Take This and Eat of It

I grew up in the Catholic church, dutifully attending Catechism classes and completing the sacraments up through Confirmation.

The first I was actually aware of was Reconciliation, and that one kinda sucked. At age 9, I was just being a kid and doing the things kids do. How does one confess that? There was tremendous pressure to not enter the dark and spooky confessional empty-handed. A priest once asked me if I was sure I hadn’t committed a sin, so I lamely replied, "I guess I wasn’t very nice to my brother" – and the warm tone of approval told me that making up a sin was the right thing to do. That’s pretty screwed up, folks.

Next came Communion. The whole notion that the little bread wafer would turn into actual skin of Jesus was gross. But, what little girl doesn’t want to dress up in a pretty white princess dress, place a bridal veil on her head, and get presents from her family? So, I did it. The first time I ate that little wafer, I kept it on my tongue until it started to break apart into spongy pieces – we weren’t supposed to chew it. Realizing that those grown-ups were kooks, and that the wafer was now just a saliva-soaked wafer that tasted exactly the same as the moment it went into my mouth, I never gave trans-substantiation another thought. No way was that real.

Confirmation was the next sacrament. This time, instead of a new dress, we got to pick a new name all on our own. The timing was perfect, as I had already begun to long for independence. What better way than to pick my own moniker? I believe I even wrote it on my school papers for a while. Siobhan. It was a very cool name that belonged to the sister of a school mate. The priest asked me if the name belonged to a special saint. Oh yes, I assured him. What is she the saint of, he asked? Uh, I can’t remember. Lying to the priest was one that never got confessed, by the way. I gave everyone my assurances that I believed Catholicism was the only way to get to Heaven, and that I would attend church for the rest of my life.

Which lasted right up until I moved out at the crack of eighteen. 

Thank you, God, for changing my mind about all this, and sticking with me even when I wasn’t sticking with You. Fast-forward to present-day, and my deep love for the Bible.

When I zoom out and reflect on what I see in Scripture from the proverbial 10,000 feet, I marvel at how many times scripture refers to food. Eve ate from the tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Eating bread with yeast in it could result in the permanent expulsion from the nation of Israel – even if it was an accident. We have manna from heaven, milk and honey, ephahs of fine flour, and olive oil. There are rules against eating pork, shellfish, and certain types of birds. Eating cloven-hoofed animals, provided they are chewers of cud (vegetarians) is okee-dokee. Daniel turned into a picky eater in the courts of Nebuchadnezzar and wound up looking healthier for his vegan diet. The Bread of Life is absolutely a must-have in our lives and if we eat from it, we get to attend the wedding banquet.

God makes today’s foodies look like rookies.

Why all the focus on eating? It’s as if we’re talking about something completely different than the biological process of taking in food for our bodies. Or, perhaps both the physical act of eating AND the spiritual metaphor are being presented. Forgive me if I’m off base – I’m admittedly a rookie myself when it comes to reading scripture with only two solid years under my belt and a general disdain for the interpretations of scripture given to me in my youth. 

I don’t think God is really talking about food in ANY of these scriptures. To make it easier to parse (for myself, as you may have already known this), I exchanged the word “eat” for “ingest.” And that’s when the light bulb clicked on for me.

Ingest comes from the Latin word ingestus; the past-participle form of ingerere which means "to throw on, carry, or to put into". So if you think about that, ingesting is really taking something into ourselves and carrying it around with us until it becomes a part of us. That changes the entire conversation about what we eat, doesn’t it? Let me shock you with an image to really drive this point home.

Do you remember the big outcry over foie gras and it's barbaric farming practices? The geese used to produce the delicacy (I call it foie gross) have a tube shoved down their throat and they are continually force-fed, which fattens their liver. This organ is later harvested and then served to a bunch of individuals in fancy clothing, treating themselves to some haute cuisine. It's an abominable practice in which a painfully shackled goose lives a horrible life being force fed what it doesn’t want, only to be killed and harvested for the enjoyment of someone who has no regard for the goose whatsoever. 

Remind you of anyone?

My brothers and sisters, I want you to understand that humanity are those geese and we are about to be harvested. Let that sink in.

We are unceasingly force-fed the things of this world: movies, television, internet, memes, music, print media, and more. We can't even go to the mall without having some Victoria's secret model shoving her goodies in our faces amidst a wafting of heady perfume samples. Guys, this is happening to our impressionable children at an alarming rate as they become more tech-savvy. More accurately, tech-addicted. We may even be the ones who insert the feeding tube.

We are turning ourselves, and our children, into fatty foie gras for Satan.

In ruminating about the food references in scripture, it occurred to me that perhaps all those food rules against eating shellfish, pigs, and scavengers are not solely about eating, but may also be about ingesting. It’s what we put into our lives, carry around with us, and make a part of us. (God, please forgive me if I have this wrong!) 

The inspiration to think about the role of food in scripture is the concept of yeast. If God was (is) willing to bring people out of captivity and go to such tremendous lengths to provide for them, then cutting them off from Israel forever for a mere grain of yeast just doesn’t make sense. Yet, some foods are banned under the law!

Let’s look at what’s “out” to get some clues. Typically, people cite disease and lack of refrigeration as the reason, but I think there’s more to the story.

Prohibited foods include: camel, coney, rabbit, pig, birds of prey (eagle, osprey, hawk, falcon, owl), carrion eaters (vulture, buzzard, raven), certain waterbirds (pelican, stork, heron, swan, sea gull), plus other birds (ostrich, bat, lapwing), all shellfish, and fish that have fins but not scales (shark, catfish, and eels.) Pretty much every one of these prohibited creatures are meat-eaters (alive or dead), bottom feeders, or animals that will eat anything if they’re hungry enough. Rabbits seem like an anomaly, but I have no idea why that might be.

These prohibited creatures (aside from that rabbit, I think) are indiscriminate consumers, feasting on all the world has to offer. I think the list of prohibited foods is a metaphor for staying away from what the predators of this world are offering us. Readers, just as much as the Bread of Life is a metaphor for what we’re really supposed to be consuming, I believe the banned food list is a metaphor for what we’re not supposed to be consuming. What we ingest (take in and carry with us) is important. 

You've heard about the old adage you are what you eat. That is especially true in today's world when we consider that we are ingesting, whether force-fed or willingly, unprecedented amounts of evil. Porn, drugs, power, material possessions, food, fun, clothing...

We need to be very diligent about what we ingest daily. Let’s stay away from what the bottom-feeders and carrion-eaters have to offer. We have to remove those feeding tubes and prevent ourselves from becoming foie gras for the enemy. Let's be ready for God's harvest.

I don’t know about you guys, but I’m really excited to see what the wedding banquet is all about. Something tells me it’s not completely about food, either.

 Eyes up!