fructose input.  In fact, the brain’s source of energy is sugar, meaning sugar is a necessary part of a healthy diet.

In the case of the Hallelujah Diet the case is prosecuted via the emotive argument that meat rots in the gut, causing us harm.  But to my knowledge there is no study that supports such a contention (my wife is studying dietetics and none of her text books even hint at this kind of problem) and a study put out by those behind the Hallelujah Diet indicates that those on the diet frequently suffer the effects of several major mineral and vitamin deficiencies.  I would say that there is little danger to our health posed by eating meat if it is done as part of a balanced diet.  In a balanced diet appropriate amounts of soluble fiber comb the intestines preventing any problems in relation to food being stuck in the gut.  These discussions remind me of the emphasis on a fat free diet.  However, while it would be prudent to limit our intake of certain fats, dietitians now emphasise that our bodies actually require a certain amount of fat to remain healthy.

In the end it is a balanced diet that is the best way to go as both meat and sugar are necessary for healthy nutrition of our bodies (in appropriate quantities).  I know that not all Christians will agree with me but I can find no compelling biblical reason for eliminating entirely one or more food groups from our diets.  Did God get things wrong when he gave humans permission to eat meant or included fructose in fruit?  The key challenge I wish to leave the reader with is to urge you to take the time to find out what goes into a balanced diet.  With this knowledge you may be able to take some real steps towards protecting your health in the long term.

Darren J Clark

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Constructive dialogue, anyone?

Posted in From others... with tags , on October 17, 2012 by johnfom

What is perhaps most frustrating… is that differences regarding things like Calvinism and Arminianism, baptism, heaven and hell, gender roles, homosexuality, and atonement theories often disintegrate into harsh accusations in which we question one another’s commitment to Scripture…   Instead of a lively, impassioned debate about the text, we engage in lively, impassioned debates about one another’s commitment to the faith. 

For constructive dialog to happen, Christians must stop conflating differences in interpretation of Scripture with differences in commitment to Scripture.  We must respond to one another’s questions, arguments, and ideas in kind, with more questions, arguments, and ideas, rather than avoiding the conversation altogether by dismissing one another as unfaithful.  

Full discussion at: http://rachelheldevans.com/bible-interpretation

Do churches make people fat? (A World Food Day* post)

Posted in Musings with tags , on October 17, 2012 by johnfom

 

Do churches make people fat?  I am not about bashing churches I just want to get your attention and make you think.  However, I am concerned that certain aspects of our culture provide an environment which makes it more difficult for people to maintain a healthy weight.  This is what is known as an ‘obesogenic environment.’  In such an environment a person is faced with a whole range of cultural cues and environmental factors that trigger overeating in general, the over consumption of the wrong kinds of food and a sedentary lifestyle.  The obesogenic factors involved in our society are far too numerous to list here but can range from simple things such as larger dinner plates (therefore larger portions sizes), to the ads we see on tv, to the way our cities are designed (reducing the ability to exercise).  These factors pervade our whole society and are not always readily identifiable, meaning we have to take to time to think about how the way society is structured affects the way we eat.  Our churches are part of the society so it is fair enough to ask are there any inbuilt cues, structure or factors in church life that contribute to the development of obesity to those who attend church.

I do not want to be exhaustive but rather provide a starting point with which we can begin to talk about this issue.  Something that comes to mind is the way some youth groups I have been involved with have regularly offered unhealthy snacks (potato crisps, coke, lollies, pizza etc) while the youth sit around a study or movie.  What does this teach teens about healthy eating?  In a similar fashion pot luck lunches are interesting but contribute to people losing the ability to judge portion sizes correctly.  As church life is by its very nature a series of social events it is inevitable that a good number of these events will contain obesogenic factors reinforcing existing bad habits people have obtained over a lifetime of an unhealthy approach to diet and exercise.

I do not think all churches are full of fat people.  This would be too simplistic a viewpoint as I see instances when groups in churches get together to play sports or lose weight.  My point is that each and every church needs to consciously and deliberately examine the ways in which church life throws up barriers to healthy living.  In my view it is awful to think that the way we organise church life makes it harder for some people to lose weight etc.  In my view it is not enough to wait until some is seriously ill or near death from complications relating to obesity before we act (usually in the form of prayer).  Should we not at least be concerned about the health of our fellow Christians now?  Action now would demonstrate that we love and care for each other.  In light of this I would rephrase my original question to, ‘Does my church contribute to the obesity of its people?’  And I would urge you to agitate for change where necessary for the sake of the health of your fellow worshipers.

 

Darren J. Clark

(*World Food Day is 16 October)

A Christian perspective on Aged Care in 2012

Posted in Musings with tags , , on October 14, 2012 by johnfom

In recent times there has been a great deal of attention on how Australia is going to cope with the ever increasing burden of caring for our older generation.  It strikes me that before we discuss how we will care for the older generation it may be wise to first say something about why we need to care for them.  Now, while we may be able to identify several reasons why we should care for our aged I want to focus on what I consider to the fundamental ‘theological’ reason we should care for them.

The primary Bible verses I have in mind are Genesis 1:26-27 where humanity is said to be created in the image of God.  Now, scholars are not sure what constitutes the ‘image of God’.  That is, we do not really know exactly what being made in the image of God involves (the ability to think and reason like God, or the human spirit, or having a conscious??).  However, we do know that being made in the image of God means that humans are unique amongst God’s creation.  No other creature is said to have been created in this way, and this appears to be why humans are given dominion over the rest of creation.  Being made in God’s image makes each and every human intrinsically important.  This intrinsic importance is seen in Genesis 9:6 where the murder of one human by another is punishable by death.

The main point I want to make is that we are all precious to God, not because of what we do, but because who we are.  I work in aged care in Australia and I have been urged to give high quality care because the older generation deserve our respect for the way they built our country during and after the turbulent wartime eras of our history.  While I feel this is a worthy reason for providing high quality care I worry that it does not provide a solid foundation for our thinking on aged care because it is based on what people did.  What happens when it comes to caring for those who did not contribute all that much to our society?  Should we give a higher level of care to those who contributed more to our society while leaving others behind?   I would suggest that any emphasis on giving quality care to our aged must be based on the idea that they are intrinsically important.  This conviction drives me to treat each and every older person in aged care with respect and dignity.  I make an effort to be patient when someone is trying my patience.  I am determined to keep my calm when someone gets angry.  I will always provide the best care even if someone is a complete ‘bastard.’

This perspective will provide us with an enduring reason for caring for the aged with respect and dignity no matter their status or achievements in our society.  It is my hope that this perspective will facilitate the kind of care of the aged that we can all be proud of far into the future.  But, I would hope that it would also drive church congregations to become more active in the care of their older people rather than leaving it all to the government and aged care facilities (there is plenty that volunteers can do!).

Darren J. Clark

Quick notice of change of this blog’s purpose

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on October 14, 2012 by johnfom

Just a quick note to mark the change of this blog from my personal blog to a blog as a forum for an unstructured confluence of christian believers in South-East Queensland. – John

Why Do They Leave the Church?

Posted in From others... with tags , , on October 10, 2012 by johnfom

A theory by Matt Redmond on a subject I’ve blogged on previously.

From Matt Redmond:

Here is my theory – one reason why so many people, young and old, leave the faith is no one is helping them think about what the great majority of what their lives are made up of.

Christianity is given (sold?) to us, in the main, as a life of evangelism, morality and church activities. Evangelism is painful for most people. Morality is great but there are always unbelievers who are more moral. And church activities, even when profoundly helpful, are another spinning plate in already busy lives…

Usually, our work is seen as just a means of evangelism or make money for those doing the real work of the kingdom in other lands…

But let’s face it, outside of the Lutherans, who is talking about work and vocation?
Read in full: Why Do They Leave the Church?.

See here for my previous rant:  Why men hate going to church.

Why men hate going to church | Christian News on Christian Today

Posted in From others..., Rants with tags , , , on September 9, 2011 by johnfom


Drawing men to the pews may not be as simple as cutting sermons short and throwing out the cringe-making church talk

via Why men hate going to church | Christian News on Christian Today.

Although the linked opinion piece is light on practicalities, it at least leaves you with a counter example, and re-raises a couple of ideas (re WWI, etc) which I haven’t heard for a little while.

If I were to add my own perspective, I’d be looking to point out that churches tend to be run by men for women.  As such they end up not really being satisfactory for anyone.

*Warning: Gender stereotype zone begins*

The reasons for men leaving the church, or just never really setting foot in one, has occupied my thought on and off for close to 15 years now.  I don’t know that I’m any closer to a ‘silver-bullet’ for the problem than when I started, but one thing that does keep cropping up is credibility.

Too many churches seem to have an aversion to genuine challenges to their orthodoxy.  There is an almost palpable fear of probing questions.  Surely, if Jesus is ‘the truth’ then there is nothing to fear from difficult questions.  Churches should be encouraging questions, not offering cliched answers, about suffering, evil, war, politics, euthanasia, abortion, gender, justice… just about everything.

Instead, it’s my experience that some, admittedly learned, guy gets up the front, spouts on about ‘the right way to look at’ some verse or issue, (usually saying the same thing over and over again), everyone says ‘hear, hear’ and goes home to forget the sermon and get on with their lives.  Once in a blue moon the minister/pastor/priest will accidentally say something which gets to you for a while, but that’s relatively rare (sorry to all those who labour over their weekly homilies).

Blokes tend to like to make things, and when they make things they ‘stress test’ them.  You put up a swing for your 20kg kid and you’ll probably jump on the swing with your 80+kg mass (or in my case 100+) just to make sure it’s strong enough.  Put up a shelf and you’ll find yourself hanging from it for a few seconds to check that it won’t fall down under the weight of the half dozen glass trinkets your wife wants to put on it.  When you’re looking to buy a car you’ll check out the crash test info just to make sure it’s tough enough to withstand any other family members practicing their ‘parking by braille’ (of course, we blokes are awesome drivers and never inadvertently curb wheels or bump up against carpark walls) .

Some of the best times I’ve had with other men were times when we were testing out some new boat, or car, or pool, or whatever… putting it through it’s paces to find its limits

My advice to those who want to attract men to church… make your sermon simple and solid.  Then invite all and sundry (really invite, don’t just fling out a rhetorical invitation)  to help you to hit itwith everything they’ve got, and when the smoke clears, whatever still stands is worthwhile.  Stress test your sermons, and let the rest of us into ‘the shed’ to help you do that.

*End gender stereotype zone*

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