How To Have Your Cake and Jesus Too.

I have a new post up at Relevant, and it’s one that’s dear to me in its concerns, and touches on the heart of what my new book is about. Take a look…

It’s been nearly 20 years since Frederica Mathews-Green insisted that Christians dismiss gluttony as a “cute” sin in the pages of Christianity Today. Since then, other voices have perpetuated the idea that we must love and desire God and God alone. Made to Crave, for example, asserts that nutrition is “food’s intended purpose,” with no room for “unhealthy choices,” not even birthday cake. By this logic, food—and other material goods—that go beyond the basic bodily needs toward any type of aesthetic pleasure are distractions from the Divine.

And in Jason Todd’s recent article at Relevant, he says, “I think I’m hungry for the finite, but I’m really hungry for God.” From this position, it’s easy to take it a step further and say that food, and other things of this life, are best approached with detachment, as competitors—not conduits—of that desire for God.

Of course, none of us need the hyper-abundance available in every American supermarket, big-box or suburban mini-mansion. But we do have to eat, wear clothes and have physical shelter. Whether our diets are highly processed or nutritionally “perfect,” we can’t escape the materiality of our existence. It’s a simple fact that at every step of our lives, we depend on other bodies and beings and things—human, animal, vegetable, mineral—to sustain us. Even the vegans among us live “from the death of the world,” as Wendell Berry has written. Medieval women, such as St. Catherine of Siena, sought escape from this dependence. She fasted unto death to show that Jesus was all the sustenance she needed. While most of us don’t take asceticism that far, many Christians still struggle with how to have their cake, and Jesus too.

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5 thoughts on “How To Have Your Cake and Jesus Too.

  1. Rachel, I loved this! What a great perspective on food. I really get what you are saying here…as we enjoy the gift and thank the giver we can freely and truly enjoy the gift. We can fight both starving ourselves and overeating. I also enjoyed your thoughts on the fast food consumer–just eating to fill full/get it done. OK- but I must be honest, I’m a bit of a foodie. 🙂 I like to savor my food. Anyways, well done!

    1. Thanks, Trillia! I’m a bit of a foodie, too. I think there’s nothing wrong with that as long as it doesn’t impede fellowship. And with that, I’ll look forward to breaking (artisanal) bread with you someday in the future! 😉

  2. I’ve long thought that orthodoxy and orthopraxy are all about avoiding the lunatic fringes and making the best of the cursed yet blessed place in between. When we learn that to avoid one evil we need not run way out to the opposite extreme?

    At the time of my conversion I had the initial impression that thoughtful reflection, balance and nuance were regarded rather as virtues by Christians. I must have been reading the “wrong” people to have thought so, as I very soon found myself continually assaulted by precisely the sort of wild-eyed ignorant zealotry that made me so leery of the whole thing in the first place.

    This essay, like your book, eloquently sets forth a beautiful example of that happy middle ground of sanctified sanity.

  3. Well, you know how I feel about my tastebuds, Rachel. I figure God gave us the ability to taste wonderful tastes for a reason, and as long as we – as Trillia said – enjoy the gift and thank the Giver we are as orthopraxic as can be. (And thanks to your Dad for reminding me of that word!)

    1. Isn’t it a good, useful word? And yet it’s fallen out of use, whereas orthodoxy hasn’t. Curious.

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