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.