Today’s post comes from one of the winners of the Her.meneutics Summer Writing Contest, responding to the question, “What do you wish the local church knew?” Winning entries will appear on the site each Wednesday through Labor Day. –Kate

There’s an old Southern Baptist joke: A teacher told her students to bring in symbols of their faith for show and tell. Johnny is Catholic and shares a crucifix. Suzy is Jewish so she presents a Star of David. The teacher is confused, though, to find Bobby holding a casserole dish. “What religion are you, Bobby?” He replies, “Oh, I’m a Baptist!”

The joke gets repeated in sermons and online because we Protestants still love our covered-dish meals. We host dinners on church grounds and potlucks for Christmas, birthdays, and funerals. In the South, we bring fried chicken and peach cobbler to the ailing and bereaved because we know that there is healing at the table.

Yet, the same table we gather around to comfort one another and to pray for the sick offers us the very foods that can make us sick and bring disease. As a diabetes specialist in Mississippi—where the disease is more prevalent than nearly anywhere else in the country—I note the connection between these heavy meals and the national rise in obesity and lifestyle-related illnesses. But for a long time, we’ve refused to bring this issue up in church, perhaps because overindulgence hits too close to home.

Like every good gift, our Enemy perverts the blessing of food. Eat just a little honey, says Proverbs 25:16, but “too much, and you will vomit.” Indeed, some of the earliest church traditions involve feasting, from agape meals to holy ...

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