Much has been said about obesity becoming a deadly national and global epidemic. It is being called an international scourge that is engulfing the entire world, as big a threat as global warming and terrorism. Especially frightening is the fact that it is skyrocketing among children, making them prone to diseases that could shave years off their lives. For the first time in history, children in this generation could die before their parents. But the harm done to individuals is being ignored; countries like Australia, Britain and the United States merely think of the effect on their economies, which is being measured at billions of dollars.
The plague of obesity, especially in children, did not happen overnight. It is the bitter harvest of decades of catering to ourselves instead of serving others. It is the fruit of a sedentary lifestyle focused on television and computers rather than the great outdoors. It is the destructive result of stressing academics, rather than the sandbox, already in kindergarten.
Ask any doctor and you will find out how huge the obesity problem is. It can only be solved if we all work and pray together. The Bible says, "The sins of the fathers shall visit children to the third and the fourth generations." Sadly, it is our children who will pay the price.
Not everyone in the world is obese. There are still millions of people starving in Africa and other continents. Having traveled in Africa, I am still haunted by the many children I saw in Lagos, Nigeria, with potbellies because of malnutrition.
In the end, obesity is primarily a problem in First World countries, where we have become a sick society. Yet we are afraid to face the root of this illness. Instead we give it band-aid solutions, such as banning vending machines in schools. Nobody is asking about the spiritual aspects of this problem.
Obesity is actually only a symptom of a much bigger problem confronting our nation. Our whole society is collapsing because of fear, violence and the breakdown of the family. When God is forgotten, all evils become permissible. Globalization also plays a big role. Large corporations like McDonald's and Pizza Hut have become the American way of life, driving out smaller restaurants that offered healthier foods.
Yes, we in America have it good. We are enjoying decades of wealth and prosperity. But it is not making us happy, because we have lost the most precious aspect of civilization--a sense of community, which leads people together and not apart.
We would do well to read the story of Joseph in the Old Testament. It tells how Pharaoh dreamed of seven fat cows and seven lean cows. Joseph told him that seven years of plenty were coming, during which he should gather and store all the grain he could. These seven years of plenty were to be followed by seven years of famine. During the famine, he would then be able to help his country.
Let us not be lulled to sleep: the famine is coming. God will not be mocked. The time of over-indulgence will be gone before we know it. We need to build a community, in which people are treated like human beings. We must share our riches with the many who are starving. When we discover that our riches do not belong to us, but rather to God and to all the people on the globe, then our nation will become strong again.
by Johann Christoph Arnold
September 4, 2006
(Johann Christoph Arnold is a leading social critic and the author of ten books.)