Sixteen Sausages in a Row

A few days ago, I republished a post from a few years back on food allergies. This was mostly because I am still sorting things out in my new WordPress surroundings, and wanted to see how to repost something. Tinker with this, click on that, you know. A new commenter had just referenced that old post, so I just reloaded that one, just for grins. But it has generated some fresh discussion, as these things always do, some in the comments, and others with me in real time.

I know that when I write on things like this, I routinely try to qualify what I am saying, so that nobody can say I am mocking the sick and the infirm, or being hard-hearted toward those who are truly hurting. But those qualifications can be taken (as some have taken them) as simply a pro forma sort of thing, giving myself plausible deniability, in case someone’s feelings get hurt and I wanted to have something to point to while maintaining that I didn’t say that. But no, I really believe my qualifications. So in this instance, let me frontload them, and then after that move on to the basic points I am seeking to make in these posts.

So here is a full paragraph of qualifications, and a longish paragraph it is too. First, I understand that these things operate on a sliding scale — it is not the case that you either go to the hospital all swoll up with your life on the line, or your problem is entirely imaginary. Some allergies are very serious immediately, while others should be filed under certain foods “not agreeing with” your constitution. There are food allergies, with varying degrees of seriousness, and there are food intolerances, with varying degrees of seriousness. The law of love should govern in all instances. Hosts should be thoughtful hosts, and guests should be thoughtful guests. Also, when it comes to particular cases and instances, with people I deal with directly, I am not trigger-happy in offering the suggestion that the problem might not be “real.” Actually, the problem is always real in some way, but it is sometimes not real in the way that everybody first thought. But if I am counseling someone, for example, and begin to suspect that some kind of self-delusion is going on, it will usually take me months to get to the point where I would suggest that directly. There would be a lot of other ground to cover first. And what this means is that I am not making snap-diagnoses at a distance of particular individuals in any of my posting on this subject.

I have been dealing with people in pastoral ministry for decades, and have pretty much seen it all. I have seen enough to know that there is a true category out there of hypochondria, and there is another category of people who are genuinely sick — and some of them with illnesses that are quite mysterious, and hard to pin down. Now the fact that I believe there is such a thing as the former category does not mean that I deny the existence of the second, or the seriousness of what people in the second category face, or the difficulties they confront when they are afflicted with something that might look to outsiders like they are making it all up. To all such — my heart goes out to them, and they don’t have worry about any snide comments from me. I have never been talking about them.

This being the case, why do I run the risk of being misunderstood by some with a genuine ailment? When I am attacking abuse in this area (as I frequently do), it is because I have seen the real damage, in real time, that play-acting can do to marriages, families, and friendships. I have also seen a situation where someone in genuine pain just soldiers on through because she will not be lumped in with those who have their boutique allergies. This is a situation created by the fakery, and not by recognition that there is such a thing as fakery and/or self-deception.

Here are the principles I am most concerned about:

1. The first point is that table fellowship is one of the most important ecclesiastical issues found in the New Testament. We need to remember that, and act accordingly. Some of the fiascoes I have seen were the result of ignoring that truth. We have gotten to the point where there is widespread disruption of such table fellowship, and I simply think that more of us should act like it is a big deal. Just to be clear on the point, genuine food allergies, etc. do not disrupt table fellowship because they provide an occasion for love. The disruption is caused by manipulation and selfishness, which is the opposite of koinonia fellowship.

2. The second issue concerns the nature of knowledge. I could care less what other people eat — provided they are having a good time with it. But I care very much about truth and verification. I care very much about irrationality being given a free pass simply because it is what Smith or Murphy “are into.” Once the principles of unreason are well-established in our midst, we will find that we cannot turn them off with a switch, simply because we are now dealing with something more serious. We are to love the Lord our God with all our minds, and I have to say that I have seen some striking instances of that not happening. The post hoc fallacy is not the queen of the sciences.

3. The third point concerns frequent abdication on the part of fathers and husbands. Many times, emotional and spiritual issues show up in the lives of women as food issues, and the men involved are often too weak, or cowardly, or defensive about their own causal role, to address it in the way they ought to. Women are prone to be deceived (1 Tim. 2:14), and men are prone to let them be deceived. This is an area where I have seen radical unsubmissiveness on the part of some wives, and radical cowardice on the part of some husbands, conspiring together to destroy families. The food is just a symptom; the real problem is located somewhere else entirely. And wives, don’t read this and go off to demand that your husband tell you if this is true. It might not be, but if it is, you are unlikely to get a straight answer from him. Get on your knees and ask the Spirit if it is true. He’s not afraid of you.

4. And last, if any reacted to my earlier use of the phrase boutique allergies, and assume that anyone who uses phrases like that must be attacking you individually, then this illustrates the heart of the problem with “qualifications.” There is no good reason I can think of for someone with a real broken leg being defensive on behalf of someone who is faking a broken leg. To make the point bluntly, referring back to my second concern, if I write that Smith is faking his broken leg, it is not germane to the discussion to post a picture of your son, who is not a Smith at all, with the bone sticking out. My belief that there is such a thing as a boutique allergy industry does not mean that I believe that you are a customer. I mean, I don’t even know your name. But those shops are out there, and they do have customers.

But let me return to my earlier qualification. I really believe that there are many genuine food allergies and intolerances. I myself react quite poorly to sixteen sausages in a row. Um . . . joke . . . didn’t mean to make light of . . . no, no, not really . . . sorry.

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Valerie Jacobsen
Member

I like your second point best! So true. But is hard to understand your contention that a person must have some degree of legitimate illness in order to scrupulously avoid a food, or food group. Romans 14 seems to indicate that we can have full fellowship even if one guest at the barbecue is eating his burger in a lettuce wrap and another is eating an empty bun. (And isn’t Romans 14 addressing folks who have specious moral reasons for their asceticism?) It’s been since the days of Paul that people talk about food, health, and ethics, so that some… Read more »

Eric B.
Guest
Eric B.

Well said.

Stacy McDonald
Guest

Thank you for your clarifications, Pastor Wilson. And I appreciate that you recognize that there are varying degrees of seriousness with food allergies/ sensitivities etc. But since you said that you can’t think of any good reason for “someone with a real broken leg” to be defensive on behalf of someone who is “faking a broken leg” or, more specifically, someone with a real food allergy to be defensive on behalf of someone with a “boutique allergy,” let me try to explain. When I was growing up, if a child fell and got hurt, my family was very much a… Read more »

Emily
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Emily

Pastor Wilson, Thank you for this follow-up, even though it is still somewhat lacking. From what I can sort of determine in this article, isn’t the real issue people who are insensitive to others? You stated, “The disruption is caused by manipulation and selfishness, which is the opposite of koinonia fellowship.” To me this represents people who don’t even have a medical condition, but are just plain selfish. This issue has nothing to do with food, but more with their heart. In my experience, the issue of food should be the least of our worries when it comes to a… Read more »

Whitney
Guest
Whitney

I think this issue has long been neglected in the body of Christ. I believe there’s a strong correlation to be made between “boutique allergies” and “boutique illnesses” as well, such as the mysterious upsurge in claims of fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome. In most cases I do not doubt the actual presence of physical pain, but your third point expresses my sentiments exactly. Could it be that the rampant chronic pain we see today is merely a physical manifestation of unrepented sin? Of old hurts and wounds that need to be addressed by the One who came that we… Read more »

Tim M.
Guest
Tim M.

Stacey,
You wrote:
“my concern was more over how your post would be taken by the ignorant or the impatient in the church”

Have you considered that this is perhaps an unreasonable standard to hold ANY communicator to? Do you think it is fair when people criticize your husband, not for what he intended to communicate, but for all the possible bad ways the ignorant or impatient can apply his words? Don’t the ignorant and impatient also incorrectly apply the Scriptures? Does this mean that good communication necessarily takes into account all possible ways sinful people can distort our intentions?

Name on His Hand
Guest
Name on His Hand

I agree that perhaps an example might have been better to make your point how fellowship is destroyed by ppl who are faking food allergies. I think what is truly happening is that ppl who have had ‘problems’ all their lives are finally beginning to see the light that perhaps it is the food they eat? I could be wrong but it seems to me that the state of our food supply is such that (along with vaccinations and other environmental toxins) we are in for far more issues with ppl that might be related to foods we ingest. I… Read more »

Stacy McDonald
Guest

Tim, If you’ve been following the whole conversation, you’ll see that I was referring to the fact that I thought his point was communicated poorly, in a sloppy way, inadvertently lumping together people he didn’t intend to include. If he’s talking about rude hypochondriacs who behave as though the world revolves around them, then he should have said so. Instead, he broad-brushed people with food allergies, putting into question their integrity (or perhaps their sanity) by inviting everyone to judge whether or not they are “enemies of unity.” For the sake of unity, I think he should have been more… Read more »

Tim M.
Guest
Tim M.

Stacy,
Have you considered that you have misrepresented him and he did no such thing? I have read the whole conversation and have concluded that I do not believe you are understanding his actual words. Is it possible that your experience in this issue is clouding your ability to understand the author’s intention? Wouldn’t you think it is a bit patronizing to tell someone that if they have read the whole conversation they would automatically agree with you. Is it possible that you might be the one who is mistaken?

Tim M.
Guest
Tim M.

*have you considered the possibility that you might have misrepresented

kelly
Guest
kelly

SO AGREE with ^stacy^.

Stacy McDonald
Guest

Hi Tim, You said: “Is it possible that your experience in this issue is clouding your ability to understand the author’s intention?” I chose to believe him when he said his “intention” was to encourage unity; I simply believe he did a very poor job of accomplishing it, and actually encouraged the very opposite result. You also said: “Wouldn’t you think it is a bit patronizing to tell someone that if they have read the whole conversation they would automatically agree with you.” That isn’t what I said. I said that “If you’ve been following the whole conversation, you’ll see… Read more »

Tim M.
Guest
Tim M.

Stacey, It might be helpful for you to reread both of his posts and look for evidence that he is not lumping together hypochondriacs and those with legitimate allergies. I believe there is ample evidence to show that Doug hasalready done what you seem to think he hasn’t done. Perhaps your remarks betray poor reading comprehension? Or maybe your emotion is clouding your ability to see what is obviously there? He is obviously not talking to people in situation. Even a cursory reading of both articles would demonstrate this. Is it possible that you simply are not comfortable with people… Read more »

Tim M.
Guest
Tim M.

*confronting people in your situation
And
*fad diagnoses

Stacy McDonald
Guest

LOL! Oh the irony! ;-)

In my very first comment here, I thanked Doug for his clarifications. However, I also expounded on why they were necessary, since he didn’t seem to understand why people were upset.

“Thank you for your clarifications, Pastor Wilson. And I appreciate that you recognize that there are varying degrees of seriousness with food allergies/ sensitivities etc…”

Tim M.
Guest
Tim M.

Stacey,
The clarifications weren’t clarifications… He said nothing new in the second post. He was simply more explicit about what was already there in the first. Perhaps you should reread :)

Tim M.
Guest
Tim M.

He then explains that his more explicit post will not satisfy the dissenting.

Tim M.
Guest
Tim M.

Your reactions are proving his point, the irony is that you do not see this…

Stacy McDonald
Guest

Ah, Tim, you’re having way too much fun. I think I should walk away before I’m tempted to spoil it all for you.

Tim M.
Guest
Tim M.

I would hate to have my fun spoiled :)

Valerie Jacobsen
Member

Pastor Wilson, you seem to be saying that when it comes to church fellowship, there are three kinds of people– Group One–those who are ethically and appropriately on special diets, who should be supported in their weakness; Group Two–those who are unethically and inappropriately on special diets, whose food scruples are the deathly enemy of church unity; and Group Three–those who practice no dietary restrictions and eat whatever they are offered. You say that the second group are among the greatest sinners in the church. You enumerate their characteristics and define the frequency and severity of your encounters with them.… Read more »

Valerie Jacobsen
Member

If your main point is about divisiveness, why is the content of these posts focused on who’s eating what and why and whether or not their reasons are sufficiently compelling?

Valerie Jacobsen
Member

I see my typo! Is a ‘metal patient’ a malfunctioning robot?

Ellen of Tasmania
Guest
Ellen of Tasmania

“I believe there’s a strong correlation to be made between “boutique allergies” and “boutique illnesses” as well, such as the mysterious upsurge in claims of fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome. ” Whitney, also consider that we might be giving new names to old conditions. We used to talk about people with ‘delicate’ health, or ‘broken’ health, a ‘delicate constitution’ or ‘delicate digestion’ etc. You’ll think of others if you are a reader of old books. There may be no ‘upsurge’ as you suggest. As I said on the previous food post, we have lost the plot scientifically, and it’s showing… Read more »

Bob L.
Guest
Bob L.

Issues pertaining to food have indeed taken a prominent place in the church and I believe that Pastor W. does well to urge Christians to carefully consider how their views and preferences might impact the body as a whole. It is good and well to consider such issues, for even in eating and drinking we are to give glory to God, but we also should recall the proverb that Paul quotes “Foods for the stomach and the stomach for foods, but God will destroy both it and them.” Barnes, in his commentary on 1 Cor. 6:13, urges Christians to direct… Read more »

Eric B.
Guest
Eric B.

You must not be very familiar with what Wilson has written about food if you think you can fairly summarize his position as “urging the church to be diligent in allowing love to govern our actions and words…” Wilson goes out of his way to categorically trash all conceivable ideas for choosing what to eat on the basis of any sort of organic ideas.

Anika Cornforth
Guest
Anika Cornforth

If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing. Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does… Read more »

Whitney
Guest
Whitney

Ellen, I concede that historically these illnesses could have been present all along, but it stands to reason that a historical record of such things doesn’t refute the idea that there are many who fail to systemically treat their pain……. it just shows that this is nothing new. Again, I don’t deny that for many the pain is very real and debilitating, but my point was that regardless of the pain, whether real or perceived, I think we as believers often miss the bigger reality of the spiritual component to all the chronic pain, namely that the pain source is… Read more »

Rod Story
Guest
Rod Story

Often, the most powerful thing you can do is speak the truth in love. As a physician, I often meet people who are in bondage to their perception of illness and disability. We live in a system that has made individual determination the reigning principle, even to the point of allowing persons to be controlled by their unchallenged weaknesses. Yet, 1 Thes 5 exhorts believers to “admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.” To leave our weaker brother alone is to despise them.

Jill
Guest

I read excerpts of this post at another blog and, while I’ve been enlightened further by reading the full article, your ultimate conclusion or lack thereof still begs the question: so what? So what is a pastor, husband, or the body of Christ to do when he/they suspect a woman of being a hypochondriac? Should the woman be disciplined? Should she be sent to a doctor or multiple doctors to determine the veracity of her allergies or illness? Is the pastor/husband/body of Christ to fulfill the role of diagnostician? Should lots to be cast? What? And when a diagnosis is… Read more »

Jane
Member

“So what is a pastor, husband, or the body of Christ to do when he/they suspect a woman of being a hypochondriac? Should the woman be disciplined?”

Isn’t the first question to ask, what should the man (or woman) do who recognizes himself or herself in this description as a hypochondriac, or otherwise someone who is abusing charity in a misguided pursuit of some food-related perfection?

Pastoral advice is usually intended, in the first instance, to counsel individuals, and only secondarily to tell third parties what to do with individuals who do not accept counsel.

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous

Ugh. I have seen this eating thing go so crazy, that even the Communion bread had to be made “healthy” for the few who “truly” needed it. You are forced to eat it, if you want Communion. What I have seen of this, is that others believe they are “cleaner” or “healthier” or “holier” than the ones who choose to just be free in Christ and eat and drink to His glory, no matter what they eat or drink. That is the command, and I believe it is very wrong to coerce and/or guilt others to eat a certain way,… Read more »

Ben
Guest
Ben

I haven’t taken the time to read everyone’s conversation up to this point, but I would voice my concern in the area of what pastors should approve as acceptable eating within the Church. Pastor Wilson, what would your course of action be if someone’s convictions were restrictive to what someone ate? It’s not a matter of people faking trendy food allergies (or folks who don’t fake it and just try to live alternatively) but rather one of great spiritual concern. Sure, search Google like the one fella suggested and you’ll run the gamut of blogs on appropriate Christian eating but… Read more »

Eric B.
Guest
Eric B.

Aren’t real, verifiable food allergies dramatically on the rise, particularly in the kind of families that follow the kind of food and lifestyle advice you dispense (i.e. modern American consumerism)? Maybe “eat whatever you feel like so long as you pray over it” isn’t exactly right after all.