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By Roger Salter
Special to Virtueonline.org
December 8, 2019

One is disturbed by the muddling and often mischievous media, journalism that is motivated by greed (profits), sensation (phony excitement of prejudice and emotion), and ambition (first with the headlines). We need honorable journalism but which sources of news and information can be trusted? The dollar reigns at the expense of dedication to disinterested truth.

Journalism has usurped the control of our minds and lives. It has exceeded its function with overblown authority in every dimension of our daily existence and we have no way of assessing the reliability of hundreds of individual cocksure advisers on every issue imaginable. The inconsistencies and contradictions within various journalistic outlets are legion and tiresome. Celebrity spellbinders weave the webbing of speculation, fantasy, and misinformation about so many vital topics that mislead a susceptible public readership and an unsuspecting audience of screen and sound.

One area of distinct annoyance is the issue of conflicted dietary recommendation. Today's food columns are discredited by tomorrow's. Food is not simply a matter of appetitive consumption and leisurely entertainment over television programs, books, and experimental exotic dishes. Dietary expertise is meant to be stewardship of divinely donated resources handled with integrity for the well-being of human beings. The production of our sustenance involves long natural and manufacturing processes. Our meals are not meant to be taken lightly. God originates and wonderfully develops our food stuffs, and man partners his work with various forms of preparation and presentation. It is all part of our assigned collaboration with our Provider, obviously degraded partnership, through our degradation in fallenness and sin. Our meals are miraculous from seed to swallowing. We are richly blessed by our daily bread, fare of so many enticing varieties, featuring so prominently in our Lord's pattern prayer.

Much superstition, paganism, and erroneous understanding attaches to our appreciation, and use of food - its properties, significance and benefit. Extreme asceticism and denial of the table's pleasure and promotion of fellowship is a condemnation of the Lord's lavish supply and intention for intimate togetherness. And we are all aware of the evil of gluttony. But God has given us food for the maintenance of life, increase of strength, physical health, and joy of spirit - and this great necessity for our preservation is designed so graciously for our enjoyment and glad recognition of his bounty. The capacity of taste, the perception of smell, the joy of variation in color in the activity of eating bright and beautiful ingredients are divinely given bonuses to our fortunate normal three sessions of physical fueling denied unfairly to so many in the mis-spending budgets of the nations of our world. There is sufficient for all if we handled economics wisely and compassionately. It is possible to eat and drink, thankfully and responsibly, to the glory of God if our minds partner with our mouths.

The attitude to food can take on cultic connotations, and almost a religious tone. The latest fad to be touted is vegan-ism - which may well have its virtues if handled in proportionate fashion with consideration of other factors. But one is not an accredited dietician qualified to opine, but simply a grateful devourer of the Lord's edible substances. However, many proponents of the vegan way assail us in a spirit of pharisaism and in bullying mood.

Some avid vegans condemn their omnivore and carnivore fellows with acerbic disdain and even attempt to transform other elements of our culture by their self-righteous convictions (look up the story on the village of Wool in the English Cotswolds - see the terminology of traditional daily speech that is ordered to be abandoned - no bull! And 'don't count your chickens" that this tide of protest will be short-lived. Matthew 15:11 may have some relevance here).

As far as holy Scripture is concerned there is mature liberty of conscience to be permitted over foods: "One man's faith allows him to eat everything, but another man, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. The man who eats everything must not look down on him who does not, and the man who does not eat everything must not condemn the man who does, for God has accepted him" (Romans 14: 2-30. We are all fusspots in some matters to some degree - limited by irrational preferences and unchecked conditioning.

Biblically, the scope for human nourishment is broad if we examine our Maker's mind and the larder of nature that he has stocked. We do not interpret God's Word in terms of law or legalism as to what we select for our gastronomic preferences and digestive processes, but rather in an exemplary sense as to what raw material he has laid on for inclusion in our permissible menus e.g. Grain is a universal and prevalent means of sustenance available to all nations and peoples - a divine clue, perhaps, as to its general goodness for mankind. Our Lord partook of lamb for personal satisfaction and sanctified purposes. Roast beef was approved for occasions of banqueting and celebration and even commended in parable (Luke 15: 23). Kids' were customarily cooked in a specific way (Exodus 23:19), and fishing was an honorable industry and fish a worthy item in any meal. The slaughter of animals for food was meant as a vivid reminder of the tragic and disruptive consequences of the fall, a post-lapsarian means of giving us food for thought as to our breach with God and need for reinstatement to his favor.

The nature of food for our profit and pleasure is a legitimate matter of uncensored but sensible choice. Over pious judgment is to be avoided. The reasons for the harmfulness of our eating habits lies not so much in content but in conduct: the addition of preservatives and chemicals, sedentary lifestyle, over indulgence, and the craving for a surfeit of luxury dining.

We are living in an era of food obsessiveness and culinary idolatry. There seem to be, in the average bookshop, more volumes on food than faith, and most of the latter are not gainful fare for the soul.


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