Wednesday, February 6, 2008

dieting and gluttony (2) the bizarre and the beautiful

Welcome to the bizarre world of popular Christian diets. Look no further than your nearest online Christian bookshop.

I typed the search "diet" into the Koorong Books website, and the 5 top search results were books about these diet plans (chosen for their popularity not their bizarre-ness, believe it or not):

    1. Daniel's Diet, a "safe and effective detox plan" by an Australian author. "In Daniel, chapter 1, Daniel himself takes on a challenge to show the value of a natural diet (v12) and goes on to prove its success (v15)... 'Daniel's Diet' ... teaches God’s principles of natural health and healing." (I thought Daniel's aim was to avoid defilement (v 8), but there you go, perhaps he was trying to prove the success of a natural diet.)

    2. The Maker's Diet, which follows God's "dietary laws. Eat any fish with fins and scales but avoid fish or water creatures without them (Lev. 11:9-10). Those to avoid include smooth-skinned species such as catfish or eel and hard-shelled crustaceans such as crab, lobster, or clams. The meat of animals with a cloven or split hoof that also chew the cud (Lev. 11:3) can be eaten. This includes cows, goats, sheep, oxen, deer, buffalo, and so forth. Do not eat swine (pigs). They have divided hooves, but they do not chew the cud. These are unclean animals (Lev. 11:7-8)." On the 7th day of the 40-day detox, like God, you can stop and rest. (I think this author may need to read Acts 11.)

    3. The Diet Alternative, which includes this unique interpretation of Romans 8:1-4 (see p.11) - "So now there is no condemnation awaiting those who belong to Christ Jesus. For the power of the life-giving Spirit - and this power is mine through Christ Jesus - has freed me from the vicious cycle of sin and death [overeating and guilt]. We aren't saved from sin's grasp by knowing the commandments of God [how to diet], because we can't and don't keep them, but God put into effect a different plan to save us. He sent his own Son in a human body like ours - except that ours are sinful - and destroyed sin's [overeating's] control over us by giving himself as a sacrifice for our sins [overeating]. So now we can obey God's laws [overcome overeating] if we follow after the Holy Spirit and no longer obey the old evil nature within us. Romans 8:1-4 TLB." (Redemption through overcoming overeating. Note to self: is overeating sin?)

    4. The Hallelujah Diet, a "biblically based", "scientifically validated" and "personally evidenced" vegan diet based on Genesis 1:29 - “And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat (food).” (I wonder what the author makes of God's provision of meat for food, for example in the Passover - a suspect health decision?)

    5. The Weigh-down diet. "Why have diets not worked so far? The reason is that you ... have tried using man-made rules (diets) instead of God's rules. ... God is too smart to let a local weight-loss group or fat gram counting be your Savior and thereby get all the credit. ... Now, welcome to the Weigh Down Workshop, a place that teaches you God's rules for eating ... Welcome to the Weigh Down Workshop, a place that shows you how to use God's strength rather than your willpower! Welcome to the Weigh Down Workshop, a place where thousands of people are now thin after years of trying..." On their old website you can even click HERE to see a church that has lost 10,000 pounds (who could resist?) Weight loss is divinely prescribed because "the body is His temple" (1 Corinthians 6:19).
Now, I must admit that out of all these (mis-)interpretations of the Bible, the only one I expected was the last one. It's all too common to (mis-)interpret "your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit" (1 Cor. 6:19) as a call to keep your body healthy, rather than to keep your body from sexual impurity.

So what's wrong with these Christian approaches to dieting? Here's some suggestions (no doubt you can think of more):
- they apply verses completely out of context (e.g. God's provision of plants for food becomes a dietary recommendation);
- they encourage legalism, even in its most blatant form (Old Testament law, anyone?);
- they move the focus from Christ's death to weight-loss (attend our church! see how much weight we have lost!);
- their "biblically based" recommendations are uncannily similar to modern health regulations (some of the most extreme kind);
- they have a disturbing tendency to be linked to multi-million dollar enterprises spruiking over-priced diet products. Anyone fancy a spot of Hallelujah Acres BarleyMax or Maker's Multi?

Is dieting Christian? Well, these books certainly haven't convinced me.

We'll have a look at the Bible's teaching on self-control next time, and see if it has anything to do with food.

You can follow the thread on dieting here.


Cathy said...

Yes, very bizarre, yet I suspect you are not about to throw the baby out with the bathwater? Isn't there just plain good (Godly) wisdom and stewardship about how we treat our bodies? If we were made to function in a certain way then it must be detrimental to us to carry an extra 10 kilos or never exercise our bodies (says she who hasn't exercised for a month now...not to mention total disinterest in this area for most of life):)

Jean said...

Yep, you guessed it, there will be no baby throwing on this blog. If you look here you will see that I am currently on a diet(?) or at least trying to change the way I eat. But you will have to wait for later blogs on this topic to find out my reasoning ... ;)