Ancestral Health and Christianity

Dr Greg Brown is a GP near Wellington, and is a founding member of AHSNZ.  He originates from the UK and is married with three children.  In addition to his routine GP work, Greg runs Wellington Wellness, a clinic based on ancestral health principles.  He blogs at drgregbrown.com and is on Twitter (@drgregbrown).

On their website, our sister organisation the Ancestral Health Society in the U.S. asks “what is ancestral health?”  Refreshingly, their answer is deliberately understated and wonderfully inclusive.  “Good question,” they say.  “We don’t know exactly because each human being is unique.  But we seek to learn how our evolutionary heritage — both our common heritage and unique, individual heritages — should shape our modern lifestyles.  We respect the reality of human differences within a shared human heritage, and approach issues of individuality and common heritage with open minds and curiosity.”  The beautifully-worded piece (which I encourage you to read in its entirety) concludes with “We can learn by grace or by hard knocks; let’s choose gracefully.”

Heritage can be defined as “something transmitted by or acquired from a predecessor” or “something possessed as a result of one’s natural situation or birth.”  What is my own unique heritage, my whakapapa?  I was born in England, although I now live in New Zealand.  I am British, of mixed Scottish and English descent, with a little Irish and a few other elements thrown in.  My late father, who died in 2012, was a Londoner.  My mother is a Glaswegian.  As well as middling height, poor eyesight and irritatingly fine, straight hair, there are many less tangible elements of my heritage which make me who I am.  Concepts of fairness, hard work, fidelity, and integrity which my parents worked hard to instil.  A propensity to take nothing at face value and question everything.  A Judeo-Christian worldview which forms the cornerstone of this value system.

While this belief framework was “handed down” in that it was encouraged within the home, and attendance at church was required when my parents had the power to mandate it, it was conscious choice as an adult which resulted in my acceptance of that framework.  The reason for this is that on careful evaluation, I determined that the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth were (and are) true.  I despise “religion” and much of what “the church” has done throughout history, but as far as the core of the message is concerned, it has been weighed and found trustworthy, in my view.

The plants and animals that the Bible clearly states were given to mankind for food, are the same plants and animals that I advocate my patients eat today for optimal health.

This is my heritage and my belief.  I have been asked to set out how I feel this fits within ancestral health.  I have stated elsewhere that I see no contradiction between the Bible and an ancestral health approach to nutrition.  The plants and animals that the Bible clearly states were given to mankind for food, are the same plants and animals that I advocate my patients eat today for optimal health.  Much like the biblical account of the Tower of Babel, mankind has always attempted to get “one up” on God and never more so than today.  Hybridised wheat, processed food, GMOs, cloning — all laudable attempts (if I’m being charitable) at achieving a particular aim, but all seemingly falling short of the original design.  While most within the broad church that is ancestral health would say “we haven’t evolved to eat x”, I might say “we weren’t designed to cope with x in our diet” and agree that micro-evolutionary adaptations haven’t caught up with the demands placed on our otherwise remarkable anatomy and physiology (“fearfully and wonderfully made” is how the Bible terms it).  However you frame the discussion, the net effect is the same and the most important question — “what shall we do?” — is answered the same way.  Belief in God or belief in macro-evolution, faith in a resurrected Saviour or faith in human potential, the “how” of ancestral health is the same, even if the “why” differs.  Within our movement, I am grateful that the way of “grace”, advocated by our wise colleagues in the U.S., is demonstrated so readily by my friends in AHSNZ, a concept not unfamiliar to Christians.  I am therefore at home here, as is my heritage.