Disease of the Soul

In a sermon January 3, I mentioned some statistics about children in the United States including childhood obesity which is, sadly, a rapidly growing problem. Later that week, a friend who heard the sermon and who is also a pediatrician mentioned an academic study about childhood obesity. I was aware of the general results of this study, but my friend went into detail.

A medical school decided to study the problem, so they recruited hundreds of children and families into the study. Statistics were run on the study population so that conclusions could be made with a high degree of confidence. For a substantial period of time, each family had available to them, transportation to a medical facility, the best pediatricians, the best nutritionists, the best psychologists all made free to participants in the study. The families of the children being studied were coached on proper nutrition, shopping, food preparation and calories. Exercise was encouraged. Psychological counseling was given for families with challenges. The study continued for several years. Everyone hoped that focusing the best medical and social resources on families could reduce the number of obese children.

When the study ended, less than 10% of the children participating had significant weight loss and changed lifestyles to support proper weight management. Less than 10% after an enormous expenditure and the best medical and counseling resources money could buy! What hope is there for children with less resources available?

But this solid, scientific study underscores my point about science and religion. It affirms my calling, and it should be a siren call to bring people back into authentic churches.

There are some human conditions that no amount of medicine, technology, or professional resources will ever be able to cure. This is because some conditions are diseases of the soul.

What does a human soul need that this study did not provide?

A sense of belonging and acceptance in an authentic community.

What is an authentic community?

A diverse group of people spanning multiple generations and other human conditions. A group that accepts and loves without condition. A group that does not judge others. A group that always assumes the best intentions of others. A group willing to accept the faults in others. A group that models positive, life-giving behavior. A group that honors and values truth-telling. A group that praises others. A group that does not gossip.

The fundamental problem of western society today is that we have banished religion because it is not scientific. What is left of Christian religious bodies are largely cults of like-minded people who prefer to sit in judgment of other “sinful” people. Religion has become personal focusing on the “me” and “my salvation,” my going to heaven. Government has also become purely personal focusing exclusively on “my rights.” Commerce and the Internet have become twin devils promoting isolation, alienation and loneliness of people. A good, authentic community of support for our children is nearly impossible to find.

Jesus calls us to form communities that encompass the best traits of our humanity – forgiveness, mercy, acceptance, love, compassion, listening, and understanding. Our modern culture has taken us in the opposite direction of good, authentic communities. Instead, we have formed groups of isolated, lonely, alienated, angry people who focus exclusively on their personal situation while refusing to believe that any other human being might have similar or worse problems.

Is it any wonder that our culture has created an epidemic of anxious children who eat too much, don’t get enough exercise, and who want to isolate themselves from the dysfunction all around them?

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