Praying the weight away? NPR talks to Tennessee minister about health and church attendance
Could America’s climbing obesity rate play a role in declining church attendance?
What role could — and should — communities faith play in helping helping those struggling with obesity to reverse the trends?
Those are a couple of questions pondered in this report from WKMS, a public radio station in Kentucky. News director Chad Lampe went just across the border to interview Bob Palmer, a minister for the Sulphur Well Church of Christ in Springville, Tenn. The report was featured on today’s episode of National Public Radio’s “The Takeaway.”
Palmer tells Lampe that he’s concerned that poor health statistics will be a deterrent for someone looking to join a church.
“There’s a sense to where, when we confirm someone’s spiritual health — and give them a thumbs-up and an ‘A.O.K.’ — that’s often the end of the rehabilitation process,” Palmer says. “And here’s where I’ll pick on us: We do draw some hard lines on alcohol and tobacco use and tattoos, and we think, ‘You’re not taking care of the temple that God has given you.’
“The problem is that we have not looked at it holistically. We’ve just kind of picked out the things that we weren’t going to do anyway, so we feel self-righteous about that … and (then say) ‘I’ll take a No. 5. Super-size it.'”
His county, which includes Paris, Tenn., is known as an evangelical hub, with one church for every 195 people. But its health statistics are grim.
“Maybe that’s an indictment on what we’ve been teaching,” Palmer says. “I’ll say this: if I were an outsider to faith and the church … and all I had were these numbers to go on, it would not be attractive to me at all.”
The meeting place of the Sulphur Well Church of Christ in Springville, Tenn. (PHOTO VIA SULPHURWELLCHURCH.COM)