by Rev. Jim Person
“You’d think more pastors would admonish their congregants to exercise over the pulpit, and call for a revival of a muscular Christianity. You’d at least think there would be an almost religion-like movement afoot to get everyone up and moving. You’d think so, but of course, there isn’t.”
The statement above comes from an article published on the website artofmanliness.com in May 2022. It is the penultimate statement in an article titled “Could Physical Activity Be the Solution to . . . (Almost) Everything?” The ultimate conclusion of the author is that “If we wish to turn around the world’s prospects for the future, that needs to change. Because if we aren’t teaching and preaching the centrality of physical activity from every rooftop and on every street corner, we haven’t yet begun to fight.”
The article names physical activity as helpful in the treatment of obesity, depression, anxiety, and COVID-19 as well as its ability to, “help alleviate garden-variety stress and boost resilience, prevent and reduce alcohol and drug abuse, and curb behavior problems and boost academic performance in schools.” It goes as far as to say, “And, given that research has shown that boredom leads to greater political extremism, it may not be a stretch to posit that if more people filled their time with jogging and calisthenics, we wouldn’t have as much polarization in this country.”
Those are some far-reaching ideas that might be expected from a website dedicated to a so-called “manly” lifestyle. I believe, though, there is a lot of truth in that article for everyone. The question is, does the message of physical health and well-being belong in the pulpit?
It may not be fodder for regular preaching, but I think it should become a part of the overall culture of the church. After all, in Matthew 12:30 Jesus says we are to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” This iteration of the second greatest commandment makes it clear that physical capability, or strength, is an important element in our love for God.
Several years ago, at St. Mark’s we installed a walking path and some outdoor exercise equipment. While I’ll admit that it is not overwhelming crowded, it is used regularly by a few neighbors and the basketball court is in almost constant use. Providing a place for physical exercise might lead to a connection for spiritual exercise when the need arises.
Churches, with the help of dedicated members, could provide healthy meals for members and community alike. We might forego donuts, cookies, and sugary drinks and instead enjoy whole grain snacks, fresh vegetables, and water, low-sugar teas, and other drinks. Of course, we’d cite the studies that say our beloved coffee is good for us, black, that is.
I believe physical activity just might be the solution to . . . (almost) everything, and I believe that if we are sincere about making a difference for the whole person, and perhaps even the whole world, it should become a greater part of our church culture. Loving our neighbors as ourselves means taking the best care we can of both them and us, heart, soul, mind, and strength.