Warning! Snark Ahead!
Armed with certainty, literalism, and an inerrant, infallible religious text, Evangelicals are capable of taking virtually any human behavior and turning it into a “sin.” In a Charisma News article titled Why Many Believers Overlook This Soul-Decaying Idol, Kimberly Wagner says that overeating is sinful, using Romans 12:1,2 as a pretext:
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
Wagner proceeds to Bible-shame everyone who dares to eat one Twinkie more than necessary to provide their daily energy needs. As Christians often do, Wagner uses her own legalistic struggles with food as justification for scolding those of us who consume more calories than we should. Wagner writes:
One of my friends was sharing why she no longer goes to the race track to gamble. She said, “I never wanted anyone to have anything they saw me do that might detract from my commitment to Christ. I want everything I do to be something that glorifies Him.”
As she was sharing that, all I could think about is how I’ve stopped battling my idol and let it gain mastery over me again. I told her, “If people looked at my eating habits, I would be ashamed. I’m not glorifying God … “
How can I stand and teach the Word, challenge women to live passionately for Christ, when I have this unyielded area in my life? When I’m worshiping at the wrong altar? When I’m indulging in idolatry—feeding my flesh?
Food is not the problem. My heart is.
I love food. I love butter (and lots of it), cream sauce, chocolate, comfort food, creamy food, crunchy food, spicy food, sweet food, salty food, cheesy food, rich food, high-calorie-high-fat food. My love affair with food is unholy.
But true enjoyment of God’s gifts comes through the holy practice and consumption of those gifts—not through the perversion of the good. Food is good and necessary. But food can become an idol. I don’t just eat to live—I live to eat!
When I go beyond enjoying food within holy boundaries and indulge my flesh in unhealthy ways, when my cravings drive my decisions and I seek to find satisfaction through my belly, when gluttony becomes my practice, my approach to food is not glorifying God. In fact, it’s idolatry.
Simply put, Wagner’s love affair with food is “unholy” and everyone else should view eating in the manner she has deemed gluttonous in the same way she does. Is it any wonder that Evangelicals are such a fearful, guilt-ridden, unhappy lot? According to Romans 12:1,2, in light of the sacrificial death of Jesus, it is reasonable service to God for Evangelicals to zealously watch what they eat. God can’t be bothered with ending war, feeding starving children, or stopping sexual assaults, but he sure is upset when Brother Baptist and Sister Nazarene eat one too many chicken legs at their church’s monthly potluck. The God who always helps Pastor Bluster find his keys is the same God who counts every carb Evangelicals eat. Imagine a Jack Chick This Was Your Life final judgment where God calls on Evangelicals to account for Snicker bars and Mom’s vanilla wafer-layered banana pudding. I bet that Evangelicals who watch the Food channel are going to be in big trouble with God. How dare they sit around and watch food porn.
Sadly, many Evangelicals miss out on enjoying the fruits of their labors due to Pharisaical condemnations of certain behaviors. The Bible can be used to turn any and every behavior into a sin. Spend enough time listening to Evangelical preaching or reading Christian blogs and you will conclude that Evangelicals have Bible-driven hang-ups about virtually everything they do. Even if a behavior is God-approved, if their attitude or “spirit” is wrong, then that behavior is still a sin. This is why Wagner considers loving food a sin. Yes, humans must eat to live, but to LOVE food means we are turning food into an idol. Colossians 3:5 commands Evangelicals to mortify (kill) their flesh. Numerous Bible verses remind Christians that loving one’s flesh (giving in to human desires) brings judgment and death. Romans 8:8 states that those who give in to fleshly desires cannot please God.
Evangelicals are even commanded to abstain from eating or drinking foods that might cause other Christians to stumble (fall into sin). Romans 14:21 states: It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak. This means that Evangelicals must not only concern themselves with their own desires, but also the desires of other Christians. Can’t eat an extra helping of Granny’s apple pie at the church potluck because Youth Pastor Sinalot has a weakness for pie (and teenage girls). Mustn’t watch anything but Disney movies when Brother Horndog is around. Wouldn’t want him to get sexually aroused. Who knows what he might do if the spirit of lust comes upon him.
The Bible teaches that Evangelicals are to deny self, take up their cross, and follow Jesus. In fact, if Christians really want to show their devotion to God, they should eat just like Jesus ate. That’s right, there is a straight-from-the-throne-room-of-God Jesus Diet. Doctor Oz has an article on his website that lists the foods that Jesus ate:
People back in Jesus’ time ate a mostly plant-based, clean diet. In that region of the world, lentils, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, dates, nuts and fish were all quite popular. For snacks, some even ate grasshoppers and crickets! All these foods provided proper and satisfying nutrition without excess fats or cholesterol.
Our longer [digestive] tract, however, allows for more time to process the complex carbohydrates within plants. However, as we eat meat with little fiber, especially red meat, it has a higher chance of getting stuck within our intestines – causing constipation or bloating. In fact, because Jesus and people around Him ate a mostly plant-based diet with little red meat, there’s little mention of “constipation” in the bible [my favorite line].
Based on the Bible and historical records, Jesus most likely ate a diet similar to the Mediterranean diet, which includes foods like kale, pine nuts, dates, olive oil, lentils and soups. They also baked fish.
Amazing what you can find in the Bible when you “look.”
And here’s the thing, Evangelicals go through similar Bible gymnastics for other behaviors that have been deemed sins against God. Recently, Calvinists have been fighting amongst themselves over wine, beer, and cigars. One side says that in moderation it is okay to drink alcohol and smoke cigars. The other side says, absolutely not! These substances are “poisons” that harm the body — the temple of the Holy Ghost.
As atheists, we have much simpler lives. We are free to do what we want. While I am not suggesting that it is a good thing to go on a Hostess Ho Ho and beer diet, feeling guilty about overeating or eating the “wrong” (I thought everything was created by God) foods is a waste of time. Life is short, and we shouldn’t spend it obsessing over food. All of us are free to eat however we want. I have friends who are vegans, vegetarians, ethical meat-eaters, and Golden Corral buffet grazers. Each to his or her own. If God is concerned with what I eat then perhaps he shouldn’t have allowed humans to invent such delectable foods. In fact, God should have created our bodies in such a way that we wouldn’t even need to eat, thus eliminating time spent eating and pooping. Imagine how much nicer bathrooms would be without food. No gaseous releases (farts). No turd streaks in the toilet. No more pee on the floor, toilet seat, and everywhere men have been known to splatter. No need for toilet paper either. Think of all the trees we would save!
I wonder if Wagner has ever read Ecclesiastes — you know, the verses that tell us to eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die. Solomon understood that life is short and the best that man can do is to enjoy the fruit of his labors. And with that in mind, I think I will go and eat another candy bar. I love sinning . . . 🙂
Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.
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So what does Dr. Oz think people in 1st Century Palestine did with all those sheep? And what about the “fatted calf” that the father of the Prodigal Son butchered to welcome his son home? People raised cattle, too, and birds, and hunted animals. I don’t doubt that they ate mostly plants, but there was non-plant food available to many people. Dr. Oz is pushing a 21st Century health agenda with 1st century pseudo-evidence.
And what’s with Romans calling out wine drinking as a bad thing, when Jesus’ s first miracle was supposed to be turning water into wine for a wedding feast? Why do Evangelicals insist that the Bible doesn’t contradict itself? Stick with Ecclesiasties and you’ll be much happier.
BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!! Most excellent snark! Was watching “Chopped” on the Food Channel while reading this.
On a more serious note: There are a million reasons for being overweight: thyroid problems, hormone swings, disability, life changes, medications. And yes, overeating. Does Kimberly look at everyone she thinks is a little too large and judge them for it? Does she thump them with a Bible in one hand and a scale in the other?
If Kimberly and her friend want to make sure that everything they and their friends do “glorfies God,” they can start by losing their hatred and prejudice and criticism and racism and homphobia and judgement and paranoia and purity rules. The loss of that “weight” would make a better world for all.
Some of the most hurtful stuff I heard coming from Southern Baptists while I was employed as a housekeeper at one of their megachurches was about my weight, size and appearance. I was supposed to afford a place to live and proper food on damn near minimum wage, which when I started in 1980, was $3.10…was being paid 5 and change when I left their employ 9 years later…
This is yet another example of how the modern man is thrust in to a primitive mind set. The body itself is finely tuned to limit the amount of calories (with a normal distribution of body sizes in a population). An educated modern mind understands that thanks to science we live in an epoch of plenty where the next meal is assured as a call to a pizza place or a trip to the store. Through most of human’s history such was not the case. Thus our set points are optimized for a world where your next meal is uncertain. So how well tuned is your body to consumption of calories? A handful of peanuts extra every day would result in about 150 lbs of weight gain in a decade. The lesson here, you can’t pray away the weight any more than you can pray away the gay… and a guilt trip burns no calories.
Ah, yes! That which is a sin for me surely is a sin for you!
So much judging for people who are supposed to e “under grace”.
I have food allergies that make it really hard to eat just about anything (I am actually allergic to salad, and have had dietician appointments where the dietician wasn’t sure what to do) I had so many people tell me that if I just had a little more faith I would get better and then “help” me by pointing to Romans 14 where it talks about people refusing to eat things for the sake of their conscience, which had to do with idols by the way. A few times people guilted me into trying something I should not have, and I really want stuff that I should not have which is how I got to be obese. I used to love salad and red meat and really miss both. The other thing is I am a certified color therapist and I have training in other alternative health areas, mostly I give people a fruit or a veggie. (No I don’t balance chakras and yes I use databases). Now there are pastors who want to treat illness using the Bible and have no training whatsoever.I worry that they will really hurt someone some day because of evangelical guilt. Here is a good article about these crazy people:
Weight has been a problem for me all my life. It’s a difficult problem. I like to eat. I find food comforting. Diets invariably send me into depression spirals, which get worse as I get older. Physical problems limit my activity. There are days when I’m really, really glad we don’t keep a handgun in the house, because otherwise I might not be alive to write this.
But, I’m an atheist. My problems are PHYSICAL and MENTAL. I don’t believe my size makes some deity cranky. I don’t believe that choosing an extra spoon of lite sour cream on my potato half* is going to send me to Hell. I don’t believe that taking that extra half a garlic roll at the Italian restaurant is going to put my immortal soul at risk. Even an occasional blueberry muffin for breakfast is not going to set me up for an eternity of torture.
If I believed any of that, I would have long since gone out and bought that damned handgun.
*The clearest evidence I can see for the existence of a deity is the existence of sour cream and russet potatoes. 🙂
I miss potatoes. Depression sucks. It makes me so happy to be free from food being a threat to my immortal soul. Your comment made me feel a little better about my weight issues. Thank you (no snark intended)
ummm, russet taters with lots-o-butter (non salted), sour cream, a pinch of kosher salt and a hefty sprinkling of pepper. ummmmmmmmmm.
This is so true. As an example of how everything must make you feel guilty I will share how i heard the story of the pharisee and the tax collector applied:
1st point – don’t be proud like the pharisee but realise you are a pathetic sinful worm who deserves hell. Then god will accept you.
2nd point: You are in danger of being proud of the fact that you realise that you are all sinful worms that do no good. You are right back at square 1.
Perhaps constipation isn’t mentioned in the Bible, ’cause honestly who wants to read a story about that? Heroics are much more interesting, right? Battles and so forth.
This ‘loving anything besides God means it’s an idol’ was a pretty big part of my religious upbringing. It drove me crazy because I’m interested in a lot of things and didn’t like feeling guilty about it all the time. One of the solutions is to make everything Christian: Christian games, books etc. so as to still seem rightious. The limitations put on you are just unbelievable.
I think those of us who enjoy eating at the Golden Corral have the example of the blesséd Apostle Paul to comfort us, who famously wrote in 1 Cor. 9:26-27 (ASV):
I therefore so run, as not uncertainly; so fight I, as not beating the air: but I buffet my body…
People in America have a huge weight problem. The food tastes great, but it’s loaded with sugars, and bad fats, like hydrogenated oils. Other stuff. Thank those food manufacturers ! Kids have this junk shoveled into them, before they can even walk . Food is used as amusement, or a babysitter. If anyone is addicted to sweets,chips,etc., is it any wonder ?? Add to this metabolic disorders that doctors still don’t understand, and can’t seem to treat, should the woman with that blog, Kimberly, be surprised that people are hung up on food ?
I guess she never read the Bible verses where everyone kills a calf, lamb, or goat for every special occasion. The Bible is full of references of feasting, and not much mention of God being displeased with it.
“If God is concerned with what I eat then perhaps he shouldn’t have allowed humans to invent such delectable foods.”
Or, put another way, if God is concerned with me seeing anything sexual on television and in the movies, He should never have allowed the humans in those shows or movies to make those shows or movies.
Gosh, the Bible was inspired, right? Apparently it inspired priests and others to include their prejudices in scripture so that they sounded as if they were commandments from God (God, speaking via the prophet Jeremiah tells us that the Law of GOD was altered, changed, “falsified” by the “lying pen of the scribes”! (Jeremiah 8:8)) . . . . because the Bible tells me so!
Don’t you love how people love to romanticize what foods/diets ancient people supposedly ate? In reality, people eat whatever the f$%& they are able to get at the time.
Fundamentalists sure do like to label just about anything as an “idol”. It really was frustrating to hear fundies rail on and on about controlling every thought, intention, and action, weighing everything in terms of how it glorified God and didn’t lead a brother or sister astray. Honestly, just about ANYTHING could be labeled as leading someone astray. It was f$%&ing exhausting.
And who knew that a good banana pudding could wield such power…..
Good health is hard, and can be out of our control, so lay off, judgmental fundies!
I remember seeing a bumper sticker that read, “If God wanted us to be vegetarians, He wouldn’t have made animals taste so good!”
We can say the same thing about almost any kind of food that has flavor or calories. Why else would he have made chocolate so tasty?
But, according to Kimberly Wagner, my mother led me and everyone else in our family (and many friends and co-workers) into perdition with her lasagna and cheesecake.
Hmm…Blame it on Mom. Maybe she’s a re-incarnation of Freud.