From childhood, he was perpetually sick and prone to “nervous breakdowns,” which is often true of quacks and followers of quacks.
He was one of the fathers of vegetarianism in America, and together with William Alcott and William Metcalfe (another preacher), founded the American Vegetarian Society.
He believed in the “Adam diet” consisting of plants only. He came to the conclusion that meat “corrupted both the body and soul of individuals and harmed families and society” (Andrew Smith, Eating History). The Word of God refutes this quackery if he had been listening. After the Flood, God gave men the right to eat meat. “Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things” (Genesis 9:3). Israel could eat any meat that was not on the unclean list (Le. 11). We know that Christ ate fish and the lamb of the Passover (Ex. 12:8; Lu. 22:15; 24:42).
Graham promoted coarse-ground, whole wheat flour (unsifted) with no additives. He urged eating bread and vegetables with no spices.
He founded the Graham Journal of Health and Longevity, which was dedicated to teaching “the science of human life as taught by Sylvester Graham.”
Graham claimed that a “natural diet” would keep people healthy.
Grahamism became a movement, and products inspired by him were called graham flour, graham bread, and graham crackers. The Graham cracker began to be mass produced in 1898 by the National Biscuit Company, and is still popular today. It is used to make s’mores, moon pies, and cheesecake, none of which are particularly “healthy,” but, boy, are they yummy!
Graham also promoted sleeping on hard beds and avoiding warm baths.
Evangelist Charles Finney got caught up in the Graham quackery. In 1840-41 faculty and students at Oberlin College were required to go without meat, tea, coffee, and pastries “on the ground that they were harmful to the health” (William McLoughlin, Jr., Modern Revivalism, p. 118).
Sylvester Graham got sick in his 50s and died at age 57 of complications of opium enemas.
He should have eaten more meat, enjoyed more tasty food, slept on a softer bed, enjoyed more warm baths, and stayed away from the opium enemas.
Graham might have been right, to some extent, about whole wheat bread, but he was dead wrong about vegetarianism and a great deal more. A mark of a quack is that he becomes fanatical about some diet and promotes it as a key to good health. While diet affects health, no diet can guarantee good health. He should have stayed with preaching the Word of God, which God commands the preacher to do (2 Timothy 4:2), and not turned aside to preaching diet quackery.
For more about quack diets, see The Bible, Diet, and Alternative Health Care, available as a free eBook from www.wayoflife.org. Also available in print.
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