The Isaiah Plan

If you’re an overweight fundamentalist Christian, the Daniel Plan is for you.  Rick Warren, pastor of the Saddleback megachurch, fit this plus-sized demographic until he came up with a new twist on his religion.  Basing his weight-loss plan on an obscure reference in the apocalyptic book of Daniel, in which the prophet fasts until he has a bizarre vision, Warren is promoting a diet and exercise plan that hinges on peer-pressure.  Join a group of other fundamentalists who want to lose weight, and their social influence will help greatly in motivating you to maintain a more healthy diet and lifestyle.  Warren, a Southern Baptist, might give the Bible Belt a much-needed tightening:  the geographic spread of fundamentalism is virtually identical with that of the most extreme obesity in America.  But many of the obese in the Bible Belt, home also to a disproportion of the poor in America, are not fat because they eat too well.  They are fat because they don’t eat well enough.  Cheap processed food raises weight; fresh fruits and vegetables are unaffordable for too many Americans.
 
So if you are a working-class person with no work to pay to feed your family decently, even as the US Congress plans massive cuts in the EBT Food Stamp program, then the Isaiah Plan is for you and all who care about your plight.  It’s summed up in these verses from Isaiah chapter 58:
 
Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of injustice,
to undo the thongs of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?

Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover them,
    and not to hide yourself from your own kin?  
 
The Isaiah Plan is a fast from political apathy.  It’s a fast from hiding from the suffering of the chronically unemployed and underemployed.  It’s a fast from believing that the magic hand of capitalism will solve all problems, from believing that poor people are just victims of their own victimhood.  The Isaiah Plan is a diet of activism.  It, too, uses peer-pressure.  On the Isaiah Plan, people with a commitment to work for social change come together in the community of the church and encourage each other to stay the course.  On the Isaiah Plan, people lose weight while walking precincts to turn out the vote in elections.  They build up their arm muscles while loosening the bonds of injustice and undoing the thongs of the yoke.  
 
The Daniel Plan is a bunch of Christians getting together so that each of them can do what’s good for themselves.  The Isaiah Plan is a bunch of Christians getting together so that each of them can do what’s good for others.  The Isaiah Plan keeps people strong and lean through the hard but satisfying work of answering Jesus’ call in Matthew chapter 25:  ”I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me.” Let’s exercise our fingers first, for Christ’s sake, by writing our members of Congress and the Senate to demand that the cuts to the SNAP (Food Stamp) program be rolled back now.  (Remember: charity can’t replace the nutritional deficit left by the SNAP cuts.

The total food aid provided to needy Americans by private charity amounts to 6% of all domestic food aid provided by the US government. (Source: Bread for the World – a Christian charity — this figure was determined before the Food Stamp cuts.))  And let’s use peer pressure to spread the Isaiah Plan far and wide!

 

JIM BURKLO
Website: JIMBURKLO.COM    Weblog: MUSINGS    Follow me on twitter: @jtburklo
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Associate Dean of Religious Life, University of Southern California

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