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UNION PERSPECTIVE: Vaccinating our indulgences

JACKSON, Tenn.Aug. 21, 2006 – The scientific community is heralding recent developments toward a vaccine which has the potential to prevent obesity.

Researchers at the Scripps Research Institute in California injected rats with a synthetic vaccine that affects ghrelin, a hormone assisting in the regulation of appetite, metabolism and weight. The body’s ghrelin levels typically rise prior to mealtime and result in decreased calorie burning and fat breakdown, thereby promoting weight gain and fat storage. Scientists are happy that their newly created vaccine against the ghrelin “hunger hormone” seems to allow rodents to “live the dream of eating what they wanted without packing on body fat," Reuters reported.

Spokesperson Dr. Kim Janda of La Jolla, Calif., quickly told the media that more animal research and more data related to safety is indeed needed before an obesity vaccine is ever widely tested among humans. In the meantime, we humans will just have to sit in our recliners, munch on our Twinkies and guzzle our Big Gulps until science does for us what we refuse to do for ourselves.

Dr. Janda’s attention to safety in human experimentation is appreciated, but talk of an obesity vaccination should lead us to think about more significant issues -- namely the motivating impetus behind such research.

Obesity in America is a weighty problem. Approximately 30 percent of children and adolescents (ages 6 to 10) are overweight. Nearly 65 percent of adults are considered overweight or obese.

Even more discouraging is the fact that the problem is bigger among clergy. Several years ago, a survey by Duke University’s Pulpit and Pew, a pastoral leadership research initiative, revealed that 76 percent of clergy are overweight. In addition, in his book "High Calling High Anxiety," Guidestone Financial Resources President O.S. Hawkins cited statistics saying that 75 percent of Southern Baptist pastors eat fried foods at least four nights a week and that 40 percent snack two or more times a day on cookies, chips or candy.

Burgeoning beltlines among Baptists and other Americans mean that a potential obesity vaccine is welcome news among many. However, the disturbing aspect of this study is that scientists are not simply trying to prevent physical obesity. More significantly, they are attempting to create a product which will allow consumers to overindulge their desires without having to face natural consequences.

On the surface, such an idea seems appealing. Who wouldn’t like French Fries without the fat or ice cream minus the calories?

But what might be next as we continue medically manipulating our excessive desires -- anti-porn vaccines? Imagine the headline: “Look at all the pornography you want without starving your soul, wrecking your home, alienating your friends or emptying your bank account.”

As is the case with the potential obesity vaccine, humanity usually is more concerned with consequences than causes, and accepting responsibility for causes rather than focusing on consequences is difficult for anyone -- Christian or non-Christian.

Whether we like it or not, the Apostle Paul’s words are timelessly true for all: “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.” (Galatians 6:7)

By Todd E. Brady, Minister to the University


Media contact: Tim Ellsworth, news@uu.edu, 731-661-5215

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