Archive for the Musings Category

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

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

What is the Gospel?

Posted in Musings with tags , , on August 22, 2011 by johnfom

I’ve been thinking lately on the question of ‘what is the Gospel?’ I’m thinking about it because my theology is still developing (won’t it always be?) and because I’m moving back to Australia soon, hoping to take up a position which will require that I can articulate the Gospel to youth, which means to a soft post-modern audience.

For something which is so central to Christian theology, particularly Evangelical, it is incredible that there are so many different statements of what the Gospel is.

Over at iMonk they are starting a ‘Gospel Week’ and the first post of the week is inviting discussion on the subject of definitions.

With all the definitions floating around it got me wondering, could it be that ‘the Gospel’ cannot be defined outside of a specific context? Could it be that the Gospel is so pervasive that it appears meaningless without a context and that the Gospel always needs to be ‘the Gospel to XXXX’ where XXXX is a person, culture, group, etc. I believe this would, not just allow for, but require that the Gospel speak through a multitude of expressions, including, for example, white and non-white, western and non-western, historical and novel… even verbal and non-verbal.

With this in mind, where I’m at with the Gospel at the moment is this: ‘I came that you might have life, and have it to the full.’

Salvation is from whatever it is that stops ‘full life’. The source of the salvation is the ‘I’ who came, i.e. Jesus (it is a partial quote of John 10:10). But, ‘full life’ is going to be defined, in part, by the individual/culture/group. Without the context, without the ‘you’ of the statement with which to relate the ‘I’, the Gospel is unintelligible and the meaning of ‘full life’ cannot be known.

Salvation is the gift of ‘full life’, given in the relationship between the ‘I’ (Jesus) and the ‘you’ (the world, the individual, the nation, the church, the family…) and becomes the ideal for the relationship (full life) between ‘I’ (self) and ‘you’ (others) from then on.

This is just me thinking aloud.  I know I’m going to have to simplify the language and clear it up somewhat, but let me know if you think I’m on the right track.

Being wrong II

Posted in Musings with tags , , on July 26, 2011 by johnfom

Last night I posted a short aphorism about being wrong. Here I want to expand on that a little bit. This is arising out of a conversation I’m in over at naked pastor: http://www.nakedpastor.com/2011/07/23/dick-in-a-box/

When someone is wrong we tend to put them into boxes based on which of the categories we think they are. Sure, we can leave them in limbo for a period while we try to figure out which one of the categories they are, but eventually we’ll think of them as one of those categories.

Are they lying? No, there doesn’t seem to be an intention to deceive there. Are they deceived? Well, possibly, but they don’t seem to have swallowed any lies, they just see a different meaning or outcome. Not being the other two they must therefore have missed out on some information that I have (dense), so I’d better tell them everything I know so they can see things my way. If that doesn’t work then its back to the first two categories depending on how much we like the person (if we like them they must be deceived, if we don’t then they are deceptive). Of course religious folk have another category to put the ‘leftovers’ in. If they are wrong, and we can’t honestly put them in the first 3 categories, they must just be sinful (depraved). There we go, all neatly categorised into what sort of wrong they are, and we can relate to them as their category befits

I’m not saying that the categories should be done away with. There are those for who the shoe undoubtedly fits. I’m saying the categories are inexhaustive and we should try to create for ourselves the possibility of relating to someone who, being wrong, is not deceived, dishonest, dense or depraved because, IMO and experience, they often aren’t any of these.

Economy in the information age

Posted in Musings with tags , on July 18, 2011 by johnfom

The valuable commodity in the information age is, perhaps paradoxically, not information.

We are all inundated with information. What we lack is an ability to pay attention to it all.

The most valuable commodity in the information age is attention. It is the gold of this era.

– with compliments to Joseph Nye

Header

Posted in Musings on February 18, 2009 by johnfom

Changed the header today.  This is a picture I took on a trip to Dunoon a few weeks back.  Some will recognise it as the valley and road leading up the Rest and Be Thankful in Scotland, specifically a photo taken from the car park at the top of the hill where you can buy some pretty good bacon butties from the catering van.

Rest and Be Thankful, Scotland.


If you think about it, this road was probably a walking track back in the days before cars, when most people probably couldn’t afford to own a horse and cart.  After walking up that hill, the place where the car park is today would be an excellent spot to stop and have a glance back at the beautiful view.  A perfect spot to rest and be thankful, particularly thankful that the climb was over, especially if the climb had been through one of the snowfalls like the ones that regularly close the road even these days.  (If you look really hard you can maybe see some cars on the road to give you a sense of the scale of the hill, under the ‘ai’ of faith in the header.)

I have this photo as a background on my desktop as a reminder to ‘rest and be thankful’ from time to time for everything I have, not least that I’ve had the opportunity to live in a country that has views like this one. (It is a stunning view when you are there.)  I’m usually pretty good at the resting bit, but this helps me on the thankfulness.

Rest and Be Thankful. Aptly named in my opinion.

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