Every now and then you see a news feature story that makes you slap yourself on the forehead and say, "Shoot, that story is so obvious, but I have never seen that story before. Why didn't I think of digging into that one?" That's what I thought when a saw the "Special to the Washington Post" feature by Alison Buckholtz entitled "For Priests, a Weighty Matter -- Hectic Schedules and Solo Living Make Weight Gain a Job Hazard for Christian Clergy."
I would have mentioned this earlier in the week, but I've been having major email and connection problems during a three-day-plus conference in one totally over-the-top resort outside of Dallas. Go figure. Anyway, this is a story worth flashing back to.
The headline is very misleading. The story is broader than one study of "priests," which would imply some hook to Catholicism, Orthodoxy or Anglicanism. Then you see "Christian Clergy" and, well, I thought to myself, "So rabbis don't have weight problems?"
But the story covers most of the bases. It makes sense: Emotional burdens, long hours, stress and lots of people offering hospitality equal weight problems. Coffee or tea is not enough when you are trying to impress you know who. And, logically enough, there's a supporting role for lawyers and insurance people.
There is no reason members of the clergy should face fewer weight-related problems than the nation as a whole. But several factors appear to make them more vulnerable.
"We laugh about all the potlucks ... , but it's a joke, not a reality," says the Rev. Janet Maykus, a Disciples of Christ minister and principal of the College of Pastoral Leaders, an organization based in Texas. The group, with a grant from the Lilly Endowment, has launched a clergy health project involving ministers from several Christian denominations.
Clergy's weight issues "have more to do with their sense of isolation because there has been a loss of status for clerical professions," she said. "They are in a job without a great deal of respect, the pay is low, and there is a lot of depression among clergy. This is reflected in their bodies."
There are more numbers and stats and the logical details about long days and, for the Catholic priests, nights alone.
And if you want holy writ and a small dose of spirituality, this story even offered all of that, too. That body and soul connection is
... (made) explicit throughout Christian literature, in which there is a long and significant link between spiritual piety and good physical health. St. Paul proclaimed, "Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God?"
The 11th century Christian mystic Mechtild of Magdeburg advised, "Do not disdain your body. For the Soul is just as safe in its body as in the Kingdom of Heaven."
And, of course, there are the well-known biblical exhortations against gluttony. Solomon admonished to "put a knife to your throat if you are a man of great appetite" (Proverbs 23:2).
Like I said, there's a lot of meat (and mashed potatoes) in this one. Has anyone else seen a major MSM story on this? Something solid in a clergy journal?