By Mark A. Taylor
Watchers of all things healthy rejoiced this year when the makers of Crisco announced the shortening would no longer contain trans fats. Following the lead of restaurant chains and whole cities eliminating trans fats in food preparation, Crisco now allows us to enjoy fried and baked goodies without clogging our arteries in the process.
I heard the news in a radio report that also included an interview with a professional food tester. Employed by fast food chains, his job is to find new ways of preparing hamburgers, chicken, and french fries with less fat but all the flavor.
“The first rule,” he said, is “food must taste good.” In other words, people won’t buy a meal just because it’s healthy. To most consumers, satisfying is more important than nutritious .
It seems to me Kentucky Fried Chicken and McDonald’s are facing an issue churches confront too. How do we get folks to want what they need ? Steamed broccoli and tofu are way better for you than greasy fries and fat filled burgers, but try finding them at any drive through in the country. And the hard sayings of Jesus love me more than your family, give everything to the poor, move mountains with your faith are sometimes in short supply on church marquees and in Sunday morning sermons.
When we hear cracks about fast food religion, they’re usually aimed at some megachurch or ambitious new church plant: Their worship service lacks biblical substance. Their latest outreach idea is shallow.
Sometimes the criticism seems right. A steady diet of self help sermons and fun, fun, fun! activities may taste good. But it won’t ultimately build a strong body.
This problem, however, is not limited to big churches or new churches. Poor spiritual nutrition can happen whenever church leaders give people only what they want, to the exclusion of the whole counsel of God.
Savvy speakers of every stripe have learned how to please a crowd: appeal to their interests, fears, or prejudices. Some, for example, concentrate on how to boost self image, build better marriages, or increase “success.” Others lash out against all ideas “liberal” and those who advocate them. Some find applause by pounding away on a doctrine or two they know we already agree about.
Such a strategy will pack them in and make them happy. But when it comes to nutrition spiritual as well as physical the issue is more complicated than how much people are buying. The trick is to keep the flavor while improving the content, to seek the health of our audience as well as their patronage.
And our reason to pursue this is far more important than Crisco’s.