I had a dear blog reader write (after reading about my 180 day Whole30 experiment) to ask me about Jesus’ injunction given in the Sermon on the Mount to “take no thought for what you shall eat.” I gave her a cursory response, but have since thought that she’s probably not the only one out there wondering about a Christian Science practitioner taking care about what she eats. Hence, I thought I’d slow down here and explain some of my back-burner thinking about this topic for those that are interested. (Note: this blog post just represents my own perspective, and not that of any party line. Other Christian Scientist’s may have sorted these issues out for themselves differently.)
The topical quote in the King James version of the Bible goes like this:
“No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature? And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to-day is, and to-morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself.” Matthew 6:24-34
First of all, we often take things in the Bible out of context. It seems to me that in context this passage is actually an injunction against worrying about provision. It is about not being afraid you’ll have enough. It is an assurance that God knows our needs and will supply them. We should focus on God rather than our needs, for by focusing on God, we’ll see our needs will be met. Mary Baker Eddy states it this way in the Christian Science textbook, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, “Divine Love always has met and always will meet every human need.”
Ironically, by eliminating certain foods as I did during my Whole30, I actually thought about food less. I may have spent more time preparing whole food, but I was not eating anything that tugged on my thought as a craving or a temptation. It truly was food freedom in a way that maybe you don’t understand if you don’t experience it. I was not thinking about food anymore, even though I was free to be spontaneously creative about how I prepared it.
Now that I’m back to allowing myself to eat any thing I want, I’m thinking about food again a lot more, “Should I have that ice cream or grilled cheese?” And although I have loved those things in the past, I don’t really want them now, since I feel their control over me and I distain that. I felt freer within the simple but restrictive guidelines of the Whole30, when I did not even have to entertain these thoughts and questions, and could focus on more important things, like God.
Also, as I mentioned to the blog reader who asked the question, food in Jesus’ day had not been genetically modified or poisoned with chemical additives. Consider that Jesus even drank wine. We as Christian Scientists generally don’t do that for some of the same reasons I started abstaining from other food categories. Now many foods have been manipulated to make them addictive, so that we will eat and buy more. Industrialized food is also full of preservatives, pesticides, additives, hormones, medications, and man-made substances. We Christian Scientists don’t usually mindlessly take drugs either, so why should we blindly take them in the form of our food?
I want a clear thought, not one clouded by chemical dependencies. As Mary Baker Eddy says, “Whatever enslaves man opposes the divine government.” If you knew how many have people told me that they couldn’t even consider giving up sugar, grain or caffeine, you’d know they were depending on those things rather than God. In response to these comments I would think to myself about how the Christ comes to set us free. So shouldn’t we be willing to be free?
At this juncture, we could get ourselves all distracted by wondering why we have to discern between good and bad, if God is all and good. What is it that the Christ is freeing us from if God is only good? Why can’t we serve both God and mammon, when God includes all? This rabbit hole could be another whole blog post, but I find it useful for the purposes of this discussion to remember Mary Baker Eddy’s admonition that we must, “Resist evil– error of every sort– and it will flee from you.” (Science and Health page 406)
What Mary Baker Eddy says about poison is also pertinent and interesting: “If a dose of poison is swallowed through mistake, and the patient dies even though physician and patient are expecting favorable results, does human belief, you ask, cause this death? In such cases a few persons believe the potion swallowed by the patient to be harmless, but the vast majority of mankind, though they know nothing of this particular case and this special person, believe the arsenic, the strychnine, or whatever the drug used, to be poisonous, for it is set down as a poison by mortal mind. Consequently, the result is controlled by the majority of opinions, not by the infinitesimal minority of opinions in the sick-chamber.” (Science and Health page 177)
The facts are that lots of our food these days is literally laced with actual, certified poison, caused and implemented by corporate corruption and greed for the purpose of maximizing their profits. I’ve prayed about this for decades, but it is only getting worse, and escalating quite rapidly. When Paul in the Bible was bitten by the poisonous viper, he shook it off. He did not say to himself, “I’ll just deny it, ignore it, and not think about it.” Another time when there was “death in the pot,” Elisha took action, and did something about it, helping other people in the process. He didn’t just complacently eat it anyway, because he was so spiritually minded.
Now “big food” has put these things largely out of our hands, negotiated behind closed doors in a way that only those actually paying attention recognize. Much of food is now fake-food, like too much of our news is fake-news. I think it is important, especially considering that God is Truth itself, to discern the difference, and stick only with what is real and true.
Workers wear hazmat suits to protect themselves while growing food that we turn around and put in our mouths. Companies that grow GMO’s make sure not to serve them to themselves in their own cafeterias. For me, I do not want to imbibe and partake in what I feel are their unGodlike motives. That is as much or more of my concern than any literal, material contamination. I know from my work as a practitioner that fear and sin are chief among the procuring influences of disease. It is imperative to choose to sidestep both in every way possible in our path to serve God. I do not want to be complicit with corruption, and I feel called to vote against it with my food dollar, and to encourage others to do so as well.
Science and Health instructs us, “If mortals think that food disturbs the harmonious functions of mind and body, either the food or this thought must be dispensed with, for the penalty is coupled with the belief.” (page 388) I have tried to dispense with the prevailing corporate thoughts inherent in the creation of our current contaminated “food-like” substances, but so far have been overruled by a majority that either has their head in the sand, is looking the other way, is a shareholder in the profits of the debauched system, or is already hopelessly addicted. Like the poison in the Eddy quote above, it is not enough to just handle it on the level of my own thought. Finally, I’ve had to say for myself, “Get thee hence,” to the whole mess as much as possible, drawing a line in the sand to delineate me as separate from that world thought as well as by my personal lack of consumption.
Mary Baker Eddy tells us to, “Stand porter at the door of thought,” shutting out offending errors. She explains that this is how we avoid suffering from them. Please notice that this is very different than the (misconstrued) injunction above, “take no thought.” We are not to be mindless, naive, and undiscerning. It seems to me standing porter at the door of our mouths (and what practices we support) is prudent as well.
Food for most of us is very available in huge surplus. It is probably safe to say that no one reading this blog is starving. I’m grateful I can shop for food instead of foraging in the woods or milking the cow at dawn. The options available are colossal, and mind-boggling even to us. Imagine, however, how someone in the audience at the Sermon on the Mount would feel walking through Costco! It would be inaccurate to suggest that any of us don’t have to make ongoing choices about food, and therefore can avoid “giving it thought.” We are surrounded by so much of it; food abundance and variety is everywhere. These days, we all have to have some basis for choosing what we eat.
I don’t know how you decide what to buy and eat. For me, moral purity is important. I try to buy mostly organic and local. I try to avoid packaging and unpronounceable ingredients. We grow a lot of our own food, and know local farmers that we love and support. Our eggs come from humanely raised chickens. We eat sustainable fish from cleaner waters. We eat “food made of plants not made in plants,”(as Michael Pollen so famously quipped). By eating a wide variety of whole food, I oppose mono-culture, excessive processing, and large agribusiness, which is dangerous for the sustainability of our planet, not just for people individually. By not eating meat, I lower my carbon foot print and help someone else somewhere not starve. By eating in this way we support those choices remaining available, and have clear consciences. I understand and am committed to the morals that dictate my food choices, and therefore actually think about food less than many, who choose food instead based on whimsey, taste, lust, habit, addiction, or appetite.
And although toxicity, carbon-footprints, and corrupt industrialized food were not factors anyone had to navigate in Bible times, or even in Mary Baker Eddy’s day, they are definitely moral issues we need to deal with here now on our own watch. But I am encouraged by Daniel in the Old Testament, who asked Melzar to be able to not “defile himself” with the King’s meat, “So he consented to them in this matter, and proved them ten days. And at the end of ten days their countenances appeared fairer and fatter in flesh [i.e. healthier] than all the children which did eat the portion of the king’s meat.” (KJV Daniel 1:14-15) So likewise, I too ask not to defile myself by what I eat, which is only more complicated in this modern world of ours. In doing so, both I and the world are also better for it, and it takes much less thought in the long run. Meanwhile, I am more able to serve God.
Very well said, Polly. I couldn’t agree with you more.?
Wonderful post today. I would suggest though that adulterated food was a problem in Mary Baker Eddy’s day and earlier, through ignorance and/or greed. Sawdust was added to bread to stretch the flour, and anyone who’s ever read The Jungle knows about the evils of the meat packing industry.
This is so beautifully written and so thoroughly addressed thank you so much ! I started eating clean several years ago (for the most part) and so did my daughter —we both feel so much better and lighter (both mentally and body size) but our motives were to have less thought about food and body and it’s true making choices based on clear intentions makes it much easier to focus on God just as you say ! I have not completely elimimated sugar but I work hard to be extremely disciplined about the amount I allow myself to have – I think eliminating it is something I might want to do. Thank you for this beautiful post !!
Very well laid out explanation for the ethics of food selection. I’ll always remember hearing a potato farmer give a talk about the pesticides used. He said “no one knows better than us (speaking of other potato farmers) what we use on our industrial crops”. He said “for our families, we grow our own smaller patch without pesticides”.
Beautifully said, Polly. You’re helping to raise my food consciousness. In a very good way!
Polly, this is worth publishing. Your clear thinking and writing was inspiring. Your gifts are blessing many. Thank you.
The No. 1 reason I gave up meat in 1995 was that it seemed the humane path. This was influennced by Hindu meditation teacher Eknath Easwaran’s writings. Secondary reasons were the environmental and health benefits of a plant-based diet. Your post addresses an even wider range of concerns that have arisen in the 20+ years since then. Easwaran’s meditation practice eventually drew me back to my spiritual roots in CS. As I write this, these ideas from S&H come to mind: “We must seek the undivided garment”… (p 142) and “The divine Science of man is woven into one web of consistency without seam or rent.c
(p 242) Consuming in a conscious and holistic way leaves me freer in mind and body to “worship God in the beauty of holiness.”
You should submit this to The CS Monitor. Well thought out argument. If anyone wants more info
Please read the book Salt Sugar Fat by Pulitzer winning author Moss.