Thoughts of a Catholic convert

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Monday, June 07, 2010

This was me as a kid :) ...

Just read an article at The Christian Century ..... A Christian diet: The case for food rules by David Grumett (Theology on the Menu: Asceticism, Meat and Christian Diet).

I'm pretty anti-ascetic and I'd agree with Jesus' thought that it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but it is what comes out of the mouth that defiles (Matthew 15:11). Nope, there are no food rules in Crystal's world, but having said that, I am a vegetarian who doesn't eat meat or fish (and I don't buy eggs). It's hard for me to pin down the difference between denying oneself something for the sake of asceticism, and deciding not to do something because that seems like the right thing to do, but I feel there is a difference. So, I agreed with the writer of the article about the worth of vegetarianism, but we disagreed about why it's worthwhile. Here's the beginning of the article .......


A Christian diet: The case for food rules

About ten years ago, I started to become vegetarian. I say started, because this was not a sudden conversion to the standard vegetarian menu. I kept on eating fish. I eat game from time to time, though only on special occasions.

While my menu shifted, my Christian observance continued pretty much the same. A cradle Anglican, I was at the time a graduate student at King's College, Cambridge, reading theology. Evensong in chapel was a staple of my spiritual diet, often followed by dinner in the hall. Although physical sustenance came right after spiritual sustenance, I had little sense of a link between the two beyond vague notions that sharing food with others was a good thing to do and that one should not take too much food in order to leave plenty for others.

As a Christian, I was not unusual in failing to make close connections between faith and food. For people of other religions, the links are much clearer. Muslims might be absent from lunch during Ramadan, while many Jews avoid pork and share the Passover meal. But for Christians the lack of any food rules at all is often a badge of distinction. Since the time of Augustine, food rules have been seen as markers of other religions, to be broken by Christians to prove that Christ has set them free.

In spreading the idea that food is for Christians a non issue, Augustine has a lot to answer for. He had his own motives for pushing that line. When he was a junior member of the Manichaean sect, he had attended Man ichaean meals in which, it was believed, the light particles trapped in food were liberated as the food was eaten. Vegetables composed most of the Manichaean diet, and meat was banned because it was the product of sexual intercourse.

Little wonder that Augustine wanted to distance himself from food rules once he became Christian. But in turning his back on Manichaean rituals, he failed to recognize the importance of what had by then become a well-established Christian tradition of dietary discipline. The desert fathers were famous for their meager diets, and early monastic rules were codifying this practice in moderated form. The major rule for monasteries in the West, St. Benedict's Rule, prohibited healthy adults from eating the flesh of four-footed animals. It also limited the number of meals that could be taken in a day and the range of choices at a single meal .....



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