The church is capable of including any number of subcultural groups within her pale, and can do so without great difficulty. Ham radio operators, rodeo riders, surfers, and rock climbers are all welcome. And what they all do the Saturday before worship does not disrupt the reality of their worship together.
But food subcultures are a different matter. Food scruples are the deathly enemy of church unity. Every pastor is called by the Lord to hate food divisions, and every pastor who does not hate them is an enemy of his own peace. I don’t want church splits, even if they come in a reusable bag.
The central pastoral issue of the New Testament was a dietary one — whether Jews and Gentiles could eat together. And if the apostle Paul fought so long and hard on this one — to keep the body of Christ from being divided this way — when the issue really was created by the laws of the Old Testament, how much more would he be militant about food divisions that resulted from an article that somebody read on the Internet?
I am not talking about genuine allergies. Everybody should know what those are. You serve your guest ground up peanuts in that Thai dish you’ve been wanting to try out, and forty five minutes later he looks like the Michelin tire boy, and the dinner party concludes late that evening in the ER. That’s an allergy, and the apostle would not mind if we accommodated such food restrictions in charity. That is a beautiful opportunity to exercise charity — checking with those you invite about food restrictions.
But charity is called for on the other end also, and it has been abandoned by those who are afflicted with trendy allergies. Just as Paul tagged those unstable women who are always learning and never coming to a knowledge of the truth, so he would have identified the woman who became allergic to gluten because all her friends had recently become allergic to gluten, and she didn’t want to be left out. This preserves the unity of that little group, but it plays havoc with the unity of the larger body. She and her friends are no fun to have over any more because she is always allergic to something, and it is always something new, and the last two times she was invited over, she brought her own food anyway.
This brazen rudeness is not called out for what it is because the people perpetrating it have a cover story created for them by the guy who is allergic to the Thai peanut thingy. You don’t want him to die, do you?
Here is a rule of thumb. If you have ever showed up to a dinner party (not a potluck) unannounced with your own food, then you are an enemy of church unity. The Holy Spirit is working to unify the whole body in sweet table fellowship, and you are underfoot.
Here is another rule of thumb. If you are allergic to an ever-shifting list of the latest things to be allergic to, then you are actually allergic to charity. This is a bad condition to be in — if you are allergic to charity, then you are actually allergic to other people, church peace, and the Holy Spirit.
Last rule of thumb. If you think that every cook in the body has a bounden obligation to drop every other ingredient from her recipes if you are coming over, then perhaps you are waiting for the wrong person to make the sacrifice. Why don’t you make the sacrifice, and just eat it? You might reply that this means that later in the evening you will have to deal with the icky angsty feelings that always accompany your consumption of your allergenic de jour. Well, isn’t that a small price to pay because you love the brethren? Eat what is set before you — there’s a strategy you could try (Luke 10:8). Better to get an imaginary rash on your body than to be a real rash on the body.
Originally posted on December 6, 2010.
Thank you, thank you for speaking this. This has been irking me for years now.
So true! Food intolerances can be very offensive and certainly unhelpful in church unity, but when you use “enemy” as a descriptive here, I wonder if you think that those with these intolerances ought to be disciplined publicly if need be by the church?
This is just starting to become a problem in my neck of the woods. Could anyone suggest some good reading on this?
I was pastoring a tiny church in rural Georgia and offered to cook the french fries at our first fish fry. I never did escape the could of suspicion that hung over me after that. I found out that true Georgia country folk eats grits with their fish, not potatoes. Seriously bad move on my part. And no, not joking.
Nailed it again. However one could point out that this principle could be applied to other things, like how to dress, how to sing, worship order, etc. And it seems to me that many church leaders are the ones with the “allergies” promoting them in their lawful positions as leaders. Every church is different because there are so many allergies. Until leaders are given to see that allergies will just spread and continue to fracture.
My response: At first I was a little stunned—hurt even. I thought about the many awkward moments when I had to get creative with a menu in an effort for our family to join someone for a fellowship meal. Were we burdening them—irritating them? Did they wish our family would “make the sacrifice and just eat it” even though it was harmful to our bodies? Were they secretly wondering if we were “faking it”? How could a pastor (one we really like!), seem to show such little regard for the physically weaker brethren? Where was the love, the charity, the… Read more »
This article still strikes me as idiotic 10 years later, and you nailed it.
Though I am grateful I can eat just about anything without illness, I must not impose my strengths upon my weaker brother or sister. We must follow scripture and not our own will on the matter. This is a spiritual directive, no matter how much it irritates us, we must yield to Christ above our appetites. This is a matter of serving another and not our stomachs. On the other hand, those who have food allergies, please be considerate enough to call the host ahead of time for permission to bring your own food. It is just common courtesy and… Read more »
If you are the poor soul who is divorced because your husband/wife left you for someone else, it doesn’t make it easier for you that unbiblical divorce is so common in our day. If you are the poor soul with a back injury that is truly debilatating, it doesn’t make it easier for you that ‘back injury’ is right up there for those seeking disability payments. If you are the poor soul who has to forfeit some truly delicious food because you have a genuine health issue, it doesn’t make it easier for you when everyone and his dog is… Read more »
I agree, Lisa! We always try to give plenty of notice about our restrictions when someone invites us to dinner. We also offer to help by bringing gluten free additions to make it easier on the hostess. We’ve never had to avoid fellowship. If we’re truly honoring the brethren and putting others first, this won’t even be an issue. We love to practice hospitality and we have a close church community, so I always ask if a family has any allergies when we invite others to dinner. I love to try to surprise them by getting creative with a recipe… Read more »
In one paragraph you mention people with real allergies and in another you refer to people with trendy allergies. You need to clarify somethings in this post.
Stacy, I came over here to re-read the article. In the process, I re-read yours as well. I still have to say, I think you’re reading something into this. When Doug made the comment about bringing your own food to a dinner party, I think his meaning is perfectly clear when he adds the qualifier “unannounced”. I believe very few hostesses would be unwilling to accommodate special needs when those needs are graciously discussed beforehand. I think his meaning is also clear when he writes in terms of some of these allergies being “trendy” or “du jour”. I still remember… Read more »
One last comment that I think may help illustrate the point: When I was a student, I vividly remember a study conducted at National Jewish Hospital. It was about the treatment of childhood asthma (something no one in their right mind would claim is NOT a serious condition. The study was undertaken as a result of concerns over the number of days some children were spending in the hospital. What they did was withdraw certain “perks” such as television. The study found that children not only spent fewer days in the hospital as a result, they also has better overall… Read more »
Lots of people avoiding specific types of foods are indeed trying to get better.
Frankly, I don’t think it’s anyone’s business to evaluate their friends on whether or not their allergies are legitimate or trendy (fake), since it requires judgment from those who don’t suffer the symptoms, and often don’t have all the facts. My health issues were confirmed by a doctor, so I’m not defending myself; however, I know plenty of people who are just trying to get a handle on real health dilemmas. Those who are antagonistic to natural health methods, often have a very close-minded attitude toward those who are trying to be involved in their own healing (particularly when doctors… Read more »
I believe it would have been more productive to Pastor Wilson’s stated desire for unity if he would have addressed how both parties (hostess and guest) could be gracious to one another while dealing with food allergies. Describe for each side ways they could express love, thankfulness, and compassion for one another. A gracious hostess could ask her guests if they have any food intolerances that she might accommodate, remembering that hospitality is about serving and blessing others. A gracious guest with food allergies could let her hostess know well in advance about her dietary restrictions. She should also offer… Read more »
Again, I believe you are missing Pastor Wilson’s point as well as mine.
Yes, in advance as you say here: “A gracious guest with food allergies could let her hostess know well in advance about her dietary restrictions. She should also offer to bring along part of the meal, or simply bring food for the child/family member who has the special need.” So, it looks to me like you missed the bit where Doubg says, “unannounced” as he does here: “Here is a rule of thumb. If you have ever showed up to a dinner party (not a potluck) unannounced with your own food, then you are an enemy of church unity. The… Read more »
Romans 14 teaches that if someone is abstaining from some food or drink for mistaken moral or religious reasons, due to weakness of faith, we are obligated to receive him and forbidden to dispute with him over his scruples. He honors Christ in his weakness, as we do in ours, and God receives his honor because of Christ. Teetotalers and vegetarians can honor Christ, just like winebibbers and carnivores can. When He receives them with love, then we are obligated to do the same and make them welcome among us, scruples and all. They are not to be despised or… Read more »
Stacy, Doug isn’t rebuking people with allergies; he’s rebuking people with “allergies.” He’s not rebuking people with real medical conditions; he’s rebuking hypochondriacs. He’s not saying we should judge whether our friends’ food issues are real enough or not; He’s saying we should judge whether our own food issues are real enough or not. He’s not rebuking you for having a medical condition; he’s rebuking the people who, for some demented reason, think it’d be ever so cool to have your medical condition.
And how do you know the difference?
Thanks, Valerie. I edited my opening paragraph earlier today to try to better clarify that I agree with what Doug was ATTEMPTING to communicate. I do get what he MEANT. The problem is that I think he did a sloppy job of communicating it. I don’t think it was purposeful. But I do think it was damaging – especially since his stated goal was unity. There is already a lot of misunderstanding regarding food allergies. And people that don’t know much about it already take the liberty of second-guessing their neighbors and speculating on whether or not their food allergies… Read more »
I do think the issue is the person on a fad diet vs. allergy. And who gets to determine it’s an allergy? My SIL spent 2 1/2 years paying medical doctors for tests, all the while throwing up every day. They found nothing. In 5 minutes, her chiropractor determined that she’s sensitive to gluten. When that was cut out, she started gaining weight, stopped throwing up, and now lives a healthy life! Trust me! She wants gluten! But she wants to feel better more than not. Is the fact that her allergy and modern medicine tests were normal make it… Read more »
Kamilla, I generally love Doug Wilson and his writings, but this one is off the mark. I don’t think the point is being missed at all. Despite what I *think* Pastor Wilson is trying very ungraciously to say, it is not at all charitable. “Last rule of thumb. If you think that every cook in the body has a bounden obligation to drop every other ingredient from her recipes if you are coming over, then perhaps you are waiting for the wrong person to make the sacrifice. Why don’t you make the sacrifice, and just eat it? You might reply… Read more »
I’m trying to get my head around this article. My son has never been diagnosed lactose intolerant. He’s never been tested. From the time he was 3 months old, until he was 18 months, he had nearly constant diaper rash, eczema, and was the grumpiest baby I have ever met. We thought he was just a grumpy kid. The doctor would prescribe different lotions for his eczema, and put him on antibiotics once for his diaper rash. When he was 17 months old, someone asked me if I had ever considered dairy or wheat being the problem. Since dairy was… Read more »
Just a helpful quote from Pastor Wilson.
“First, you are in no position to make a right judgment. It is very easy to make judgments without all the facts (a practice that some seem to feel is their spiritual gift).”
Guess he forgot about that one…or perhaps he just has a new gifting. :)
Valerie, Pastor Wilson is rebuking people who don’t fall under his narrow definition of allergy. Stacy is not overreacting. His words seem heartless to those of us who suffer from ongoing non-allergenic problems created by food. There are many people who have what are now known as sensitivities that over time make them sick (digestive ailments, lack of energy, eczema and others). Our current medical system does not recognize these sensitivities. Because of this, many people have had to go outside the sanctioned and insured doctors and find help from alternative medicine (which Pastor Wilson also snickers at frequently). This… Read more »
Mr. Wilson, I don’t understand your statement: “If you have ever showed up to a dinner party (not a potluck) unannounced with your own food, then you are an enemy of church unity.” Which part is the problem? I can see showing up unannounced would be tacky, I can see showing up unannounced expecting people to meet dietary restrictions without notice being problematic, but showing up with your own food so that nobody has to be troubled, with the intention of participating in fellowship, is the least problematic option available. Are you sure you didn’t mean to say “If you… Read more »
I truly can see both sides of this issue appreciate both Doug and Stacy for stating their case. Allergies are terrifying and no one wants to make someone sick after eating at their home. On the other hand, I think what’s happened in the church, just like in our society, food has become an idol. The amount of time people spend thinking, planning, worrying, researching, eliminating, experimenting and consuming food is incredible. This the luxury of a very affluent society. Women are especially prone to this obsession because they so desperately want to care for their families are are typically… Read more »
Pastor Wilson, You can count me among the many others that were offended by your article. My family has dealt with food sensitivities for almost 20 years now! We are not faking it, nor do we desire for others to change their lives for our benefits. I do agree that there are too many people in America today who choose to avoid a certain food because of a health fad; but that is a small minority compared to the actual number of people with food sensitivities and allergies in America today. I have been medically diagnosed with Celiac Disease for… Read more »
One more thing I forgot to mention. Not all food diversion by a person may even be an allergy. I also have to avoid foods that are in everyday dishes because they will cause excruciating pain afterwards, pain that at times has sent me to the ER. Nope its not an allergy, but a medical disorder that is irritated by certain types of foods. Not everyone who avoids a food is faking it Pastor Wilson, just because they don’t swell up like a balloon; they may be avoiding you the embarrassment of having to listen to a less then pleasant… Read more »
I think that both Mr. Wilson and Mrs. McDonald are overstating some points and understating other points. First, my family and I highly respect both the works and ministries of both Mr. Wilson and Mrs. McDonald. We have been encouraged, edified, challenged and grown in our Christian faith by both the writings and works of these two. I wanted to speak on this topic real quick myself because I feel like we have had a “foot in both camps.” First, I do want to state that perhaps the title of Mr. Wilson’s article is incorrectly titled “Allergic to People.” Perhaps… Read more »
Oh – and one follow-up comment that I remembered. This same family was organizing a church potluck meal and one family said that they would bring some ketchup for something too and the comment was made to them to please bring ketchup with no High Fructose Corn Syrup. I thought it was a bit out of line and unnecessary for one meal. We don’t like it much either, but I wouldn’t have said that as fellowship was far more important than that!
No one needs HFCS. It’s actually pretty harmful for every human. How about we love our brothers enough to buy the quality stuff?
My family members have celiac disease, and I was NOT offended by this article. Just fyi. Thanks!
I have celiac’s as well as an oxalate sensitivity and yes, i was and still am highly offended by this article
I certainly hope that you don’t ever get a disease, such as lyme disease, that restricts your diet, restricts your volunteering, and restricts your pocketbook. However, if you did, it may allow your socks to be knocked off and maybe you could walk a mile in someone elses shoes. What a very insensitive, very judgemental rant. Too bad you put it out there on parade for everyone, every neighsayer to use against the Christians.
Heh, I have celiac and I was not offended by the article either. Actually, the worst thing about having celiac is having to rub elbows with all of the “food crazies” who stay away from 38 different things just because the zeitgeist at the moment says they should. One lady in my support group literally comes in wearing a mask due to the “chemicals” in the air. Now that I think of it, Doug has another series of posts about just that – the direction of the zeitgeist. I think he says that it blows in whichever direction it blows,… Read more »
Everybody needs to stop thinking and saying what Doug meant. DOUG NEEDS TO CLARIFY WHAT HE SAID. How hard is it to do Doug?
Mark – Pastor Wilson has posted his clarifications here: http://dougwilson.wpengine.com/s26-thinking-straight/sixteen-sausages-in-a-row.html
Stacey – He should do it here. “Thinking Straight, 16 Sausages In A Row” is not a title that yells “This is What I meant” and did not attract my attention. Now if it was “16 strips of Bacon” I would have read it.
I kind of thought it should have been called “16 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Call Your Friends ‘Enemies of Church Unity’ Unless You Really Mean It.”
Pastor Wilson, I believe my last comment was somewhat flippant and disrespectful. I apologize – please forgive me.
I do not have any allergies, but this makes me want to. It would be so fun to go to Pizza Hut and whatch my family eat pizza, while I eat salad in the name of being trendy. Is it just me or dose Mr.Wilson not know anything about allergies?
Goodness, Mark, you may not have titled things that way on your blog, but is it really necessary now to complain that he didn’t title the post exactly the way you think he should have, or put his response exactly where you think he should have? Why not just move on?
Hey Doug, I was just wondering what primary references you were thinking of when you said, “The central pastoral issue of the New Testament was a dietary one.” I can think of Galatians 2, 1 Cor. 5, and Romans 14.
Wow. Things sure have changed around here since I last visited! (E.g., WordPress … HALLELUJIA!)
Read Doug’s article, and Stacy’s reply, and perused many of the replies here.
My only comment for now:
Mark is correct. In a post which generates as much heat as this one did, I think Doug could have at least linked to the “16 Sausages” piece in this thread.
This IS the internet, after all!
Oh bother. What have you started now? So, I have food allergies or intolerance to certain foods, whatever you want to call it. Gratefully, nothing will throw me in the hospital gasping for air, but I do feel awfully sick soon after I eat it. I have had more than one food allergy test done and not one, I repeat not one came out the same. Not my fault, although most were very similar. But I don’t always go by the test, I go by how I feel after I eat. Or I stay off of the food I think… Read more »
Doug was quite clear from the start that he wasn’t addressing those with actual allergies. The first sentence in the fourth paragraph states: “I am not talking about genuine allergies.” Perhaps he needed to start every paragraph with that sentence to quiet the eager. Doug is talking about attention-seeking food insecurities. He says, “Food scruples are the deathly enemy of church unity.” Doug came down harder than average in this post, but he was quite clear and focused, and he explained why the issue is important. scruple – a doubt or hesitation that troubles the conscience or that comes from… Read more »
I have no idea where Doug gets his information from, but he is quite uninformed. I think that anyone showing up at a dinner party unannounced is rude, no matter if you have food allergies or not. According to the article, Doug thinks that if a person isn’t blowing up like a balloon or going into anaphylactic shock, they do not have an allergy. That is not usually how food allergies work. Food allergies usually affect the skin and digestive system. It is only in extreme cases that it causes anaphylactic reactions. What is most sad to me about this… Read more »
“God meant for our animals to be free range, not crammed in cages and fed antibiotics and growth hormones, and fed pesticide laden feed.” While Doug was very clear that he wasn’t talking about genuine allergies, it doesn’t prevent someone with a real allergy from also being full of food scrupulosity. This kind of galloping food scrupulosity is what destroys fellowship, even if the allergy happens to be real. “Basically our food is not really food anymore.” So will you be coming over for dinner this evening? This general attitude may also explain why our fellowship is not really fellowship… Read more »
Katecho, I was explaining WHY food allergies are so prevalent. I was not saying that I will not sit at a table to eat with people because of how bad food is. If you listen at all to Doug Phillips from Vision Forum, he had a food conference that talks a lot about how our food has changed. He is educating the body of Christ so that we can try and take care of our bodies in the best way we can. There is nothing wrong with saying that our food has been changed. It is not legalism, it is… Read more »
“I guess to the body of Christ, gluttony really isn’t a sin” Gluttony, like food scrupulosity, seems to be another manifestation of insecurity related to food. Some may argue that the problem is with the food, just as others argue that the problem of drunkenness is with the alcohol. But I believe the issue has to do with the insecurity rather than with the food. The gluttony is the sin, not the dietary content, and not the obesity. For example, a glutton does not have to be overweight. While certain things may be inferior to consume, it is not what… Read more »
Food-based divisions are an unfortunate reality in the Church still dealing with the stain of sin. But they are a reality that we cannot simply dismiss by saying “grow up and get over it,” and by offering a few rules of thumb. This is all the more true if we keep in mind that we (as the broader American culture) are as food-ignorant as we have ever been, if not much more so. The great majority of folks do not know where their food comes from, how it is grown and processed, and what it is doing to their bodies.… Read more »
Thati is good blame the victim. That usually works in christian circles. It is all the fault of the one who is afflicted. Thanks.