The New York Times reports on churches in the Mississippi Delta where diet instructions are served along side the day’s gospel teachings. Out with the high calorie church lunch traditions, in with the fruit baskets. Several churches are following in the footsteps of Rev. Michael O. Minor, who has used his pulpit to preach the benefits of good eating for more than a decade already. He’d gotten the idea after he moved back to Mississippi in the early 1990s and was shocked by the difference in weights between those he’d known at Harvard and Boston and the folks back home.
When he began preaching his health gospel right from the start, he was met not by outright resistance — that would have been rude — but by a polite disregard. This is the way people have always cooked here, church members said, and they ignored him.
He argued that while the food may be the same, people’s lifestyles had changed, and few put forth the physical effort that life in the Delta once required. Preparing pork chops used to involve raising and slaughtering a pig; now it requires little more than a trip to the grocery store. But he eventually realized he would have to adjust his strategy.
It’s made a difference for his congregation and those who’ll emulate him, but others staunchly ignore the health advantages of teaching believers how to make better food choices, even when “Your sick members can’t tithe,” should be logical enough incentive to provide them with healthy alternatives.
Churches have so much influence on the lives of the people who attend them. They look toward church leaders for all manner of advice and support and, while I’d have no reliable statistics to back it up, most probably follow whatever suggestions they get. But, I suppose getting told their traditions are the problem is problematic all on its own. Change is always a bigger challenge than one might realize when the first decision to change things gets made.
Hopefully he’s getting a lot of support from local doctors and other health professionals. How do they feel about the overall bad health of the people in that state? Sick people can’t always pay hospital bills either, and I’m sure they get bills pretty often. Those that would bother to go to a doctor, that is. No doubt that’s part of the problem, too.
On that note, I went for my first physical in a decade recently and was pleased to come out with a clean bill of health and an A+ on my blood work. heh. Canadian Blood Services is always pleading for more donations and I’m finally set up to give them some pints. I’ll add them into what the Saskatoon Freethinker group has already given. Atheists and humanists saving lives. Can’t get much better than that.