Sunday, November 13, 2016

On 'Feasting' in Church

A few weeks ago, I read the article "Feasting and Fellowship in an Age of Food Allergies." It was a good, for the most part. I agree that there is an increase of food allergies. I agree that the church needs to be willing to make changes--big or small--in the name of fellowship. I agree that the church should take steps to be more welcoming and supportive to those with special eating needs.

One section on 'Food Pharisees' caught my attention. No doubt it caught my attention for a reason. It was about judgment and shame. About how personal food preferences can lead to judging others with different diets.

I think this section is true--in some ways--no question. There is nothing more annoying than listening to someone on a new diet, someone following a new fad, to tell you what you should be eating or what you should not be eating. There is nothing more annoying than having someone else calculating how many carbs or how many calories are on your plate. It can be hurtful--in the extreme--to be told NO WONDER YOU'RE NOT LOSING WEIGHT.

But at the same time, I think it's not completely true. I think the article is a bit harsh in judging those who *have* food preferences. OR those who bring their food preferences to the church fellowship hall. At one point writing that those with 'food preferences' marginalize those with legitimate issues and concerns.
"While our neighbors are legitimately suffering the isolating effects of food allergies, many of us actively embrace the isolation that they would gladly escape if they could, removing ourselves from the blessing of shared consumption."
When we project our own food preferences and convictions on our brothers and sisters, we unintentionally marginalize those with legitimate allergies, and we unintentionally stigmatize those who don’t eat like we do.
I don't think those with 'food preferences' are the villains seeking to steal the spotlight. I don't.

I have a few food allergies, and, I have a few food preferences. I avoid eggs, gluten, and dairy because I want to avoid 'relatively minor' reactions. I avoid foods with added sugar or artificial sweeteners because I'm watching my weight. (I had given up desserts almost a full year before I discovered my food allergies.)

Is there a way for the church to be supportive and not judgmental when it comes to feasting? Does it really matter--at the end of the day--why a person says no to the macaroni and cheese? Let's say one person has celiac disease, one person has a dairy allergy, one person has diabetes, one person is struggling to lose weight. Which reason are you really going to call out as invalid?

To end on a more positive note. Here are my suggestions for how church members bringing food to potluck feasts can be more supportive.

1) LABEL potential allergens. It's that simple. Even if you do nothing else, do this, please. I don't know how others with food allergies are--but--I hesitate to ask or probe too many questions. Plus, to have to ask questions about every single thing in front of you--well--that makes me feel too different. (Dairy, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, wheat, fish, shellfish, etc.)

2) If you bring vegetable side dishes, it might prove helpful if you leave the 'butter' or 'cheese' to be added on after-the-fact. It might slow down the line, possibly. But for those with dairy allergies, perfectly good vegetables become 'ruined' by the presence of butter, cheese, etc. Or consider cooking with olive oil instead. I love green beans, mushrooms, celery, onions sautéed in olive oil. And I don't think you have to be "avoiding dairy" to love that one!

3) Consider bringing fresh fruit instead of a more traditional dessert. Or in addition to your traditional dessert.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

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