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Those who trust in God’s abundance avoid
the epidemic of obesity in societal attitudes

Obesity has gone beyond a problem and is now referred to as an epidemic, sometimes capitalized, as in The Obesity Epidemic.

If we look around, we can find obesity affecting far more than our physical bodies.

Obese weddings can cost as much as a year at an elite college.  With their lavish settings, entertainment, multi-course dinners and Bridezillas, they have become routine enough that an invitee to a church wedding followed by a dessert reception at a modest location recently felt it necessary to write to an advice columnist. 

She wanted to know if she should downscale her gift to the couple, because they weren’t having what she regarded as a “traditional wedding.”

We can laugh or cry over that one, but there are some examples of cultural obesity that definitely aren’t funny.

Our already pudgy political campaigns became obese when the Citizens United court decision declared that corporations are entitled to freedom of speech and that limiting how much they can spend to influence elections limits their speech.

When our economy tanked, in large part because of unethical behavior in too large a segment of the financial world, there seemed to be a widespread feeling that those responsible should face consequences.  Obese CEO salaries and perks and extravagant bonuses throughout the system did not reduce. 

We have gradually learned that as immoral and unethical as the financial manipulations were, they were not illegal because regulations have been loosened so much.

Financial analysts report that many corporations are keeping unusually large cash balances on hand instead of investing in new plants, developing new products or hiring new workers.

Profits in the oil industry have been record-breaking, but the industry shows no intention of giving up its government subsidies.

Why?  Shouldn’t they feel some patriotic duty or at least need to help their country out of this mess?  Not necessarily.

They are behaving according to theologian Walter Bruggemann’s “myth of scarcity,” described in his book, The Liturgy of Abundance, The Myth of Scarcity and are completely in line with the results of studies of greed.  Yes, there are such things.

Fear of scarcity leads us to hold onto what we have with increasing determination.  In that setting, Bruggeman said that “money is like a narcotic for us.”

Studies of greed indicate that the less well off are more likely to share and are less self-centered than the wealthy.

Analyses of tax returns and spending patterns show that the poor give a larger percentage of their income to charity than the wealthy do. 

Large donations make the headlines, but the more modest ones make up the bulk of the income of nonprofit organizations that provide services to help people through hard times, to help people with disabilities and to help people gain economic justice.

The Myth of Scarcity and the Liturgy of Abundance fit beautifully here.  Bruggeman says the “Bible starts out with a liturgy of abundance.”  He point out that the future is not in the hands of “those who believe in scarcity and monopolize the world’s resources.  It is in the hands of those who trust God’s abundance.”

If you have a full picnic hamper, but fear that people will take advantage of you, you will find it safer to eat alone and hold onto your leftovers.

If you have just a small loaf, tucked into your pack as you leave home in the morning and you share it with someone who has only a fish, you have performed an act of hospitality, gained a varied meal, and found fellowship.  That’s a bountiful return for one small loaf.

When people all around you are doing the same thing, you help create community.

Nancy Minard - contributing editor