Friday, August 3, 2007


Lee Bueno-Aguer is not a nutritionist. Strike. She has been a television evangelist. Strike. She has been a soloist for Benny Hinn. Strike.

However, I have been trying lately to appreciate those with something to say who have personal experience but who do not have formal education in the area on which they write. In that spirit of magnanimity, I read FAST YOUR WAY TO HEALTH. So I will discuss briefly what may be seen by many as a flaky, fringe, unnecessary activity.

Fasting was certainly done habitually throughout history, and for many spiritual reasons: for repentance, for prayer, for deeper communion with God. Jesus certainly took it for granted that his disciples fasted:

"And whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you."
                 -Matthew 6:16-18

It's a "whenever," not an "if". Fasting also gets plenty of play in Acts and the Pauline epistles. Additionally, many great figures in the church wrote expounding the merits of fasting: Augustine, Luther, Calvin, Wesley, etc.

Bueno-Aguer fixates on Mark 9:29, and it becomes her central verse for the spiritual power of fasting: "[Jesus] said to them, 'This kind (of demon) can come out only through prayer {and fasting}.'" The "and fasting" here is one of those lovely bits that is in some ancient manuscripts, but not all of them, and not in the predominant ones. I am in no way suggesting that this is not valid as scripture, because there is an abundance of corroboration elsewhere, but as a scholar I am beholden to point it out.

It is interesting to me that fasting is utterly neglected in the modern church. When are fasts done? When are fasts discussed? The 30 Hour Famine is the only thing that leaps to mind, and that's such a short time it hardly captures the spirit. A good place to start, perhaps, but we need to move well beyond that.

I myself have found fasting (I refer to my own experiences: at least 72 hours on water only) to be beneficial. It is helpful for self-mastery, for strengthening the will and increasing self-discipline. It also helps to put one in mind of those on earth who deal with hunger regularly, and not by choice.

Most interesting in this book is a claim I had not previously heard: that fasting can alleviate and even cure colds, as well as chronic, incurable, and even terminal diseases. Logically, it makes sense: the body spends a great deal of energy on almost constant digestion. When the digestive system is temporarily shut down, the body uses this energy for healing and to rid itself of accumulated toxins. Bueno-Aguer experienced this. Additionally, the book contains a large number of testimonials. This book does not have the scientific evidence to support these claims, but I am certainly open to these ideas.

FAST YOUR WAY TO HEALTH does a pretty fair job of debunking people's lame excuses not to fast. It also contains ways to go about fasting, suggestions for how to do it, and how to come off it and what one should ideally eat afterward.

In conclusion, Americans are absolute gluttons. The first time I really realized that was when I went to India. The second time was the first time I did a three-day fast. We eat too much, too often, and we eat absolute garbage. And we do not fast because we are mentally weak.

I have had enough of mental weakness. I am sick of it.

     For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For this reason the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God's law—indeed it cannot, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. But you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.
     But if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you.
     So then, brothers and sisters, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh— for if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, 'Abba! Father!' it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ—if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.
                -Romans 8:5-17

Christians, I think, need to rediscover fasting for a lot of reasons. To me, fasting is like the Levitical dietary law, which science has revealed is nutritionally quite strong. Is it not logical for God to ordain an activity that is both spiritually and physically beneficial?