Too Much

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{If you’re not in the mood for a mid-week rant, then skip today’s post. I apologize in advance…}

No milk. Time to run to the grocery store. Time to wonder what weird rip in the space-time continuum brings me to this other, oddly parallel town.

Yes, the Kroger store transports me to some burg called Scooterville. Every row of the store has some person riding a battery-powered scooter up and down the aisles, that person grabbing the essential foodstuffs Man has feasted on since the dawn of time: Pop-Tarts, Twinkies, fried cheesecake, and countless other comestibles sure to give a pancreas a fit.

And from what I can tell, pancreases across this country are calling it quits. “No mas! No mas!”

In the last month, I’ve heard one guy after another tell me he’s wearing a CPAP mask at night and poking himself with syringes filled with insulin. Can’t breathe, can’t keep the blood sugar stable. It’s scary.

Now while it’s true that I turn 45 mere days from now, I don’t want to be staring that future in the face. So even though I’m healthy, I’m making some dietary changes.

This is not to say I’m obese like the drivers of the scooters that clog the aisles of my neighborhood Kroger. In fact, at 6′ 4″ and 217 pounds, I’m the lightest guy my height that I know. Most of the others are 235 and up.

I was pretty much a stick in high school and even then I wore pants with a 36 waist. I wear 38 today, but I highly suspect that a 38 today is not what it was twenty-five years ago. A tape measure around my waist says 41, but I’m still got plenty of room in the waist of my size 38 jeans, so something ain’t right.

I’ve got no gut to speak of, but the powers that be say you can’t have a waist larger than 40 inches or else you face a plethora of vascular and endocrine issues. Now the rule seems a bit off when you compare 6′ 4″ with a 40 waist with 5′ 9″ and 40, but we tall people are out of luck in plenty of other regards. (In other words, if your house was built before 1965, don’t ask me to come down into your basement.)

No matter how svelte I am compared with peers, I still don’t want to end up a diabetic having a machine breathe for me at night, so I’ve started a low-glycemic diet in the last week and have already seen good results.

Now I don’t want to seem judgmental here, but there’s no way to escape it: anymore, we’re a nation of fatties. When I have to walk around the end of an aisle to get past someone oozing over the sides of a scooter, something’s gone wrong. Fill every row with a massive rotundity piloting a 3-wheeler, and we’ve moved beyond wrongness into outright tragedy.

I think about this national corpulence at the same time I read that a Senate panel is investigating the bank accounts of a half dozen Pentecostal/charismatic televangelists. Just as some people’s bodies swell up like Violet Beauregard on a tour of Wonka’s, so too do these evangelists swell their own personal larders at the expense of the gullible and poor.

That the government sees fit to investigate when the governing bodies of those evangelists’ denominations sit like three chimps masking various sensory organs…well, I know a few folks who should be ashamed of themselves. And for once, it’s not government folks.

We talk about a lot of blind spots in the American Church here at this blog, but I’m not sure we’ve ever fully discussed our love of excess. Some of us love our preachers loud and larger than life. Some of us like a good 3-ring circus on Sundays. And if people can barely squeeze down the aisle to get to the altar to confess every sin known to man SAVE for rapacious gluttony, then that’s okay, too.

Only it’s not okay.

I’m not sure why we give this one a pass. Why do we tolerate excess in our churches? The only excess we should be seeking is an overflow of the Spirit of God, yet some of us donate money hoping to get more—and still more on top of that—because some Dior-wearing televangelist’s wife caked under fifty pounds of Mary Kay says so (because, as she’ll tell you, winter’s coming and nothing stops the frosties better than a Russian sable coat).The perfect metaphor We’re turning into sweaty-faced lard-buckets hollering about those damned liberals and their abortions, or those red-diaper babies selling America down the commode, yet we can’t pull ourselves away from the “Stuff Yourself till You Explode” brunch bar at the local Big Boy.

No, it’s not just the charlatan televangelist promising 21st century indulgences. It’s not just the human amoeba scrunched down in his scooter trying to use a grab stick to procure a family-sized bag of Famous Amos cookies from the top shelf. No, it’s those of us who think Jesus died to ensure us a good credit score so we can buy more crap than the guy next door.

So again, I ask, “Why do we tolerate excess in our churches?” Why do we tolerate pews filled with one Mr. Creosote after another? Why can’t we wise up to con-artists televangelists who take and take and take, all the while sporting their Patek Philippes for the slack-jawed to ogle? Why do we measure spiritual success in terms of how big congregants’ houses are rather than how large their hearts might be? Again, show me a church, when selecting a new elder, that’ll pick the humble guy who works in a convenience store over the preening captain of industry, and I’ll show you a church Smyrna would embrace.

Too much. Too stinkin’ much.

If we want to make a difference in this world, then we better live so we can say without irony, “Jesus alone is my satisfaction.”

24 thoughts on “Too Much

    • Don,

      I’m having a rough week. Standing in Kroger yesterday surrounded by people on carts was utterly bewildering. I felt like I was in a David Lynch movie.

      Fighting Wal-Mart coming to town. Now hearing that a casino (still illegal in Ohio, but resistance is slipping fast) is coming up the road from us. And we’re still dealing with the tsunami thing…well, I’m just fried.

      In our elections here yesterday, our county voted down a very reasonable levy that would save our libraries. Perhaps we deserve to be stupid. I just don’t get it.

      We need some good news.

  1. Hey, it’s all part of the American dream. Bigger is better, whether it’s food portions, cars, houses, churches, tv “ministries”. I think it makes our Lord sad.

      • His Direness: “Trying to get people to simplify and scale back sure seems like a lost cause…”

        Don’t worry, as we get further into the era of “Post-Peak Oil”, when gasoline is “beaucoup-number-of-dollars-per-gallon” and everything else, like food and whatnot, is getting more expensive, we’ll be forced to simplify and scale back—at least according to James Howard Kuntsler and Patrick Deneen.

        Life is going to get really simple and fast, or so it would seem.

  2. David Riggins

    I was pondering the other day, whether it was even possible to count the number of consumer products available to us lucky American types. I doubt it. The sheer inventiveness involved in seperating us from our money, preferrably through the use of credit, has created such a maelstom of garbage as to boggle the mind. And it seems, as you have ranted before, that the worse something is for you, the better the “Value” it is. (“This one has ten-thousand milligrams; take this, and never feel pain again…”) If I want to narrow things down, I only need some water, green leafy vegetables, and grains of some sort to live on, a shelter and clothing to protect my bod from the elements, and income enough (or resources enough) to pay for or create those necessities. Everything else is gravy. Unfortunately, as the cat said to the dog: “This time, we didn’t forget the gravy.”

    I too have bobbled my head in wonder at the increasing numbers of electric cart bound Jabas, and have often considered what it takes to get a person to that point in life.

    Curly Washburn was right, there really is only “one thing” in life that’s really important. It really is up to each of us to determine for ourselves what it is (though in the end, it’s the same thing for all of us), and we have to surrender to it daily.

    And it isn’t the snack isle, or the job, or church, or even family.

    • David,

      I’m certainly willing to ignore an ancient person or someone with a disability on a cart. But when you ate yourself into that condition and now won’t even walk it off, that’s pretty bad.

  3. Dan,
    I understand your rant. But how do you bring correction lovingly to those people? I mean overweight people. I’ve no clue about that but I have a few ideas that may lead us into that direction (still thinking out loud)
    1. First, we have to acknowledge that whenever we see an overweight person, we don’t know whether the problem is hormonal or just plain glutonny.
    2. I think the proliferation of fast food places has something to do here. Let’s see how it works. You work hard from 8-5 and then you just want to go home and rest. But boy, you have to cook something! And that takes time, doesn’t it? At least two or three hours and then one more to clean up the dishes. And time is money, so why not get on the drive thru line or go to the local chinese buffet place (if you happen to have more money)? See the logic of that?
    3. How do you think some of those people would take this advice: have you ever thought of putting yourself on a diet?
    4. Same than point 3, but now ask that question to your brother or sister in the Lord? How would they take that? Would they say “man, you are so careless to say that!” or “thank you, but what can I do?”? I think of this all the time but I don’t get a chance to say it for fear of getting misunderstood or be taken as unloving.
    5. The Scriptures teach us to be sober and self-controlled. I think this is something rarely heard. Why? Could it be perhaps that people are quick to deem those who exhort us in that direction as ‘legalistic’? Yes, there is a way in which you can do that legalistically by demanding things of others that you don’t practice yourself. I think of an overweight preacher here as the classic example…
    6. Now, look at the children of today. It saddens me to see that many are so wrapped up in halo 1, 2, 3 and the like, glued at the t.v., facebook, myspace, etc that there is little time for exercise while shoveling lots of snacks and happy meals. I think in the future someone would write a book entitled “how the happy meals changed -or change this verb!- the face of America”. Scary…
    7. Well, let us think of creative ways to persuade people to be self-controlled in eating (as well as in anything else). I myself acknowledge that my inability to handle this issue with tact has led me to silence. We should not be silent about this anymore.
    8. Someone ruled by an eating disorder has food as his/her functional idol.
    9. I think one of the best strategies to fight these ‘little’ sins -eating disorders and the like- is go beyond ‘abstinence’ into ‘fighting pleasure with pleasure’. I mean the replacement of the worldly pleasure and satisfaction that food gives for a godly pleasure. Now, in a generation that deems God or the things of God as ‘boring’, we definitely need the work of the Holy Spirit to overcome those sinful cravings….Lord help us!

    • Francisco,

      We’re willing to confront other Christians on this sin or that, so why is confronting on obesity more difficult than alcoholism or wife-beating?

      The “hormonal/genetics” thing is a smokescreen just like all other excuses used by people to justify their sin. While this is not to say that some people aren’t slightly disadvantaged in this area, the laws of physics cannot be broken. The amount of energy that goes into a system has to be stored or used. That’s true in the human body, too. Overweight people eat too much, eat the wrong kinds of foods, and don’t exercise. Fix one, two, or all three, but please, let’s stop justifying why we’re fat. Fix the problem and confess the weakness in one, two, or all three areas.

      Christians are Spirit-controlled people, not addiction-controlled people. If we let the flesh win, that’s our problem, not someone else’s. We need that kind of hard talk.

      Look, I dropped seven pounds in two days just cutting back my portions and eating less high-glycemic food. It’s that simple.

      We also need to understand food as a justice issue. If we Americans consume most of the world’s food (and other products), then we’re profligates. We need to repent of this and start living more simply with less. If we don’t, even what we have will be taken away from us. Then we’ll be forced to live with less or much, much worse than less.

  4. Another excellent post, Dan. I very much like the way you tied this in with Senator Grassley’s investigation. I’ve linked this post to my post from yesterday on the investigation as I think it provides another very important angle on the issue.

    As we move into the extended season of excess, Darryl Dash has pointed to the Advent Conspiracy. Something we might want to consider.

  5. James Hastings

    Hi Dan,
    I came across you blog while out blog wandering.
    It gave me a good laugh and then I noticed my gut wobbling, so your words really struck home. I’m a Scottish born Christian now living in England. A recent report showed that Scots, after you Americans, are the fattest people on the planet. Glasgow, my old home town, is also the knife killing capital of Europe, so if the burgers don’t get you, the Bowie knife might.
    I’m a Christian journalist and writer so I watch a lot of God TV as a source of stories, as well as to get a flavour of what’s happening in the Body of Christ. I know what you mean by the excess of the TV evangelists. In the UK, Christians tend to be a lot more morose than you Americans so I actually prefer seeing a pastor in a good suit, as opposed to a Brit pastor in unironed jeans and torn T-shirt. Its like he’s in reverse smartness.
    When I first saw Benny Hinn with his white suit, glued on hair and half of Tiffany’s counter on his right hand, I thought he represented the worse excess of the excessive evangelists. Then a very devout and respected Christian friend told me he and his wife were both healed of severe depression at a Benny Hinn event in England. I couldn’t believe it because my friend is not the sort I imagined would attend a Benny Hinn event, but he says God uses Benny and if he likes to dress like its Halloween all year round, then should we bother?
    My friend is now a full-time evangelist and his ministry has brought countless to Jesus – and it all started at a healing event led by a man in a papal white suit and, arguably, the world’s shiniest shoes.
    I also don’t have a problem with the Rolex watches. Surely, its not money but the love of and as CS Lewis put it, the sin is not having wealth, but why we want it, how we go about getting it, wanting it too much and not sharing it.
    I think its possible to enter heaven with a Rolex. I hate the poverty Gospel, which can build a wall between people and Jesus, just as much as wealth can.

    Blessings

    James

    • James,

      Thanks for stopping by.

      Re: evangelists and excess…

      I personally do not believe that rich people who take money from the poor and ignorant through deceptive means can be Christians. End of story. They can be religious. They might even conjure up some bogus miracles. But they bear no resemblance to any person known as Christian at any point in human history.

      Now I will say that I have no beef with any Christian who makes a fortune legitimately. I’m sure there are many of God’s people who are millionaires by the world’s standard. But it is an exceptionally difficult row to hoe, even for a devout man who got his money honestly.

      Skimming money from the weak-willed, poor, and elderly used to be the area of con men and still is. Yet how frightening that this is what many of these gold-plated televangelists are.They do a monstrous disservice to the legitimate work of the Holy Spirit and are a major reason why charismatics are despised in some parts of the church. For that, they should be ashamed. Except shame is one emotion they don’t seem to possess.

  6. Dire Dan: “…Just as some people’s bodies swell up like Violet Beauregard on a tour of Wonka’s, so too do these evangelists swell their own personal larders at the expense of the gullible and poor.”

    Dan, I would be very cautious about jumping to conclusions concerning senator Grassley’s “investigation”. I think there is much more to this than meets the eye. For example, this Ole Anthony character that turns up in the story (as a primary instigator, it seems, in kick-starting Grassley’s investigation) is not exactly the virtuous “watchdog” he appears to be. The news media is simply not telling everything—either deliberately or from sheer laziness.

    Just because it looks like some “glitzy televangelists who we happen not to like” appear to be in for getting stomped, we shouldn’t give in to our schadenfreude. I think there is something else going on here, and things are not what they appear to be.

      • In response: there’s no “conspiracy”, Dan—at least not with the usual meaning of that term—but there are agendas that occasionally overlap. The thing that was curious to me was that the news stories don’t provide too much info about this Ole Anthony character.

        Yes, it’s a lovely thought that some of these “ministries” might get put out of business. But we need to keep our eyes on the bigger picture. When the government gets in the business of monitoring religious organizations, then it isn’t long before it becomes a tool of coercion.

        Remember that they’ve already trying to pass the
        bill about discrimination against homosexuals. (Has Dubya said he’d veto it? I haven’t heard.) Now imagine where that is going. Just ask the xtians in Europe and Canada, who are facing ever increasing hostility and harrassment from governments.

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