Does God Want You To Be Thin?

A Bible passage inspired Pastor Rick Warren's congregation to lose a collective 260,000 pounds. How faith can fight obesity

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Bryce Duffy for TIME

Pastor Power, Warren has lost 55 lb. so far, with 35 to go.

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And while the idea that your body is on loan can be a nice motivator if you want to lose weight, it can be just as powerful a tool to regulate — and proscribe — sexual behavior. "You don't have the right to just share your body with anyone!" says one piece of Daniel Plan material that addresses sexuality. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Warren has earned the wrath of the gay community for his opposition to same-sex marriage, though he has not belabored the issue.

All the same, it would be more than a little disingenuous for outsiders to profess themselves shocked, shocked that an evangelical church believes in heaven, hell and a literal interpretation of the Bible and has a rule or two about human sexuality. You can hardly walk into a vegan restaurant and then get mad when you can't order a burger.

More important, unlike evangelical teachings as a whole, the Daniel Plan can easily be taken cafeteria-style. Embrace what it has to say about the power of community and the responsibility of caring for the only body you'll ever have, fold in some of your own religion if you choose, and leave the rest. Hyman, who likes to laugh about how a Jewish doctor from New York wound up partnering with Warren, thinks about this a lot. "Community-based models work," he says. "I go on The 700 Club, and people ask me why I appear with Pat Robertson. But we all get sick, regardless of religion. We have bodies, we care about our children and about creating a healthier world."

That's not a bad goal — and harnessing the power, commitment and organizational skills of the faith-based community is not a bad way to get there. It's not the only way, but no one — not even Warren — says it has to be. You may or may not believe in heaven, but good health, long life and the fellowship of a community do feel like a little slice of it.

The original version of this story included some errors. Saddleback members describe baptism not as a 'sacrament' but as a 'rite.' One of several beta tests for the PEACE Plan took place in Rwanda in 2005, not 2008 as originally stated. There are just three hospitals in one Rwandan province, not in the entire country. And there were 859 churches, not 3,000.

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