The Daniel Fast
Is it a diet? Is it a spiritual practice? Find out about the Daniel Fast movement that is changing the shape of the American Church.
BY: G. Jeffrey MacDonald
Faced with an obesity epidemic in their ranks, more and more evangelicals are taking a taste of the vegan life. But don’t expect to hear them describe it that way.
In conservative Protestant parlance, the experience is called a “Daniel fast.” Practitioners emulate the Old Testament prophet Daniel, who fasted – or restricted his eating – for three weeks by consuming only “pulse” (i.e., foods from seeds, presumably fruits and vegetables) and water. Today’s fasters modify what they eat and seek God by focusing extra attention on prayer and scripture reading.
Though it’s impossible to say how many have done Daniel fasts in recent years, the movement has certainly struck a chord. The Daniel Fast by Susan Gregory has sold 89,000 copies since it came out in 2010, according to publisher Tyndale. Gregory says her website (danielfast.wordpress.com) has had seven million hits since she starting blogging on the topic in 2008. Many liturgical Protestants embraced the practice for Lent this year, she said, and it’s proven most popular among evangelicals in independent churches.
“The Daniel fast people enter into it for spiritual purposes,” Gregory says. “Then they end up discovering the amazing health benefits of it… I get all kinds of reports about how they haven’t felt this good in 10 or 15 years.”
America’s struggle with obesity is acute among Christians, according to research from Purdue University. One in five Methodists is obese, as are one in four Baptists. Among pastors across denominations, 75 percent are either overweight or obese, according to Duke University’s Pulpit & Pew project.