Ernest Adulai worships at Praise Cathedral Church of God in Melbourne, Fla. (Craig Rubadoux, Florida Today)
Faith has never tasted so good for Jonathan Destouche.
An early morning service in the spacious Praise Cathedral sanctuary in Brevard, Fla., is punctuated with loud shouts of "hallelujah,'' as the worship music slowly builds and the pastor tells members to crave faith and take inventory of their lives.
They are words taken to heart by Destouche, who has been ushering in the new year with the Daniel Fast -- a growing national trend in evangelical Christian circles. It touts spiritual and physical detoxification through prayer, fasting and abstinence from meat, leavened breads, fruit juices and dairy.
"I was raised as a Christian, going to Pentecostal churches, but my journey has become more real," said Destouche, youth leader at the church, adding that this is his second time participating in the Daniel Fast. "I've done some minor fasting with water only before, but this wasn't hard for me to adjust to; I'm already a vegetarian and I'm a huge fan of rice and beans," he said. "I was also going through a lot of stuff and I knew I had to get closer to God."
Churches have been carrying out their own variations of the fast. Many in the Praise Cathedral congregation have been passing over Western diet staples of fried chicken, grilled steaks, even ice cream, to take part in a 21-day version. It ends for them this weekend, capped off with a 24-hour period of intense prayer beginning Saturday night.
Pastors who lead congregations participating in the Daniel Fast, however, say it is more than a ritualistic movement and is designed to turn mundane moments like eating into an opportunity to listen for guidance from God.
"There are some similarities," to Lent, said Pastor Kenneth Delgado, whose Palm Bay, Fla., congregation, The House, has been practicing the Daniel Fast. "I think it also has become a trend and I think it's a movement that will continue to strengthen. But this is creating unity across denominational lines. We're tearing down the Berlin walls of Christianity."
The fast, and the longer-term programs lasting up to a year called the Daniel Plan, are subjects of several best-selling cookbooks and blogs, popularized as a weight loss diet in 2011 by Rick Warren, author of "The Purpose Driven Life" and mega-church pastor. Warren began preaching about the plan as a holistic way to cleanse the body and lose weight, dropping 60 pounds in a year as he shunned processed foods and opted for vegetables, nuts and fruits. It is based on the Old Testament Prophet Daniel's quest to avoid the delicacies offered by the Babylonian King's court, forbidden in the Bible.
Daniel and his Hebrew companions -- exiled in Babylon -- instead asked to be served vegetables and water for a two-week period, a move that improved their appearance and cognitive abilities, according to scripture. The account is cited by groups like Seventh-day Adventists as having influenced beliefs about health, wellness and eating.
The attention paid to health may be one reason Adventists have been reported to live longer lives, compared to other faiths, as reported in studies by the National Cancer Institute and other groups. Adherents developed views of food, temperance and health in the 19th Century that they also trace to the story of creation, when they believe Adam and Eve likely were vegetarians.
On the spiritual side, the Daniel Fast may sound like a shorter, more intense version of Lent -- the traditional 40-day period of abstinence from certain foods that spiritually readies believers for Easter.
Click here to read more.
SOURCE: USA Today
J.D. Gallop, Florida Today