“Preaching Better Health”

_PBHThe current April 2015 issue of AARP Bulletin has an interesting article, written by Pat Jordan, entitled, “Preaching For Better Health.” The above photo appeared in the article. The first sentence of the article says, “African American ministers are using the pulpit to steer their congregations toward better lifestyle choices. “ The article continues: “After 13 years as the pastor of Long Branch Baptist Church in Greenville, S. C., the Rev. Sean Dogan, a short, stocky man with a sculpted goatee, has given over 400 eulogies for his parishioners, most of whom who died from heart disease, diabetes, obesity or stroke. And after each funeral he’s sat down with friends and families of the deceased to meal on fried chicken, mac and cheese, and collard greens boiled in fatback.”

Corinthians 3:16-17, “Do you know that you are the temple of God and that the spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him,” is the scripture pastor Dogan uses to make the point for a more wellness lifestyle. Pastor Dogan says in the article that it was food that was killing his congregation–foods with a throwback to the slave plantation, remnants of which still exist in the average African American diet. But it is not limited to the African American diet. Reports now show that a good portion of all Americans are overweight, but those with the most serious weight problems live in the deep South with Mississippi heading the pack. The article says that 48 percent of African Americans suffer from obesity compared with 33 percent of whites. With obesity comes an increased risk of other ailments such as heart disease. The article says that illiteracy has a lot to do with health issues. A pharmacist quoted in the article says that too often patients cannot read the doctor’s instructions on their medicines, or nutritional labels on food packages. Still cultural traditions still play a large part in weight gain. The new Pope Francis is also being advised to cut back on eating too much pasta, especially pizza. He too has gained weight since become Pope.

The “Preaching Better Health” column says that the black church still plays a key role in the dissemination of information in the black community. The article says, “Our churches brought us out of slavery. Then during integration in the ‘60s, we strategized for freedom in our churches. It was our sanctuary.” And it is the black church especially that the article suggests should take the lead in changing eating choices in the black community. Life style changes can make a big different in quality of life health wise. The article includes work by Delores Fedrick, a pharmacist, who decided to give back to the community by giving lectures on healthier life style choices. Fedrick says that once upon a time “Fatback was our culture.” Her mission became one of changing old habits by offering tasty substitutes for “bad food.” Her book “The Complete Guide to Developing Nutritional Skills” guides readers to better food choices. “Get healthy” should be the new mantra for black churches especially.

Reaching out to congregations about their diets has become a nationwide effort. Florida State University has a $1.4 million dollar grant to improve the cardiovascular health of members of 38 churches in the Florida Panhandle. “Body and Soul” a program funded by the American Cancer Society encourages members to add fruits and vegetable to their diets in Los Angeles and Virginia churches. A First Baptist Church in Maryland provides health screenings, workshops, nutrition classes, group walks and other programs. “Healthy Churches”, sponsored in part by AARP, trains religious leaders to work with their congregations to avoid diabetes, cancer and other diseases. The Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago has more than 200 retired men who discuss health issues each month. “God is Good, All the Time, God is Good,” get healthy for God.

Copyright 2015 – L. Arthalia Cravin. All rights Reserved. No part of this commentary may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without written permission from the author.

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