Discussing
Childhood obesity and systemic sin

Bethany Keeley-Jonker

Marta L.
January 17, 2012

Excellent topic! As someone who is, erm, more ent-sized than elven and have been pretty much my whole life, I'm well aware of the importance of this particular topic. Personally, I think Jesus's teachings for how we deal with sinfulness in the church community are very relevant. I can't for the life of me find the reference this morning, but as I recall Jesus teaches that you should first instruct the sinner individually, then with two or three together, and then with the whole community. That might be a better way to deal with these kinds of issues: not with ad campaigns, but with individuals who know the people and can tailor an appropriate message. Sometimes toughness is needed, but it's rather dangerous if you try to be tough in a blanket message.

Mara
January 17, 2012

I think anyone who thinks they have a right to judge another at all should look to the example of Jesus and Mary Magdelene. The Church should not be a place where people are judged by other people. A person who meticulously controls his or her food to fit into the same size suits for 10 years is guilty of the sin of pride after all.<br><br>My definition of sin involves free will. Most psychologists will tell you that most cases of Morbid obesity have a psychological component that exceeds the person's conscious control. Making them feel bad by making special programs and saying "hey this is for you cause you are fat and I'm not," is not going to make them feel better.<br><br>Comfort food triggers endorphins in the pleasure centres in the brain that make us feel happy. So a gooey pizza, a plate of fries, that piece of chocolate cake after church, is like a drug to your child's brain. You need to substitute real love and inclusive activity for the comfort food.<br><br>The church should lead a healthy example by providing health conscious snacks and treats for social gatherings. They should invite children to play active sports followed by water and apples (for example). The church should take a stand on protecting everyone's health issues, diabetics, cholesterol, heart disease (Skinny people have those too).<br><br>Take a "What's good for one is good for all" approach and move toward a more healthy church for all without pointing fingers at any individuals. <br><br>JMHO

Erica
January 17, 2012

One little itty bitty tiny thing, after working with children's ministries. We've got to stop bribing kids with nasty food to get them to come to things. There were so many times when people pulled the whole, "But they'll come if there's DONUTS" thing when we were planning an event (my otherwise nearly perfect head of staff was frequently guilty of this). And, I think we need to assume that kids will eat things other than chicken nuggets and bland fried crap at church gatherings that involve food. There should always be something that is healthy when you're in charge of planning most of a church meal or a time of fellowship around eating.

Russ Mason
January 17, 2012

Christians today need a healthy does of Spiritual Identity to feed on.  If we all truly understood who we were as sons and daughters of God I believe people's self-images and self-worth would be much healthier - that is because we would know that we bear His image and we are valuable and of great worth because of His value and great worth.  Since we are hidden in the righteousness of Christ, we are safe from the empty demands that the world puts upon us. Our esteem should be determined by what God says about us in the Scriptures.  I agree with the author that since we are God's temple, we should do everything we can to take the best care possible of the bodies we have been given - to me it seems to be simply a matter of stewardship.  We are entrusted with our bodies until we go home to be with Him so we should do our best to know the Scriptures and to be the best child of God we can possibly be. As a parent, we should teach and train our children to do likewise - to honor God with what we have (including our bodies) and to aim at being people of excellence so we can bring as much glory as possible to our amazing Lord and Savior.

Laura's Last Ditch
January 17, 2012

The billboard seems kind of mean, but it also helps to show that there is parental responsibility involved. While changing society could take years, decades, if it ever happens, parents choosing what enters the shopping cart is what matters most. A person isn't going to get fat eating donuts at church, but when junk enters the home, the kid will eat it. When video games enter the home, the kid will play them. <br><br>People can make all kinds of bad decisions choosing what society offers, be it junk food, pornography, drugs, tobacco, etc. Yes, it takes work to make good food choices, but it doesn't need to be more expensive. What churches could do, I think, is offer healthy cooking classes, revolving around cheap, healthful ingredients. While people can learn this on their own, sometimes a little kick in the pants followed by moral support is just the ticket. The billboard provides the kick in the pants, the church provides the moral support.

Rickd
January 17, 2012

Childhood obesity is a complex issue. As good as it might be, saying we need more green space doesn’t really help anyone today. Plus I am not sure what kids would know what to do with more green space. The problem is not just consuming excess calories but not burning enough calories. I spent my childhood building forts, building go karts, playing unorganized baseball in the street, riding bicycles, climbing trees. One of the few ways to make extra money was to mow neighbor’s yards or deliver newspapers on a bike. We would play outside in the street until the last minute before dinner. We could not watch TV till after dinner and homework was done. My friends who teach say that video games (yes, even those “theologically significant” games), computer games, cell phones and TV have rendered many children incapable of physical play and uncomfortable with the real world. We had never heard of healthy snacks, we just ate what was in the house...peanut butter and bread, carrots, celery. My mother never bought cheetos, soda, candy, who could afford it? Get rid of the junk food. Carrots, celery and peanut butter are not exotic and can be found even in most urban food deserts. Toss the video game consoles, turn off the TV, put on a baseball mit and play catch, ride bikes with your daughter. We need to re-learn how to play. Obesity is not the government's problem, it is our personal problem and parents need to take responsibility.

Dianna
January 17, 2012

I like the point you make about looking at societal factors, Bethany. Childhood obesity is not just a parental involvement issue, but also one of class. Often, the only food available to impoverished people in many areas is that of the unhealthiest kinds - it's cheaper to buy a bag of chicken nuggets to feed your kids than to work for an hour and spend a ton on ingredients to make a chicken dish from scratch. When you're working multiple jobs just to pay rent, you don't always have the time to make those healthy, home-cooked meals, so to call a situation like that irresponsible is to ignore a huge number of factors that go into why each child eats the way they do.<br><br>One thing I think Christians concerned about this issue could work on is the elimination of food deserts - in Chicago, for example (where I live), there are a number of these areas where there isn't a grocery store within reasonable walking distance or travel distance if you don't have a car. Simply making the healthy food more accessible and a better option than the convenience store down the street is a huge step toward teaching people how to live healthy.<br><br>(And, it's worth repeating: overweight =/= unhealthy. I am probably one of the most unhealthy people I know, and yet I'm also one of the skinniest [without actually being underweight]. You can't tell a person's health just from their weight).

Keri
January 18, 2012

I think the point of systemic sin is one that needs to be preached, and loud. Read In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan. He points out that even seemingly simple, healthy food, like a loaf of whole wheat bread, is loaded with chemicals, preservatives, high fructose corn syrup. The industrialized food we eat has fewer nutrients, so our bodies, craving nutrients that they need, will feel hungry, even when we overeat. for the first time in American history, doctors are reporting ricketts in OBESE kids. That's right, they are both malnourished and obese. our food supply is tainted, and huge corporations are allowed to label a bunch of chemicals and artificial ingredients as "healthy" or "all natural." <br>Feed this crap to a generation that sits around playing video games instead of playing tag and climbing trees outside, and you've got a sytemic sin that results in overweight kids.<br>However, if you can read, you can decide not to feed your kids stuff that contains ingredients you can't pronounce. <br>I agree with others here--get your kids outside, don't let them start on the video games when they're small (it can be done, I have two video-game free teenagers), stop bribing kids with food (why do 5 year olds need a meal's worth of calories as a snack after a 30 minute soccer game?) <br>This is a place where as a Christian, I want to live counter-culturally, and also to speak up for those who are trapped in "food deserts" and don't have access to healthy food.

Moherring
January 18, 2012

Is is okay for the church to treat people struggling with gluttony differently than we treat people struggling with sexual sin or greed or anger issues just because gluttony is harder to hide? Do we promote the sins of vanity and pride in how we deal with the sin of gluttony? Should the church follow a graceless society's focus on this particular "sin du jour?" Obese people are quickly becoming the paraiahs of the early 21st century, sort of the way smokers were in the late 20th...and homosexuals were for a long time before that. Sin is indeed systemic and the grace and transformation of Christ is the solution.

David Greusel
January 25, 2012

As an architect, I am thinking about the degree to which my profession is complicit in the problem of childhood obesity. While individual choices (what and how much to eat) clearly matter, environment matters, too, and for the last 60 years my colleagues and I have been far too willing to design car-centric cities where walking is discouraged, if not impossible. Shopping malls, 40-acre sites for schools, "regional" churches and single-use zoning are all part of this problem. We (architects and planners) need to be really rethinking our assumptions in light of the childhood (and adult) obesity crisis. Don't think it's a crisis? Just go visit a public swimming pool.

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