Saturday, February 6, 2010

God Business is a Big Business


AlterNet's Anneli Rufus has the scoop on The Newest Diet Trend; What Would Jesus Eat?
Whether you call it the Hallelujah Diet, the Maker's Diet or the Lord's Diet, the holy spirit is driving one of America's biggest weight-loss fads.

Christians are fatter than other Americans. One of several studies revealing this, published by a Purdue University team in 2006, found that 30 percent of Baptists are obese, followed by 22 percent of Pentecostals and 17 percent of Catholics, compared to only 1 percent of Jews and 0.7 percent of Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists. According to the Journal of the Southern Baptist Convention, health screenings were given at the SBC's 2005 annual meeting: Over 75 percent of its 1,472 participants were found to be significantly overweight.

It makes sense that some within the movement would want to restore health to the flock. Gluttony, after all, is a sin. But how do you persuade religious Christians to adopt a dietary regimen that has been beloved by hippies for 30-plus years and by polytheists for thousands? The very fact that "health food" is an alt-culture staple is enough to taint it in the eyes of some. How do you convince them to switch their Sunday hams for lettuce-lentil roll-ups? By telling them the Bible says they must.
Because God has the answer!
"Your Heavenly Father, in His infinite wisdom, knows which foods are not fit for you to eat," we read at Hem-of-His-Garment-Bible-Study.org, which offers a "Jesus Saves" lesson in its "What's Hot!" box. "And, in His infinite love for you, He shared that wisdom. ... God really does care what you put in your mouth." Urging readers to follow the clean animals/dirty animals rules of kashrut, as outlined in Leviticus, the site's author also endorses Jordan S. Rubin, a Christian motivational speaker and self-described "Biblical Health Coach" whose book The Maker's DietNew York Times bestseller. (Siloam, 2005) was a
Jordan S. Rubin knows that through God he can make lots of money!
He sells the oil -- for $15.95 per 16-ounce jar -- along with honey and supplements, through his Garden of Life brand. A $50 million company "with the goal of becoming a $100 million company," as Rubin puts it, Garden of Life offers dozens of products including the alleged fat-burner f├╝coThin® and Goatein®, a goat-milk powder that sells for $49.95 per 440-ounce jar.

Advising people on what to eat is all well and good, especially if you're advising them to go organic, shun processed foods, and increase their intake of fiber, protein, vitamins and minerals. But implying that God wants us to finish the job with a bunch of spendy, and to some extent untested, add-ons is entirely another.
Of Rubin's critics, Moss Greene calls the Maker's Diet the "Faker's Diet." Dr. Stephen Barrett states that Rubin's claims appear to be illegal.
Another vocal critic is Stephen Barrett, a doctor who has spent 20-plus years detailing health fraud through his nonprofit, Quackwatch. Barrett cites the Federal Trade Commission's 2006 complaint against Rubin and Garden of Life for what the FTC called "engaging in unfair acts or practices" in its claims about Primal Defense and other products. In 2004, the FDA made a similar complaint.

"He was making illegal claims," Barrett tells me. "I don't think his degree is worth the paper it's printed on."

Barrett notes that Rubin's naturopathic medical doctor degree (NMD) "is from the People's University of the Americas School of Natural Medicine, a non-accredited school with no campus. His Ph.D is from the Academy of Natural Therapies, a non-accredited correspondence school that the State of Hawaii ordered to close in 2003."
Jordan Rubin isn't the only businessman in the business of God's diet.
But another Christ-diet promoter is Don Colbert, a board-certified family-practice physician with a degree from Oral Roberts University Medical School. Colbert heads the Divine Wellness Center in Longwood, Florida (Rubin's Garden of Life is also Florida-based), and sparked a media storm with his book What Would Jesus Eat? The Ultimate Program for Eating Well, Feeling Great, and Living Longer (Thomas Nelson, 2002).

"We can follow His example by adding more fish to our diet," writes this author of The Bible Cure for Weight Loss and Muscle Gain, The Bible Cure for High Blood Pressure, The Bible Cure for Prostate Disorders, The Bible Cure for Depression and Anxiety, The Bible Cure for Irritable Bowel Syndrome, The Bible Cure for Allergies and The Bible Cure for Candida and Yeast Infections, "and by taking fish oil supplements."

And hark: He sells those supplements. Colbert's Divine Health brand offers 270 fish-oil capsules for $49.99. Other Divine Health products include a 300-capsule, $184.99 bottle of the soy extract polyenylphosphatidylcholine, which Quackwatch's Stephen Barrett declares has "no proven value." Examining the label of Divine Health's 60-capsule, $29.99 bottle of the hormone 7-Keto DHEA, Barrett remarks that the product is "said to enhance the immune system and memory. I don't believe that."
There are others who are also hearing the call of Jesus and diets.
And the Lord saith "Sell" as well at Hallelujah Acres, a North Carolina-based farm, ministry, supplement company, seminar center, office complex, restaurant, health-food emporium, "healthy-living housing development" and online empire founded in 1992 by the Rev. George Malkmus, who opened another center in Canada in 1998 and whose many programs include "60 Days to a Hallelujah Waistline."
Malkmus, who used to host the "America Needs Christ" radio show and claims that well over a million people have adopted the diet, "is a very eloquent speaker who is capable of inspiring people who trust what he says. ... I do not believe he is trustworthy," asserts Quackwatch's Barrett.

"You can find lots of words in religious writings that suggest a lot of things," Barrett tells me, "and I don't think any one of them is necessarily more determinant than others." Barrett has nothing against veganism, but companies such as Hallelujah Acres "are selling dietary supplements that may or may not be rational to use, and they encourage people to waste a lot of money on supplements they don't need."
The question is, what would God say to all of this happening in his name?
But what would God say about supplements? On a mountaintop yesterday, I think I heard Him proclaim: Save money!

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