Sunday, November 13, 2016

On Feasting In Church, part 2

I recently read Asheritah Ciuciu's FULL: Food, Jesus, and the Battle For Satisfaction. It was a thought-provoking read. I'll be honest. I read it carefully. I read it critically. (Critical to myself, critical to the ideas and arguments.) I had a few issues with the book now and then. I did. But at the same time, I must admit that it got me asking questions.

The book is about FOOD FIXATION. It's main argument is that food fixation has its roots in a spiritual problem. That healing is completely possible, that change is possible--but what people need is a MIGHTY, MIGHTY SAVIOR. What people need is to love Jesus Christ more than they love donuts or fried chicken. People don't need to turn to comfort food, they need to be turning pages of Scripture. People's first resort needs to be prayer, not biscuits and gravy.

The book's secondary argument is that the church is not doing enough.  She argues that food fixation, food addiction, gluttony is a church-approved sin. Wherever two or more are gathered in Christ's name--there is food, generally a lot of food. (And not healthy, good-for-you food.) Gluttony seems to be a forbidden subject in and out of the church. Perhaps this is accidental. Perhaps this is intentional. Perhaps people are so terrified of offending people, of coming across as judgmental, that they avoid anything that hints of it.

The church should first and foremost be concerned with the spiritual health of individual church members.

But. Does that mean the church should not be concerned with the physical health of individual church members?

Does stressing the first--spiritual health--mean dismissing the second--physical health--completely? And if Ciuciu is correct, that the ROOT of food fixation and addiction is spiritual, shouldn't the church take notice and reevaluate things?

How many church members struggle with health problems? For example, how many church members have diabetes? In a decade, how many church members are buried because of diabetes-related causes?
In the days before the funeral, and perhaps after the funeral, how does the church respond? With food. Comfort food.

I think there has to be a way for the church to be more supportive of its members physical and spiritual needs. I am NOT asking for the food police, or for the creation of FOOD PHARISEES. I don't think it would work; I don't think it would be helpful. I think it would create situations of shame, guilt, and fear. But there has to be something in between doing "absolutely nothing" and the free-for-all of FEAST, FEAST, FEAST.

We should--privately and publicly--be FEASTING on the Word of God, on Christ himself. More love of Christ, more trust in Christ is the answer not just to the addiction to food--but to all other sin as well. The church should actively encourage church members to fight against sin and avoid entering into temptation at every opportunity. But we live in an age where sin is just as forbidden a subject. Could this be part of the problem?

Should pastors be more willing to talk openly and honestly about gluttony? about food addiction? Perhaps. I think pastors should definitely be preaching openly and honestly about every subject--every topic--found in the Word of God. The church needs the WHOLE book.

Perhaps small changes could be made within the church to help those who struggle. Are donuts really necessary for Sunday School? Are cakes and cookies really necessary for Bible study? I am not saying never eat together as a church family. But perhaps more effort could be made to make eating together more balanced. (Perhaps sign-up sheets to make sure that a few people bring meat (protein), that perhaps a few more bring vegetables (not side dishes, but vegetables), that a few bring fruit, that a few bring dessert, that a few bring carbs (biscuits, rolls, macaroni and cheese).

Perhaps small groups could be formed to support one another's efforts. To perhaps attend work shops and seminars about healthy cooking, to work out together,  to pray together, to read select books. The message needs to be: you are not alone, and, I will fight by your side. I struggle too. Don't be ashamed. Don't hide. We're stronger together.

Physical health should never take the priority OVER spiritual health. And one should never become so focused on being healthy and fit that one becomes complacent or disinterested in spiritual growth and discipline. Christ should always, always, always, always be what we seek most. Not a number on a scale, not a number on a hanger or tag.

I do think the church is afraid to have hard, tough conversations. I do think most people are terrified of saying the wrong thing. It is easier to say nothing, do nothing. It will always be easier to say nothing, do nothing. Will saying nothing make the problem go away? Truth can be loving and freeing. Admitting that the church has an obesity problem won't be easy. I know that. But the church has a MIGHTY, MIGHTY SAVIOR in her midst. Someone who has promised to FREE us from our SINS and transform--renew--our minds.

An individual can fight, struggle, give in, give up, and go around and around on the merry go round of hate, self-loathing, shame, guilt, fear. Shame can keep you silent, alone, vulnerable. But we are meant to share one another's burdens. How can we encourage each other to love Christ more? To cling to him more tightly?

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

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