Monday, 2 April 2007

Lard or Lord?

I may well get into trouble for saying so, but there seems a clear correlation between religious fanaticism and food fanaticism. In the COG/ex-COG community you can almost guarantee that those good folk who hold the most conservative views about Herbert Armstrong or the Sabbath will be the most particular about what they eat (or don't eat). Follow the discussion on one of the fundamentalist COG forums for any length of time and you'll be bombarded with well-intentioned advice on what to avoid. An outsider might be forgiven for thinking they'd run into a hippie-style organic health cult (until they read the postings on prophecy.)

Our Seventh-day Adventist cousins are much the same. I browsed through the local Adventist Book Center some time ago, and was amazed to find that, while you couldn't find a decent Bible commentary in stock, there were “health products” aplenty. The Adventists have some different ideas from the COGs, pushing a strict vegetarian line, but the parallels are also uncanny.

There are reasons other than the obvious ones. Food restrictions are a very effective “purity barrier” which isolates a group from the wider world. Intensive food preparation avoids the problem of “idle hands” for the ladies: who knows what terrible vices they might get up to with that extra free time. Good grief, they might read something and then ask impertinent questions of the menfolk! And you certainly need to think twice before accepting an invitation to a meal at the home of non-church members, you never know what might end up on your plate.

There's also a correlation with fringe medicine. If “medical science” is suspect, the alternatives need to be explored. How many weird “natural” regimens have been adopted by members desperate to do something to get well (or stay well) without showing “lack of faith” by visiting a doctor? Eight times out of ten the “solution” will be to further restrict their diet. Nine times out of ten it will be totally futile.

Fanaticism tends to loop back on itself and hold hands with unlikely soul mates. Stalin and Hitler came from the two extremities of the Left/Right continuum, but in their totalitarianism they were one. “Greenies” and ageing hippies are light years removed from the Bible toting brethren that dutifully troop off to PCG Sabbath services each week, but they could probably happily swap bread recipes.

American Catholic theologian Bruce Malina has an interesting theory about religious views and gardening styles as well, but that's a post for another day.


Stinger said...

I've joked about this before. But it's really no joke. You can commit just about any sin that you want to in any of the ACOGs (and they're all the same cult): drunkenness, adultery, gambling at Lake Tahoe, child molestation, or even skimping on your tithes (but not too much). But the only real unpardonable sin is bringing a ham sandwich to a church pot luck.

Dennis said...

In some way, and perhaps it is really a no brainer, the connection between fundamentalist religion, knowledge of prophecy (how it turns out and how it relates to "me") rituals, alternative medical applications and dietary taboos, are all a matter of one feeling in control, safe, special and able to explain what for the most part is inexplicable or not really controlable.

I have many clients who apply any number of those practices in their lives. The non religious tend to be big on natural foods and alternative medicines or treatments. Many have been the traditional routes and found them not helpful so they take back their own power, so to speak, and look elsewhere for help making their own decisions about what is or is not going to be a better way to be and live. Of course,it's fertile ground for scammers and charlatans, but so is religion, who play on the same anxieties.

Many of my clients have given up on formal religion. But adopt a specialness in lifestyle practices almost as a substitue. Some are goofy and go overboard in ways that are obvious. Others are very discerning and reject things like aspartame, commercial foods and such almost in a religious manner as I used to view pork and shrimp. (I still have no use for pork but love the occasional bottom feeding arachnoid shrimp. I think it's the sauce:) To me, it is still a way to feel in control of how it is in a world where feeling in control of anything seems futile. I find myself preparing food more slowly and deliberately as almost a substitue for lost ritual. I haven't had a television for six years because it fueled my anxiety and I simply can't afford it anymore, but can't say the internet doesn't.

I have a very nice flint and stone artifact collection representing human tool developement over... well let's say more than 6000 years. I sometimes burn sage for the fragrance and smoke or sit quietly and hold a 12,000 year old folsom point to center and calm a brewing anxiety frankly caused by too much change in my own life. It's how I cope outside of a religious context or church group and I think it is a hardwire in humans to do so. I'll even palm a nice crystal or artifact in my pocket when standing and talking because..well I have no real idea why. It just feels safer. If I wear jewelry, it has to be meaningful. Whatever I wear around my neck, known only to me to be there is generally a few thousand years old mininimum. I don't kid myself. It's there because if whoever owned this before me made it, I can too.

I still go to "church." It's a rock in the river near Asheville, NC, or blowing smoke from a pipe a few times a year watching it rain. It's a quiet hour just sitting and conscious breathing which is amazingly difficult at times endeavoring to shut off the noise in my head. It's listening to old Presbyterian hymns to feel safe whatever that means, and yet not taking it literally.

I spent a lot of years sincerely kidding myself about a lot of things. It's a part of feeling safe even sharing that I don't feel safe anymore in far too many ways. It's the deep stuff of being alive and human.

All this to say the practices in religion are about specialness, control and feeling safe. Humans adopt rituals in foods, fibers and fundamentalism to replace lost family, or quell personal fears.

I am sure many will take the scornful "unclean meats" approach and we can all tell funny pharisaical stories, but it's the need to be special and in control that seems to be the deep need. You don't have to be religious to look for ways to take part in your own life.

Foods, prophecy (for even the prophets), practices and rituals are, for the most part, a sign of one struggling to achieve stability, safety and lesson fear and anxiety.

Symbols are powerful. It's why WCG imploded as making fun of the symbols that comfort, enrich and protect is futile and fatal after they have been established in the mind. WCG deserved to implode under the reckless folly of the Tkaches for more than one reason.

Corky said...

Finish the quote:
"Fat as a ____"

a. chicken
b. hog
c. cow

Some said to force the gentile converts to keep the old testament law (Acts 15:5). The final decision was:

"that they (a) abstain from pollutions of idols, and (b) from fornication, and (c) from things strangled, and (d) from blood." (Acts 15:20).

Hey, no sabbaths, no new moons, no stoning rebellious teens or any of those other 613 old testament laws.

Of course, if you keep part of the 613 OT laws, you are obligated to keep them all.
Gal 4:21 Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law, do ye not hear the law?
Gal 5:3 For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law.
Gal 5:4 Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.

Neotherm said...

This is a deep topic that goes directly to the heart of Armstrongism. HWA offered people, above all else, control. But they had to fall under his control in order to have it. So he developed things like the Seven Laws of Radiant Health. Armstrongites are people who want control. They want to control their health, their financial status and, at the most important level, they want to control God.

Just as the ancient pagans beat drums and chanted to control their god. Some modern religions do the same thing in order to control The God. This is not confined to Armstrongism.

I was appalled to see the mini-industry that started up around the "Prayer of Jabez". A whole range of merchandise and books
was avidly marketed by the evangelical press and included several books, a journal, a devotional, special study Bibles, a prayer shawl, key chains mugs and they list goes on. All in the interest of forcing God to grant prosperity.

HWA liked to assume the role of a lawyer, identify what he thought was a promise in the Bible, and then hold God to this promise. No plea for mercy or grace involved.

So people who crave to have a system that they can manipulate to get what they want, without having to deal with the messy fact that God is a Person, fall victim to religions like Armstrongism with its legalism and food rituals.

"Let their table be their snare" is relevant here. I seldom eat pork. There was a time when I would eat in restaurants and suspect that I might have eaten pork. I always got sick from this. Now that I believe eating pork is of no spiritual consequence, I can eat a piece of pepperoni pizza and it doesn't bother me. I believe that Armstrongites suffer many psychologically induced maladies.

In the Armstrongite Talmud, there are some really strange health paradoxes. Such ideas as a cold is not really a virus but an excess accumulation of carbohydrate that can be remedied by fasting. And the idea that one should not take antibiotics because they are unnatural. Yet many antibiotics are produced by molds -- a natural source. A lay member once told me that Herman Hoeh advocated the eating of certain blue cheeses because they contained natural penicillin and this was a good way to attack problem microbes in the body.

Armstrongites want to control their personal health and do so by means of diet. But this mirrors the works righteousness element in their belief system. So with this assumption of control comes the usual "line up" of blame, guilt judgmentalism and condemnation.

This makes an easy model for Armstrongite ministers. If anyone is sick, they simply point the accusing finger at the sick person and say "It's your fault." No depth of thought required.

-- Neo

MaryAnne said...

No, I think you are on track with the correlation.
There is a fruit and granola Church of God who base their faith on food rather than God.
While they are upset over the state of American farms and foods, Americans for all the additives are living longer and healthier than ever in history really.

I keep the laws of clean and unclean but there is a balance to all things.

Dennis said...

"I was appalled to see the mini-industry that started up around the "Prayer of Jabez". A whole range of merchandise and books"

Exactly right and the new comforting truths come and go like chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia.Now it's "The Secret" which is the same law of attraction that we found in the Jabez tale. Just depends on how far down into the rabbit hole you wish to go...

A few thoughts on that

Is a pig different from a cow or a trout different from a catfish in ways that truly are health issues. I doubt it. At least today they seem to all have too much mercury,dioxin and growth hormones in them so don't sweat the missing scales, hoves or cud chewage.

However: Deut 14 (Also Lev 11)


14:11 You may eat every kosher bird.
14:12 The birds that you may not eat are the eagle, the ossifrage, the osprey,
14:13 the white vulture, the black vulture, the kite,
14:14 the entire raven family,
14:15 the ostrich, owl, gull and hawk families,
14:16 the falcon, the ibis, the swan,
14:17 the pelican, the magpie, the cormorant,
14:18 the stork, the heron family, the hoopoe, and the BAT.
14:19 Every flying insect that is unclean to you shall not be eaten.
14:20 However, you may eat every kosher flying creature.

So at face value, Bats are birds :)
Comments welcome

14:21 Since you are a holy nation to God your Lord, you may not eat any [mammal or bird] that has not been properly slaughtered. You may give it to the resident alien in your settlements so that he can eat it, or you may sell it to a foreigner.

So at face value, give the crap animals to the gentiles or better yet sell them.

Comments welcome

Dennis said...

Oh wait...The Landover Baptist Church site did answer the questions about what kind of animal was a bat. It is a bird as the Bible says.

Landover Answers from the Bible also tells us..

4. What type of animal is a bat?

Correct Answer: B (A bat is a bird.) “And these are they which ye shall have in abomination among the fowls; they shall not be eaten, they are an abomination: the eagle, and the ossifrage, and the ospray, . . . and the bat” (Leviticus 11:13-19).

5. Who named all the animal species?

Corect Answer: B (Adam.) “And out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof” (Genesis 2:19).

and of course,

8. How long did it take Noah to place at least two of each of the more than 50 million animals species on his boat?

Correct Answer: C (A single day, meaning an average of 1,157 animals boarded the boat every second [100,000,000/24hours x 60minutes x 60seconds.) “In the selfsame day entered Noah, and Shem, and Ham, and Japheth, and the sons of Noah, and Noah’s wife, and the three wives of his sons with them, into the ark; They, and every beast after his kind, and all the cattle after their kind, and every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind, and every fowl after his kind, every bird of every sort” (Genesis 7:13-14).

So, I guess no comments necessary :)

lussenheide said...

Probably a bit unfair to just pick on the COG about this issue.

If you broaden it out and just say that "Religion in General" usually has food and beverage restrictions, you would be correct.

This goes for the Christians, Jews and Muslims alike. Catholics used to have (and some still do keep) "No Meat" on Friday restrictions. Fundamentalists often have "no alcohol" restrictions etc.

Yes, some of the practices by SDAs seem extreme, but it is hard to argue with the fact that their average life expectancy is about 7 years longer than the average American!


whatmeworry said...

As I am new to AW, I have been getting a real kick out of reading some of the postings that so many of you have left here. As a 2nd generation "Godder"; my parent entrapped since 1956, I have some zany memories of my own about the DOUB, like when Raymond Cole confessed he had mistakenly taken a bite out of doughnut!!! Oh no!!! And one year, when the entire congregation was served stuffed capon...with bread stuffing at a catered meal! Great hilarity for a bunch of us teenagers who saw many adults run to the bathroom to force vomiting. Oh my, do I have some memories. How about the Oreo cookie scandal, when first they HAD lard, then they started using vegetable shortening, only to trick us again by using lard again? I can't ever remember consciously eating shrimp, or a pork hotdog, superstition and brainwashing runs to my core, although I am sure I have eaten them on many occasions. My adult children and grandkids do eat just about everything. Life is just too precious and short, and I have learned to just let it go. It will all come out in the wash eventually. Keep up the stimulating topics, I am so entertained, boy, the wacky memories I have. Wish I had found you years ago.

Anonymous said...

Know ye not that the Kingdom of God is meat and drink?

Byker Bob said...

Hey, whatmeworry, some of the teenagers should have been in the bathrooms vomiting, too! Only they would have been vomiting for a different reason. Somebody mistook me for a young responsible god-fearing individual, and assigned me to pouring the beer, in the beverage line. There were times when nobody was watching, so let's just say there were some "underground" parties happening at the DOUBs in unused, unpoliced areas of the ballroom.

You'd have thought the deacons would have noticed certain people looking bleary eyed and needing to go to the restroom about every 15 minutes, but I guess their minds were on spiritual things, like taking attendance or counting the offering. For all their strictness and authoritarianism, we always found plenty of ways to make fools out of them! It's important that they know this now, too. If discipline is too strict, and unevenly applied, kids are going to learn to be duplicitous.


kscribe said...

Meditation is the only moment that gives real peace. One can meditate and TRY to project good thoughts (healing) toward others or to the self. One can find this peace by stilling the mind from the negative experiences we all face on a daily basis, through the quiet thoughts and reflection gifted by meditating.

Meditation=self awareness and peace.

Stinger said...

And lest we forget Dennis, insects have four legs, and not six (Lev. 11:20) as we all learned in 5th grade science class.

Scientists just need to read their Bibles more, that's all. :-)

Dennis said...

KScribe said: Religion=anxiety.
Meditation=self awareness and peace.

So true. No challenge in "become you therefore perfect (mature whatever)as your Heavenly Father is perfect." Never met one yet who ever met those criteria.

No anxiety in being absolutely sure you are in the very true, right, obedient to the right things COG, or burn up or forever for that matter.

"Any system of religion that has anything in it that shocks the mind of a child, cannot be a true system.
-- Thomas Paine,

The most detestable wickedness, the most horrid cruelties, and the greatest miseries that have afflicted the human race have had their origin in this thing called revelation, or revealed religion.
-- Thomas Paine,

No falsehood is so fatal as that which is made an article of faith.
-- Thomas Paine

Anonymous said...

How about a ham sandwich, while you are at work, on the Day of Atonement!. I guess that might qualify as an unpardonable sin. I just had to edit some out of this, so i would have a chance at it being posted.
rod 2

brave anonymous poster said...

"It will all come out in the wash eventually."

so true, so true ;-)