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
“There is a health crisis in our country, and certainly in the Christian community,” Gregory said.
The Daniel fast has fueled popular spinoffs, such as Saddleback Church’s Daniel Plan, which reportedly helped 15,000 people lose 250,000 pounds last year. (Note: critics say the 52-week Daniel Plan is a bit misleading since adherents eat lean meats, which Daniel avoided during his fast).
In effect, true Daniel fasters not only go vegan, which entails shunning animal foods such as meat and deal. They go even further by reflecting Daniel’s rigorous practice. Since he drank only water, today’s Daniel fasters shun juice, tea and coffee, all of which are OK for vegans. They give up leavened bread. They even disavow sweeteners temporarily in a bid to feel sacrifice and in deference to Daniel’s renunciation of all “pleasurable” foods.
Fasters sing the praises of the method, which Gregory says has helped scores to jump-start and sustain a long-term, healthy lifestyle. Some report benefits that go well beyond nutrition.
“I developed patience,” recalled Kathleen Woodbury, who did the fast a few years ago as part of a discipleship group at Eagle Brook Church in White Bear Lake, Minn. “The practice of restraint made me more patient with my teenage son and husband. I wouldn’t have been as patient with them if I hadn’t fasted.”
Even so, happiness with the fast’s benefits isn’t spawning new appetites for veganism per se. Observers say evangelicals generally still don’t embrace the “vegan” moniker, even for just a few weeks, in part because it carries connotations beyond the diet.
“You’ve got all these political and cultural implications that go along with those labels” of vegan and vegetarian, said Larry Eskridge, associate director of the Institute for the Study of American Evangelicals at Wheaton College. “Those might be some reasons why evangelicals might shy away from the labels.” Seeing the regimen as a God-given one, however, makes it compelling.
“It makes an impression on people,” Eskridge added, “to think that God has a special insight into what makes for a healthy existence: spiritually, emotionally and physically.”