Month: September 2010

Civil suit likely over arrest, detainment involving Texan, others at Arab festival

DEARBORN, Mich.?A civil lawsuit is likely on behalf of four people?including two Southern Baptists, one from Texas?who were arrested and later acquitted on charges of “breaching the peace” at an Arab festival in Dearborn, Mich.

Attorney Robert Muise of the Thomas More Law Center in Ann Arbor, Mich., said the arrest and detainment of four self-described Christian missionaries on June 18 at Dearborn’s annual International Arab Festival were a clear infringement of their First and Fourth Amendment rights and a violation of the Equal Protection clause of the 14th Amendment.

A Dearborn jury on Sept. 24 acquitted all four defendants?Nabeel Qureshi, David Wood, Negeen Mayel, and Paul Rezkalla. Mayel, who had an additional charge of failure to obey a police officer, was convicted of that charge. Muise said her case would be appealed and her conviction likely overturned.

Muise argued the arresting officer had no case for approaching the petite, 18-year-old Mayel, a Southern Baptist living in Texas, much less arresting her. Mayel and Qureshi, a former Southern Baptist youth pastor, are former Muslims. The four were working with a ministry founded by Qureshi and Wood, a former atheist, called Acts 17 Apologetics. The four were videotaping a dialogue between Qureshi and a group of young men about the claims of Christianity when Dearborn police arrested Qureshi (watch video at

“We feel honesty is better than disguised language,” according to a statement on the Acts 17 Apologetics blog at describing their evangelism methods.

Muise, senior trial counsel for the Thomas More Law Center, which specializes in defending religious liberty and civil rights, said his work with another case involving the Dearborn Arab festival has given him insight into what he calls overbearing event regulations established by Dearborn that stifle free speech, especially the Christian witness.

Dearborn, a Detroit suburb, is known as a center of Islamic culture in America.

As in years past, the festival included other Christian groups who were granted booths at the event, including Josh McDowell’s ministry. None reported problems with police, but those ministries apparently did not venture outside their booths to evangelize.

The Acts 17 group had no such booth, but they say their right to free speech in a public place was violated by their arrest and detainment.

Muise said that between 2004-2008, evangelical groups testified that the atmosphere at the festival “was very welcoming.” They were free to share the gospel and hand out literature on the sidewalks of the festival, which encompasses public buildings on several city blocks.

“They never had a problem. Then there was a regime change,” he said.

Dearborn Mayor Jack O’Reilly Jr. hired the city’s first Arab American police chief, Ronald Haddad, in 2008. Another Dearborn police officer was put in charge of security oversight for the festival.

Muise said Haddad, with the sergeant in charge of security and a community liaison for the festival, developed the highly restrictive criteria for the festival, even creating a “buffer zone” reached as far as five blocks from the festival entrance. The sidewalks are no longer considered public domain by festival guidelines.

The new guidelines stymied the dissemination of Christian material in or near the festival, Muise maintains. Organizers argue that all festival participants are allowed to work from a booth within the festival, and five Christian organizations chose to do so but the defendants chose not to.

Qureshi and Wood are familiar with the festival and its regulations. They were among four people last year?including Mary Jo Sharp, a member of Nassau Bay Baptist Church in suburban Houston and a frequent speaker at events sponsored by the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention?who were escorted out of the festival by police after Qureshi tried to engage a booth attendant in a videotaped dialogue about Islam.

By Sharp’s accounts, security guards aggressively tried to stop Sharp and another camera operator from filming and forced them to leave the festival grounds along with Wood and Qureshi. The security personnel allegedly slapped at the cameras and Qureshi said he and Wood were kicked and tripped as they backed away from the growing crowd of security workers and festival attendants.

Sharp did not return to the festival this year. After discussing it with her husband, she said they agreed it would be unwise. But Sharp was in Dearborn during the festival, hosting a live radio show for the Aramaic Broadcasting Network.

Sharp was sequestered during the Sept. 19-24 trial as a potential character witness for the defendants but was not called.

Mayel told the TEXAN in an e-mail: “The prosecutor painted us out to be racist against Muslims when the truth is two of us are ex-Muslims and we would have never gone to the Arab Festival had it not been for our deep love for Muslims.”

What their cameras recorded on June 18 was a series of rapid-fire questions for Qureshi from eight to 10 young men at the festival. Qureshi is seen taking questions from the inquisitive group, including one about when Jesus was first considered God. A bystander tells Qureshi Jesus wasn’t declared divine until 325 A.D., and Qureshi is heard responding that within the decade after the crucifixion Jesus is clearly regarded as divine. Qureshi is also heard telling the young men that Jesus has changed his life and that God loved them enough to send his son to die for them.

The tone of the conversation is tense but not threatening, contrary to the testimony of one of the arresting officers. Finally, the camera turns toward a Dearborn Police Officer who approaches Qureshi from behind and asks him to place his hands behind his back.

At this point Wood, Qureshi, and Rezkalla were arrested and charged with breach of peace. Mayel, who had been videotaping the encounter from a distance, was arrested prior to her cohorts. Muise said the arresting officer reported Qureshi had drawn “a riotous crowd of 50-60 people and was shouting.”

“They didn’t like the video and the video exonerated [my clients],” he said.

Muise argued that what occurred in Dearborn is the application of Islamic Shariah law by fiat. The fact that witnessing for Christ to Muslims in America is a criminal offense is disturbing, he said.

One of the first protective measures of First Amendment rights, Muise said, is the defense against “The Heckler’s Veto.” A speaker cannot be silenced by authorities for fear of how the audience will react to his words, Muise said.

In an open letter posted on the City of Dearborn website, the mayor said Acts 17 Apologetics came with the intention of being arrested in order to “inflame the passions of viewers who would be taken in by their misrepresentation of what was really going on.”

“People who would promote hatred and lies to get others to act in ways that are contrary to what America stands for are the real enemy for all lovers of our country,” O’Reilly continued. “History is full of horrific events that were manufactured by lies to get good people to act purely emotionally to achieve the deceivers’ ends.”

O’Reilly accused the group in a Detroit Free Press article of using the event as a tactic to raise money for their ministry.
Muise said he is looking at all documentation to build his case for a civil suit against the city of Dearborn.

“The bottom line in the jury’s not guilty verdict: the Constitution, not Shariah law, still prevails in Dearborn, Michigan,” wrote Richard Thompson, the Thomas More Law Center’s president and chief counsel.
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IMB’s trustees pray for next president, a balanced budget and 51 new missionaries

TAMPA, Fla.?Reminding trustees that over 5,000 missionaries, the entire trustee board, and untold numbers of Southern Baptists are praying for the next president of the International Mission Board, trustee chairman Jimmy Pritchard announced the search committee is still looking for “God’s man” to fill the agency’s top position.

Meeting Sept. 14-15 in Tampa just short of the first anniversary of the Jacksonville board meeting where then IMB president Jerry Rankin announced plans to retire after 17 years, trustees expressed concern over balancing the budget, shared information about human needs ministries, and presented 51 new missionaries.

Pritchard, who also heads the 15-member presidential search committee, pledged that when a nominee is presented to the board “we’re going to have full confidence that we’re presenting God’s man.”

“This is the most crucial position that a man can hold on the face of the planet,” Pritchard said. “And because of that [choosing a new president] shouldn’t be easy.”

Pritchard, pastor of First Baptist Church in Forney, Texas, thanked trustees for their patience and prayers as the search committee continues its work.

“We’re working together. We have one purpose and that is to find God’s man,” Pritchard said. “Are we there yet? No. But by God’s grace, we’re going to get there.”

Richard Powell, an IMB trustee and pastor of McGregor Baptist Church in Fort Myers, Fla., who is on the search committee, told the Florida Baptist Witness after the meeting he believes the committee has labored to find the “right man” to serve?although he would like for the process to be “further along the road” than it is.

“But it’s a journey and it’s not without its bumps and bruises; its not without its tough times and tears, its not without its arm wrestlings and makeup hugs and laughter,” Powell said. “But it’s a journey.? Nobody wants to find a president more than the people who are on the search committee.”

Echoing Pritchard’s statements about the importance of the “right man” for the position, Powell said “if we really are one of God’s last great hopes to win the world, this is the man who is the leader of our best mission organization as we attempt to be effective at being God’s last best hope to win the world to Christ.”

Powell said as far as the missional strategy of winning the world to Christ, a new president will be one “who needs to galvanize us; he needs to motivate us; he needs to lead us to be Great Commission believers.”

“In that sense, this may be, in my mind, the most important positional appointment that we will make in the history of Southern Baptists,” Powell said, “because we are at a crossroads as a convention, and in my perspective we are at a crossroads as a nation to see if we can to be a nation that’s influenced by Christians. One of the things that makes us influential as Southern Baptists is our priority of winning people to Christ.”

David Uth, an IMB trustee and pastor of First Baptist Church in Orlando, Fla., told the Florida paper, “these are defining days” in Southern Baptist life as the board searches for a new leader. Noting an “incredible movement in the world” while the board does its work, Uth said he wishes all of Florida’s churches could hear the reports about the work throughout the nations.

“God is drawing people from every tribe, from every nation, from every tongue,” Uth said. “There’s an incredible movement in the world towards the gospel.”

Uth said the next president of the IMB needs to be “a man who has vision; a man who has a passion, and can rally us all to really accomplish the Great Commission.” Referencing a brief time of prayer trustees had for members of the search committee during the meeting, Uth said he doesn’t believe they will make a mistake.

“I believe they’re waiting on the Lord and the Lord will reveal and speak to them and when he does, the timing will be just right,” Uth said. “It will be the right person.

“This is the most important position in Southern Baptist life,” Uth continued. “This is the person that will help us reach the nations and take the gospel, even to those 6,400 unreached people groups. So we’ve got to have the right person.”
In other business, trustees received a draft of the IMB’s 2011 budget, which financial chief David Steverson said leadership is still working on to balance.

“You will recall that we used $7.5 million from our contingency reserve to balance the 2010 budget. We simply cannot afford to do that again,” Steverson said. He expressed gratefulness for an increase in the 2009 Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, but lamented declines in both investment revenue and Cooperative Program giving, the latter of which is down at least 4 percent this year.

Pritchard said he believes the problem isn’t financial, but spiritual.

“How sad it is when we have people who want to go but we can’t afford to send them,” Pritchard said. “The issue is not that we [Southern Baptists] can’t afford it, but that we just don’t want to foot the bill. What will solve our problem is a good dose of spiritual awakening in our churches.”

Ray Jones, a trustee from Alabama, shared a report about human needs ministries. He said this effort provides “opportunities to tell the world about Jesus Christ.” Briefly describing work in Haiti and in Pakistan, Jones said in Haiti the IMB has partnered with groups including Florida Baptist Disaster Relief to provide nearly $2 million in aid to the island nation with $5 million more pledged. In Pakistan, Jones said over 80,000 people received some sort of assistance.

Bryant Wright, Southern Baptist Convention president and pastor of Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in Marietta, Ga., spoke to trustees about the rise and fall of history’s great empires?from the Egyptians to the United States?comparing their relatively short-lived earthly reign with the eternity that is the kingdom of God.

“What is the kingdom of God? … It is wherever Jesus reigns. If Christ reigns in your life, the kingdom of God is there. If Christ reigns in your family, the kingdom of God is there,” Wright said.

“I hope Southern Baptists are going to return to Christ as their first love,” Wright continued. “The fact is that the kingdom of God is not going to come here on earth ? until the church has completed its mission.”

Trustees concluded the Tampa meeting with the appointment of 51 new long-term missionaries Wednesday evening at Bell Shoals Baptist Church in Brandon. The appointments bring the number of IMB missionaries serving around the world to 5,201.
Rankin stepped down July 31. IMB trustees appointed executive vice president Clyde Meador interim president when Rankin retired.

The next trustee meeting is Nov. 9-10 in Greensboro, N.C. Calvary Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, N.C., will host a missionary appointment service the evening of Nov. 10 in conjunction with the meeting.

?Reporting by the Florida Baptist Witness and the International Mission Board

Reach Texas’ presents exciting prospects

The “Faces & Places: Reach Texas 2010-2011” missions emphasis has me excited. We have an unprecedented opportunity to present the gospel in our state. Now is the time we must work together to accomplish the Great Commission. Let me mention a couple of ways your church can have a significant impact by going and giving.

First on my heart is Laredo. June and I went to Laredo earlier this year. We participated in a prayer walk, door-to-door visiting and a block party. It was our joy to see a number of people accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Recently, I returned to Laredo to visit with a leading pastor, George Levant, and SBTC-NAMB church planting missionary Chuy Avila. Chuy has been used of God to win many people to Jesus in Laredo over the last 12 months. Bible studies are being held in various places. New churches are poised to be launched. It is because you and others like you have invested in his efforts through the Cooperative Program and the Reach Texas Offering (see Reach Texas story, page 1).

God loves Laredo. This wonderful city on the border needs our love. Over a quarter of a million people and less than a thousand Baptists in worship on any given Sunday tell the story of the great need for the gospel. The Reach Texas Offering will help touch lives in Laredo. You can join in the effort by praying and going. Plan a youth mission trip next summer. Do a Vacation Bible School, neighborhood block parties or some other outreach effort. You can be a part of a new church being birthed. Let us know how we can help connect you with this incredible open door of serving Jesus.

While I was in the Borderland area I stopped by First Baptist Church of Rio Grande City. Pastor Bob Alderman and the faithful church have been consistently witnessing in the area. They host groups from Texas and other states that come to work along the border. My visit was during a time of clean up from a recent tropical storm that produced flooding. Disaster Relief workers were gathered at the church building. SBTC has a premier Disaster Relief ministry. Jim Richardson has provided excellent leadership. When people are in need, SBTC DR is equipped and trained to help them through the crisis. Your Reach Texas Offering supplies funds for the SBTC DR operation. You can also be trained as a DR worker. Giving and going is the Jesus model.

These are just two of the ways your church can be involved in reaching Texas with the love of Jesus. Your participation is vital. Join me in giving to the Reach Texas Offering. Join me in going to the mission field here in Texas. Join me in Laredo. I am going back. Join me in sharing the Good News of Jesus with precious people who don’t know Him. Will you join me?

The Reach Texas material is available at

What’s the sin in bad habits?

As a fellow struggler, I’ve approached this issue’s writing assignment with caution. I’m too large and inactive, and I sometimes let worry and stress rob me, and those around me, of joy. So how do I write about the subject of this issue’s articles without being a hypocritical nag? After a couple of false starts I think I’ve found an approach that addresses the broad subject and convicts even those who don’t yet struggle with their own health.

Some things we call bad habits are defiant behaviors we indulge so often that they become a normal part of our lives. Others are things that just happen if we aren’t diligent. They are entropic. I’m not making excuses for either class of sin but do believe that things like slander, violence, adultery, and theft aren’t reasonably called “bad habits.” Much of what comes under the category of stress, bad health decisions, and inactivity?the stuff of this issue’s special report?”just happens” through lack of remedial action. For purposes of this column, that’s my definition of bad habits.

The Bible does say a few things about how we care for our bodies. We are not reading carefully if we use 1 Timothy 4:8 to excuse a sedentary lifestyle. Paul says that physical exercise or discipline is of a little profit, not that it is of no profit, or a sin. Daniel’s example of not eating the king’s rich food in Babylon was in the interest of devotion to God but also better health. Nowhere does the Bible speak kindly of gluttons either. So this matter is not inconsequential. We’ve all had that moment of knowing that we would be better off to abstain from something than to follow our appetites.

Appetite is a broad term. A beloved college professor told us that he (in his 70s) would set his alarm just a little earlier than he needed to wake up. He maintained that one mark of an educated person was the ability to deny the desires of the body. I took him to mean “disciplined” or “mature” when he said “educated.” He claimed it set the course for the whole day. My prof had a remarkable list of achievements already behind him. We were impressed to hear him say that he still struggled to discipline his flesh.

This is the idea that I think takes in the whole of our health-related issues?discipline or self-control. This is what the King James calls temperance or moderation. The idea also goes beyond the scope of mental/physical health but it definitely applies to those things.

Literally, the two words used in the New Testament and translated “self-control,” “moderation,” or “temperance” refer to exercising power or being of a healthy mind. To lack self-control, then, is to be weak or unwell in mind. We don’t normally think of our Bluebell ice cream addiction in such strong terms, do we? The sin of bad habits is to despise self-control when God has called it a virtue?even a requirement for some kinds of service.

In Acts 24, as Paul is preaching to Felix at Caesarea, we’re told in verse 25 that when Paul spoke of “righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to come” that Felix became frightened and ended the interview. I’ve always thought that it was a fine moment of authenticity that the story of Jesus, which I assume began Paul’s message, did not offend the Romans so much as the personal and behavioral implications for those who follow?or don’t follow?Jesus.

And of course the lascivious excesses of wealthy Romans are legendary. How apt that this culture would be famous for designating a place where people could regurgitate their food to make room for another round of delicious delicacies. Self-control was for those who did not have the resources to live a life of excess. A man would have to change his friends or risk giving offense if he attended social events without indulging to excess. As today, those people did not enjoy the company of monastics or wet blankets. The idea that God would judge unrighteous and intemperate behavior was unpleasant for the governor to consider. If God changed those things, it would change everything. The gospel was, at this point, too costly for Felix.

Excess is not merely a matter of food and drink. Ambition can drive us to excess. Because of their accomplishments, our society admires those who live frantic and overblown lives. The fact that many of these admired people, some of them religious figures, have lost their families, had notorious moral failures, and may require mood stabilizing drugs to continue their pace is of less importance to us than their resumes. Even we in religious vocations have been known to tolerate the wildest of inappropriate behavior because a man “built a great church” or is a “great communicator.” When they fall by the wayside like a soldier with heatstroke, marching by, we cluck our tongues and hope our own lack of self-control never comes home to roost.

We’re vulnerable when we decide that “we” will build something great for God. Self-control falls aside when let accomplishments attributed to others change our priorities because of fear or jealousy. When our churches decline in attendance, evangelism, or giving, it is excess to think that working more hours or pleading more loudly will turn things around. Where does the pressure in your life come from? What robs you of peace and joy? I’d venture to say that it is not the call of God that disturbs your sleep or saps your strength. In my life it is usually things that I’ve let stand in for the call of God.

We also know people, some of them quite accomplished, who exude peace. I don’t mean the simple lack of conflict. Some of them are warriors. I mean serenity that makes us wonder why our lives can’t be as idyllic as theirs. We might ask, “Why does God spare them the trials that I face?” He doesn’t. Nearly all of these people have faced harsh trials and yet come through without being scattered by the storm. It is doable. We can follow God even into great and celebrated ministries without losing our minds, our health, or our family to misplaced priorities.

There is another aspect of self-control we must consider. In Titus, Paul writes in chapter one, verses seven through nine that “an overseer must be ? self-controlled ? so that he will be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict.” In chapter two, the same Greek word is rendered “temperate” in my New American Standard in referring to the behavior of older men. While no reason is given for older men to be temperate, the counsel for older women has to do with their role as encouragers to younger women. We might infer that older men ought to be fit examples for their younger brothers. In Titus the point of self-control is effectiveness in the ministry and the roles God has given us within the body of Christ.

Think about the evident ways an intemperate life is displayed in our lives. Maybe too much weight, bags under our eyes, poor endurance, emotional rawness, a harried and messy life style. Do those things affect our ability to exhort in sound doctrine, answer critics, and encourage our brethren? I think so. To some degree, we wear our testimonies on our faces, in our schedules, and around our waists. Not to put too fine a point on this; God has used big guys and stressed out people mightily on many occasions. But has he found us more usable because we are big or overwhelmed? Do some of us die young or are we too often sick or distracted because of “bad habits?” This is no doubt true.

Think of the many things we do under the category of “contextualization.” Missionaries learn the local language and adopt the native dress to some degree. We also do that in our own culture. Jesus didn’t wear a coat and tie, or a Hawaiian shirt. He dressed like the people of his time and place. We do too. Personal taste aside, we dress the

Believers not immune to mental, emotional ailments

“Psychiatrist? No way. I was not nuts. (Just depressed),” said Liz Traylor in recalling a time in her life when she had done all she knew to do to fight off depression, but was losing ground in her battle.

Traylor, a former Texan and wife of Pastor Ted Traylor of Olive Baptist Church in Pensacola, Fla., openly shares her story with ministry wives and other women to help them understand there is no shame in seeking help for mental or emotional struggles.

Traylor first experienced an episode with what she describes as burnout in the early 1990s, after years of trying to be the “best pastor’s wife God ever created.” To recover from that, Traylor sought help from a Christian counselor, and for two weeks backed out of all of her church duties and activities to rest.

“It was a blow to my self-righteousness, but the church got along just fine without me. A counselor said I accomplished six months of counseling in six weeks.”

For 14 years Traylor maintained a more balanced lifestyle, including making time with God each day her priority. But in 2004, a string of stressful events began battering away at Traylor’s fortitude, “none of my own making,” she said. Traylor had endured back surgery and underwent physical therapy, their children were leaving home and making life-altering decisions, Hurricane Ivan hit Pensacola, their daughter’s roof was ripped off and she had to move home, several health crises occurred with family members, and relationships among some extended family members were tense.

Chronic fatigue, an inability to think or decide, four near-fainting spells and rapid weight loss sent Traylor to the medical doctors for blood work, an EKG, and an MRI, none of which provided answers.

Weeping in desperation in another doctor’s office, the doctor asked her, “Are you depressed?”

“No,” she replied. But then she remembered having that day asking God for an answer to her woes. She asked her doctor, “How would I know?”

The doctor listed nine signs of depression and told her that if even three were true for her for a continuous amount of time, she might be suffering depression. Of the nine signs, Traylor had seven of them: inability to concentrate, disinterest in activities, a change in appetite or weight, restlessness, feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness or excessive guilt, and a change in sleep patterns.

The only two she didn’t have were low self-esteem and thoughts of death or suicide.

“The doctor said this had nothing to do with my strength or my spiritual life. This was a chemical imbalance caused by intense, prolonged stress. Then he asked if I would consider medication. “Well, yes! This was not normal. Fix me!” she recounted.

Though reason would say that Christians should be immune to many kinds of mental or emotional illness, David Henderson, the Hope for the Heart Chair of the Criswell College counseling department, believes it is possible for anyone in the ministry to develop any kind of mental illness.

“Our mind and brain are subject to trauma just like the rest of our bodies. From a spiritual standpoint, we are susceptible to the effects of sin?not just our own, but the sin of others also,” he explained.

As an example, Henderson said, “For pastors, there is a tendency to have very driven, type ‘A’ personalities, which is great because they are able to get a lot accomplished. But without a healthy balance, these same highly effective people can develop OCD [obsessive compulsive disorder], an overdeveloped, yet ineffective drive for perfection.”

Henderson knows of ministers who have developed a type of OCD called “scrupulosity,” which is an obsession with acts of spiritual discipline, such as praying “enough” or praying “correctly.” In other instances, he has seen missionaries return home with extreme psychotic disorders, brought on by the intensity of their work and various other traumatic events?”what we have classically called ‘a nervous breakdown.'”

Henderson described how to recognize the difference between a normal amount of stress and an unhealthy amount of stress. Stress, he said, happens when the body alerts an individual to the need for a response to something looming on the horizon. When the stress is reasonable, we are able to move to action.

“When it rises to unhealthy levels, it paralyzes us and we can’t respond to day to day issues,” Henderson explained.
He compared stress to weightlifting. In weightlifting, the muscle fibers experience microscopic tears. If the tears have time to heal between workouts, the muscle fibers become stronger. If however, the same muscle is worked every day without time to relax and heal, the weightlifting becomes harmful to the muscle. “I think stress, from the standpoint of the brain, can be viewed in the same way. We need to reboot and regroup to keep stress from consuming us,” Henderson said.

When evaluating an individual’s susceptibility to unhealthy stress levels, Henderson noted four P’s that counselors consider:

  • Predisposing factors that can “set us up” for mental illness, such as genetics, family history, traumatic upbringing, or substance abuse.
  • Precipitating factors such as life-changing or life-threatening events that block the ability to function normally.
  • Perpetuating factors such as how long trauma has been occurring. “Sometimes people can’t get a break. Stressful things happen again and again, and individuals do not have access to resources that can help provide relief,” Henderson noted.
  • The presence (or lack) of protective factors such as faith, a strong family, a supportive church, and avoiding destructive habits like drug or alcohol abuse.

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Review: ‘The Maker’s Diet’

I am not a doctor and I don’t play one on TV, but then again, neither is Jordan Rubin, author of “The Maker’s Diet,” one of the top 10 best-selling books in LifeWay Christian Store’s health section. Since I am not a physician, I will not claim to make a wholesale scientific and medical judgment on Rubin’s book. But as a reporter I can diagnose how something is said and how Rubin’s case for a healing and healthful lifestyle left me questioning the credibility of his claims and his credentials.

Rubin says he was cured of a life-threatening case of Crohn’s disease, as he outlines in the first chapter of his book. When he finally found healing and restored good health, he gave God the glory and sharing the results with others became his passion. But just as an antibiotic treatment will give healing to one individual and a rash to another, no single dietary program can be the answer to everyone’s health concerns.

Rubin uses a broad brush to tout the efficacy of his healing discoveries and with that same brush backhands doctors and conventional medicine using hyperbolic statements to, presumably, warn readers of the customary villains of poor health?pork, vaccinations, corn, hormone-laced milk, bottom feeders and more. Rubin even goes so far as to call commercially raised animal products “downright dangerous.”

His exaggerations border on the outrageous as he makes claims with no pretense of substantiation. Such examples include, but are not limited to:

“Though conventional medicine ‘declared war’ on cancer, heart disease, and other killer diseases, it is definitely losing these battles despite vast expenditures on research. Some might convincingly argue that conventional medicine?as it is currently practiced in the United States?is actually shooting itself (and us) in the foot,” and “Unless I’m forced at gunpoint, I will never knowingly take another vaccination,” and “fluoride is extremely poisonous?especially the salt-based form used in toothpaste and mouthwash.”

Rubin does nothing to bolster his argument by demonizing the use of these products?including calling chlorinated tap water “dangerous” for drinking and showering. He makes the case for his diet and lifestyle plan with sparsely footnoted claims, some of which are based on medical research that is 80-100 years old. He dips back to the same well of resources throughout the book, extolling the work of “renowned nutritional researcher?,” “renowned diabetes expert?,” “Eminent neuroimmunologist,” and other people well known to Rubin and, presumably, others in the alternative medicine field. But their renown outside such circles is questionable as are the credentials of at least one source.

Throughout one chapter Rubin cites the late Steven Byrnes, Ph.D., N.D. (degree in Naturopathic Medicine). Byrnes “operated an unaccredited degree granting institution under the name of Academy of Natural Therapies,” according to the state of Hawaii, which charged Byrnes in 2002 with operating the school in violation of Hawaii’s consumer protection laws. He was ordered to close the institution and pay restitution.

The name of the academy is mentioned elsewhere in Rubin’s “The Maker’s Diet”?on the jacket. Rubin’s Ph.D. in nutrition was earned from the unaccredited Academy of Natural Therapies, a school with no campus. A cursory Internet search found no such academy. The Peoples University of Americas School of Natural Medicine where Rubin earned his doctorate in naturopathic medicine was also nowhere to be found. What the Web search did reveal was several blogs and watchdog organizations declaring these institutions and, by association, Rubin’s degrees spurious.

The book is filled with claims of the healing power of the Maker’s Diet, surmising that the dietary and ceremonial laws God gave the Israelites thousands of years ago can restore and maintain the health of the modern man. But Rubin fails to address the elephant in the room?as followers of Christ we are not beholden to the law. There are two very specific declarations?one to Peter and another from Paul (Acts 10 and 1 Corinthians 10:23-11:1)?stating Christians can eat whatever God has declared clean within the bounds of courtesy for our brothers and sisters in Christ.

It is disappointing that a fellow believer who has a marvelous testimony of recovery would use the scare tactics of the secular media and poorly sourced assertions to make his point. And a Ph.D. after a person’s name carries the weight of years of post-graduate research, study, and a professor-guided dissertation and published work. To earn the moniker from an unaccredited school that cannot even be found on the Internet should warn the reader to get a second opinion.

Alternative medical approaches abounding, confounding

It’s a subject matter rife with passion, declarations of healing remedies, accusations of quackery, and, always, questions. How is a person, convicted of his need to take better care of himself, to negotiate the preponderance of information called forth with one simple Google quest for “alternative medicine?”

Just typing in the phrase alternative medicine pulled 37 million hits. The search was narrowed to a mere 12.5 million hits by putting in quotes the phrase “alternative medicine.”

Put on a pot of coffee. This could take a while.

Actually, make that decaf. At least that is what some proponents of alternative or “complementary” medicine would suggest. Avoid the stimulants (Try telling church folk to forego the coffee during Sunday School and fellowships. That will go over well).

But therein lies the problem. According to a study, Southern Baptists, as a whole, have not practiced enough self denial when it comes to indulgences of the culinary kind. In his book “Fat Land,” Greg Critser notes the study of Purdue University sociology professor Kenneth Ferraro in which the professor sought to determine whether there was a relationship between religion and obesity in America. Unfortunately, he found it in the pews of Southern Baptist churches.

Summarizing what he believed to be the crux of the matter, Critser wrote, “And so when it came to overeating, gluttony, and obesity, Christians, like everyone else in America, were in deep, deep denial.

Mike Wiechmann would probably avoid the “glutton” moniker as well in describing those who come to his Friendswood store for help and advice. Owner and proprietor of a natural supplements and organic grocery store and café, Wiechmann understands that most people come by their poor health honestly?they brought it on themselves. But others have it visited upon them by no fault of their own. And those who seek counsel for better health find a listening ear and earnest guidance, just as if confiding in a pastor.

A graduate of Criswell College and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Wiechmann, 55, spent years in the ministry, serving as pastor of several Texas churches until his failing health forced him to leave his last post at Great Hills Church in Austin. It was about 30 years ago when Wiechmann?a young pastor, husband, and father?began having symptoms of a digestive disorder. He admits he had not been taking care of himself?eating on the run and not running?the counterbalance of poor diet and lack of exercise began to take its toll.

Wiechmann initially ignored the symptoms, even as painful as they were. He finally relented to a colonoscopy exam by a gastroenterologist, fearing the worst?cancer. But the results came back negative. Relieved that he had no deadly disease, Wiechmann asked the doctor about his painful and chronic symptoms. The physician had no answers and told Wiechmann to be reexamined in a couple of years.

The lack of a definitive diagnosis and treatment left Wiechmann not only desperate for relief but disillusioned with the medical community in whom he had placed his trust for healing.

“Not all doctors are divine as I thought they were,” he said.

He realized he would have to take his health matters into his own hands. More searching turned up a diagnosis of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and, ultimately fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, and hypothyroidism, leading Wiechmann in search of treatment answers. It took six years of naturopathic health care?a holistic form of health care incorporating diet, exercise, supplemental nutrients, and notably void of conventional medications and treatments?until he regained his health.

Wiechmann’s story is not unlike that of others who have sought treatment outside of conventional medicine. Lack of an effective treatment, treatments with unacceptable side effects, or simply a desire to avoid traditional pharmaceuticals have directed alternative medicine newcomers and long-time advocates to health food and supplement stores and the counsel of people like Wiechmann.

The search for care unique to each individual can be overwhelming. Because the field of naturopathic care lies, by design, outside the realm of conventional medicine and Federal Drug Administration regulations, discerning the efficacy and safety of supplements and popular diets can leave a person wondering what treatments will truly help or lead to complications.

North Texas gastroenterologist David Gifford warned those who seek improved health via over-the-counter cure-alls should be wary of supplements and the claims made by their manufacturers. Whereas prescription drugs are highly regulated by the FDA, the contents of dietary supplements are not.

Gifford said, “Let the buyer beware. There are all sorts of claims by various sellers of the benefit of their products. Without independent studies and outcome measurements, how can we know?”, a privately held New York company that conducts independent evaluations of health and nutrition products, gives insight as to what, exactly, is in that bottle on the health food store shelf. For example, a report released in August showed 45 percent of the ginseng supplements tested “contained less ginseng than expected from their labels or were contaminated with lead and/or pesticides.”

“Consumers need to be wary of the quality of ginseng supplements,” said physician Tod Cooperman, president of, in a press release. The quality of ginseng products?an $83 million business in the U.S.?has come into question for the past 10 years, according to the report.

The company’s website lists scores of supplements that have fallen under FDA scrutiny. Consumers may access detailed reports through the company’s subscription services.

As self-serving as it sounds, physician Jeffrey Levin recommended individuals seek the counsel of their doctor when considering alternative treatments and diets. Levin is professor and chair of occupational health and science at the University of Texas Health Science Center, Tyler. He also chairs the Texas Medical Association’s Council on Science and Public Health.

The TMA does not have a policy statement addressing alternative and complementary health care but instead defers to the American Medical Association’s policy on the matter.

Although the point of alternative care is to seek counsel outside of traditional medicine, Levin said most doctors are open enough to discuss such treatments. And on the Mayo Clinic website a search for an illness or medical problem will give a variety of information including alternative treatments.

But a common complaint against physicians is a lack of in-depth knowledge of nutrition, diet and supplemental care. Levin acknowledged the slight.

“I think it’s valid to say our curriculum could do a better job of understanding the role of nutrition in health care,” he said.

Alternative or complementary care is defined, to a degree, by how much its proponents distance themselves from traditional medicine. Complementary care is, as its name implies, a combination of traditional and naturopathic treatment. The two complement each other. Alternative medicine seeks to find treatment and lifestyle changes for optimal health outside the realm of a physician’s prescription. The degree to which alternative medicine advocates distance themselves is where much of the confusion arises. Some proponents simply agree to disagree with conventional medicine, arguing that naturopathic care treats more than symptoms and is a holistic approach to overall well-being.

But others do not just campaign for alternatives but go so far as to demonize the current health care system, pharmaceuticals, and anything non-organic, arguing commercially mass-pro

Ministers urged to rest

NASHVILLE, Tenn.?Research indicates that members of the clergy now suffer from obesity, hypertension and depression at higher rates than most Americans, according to The New York Times.

Just in the past decade, the newspaper said, the clergy’s use of antidepressants has risen and their life expectancy has fallen. A simple solution, some say, is for ministers to take more time off.

“We had a pastor in our study group who hadn’t taken a vacation in 18 years,” Rae Jean Proeschold-Bell, an assistant professor of health research at Duke University, told The Times. “These people tend to be driven by a sense of duty to God to answer every call for help from anybody, and they are virtually called upon all the time, 24/7.”

Cell phones and social media have added new levels of stress, The Times noted, and soaring health care costs have prompted some denominations to launch wellness campaigns urging ministers to get some rest.

“Time away can bring renewal and help prevent burnout,” a 2006 directive from the United Methodist Church said. Other denominations have placed a special emphasis on the importance of “Sabbath days,” weekdays off in place of Sundays.

The Rabbinical Assembly, an international association of conservative rabbis, now recommends three or four months off every three or four years.

“There is a deep concern about stress,” Rabbi Joel Meyers, a past executive vice president of the assembly told The Times. “Rabbis today are expected to be the CEO of the congregation and the spiritual guide, and never be out of town if somebody dies. And reply instantly to every e-mail.”

A pastor in Queens, N.Y., admitted that being too busy Is an impediment to one’s relationship with God, and clergy health studies say ministers have boundary issues defined as being too easily overtaken by the urgency of other people’s needs, The Times said Aug. 1.

“Larger social trends, like the aging and shrinking of congregations, the dwindling availability of volunteers in the era of two-income households, and the likelihood that a male pastor’s wife has a career of her own also spur some ministers to push themselves past their limits,” The Times said.

A seven-year study by Duke University examined more than 1,700 Methodist ministers in North Carolina and found that compared with neighbors in their census tracts, the ministers reported significantly higher rates of arthritis, diabetes, high blood pressure and asthma. Obesity was 10 percent more prevalent in the clergy group, The Times said.

Texans see health & fitness as spiritual issue

William Rainey was overweight, came from a family with weight problems and enjoyed satisfying his cravings for food.

But then a colleague in ministry experienced significant professional and medical setbacks because he had ignored his health for too long. That’s when Rainey, executive pastor at Glen Meadows Baptist Church in San Angelo, realized that the same could happen to him unless he made significant lifestyle changes.

So he began a new emphasis on personal wellness and lost 30 pounds as a result.

His story of declining health is one repeated all too commonly among Southern Baptists, especially ministers. But fortunately, his story of renewed commitment to fitness is also one that is becoming increasingly common.

“My wife and I will go walking in the morning,” Rainey said. “In spare moments, when I’m at work and I need to refresh my brain, I’ll get up and I’ll walk around the building at a fast pace. We’ve got stairs in our education building, and I’ll go up and down those stairs to raise my heart rate a little bit.”

He also started paying closer attention to the quantity and types of food he ate.

“We began to eat a more healthy diet, a more balanced diet with the appropriate amount of fruit and vegetables and the right portion of meat,” he said, adding that he made a point to order smaller servings of food and not go back for seconds.

That discipline paid off as he dropped to 165 pounds over six months. Rainey said, however, he needs to lose more in order to be optimally healthy.

Still, he knows that weight loss is more than a physical challenge; it has deep spiritual significance as well, he said.

“Often there was the sin of gluttony,” he said of his old lifestyle. “Gluttony is an aspect of lust. It’s part of my lust of the flesh. And in the pursuit and satisfaction of that lust of the flesh I was eating things that weren’t good for me. But I ate them because my flesh desires them, because they were something that seemed to be good. And God began to convict me of my sin of gluttony.”

Two key avenues God used to convict Rainey were Scripture and going on mission trips. He noted that the Bible contains numerous passages about eating and said nations like Turkey, Mexico and China highlighted the extent to which many Americans abuse their wealth through indulgent living.

“It wasn’t that I just needed to lose weight, but that I needed to get on top of this aspect of lust?that lust for food or these cravings for Blue Bell ice cream at 11 o’clock at night, these types of things,” he said.

“It was more than a health issue. It was a spiritual issue with me. I don’t think that’s true of everyone, but definitely with me God made it a spiritual issue. And so I had to get on top of it.”

As a part of overcoming sinful cravings, Rainey employed the spiritual discipline of fasting. He said fasts remind him of the weakness of his flesh and how much he needs the Lord’s help to form godly eating habits. He also plans to join a local health club soon and put in place a network of accountability to ensure that he exercises.

“It’s not enough for me to lose weight and have portion control, but I need to maintain vitality and fitness through exercise, not deifying my body, just tuning it up,” he said.

Yet now that Rainey has become so health conscious, he faces a new challenge: Being too critical of others. While God calls all believers to be healthy, Rainey said he does not call them all to employ the same avenues of diet and exercise.
“Just like there’s no person against alcohol like a reformed alcoholic, there is no one who is more critical of being overindulgent than one who’s been convicted by God of gluttony,” he said. “So I’ve had to watch that in my own walk, that this conviction that I have that God has brought me to see?that I don’t use it as a platform to affect others that God has not convicted. ? For someone else, he might be working on their tongue. Or he might be working on their thought life.”

Rainey was not the only Baptist in Texas trying to be healthier at last summer’s Southern Baptist Convention meeting. Many visited GuideStone Financial Resources’ Wellness Fair booth in Orlando, where they underwent a mini-physical that measured blood pressure, weight and cholesterol among other things. Several told the TEXAN that they were attempting to make lifestyle changes for the better.

Jim Salles, pastor of West End Baptist Church in Beaumont, said he is concerned that being overweight robs him of joy in life.

“As I got older, I decided I wanted to feel better,” Salles said. “I lost probably a ton in my life of ugly fat. I’ve gone from 400 to 224. I’ve looked bad. I’ve not taken real good care of myself, but I’ve enjoyed what I do. But I want to enjoy it more in my remaining years. Whatever they may be, I want to have more fun.”

So recently he changed his eating habits and lost 17 pounds in five months.

Quincy Jones, a student at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, said he wants to maintain a healthy lifestyle in order to sustain his studies and ministry. He is especially conscious of his physical condition because his family has a history of heart disease and diabetes.

“Sometimes in the lifestyle of seminary and ministry, you kind of get on the go and you think you’re healthy because you feel OK,” Jones said. “But that doesn’t mean you’re OK.”

His wife, Rhonda, admitted that busyness often keeps her from paying attention to her health and expressed thankfulness for the opportunity to have a health assessment at the SBC.

“I don’t stop to take care of myself,” she said, “so I am glad my husband had me come and get a checkup because I do need to sometimes stop and take care of myself. So I’m so glad that GuideStone has offered this service for busy seminarians.”

For Stan Fike, pastor of Faith Baptist Church in Princeton, the report in Orlando by GuideStone President O.S. Hawkins served as an encouragement to think about his well being. When Hawkins told pastors to consider their physical fitness, it spurred Fike to visit the Wellness Fair.

“One of the reasons I came (to the Wellness Fair) is that I haven’t been watching it as much as I need to over the last few months,” Fike said. “? I probably need to (change my lifestyle) because I’ve got the underlying blood pressure.”
Though not a visitor to the Wellness Fair, Jim Sibley is another person with a story of self-discipline and weight loss. Director of the Pasche Institute for Jewish Studies at Criswell College in Dallas, Sibley realized more than a year ago that he weighed more than he ever had. So he joined a health club, went on a diet and soon found that he felt better.

“Diet, as important as it is, is not everything,” he said. “Exercise is tremendously important. And for me personally, although I could always eat more healthfully, my eating habits were not the major problem. The major problem was the lack of exercise.”

Sibley worries that many in the ministry may face a problem similar to his, and he urged them to get more physically active.

“The demands of a busy schedule” were the main obstacle to exercise, he said. “Directing the Institute of Jewish Studies here at Criswell College, teaching, editing a journal, working in a doctoral program?with all of these different responsibilities and more, I decided I didn’t have time to exercise.

“And yet what I came to see was that you don’t have time not to. It’s just a discipline that has to be a part of your life.”

Another Southern Baptist who has struggled with health and weight loss is Fox News Radio reporter and anchor Todd Starnes. He chronicled the experience in his recent book “They Popped My Hood and Found Gravy on the Dipstick,” which combines humor and sometimes apocry

Nominations planned at SBTC meetings

Several nominations have been announced ahead of the SBTC Bible Conference and Annual Meeting, scheduled Nov. 14-16 in Corpus Christi.

Bob Pearle, pastor of Birchman Baptist Church in Fort Worth, announced his intention to nominate pastor Luis Canchola of Cornerstone Church in McAllen as SBTC vice president.

“Seven years ago the SBTC partnered with Luis to plant Cornerstone in the growing city of McAllen. A group of 12 people met in his living room seeking God’s direction in the church plant. When the first service was launched 60 people were present. Today God has blessed and the church runs 400. Luis exemplifies the spirit of the SBTC in our desire to win Texas for Christ and plant strong, mission-minded churches. His wife, Michelle, and their four children work together to make Jesus known in that unreached section of South Texas.”

Other announced nominations include:

?Todd Keller, pastor of First Baptist Church, Merkel, nominating Mrs. Pat Anderson of Keeler Baptist Church in Borger as SBTC recording secretary for a second term.

Keller said: “Pat is the wife of retired pastor Dr. Paul Anderson. Along with being a loving and supportive pastor’s wife, Pat also taught school for 25 years. She served as a church secretary for eight years, and has been active in the church as director of everything from preschool to VBS to Sunday School. Her experience beyond the church has had her leading numerous VBS clinics and serving on the SBTC Church Ministries Committee?. Her care for God’s people and tireless efforts in supporting the work of the church have led her to devote her time and talents in Kingdom work. I know she will apply these same gifts and efforts to the position of recording secretary.”

?Nathan Lino, pastor of Northeast Houston Baptist Church in Humble, nominating Terry M. Turner, pastor of Mesquite Friendship Baptist Church in Mesquite, for SBTC Bible Conference president.

Lino commented: “Pastor Turner demonstrates the values of our SBTC pastors?his love for Christ is clearly on display in his life, he loves his sweet wife of 27 years, Nancy, and his heart for disciple-making through the local church is obvious by his current 19-year tenure at the church he planted in 1991 that has grown from five families to over 2,000 members.”

?Barry Creamer, professor of philosophy at Criswell College, nominating Alex Gonzales, pastor of Hickory Tree Baptist Church in Balch Springs for first vice president of the Bible Conference.

“I have known Alex Gonzalez for a couple of years now, and have always been impressed with him,” Creamer said. “His personal commitment to Christ is obvious in his humility and in the way he approaches ministry. He not only has the maturity to relate to pastors with a lot of experience but also the youth and vision to relate to the next generation of leaders in the SBTC. I’m looking forward to nominating him for first vice president of the Bible Conference.”

?In turn, Gonzales will nominate Scott Gray, pastor of Sycamore Baptist Church in Decatur, as second vice president of the Bible Conference.