In the current issue, it editorially addresses the most pressing American epidemic - our cultural and widely practiced individual abuse of and addiction to food.
Recent predictions of an even more obese nation in the next couple of decades has set off alarms in the usual places and has provided lots of nurture for the late-night talk-show hosts. Most of what they say, even if somewhat crudely stated, is more right than wrong. Their sarcasm and ridicule are nothing short of the truth.
This week's Christian Century editorial gets to the point, and what it points out is difficult because it would involve making better choices and acquiring the right habits as individuals and in the official policies of our government.
This is part of what the Century says, and every person who believes in any religious way about stewardship of the body and care for one another should read it:
"Making healthful food available isn't enough. People need to acquire the habit of eating well. Such habits are learned in families and communities. Forming good habits involves fighting unhealthful traditions (as Mississippi pastor Michael Minor is doing in banning fried chicken at church meals) and reconnecting to the land, as in projects that help children from low-income families grow vegetables ...
"Public policy has a role to play as well. Exhibit A is the federal school lunch program. Public school cafeterias serve millions of low-income children on the taxpayer's dime. Yet they have been thoroughly colonized by the fast-food industry, and even their unbranded meals are mostly prefab and nutritionally lacking. Some cafeterias are trying to return to making simple, wholesome meals from scratch. But they need support from school boards and from Congress, which both drastically underfunds the school lunch program and blocks nutritional standards in order to placate junk food lobbyists.
"The school lunch program is required to incorporate excess commodity food from the Department of Agriculture, which points to a second problem: the U.S. subsidizes the overproduction of grains and soybeans, creating a glut of artificially cheap carbohydrates, fats and animal proteins. To improve public health, fruits and vegetables need to be not just available but price competitive with the array of grocery-aisle junk the current system produces.
"Here, too, community efforts play a role. Many farmers markets accept food stamps; some also offer income-based discounts. Farm-based gleaning programs are notable as well.
" ... The junk food status quo is not the natural order of things. When general food shortages were a serious concern, the government stepped in with subsidies to make sure that farmers produced enough food. Today Americans face different issues and so require different policies. Families, churches and communities can take responsibility for local food cultures, but elected officials need to step up as well."
At the bottom line, however, the issue becomes individual. Personal responsibility cannot take a back seat to our widespread addiction to junk food, unhealthful fast food, and the culture of instant, stomach-stuffing gratification.
The rising generation is the first in our nation in more than a century in which life expectancy is decreasing, and it is self-induced.
Perhaps more of Mississippi's good religious people should be like Pastor Minor and ban the temptation where it's easiest to fall prey, in the context of giving thanks and fellowship over millions of unhealthy calories.