At just about every seminary, emphasis is placed upon the holistic development of the student, not only intellectually, but also spiritually. Some would refer to this as the maturity of both head and heart. The concept of holistic development is a very good thing. However, if often excludes one area that is very important – the physicality of human beings. We do a terrific job of furthering growth in the academic realm and also in our spiritual journeys. Nevertheless, our flesh is ignored.
Gnostics believe in the Platonic dualism that spirit is good and matter or flesh is bad. Thus, they sought to unite with the spiritual realm and leave the human realm behind. We may be going down a similar path with pastors. In all the seminary catalogs that I scoured while contemplating seminary, I did not find one that offered a course on health or nutrition. You may be objecting thinking that seminary is not the place for such classes to take place. But, if we truly are seeking to develop holistic pastors, we must acknowledge the physical side of pastors. Sadly, very few people follow the food pyramid, myself included. Pastors also have a tendency to eat out often with parishioners. Eating out is not necessarily bad, but healthy choices must be made. Essentially, we need to re-educate pastors how to eat healthy and to take care of their bodies physically. Stress and some other emotions are tied to the foods that we eat (desserts being an example). Also, sadly, many pastors suffer heart attacks. I say we need to be preemptive in combating future health problems by teaching pastors how to care for their bodies. If anything is neglected in seminary, it is not the head or heart, but rather the body. And to be blunt, if the body stops working, it really doesn’t matter how developed the head or heart have become.
I would like to see classes in seminary on health and nutrition. We must learn how to take care of our bodies through healthy eating and exercise. I think it’s vital to long-term sustainability for pastors. If we seek to be holistic, not only in word, the physical aspect of people must be addressed.