A Hip and Thigh Classic
Just as a note: The context of cancer is from 2006. I wanted everyone to know a head of time that I am fine and cancer free… In spite of my eating habits.
Since I announced I have an acinic cell carcinoma sitting in my neck (now officially confirmed), I have been exhorted on occasion as to the substance of my diet by what I like to call food Pharisees.
Food Pharisees are folks who vehemently insist that if I change my base diet from eating pepperoni/pineapple pizza, Noah’s bagel dogs, Costco chocolate dipped ice cream bars rolled in roasted almonds, and an assortment of otherwise unhealthy foods, and switch to only consuming juiced wheat grass, organic carrots, and purified water, my tumor would disappear.
Now I will confess I could eat better and I certainly need to lose a little weight. I would also imagine there is some truth about the impact of a proper diet on my overall health. However, these food Pharisees go way beyond just encouraging folks to eat healthy food, they assign a measure of intrinsic spirituality to eating their prescribed foods. In other words, if you really wish to be a spiritual Christian, as well as a totally healthy Christian with no physical problems, then you will eat the foods God has prescribed in the Bible. The fact that you do not eat them is the reason you have asthma, heart disease, sinus troubles, and cancer.
I had one person tell me once with a straight face and a voice full of authority that any cancer can be reversed and eliminated no matter how serious it is and how far along it has progressed, if only the cancer victim eats the foods ordained of God. This individual went on to inform me God’s foods are not processed by man; things like whole, uncooked vegetables and pure grains. Of course the term processed by man is rather vague. Something tells me Hamburger Helper and Lucky Charms falls into the category of processed by man.
This is not the first time I have encountered food Pharisees. Back in college when I was a fresh, brand new believer in the Lord, I had some close friends who started to imbibe the food Pharisee ideology. They had come across some alleged Christian food guru who insisted the food laws outlined in Leviticus was God’s special diet for all His people in both the OT, as well as the NT. Hence, spiritually minded Christians will have a diet reflective of the clean and unclean animals and other foods regulated upon the theocratic nation of Israel during the OT.
When confronted with the account of Peter’s vision in Acts 10 where he sees a great cloth lowered from heaven with all the unclean animals displayed on it, and then a voice tells Peter to rise, kill and eat, my friends told me that was not God repealing the Levitical food laws, but it was the inclusion of the gentiles to be under the Levitical food laws. (I am still scratching my head over that one).
They further appealed to 1 Timothy 4:3,4 where Paul writes concerning certain apostates forbidding to marry and commanding to abstain from food which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. For every creature of God is good and nothing is to be refused if it is received with thanksgiving. Rather than understanding this passage to be another confirmation of God lifting the food law restrictions, my friends told me it was an affirmation of their continual binding on the life of the Christian believer because Paul writes of food which God created to be received and every creature of God is good -– the food and animals God declared clean in Leviticus.
I was almost persuaded by their arguments as a naive young believer, but then they started telling me how this guru they liked suggested all new clean food converts must under go a colon cleansing in order for this new spiritual lifestyle to have maximum effect. The cleansing basically involved having to drink foul, enzyme-laden juice for a week, and then undergo a high-powered, yet invigorating, enema. I was told I would experience a little discomfort. Experiencing a little discomfort with a high-powered enema? That is like saying you may experience a little moisture in a hurricane. Any ways, that was the stop sign the Lord used to turn me away from embracing this particular food Pharisee model. Invigorating indeed.
As I have reflected on my encounters with food Pharisees, I believe it is rather telling they exist primarily in pseudo-Christian cults and false religions. That is because these groups are work oriented with their perspective on spirituality and they have to provide their personal holiness as outlined by their particular deity. The practitioners assign spiritual value to the maintenance of their rituals, and many of these rituals involve food.
For instance, Islam promotes ridiculous food and purity laws. Everyone knows they reject eating any pork, but some Muslims go so far as to insist that no one who has handled pork can touch any of their non-pork food, even if the chef has washed his hands thoroughly and hasn’t touched the pork in hours or days. I had a college friend who worked at the local Pizza Hut near campus. Every day Muslims would call to order pizza. Their one rule was that no pork could touch it, like pepperoni or sausage. My friend told me the person taking the order would assure the Muslim of no pork contamination, and then proceed to squeeze sausage juice on the dough before the pizza was made. All the Muslims I knew just loved the pizza from Pizza Hut.
Mormons also have their food laws against drinking anything with caffeine and Seventh-Day Adventists are probably the most notorious of all pseudo-Christian cults in that they have their entire line of food products they insist their members eat. Even pagan religionists have their food laws. Vegans not only abstain from eating any animal by-product, the more devoted will even stay away from using animal by-products like leather belts and shoes, or down filled coats.
One of the more curious examples of food Pharisees in recent times comes from the liberal secular world. There is a major push among America leftist elites to make all mothers breast feed their newborns. I say this is a curiosity because most secular liberals seem to disdain motherhood in general and it is a viewpoint cutting entirely against their pro-abortion stance. With this recent case, the public-health authorities in the state of Massachusetts, a cesspool for leftist social experimentation, in a push to promote breastfeeding now bans hospitals from giving formula samples to women who just had a baby.
Now I will admit up front that my wife and I are breastfeeding supporters. In the case of women’s breasts, God did design them to be the best means to feed an infant. However, neither one of us are breastfeeding “only” advocates, certainly not like those creepy lactation groups who breastfeed their preteen children. We definitely would not claim a mother is violating God’s spiritual blessing if she is unable to breastfeed, or even chooses not to altogether.
Colossians 2:20-23 is the one passage in scripture that silences all genuine minded food Phariseeism, particularly those who truly believe there is some inherent godliness with eating “biblical” food. Paul clearly states there is only an appearance of wisdom with eating foods self imposed by one’s religious conviction, but in reality, depriving one’s self of “unbiblical” foods really doesn’t do anything for the indulgences of the flesh (Col. 2:23). In other words, it doesn’t change a persons heart. That is because sinfulness is not caused by eating outward things, but is a condition coming from the heart. People are in need of a heart change, not a diet change, in order to experience true spirituality. As Jesus stated to his disciples, it is what comes out of a man that defiles him, not what he eats (Mark 7:20-23). So for you food Pharisees, may I say a heart felt thank you that you care about my well being both physically and spiritually. I will certainly eat in moderation, however, I will not be giving up my grilled ham steaks and fried chicken and I would likewise encourage you to treat yourself to a Big Mac.