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.


Anonymous 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.

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.

Anonymous 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

Anonymous 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.

Anonymous 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!


Anonymous 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?

Anonymous 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.

Anonymous 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. :-)

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 ;-)