What would Jesus eat?

Poor Jesus Christ. What with coming up with one-liners for T-shirts and bumper stickers and approving the cars that we drive — let alone running the White House for the next four years — He must be almost as busy as Oprah.

According to The New York Times, His latest brand extensions include the Riverview Community Bank in Minnesota, a “Christian financial institution” whose deposits have grown from $5-million (U.S.) to more than $75-million in the past 18 months, and the chain of Curves fitness centres (based in Waco, Tex.), which Entrepreneur magazine calls the “fastest growing franchise in the world” (and whose born-again founder Gary Heavin donates 10 per cent of profits to Operation Save America, a radical-right anti-abortion group). Said Heavin in an interview with Today’s Christian: “I couldn’t dream this big . . . but I serve a God who is.”

No kidding; the big guy hasn’t been so front-and-centre since Tammy Faye Bakker sobbed His name on The PTL Club. And with the Maker’s Diet the front-runner in a crop of new and wildly popular Bible-based weight-loss plans (I had to find a Chapters on the city limits to score a copy), even J. Lo’s publicist would probably agree that He is risking overexposure.

But really, what was there left for the son of God to do but get into the health and wellness biz?

Jordan S. Rubin, the author of The Maker’s Diet, calls it a “40-day health ‘experience’ that will change your life forever.” A self-described “biblical health coach,” and a messianic Jew, Rubin created the diet during his efforts to overcome chronic Crohn’s disease, which had wasted him at 19 into an emaciated 111-pound skeleton. According to Rubin, his “healing and restoration” began when he discovered “the diet and health secrets of the world’s greatest Physician.”

And what did the Doctor order? Surprise, surprise: Drawing from specific passages of Leviticus and Deuteronomy, the Maker’s Diet turns out to be kosher, sprinkled with New Age-y preferences for “living” and unprocessed foods. That means no pork (“unclean,” Lev. 11:7-8), no shellfish (same, Lev. 11:9-10) and no animals that “chew the cud” but do not have cloven or split hooves (yup — horses and camels are dirty, Lev. 11:4). Sure, extremely observant Jews who subsist on boiled flunken and pray all day aren’t the most vigorous looking specimens in the modern world but, hey, these are His commandments. It’s all about what Jesus would eat.

In his book (the cover of which is a close-up of Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel depiction of Adam’s outstretched hand meeting the hand of God), Rubin also offers some commandments. We shall eat cheeses and yogurt from raw, fermented milk, rather than the common pasteurized variety. Our meats shall be organic, our eggs shall be free-range and our fish shall be harvested from wild sources. We shall cook our foods in coconut oil (I seem to recall a lot of olive groves in the Bible, but whatever), and abstain from alcohol (no matter that there was quite a bit of grape talk in the land of Canaan). We shall cleanse daily according to the practices of Clenzology tm, using health and beauty products from Rubin’s on-line website http://www.gardenoflifeusa.com. And we shall buy our Maker’s Diet approved products, including a cereal called Ezekiel 4:9, with the biblical citation quoted in full on its package, available at the now slightly suspect Whole Foods.

“Do you have faith in your diet?” Rubin and his clean-living cohorts, who look like the advisory board of a small liberal-arts college rather than members of a proselytizing cult, ask on the Maker’s website. With obesity and diabetes epidemic in North America, and food paranoia ever-more hysterical, it is clear that a growing number of us do not.

By appealing to our food fear with his bestselling diet book and $40-million-plus biblically inspired nutritional supplements business, however, Rubin and his ilk aim not only to slim us down and make vats of money but, in his words, to “change the way America eats and lives.” Like George W. Bush in his campaign speeches, Rubin is speaking in code to the 42 per cent of Americans who, according to a recent Gallup poll, consider themselves born-again.

They should be careful about their name-dropping, however.

As the writer Stephen Prothero observes in his book American Jesus: How the Son of God Became a National Icon, “Jesus has no doubt transformed the nation, but the nation has also transformed him.” The advent of such hip evangelism as Christian workouts and the Maker’s Diet has gone a long way to making faith more palatable to mainstream soccer moms. But the repackaging of Jesus as the go-to guy of the moment has left Him little more than a genie in a bottle that you rub with praise to get what you want, whether it’s a trimmer waistline, 274 electoral college votes or a bestselling diet book.

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The Globe and Mail, Canada
Nov. 20, 2004
Karen von Hahn

Religion News Blog posted this on Saturday November 20, 2004.
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