different needs in each person; a need for food and an emotional need. According to Ms. Shamblin, people should only eat when they feel real, physical hunger and stop when full; prayer and Bible reading will fill emotional needs instead of food. Overeating is equated with gluttony and is a sin. When her followers feel the urge to snack, Shamblin encourages them to read scripture instead.
Other dietitians have questioned the soundness of Shamblin's diet advice, which focuses on faith instead of healthy eating habits or exercise. In the book Born Again Bodies: Flesh and Spirit in American Christianity (ISBN 0520242408), author Marie Griffith, a Princeton associate professor of religion, examines the trend of religion-based dieting. Griffith credits Shamblin for the new wave of interest in creating "a more holy body", and substantial sections of the work examine Shamblin's movement. Griffith notes "In Shamblin's world, people who don't lose weight often feel like failures. If they don't lose weight, it's a failure of discipline; it's a failure of obedience." At the same time, Griffith's work places Shamblin's movement squarely within a historical traditon of perfecting one's body in order to be more Christ-like, or fasting and dieting in order to feel closer to God.
Biblical Controversy and Religous Discrimination Lawsuits
Gwen Shamblin's weight loss programs were initially very well received within Christian churches. Tens of thousands of churches in many different denominations used her materials to teach her faith based weight loss program in the late 80s and early 90s. Controversy arose when she began to teach that the doctrine of the Trinity was not Biblical. While this viewpoint of Christianity is accepted by many different denominations, Shamblin's advocacy of a specific religious belief led Thomas Nelson Publishers to cancel the publication of Exodus, her next work. In a letter to her followers sent to clarify her position on the Trinity, Shamblin wrote : "The reason all of this is important is that if you do not understand that God is the clear authority and that Jesus was under God's authority, then you will not have a clear picture of what it means to be Christ like. Jesus suffered, obeyed, submitted, denied his will, and made it his food to do the will of the Father."
At the same time Shamblin began to advocate specific ideas about Christian theology and began to form her own church, approximately forty Weigh Down employees were encouraged to resign or let go for disagreements related to the change in how Weigh Down principles would be communicated. Several of these former employees then sued Shamblin on the grounds of religious discrimination. These employee lawsuits were settled out of court, and as part of the settlement the exact amount of proceeds generated by the for-profit Weigh Down workshop were sealed.
Gwen is a leader in and a founder of the Remnant Fellowship Church. The church takes its name from Ezra 9:8-9, which mentions a "faithful remnant" of followers. According to the church's website, it currently has over 120 locations worldwide. The church was started in 1999 in Brentwood, Tennessee.
In a 2001 interview with The New Yorker, Shamblin stated that she felt called by God to start Remnant Fellowship after noticing that some users of the Weigh Down program were beginning to gain back their weight. This led her to theorize that the doctrine of Jesus' salvation and forgiveness leads some people to believe they have a license to sin.
Remnant Church members are encouraged to move to Tennessee to be close to the mother church if possible; about 650 members are estimated to have made the move. This has led to a number of Remnant families living together in one-family residential dwellings in the city of Brentwood and the nearby town of Franklin. The church is also in the process of building a private school to teach Remnant Church children from kindergarten through fifth grade.
Shamblin has stated that the church is not ecumenical. She has also stated in several interviews that while she believes women should be subservient to men in the service of the Lord, that women can "share their gifts", including the gift of prophecy. When asked directly if she believes herself a prophet, Shamblin has said that others have called her a prophet.
Josef Smith Case and Corporal Punishment at Remnant
Remnant Fellowship Church was implicated in the death of Josef Smith, a child who was severely abused by his parents. The Smiths believed their son was possessed, and their religious beliefs led to a raid on the church. In the raid, recordings of Gwen encouraging corporal punishment of Josef on more than one occasion were found and subsequently used as evidence against the Smiths. The tapes were also leaked to a local television news outlet in Nashville and broadcast. On the tapes, Mrs. Shamblin can be heard to say:"If they're not scared of a spanking, you haven't spanked them. If you haven't really spanked them, you don't love them. You love yourself."
At the time of the trial, it was reported by former members that a common child discipline tactic of parents in the Remnant Church was to use glue sticks to beat their children - the sticks are flexible, and so would hurt badly but leave no marks, covering evidence of frequent corporal punishment. Mrs. Shamblin acknowledged that this was a common practice among her followers but stated "It was not from here...it came from a member somewhere, someplace else and then it went around."
Josef Smith's parents were sentenced to life plus thirty years for murder in the first degree on March 26, 2007. Remnant Church funded the defense of the parents and continues to solicit donations for them via the internet.
Spirit Watch Libel Lawsuit
On March 15, 2007, Shamblin and 78 Remnant Fellowship members filed a libel suit against Rafael Martinez and his website Spirit Watch. The parties suing Spirit Watch claimed that the site was defaming their church by labeling it a cult and spreading falsehoods about their beliefs and practices. Mr. Martinez stated that all of the information on his website was factual, and that he believed the lawsuit was a ploy by Remnant Fellowship to silence their critics.
The Spirit Watch website contains personal stories from former members of Remnant Church that allege bizarre behavior from Shamblin, and comparisons are made with activities of the Remnant Church to activities of well-known cults. On April 11, Martinez announced that the lawsuit against him had been dropped.
Gwen Shamblin is an American Christian non-fiction author and leader of the Remnant Fellowship Church. The most distinctive aspect of her writing is its combination of weight loss programs with Christianity. Shamblin is married and has two children. According to her website, Ms. Shamblin is a registered dietitian with experience as a consulting registered dietitian and as an Instructor of Nutrition at University of Memphis. Previous to her authorship, she earned a masterâ€™s degree in dietetics from University of Tennessee, in Knoxville.
Ms. Shamblin has been recently involved in two high-profile legal cases in the Southeastern United States. The first is the murder case of Josef Smith, now in the appeals process. The second lawsuit involved the website Spirit Watch, and touched on issues of free speech and the internet.
External Links: Weigh Down Diet Website