10 Things I Hate About Facebook (Part 3)

This is the third part in a series, 10 Things I Hate About Facebook. Check out part 1 and part 2

In her book, Loving the Little Years, Rachel Jankovic shares some wise, practical advice about how to handle conflict in a home with children who constantly fight over things like flashlights. After breaking down the play-by-play of what just happened with her kids, she asks them: 

“What is more important—this flashlight, or your sister?” After they answer (and believe it or not they do know the answer) we will ask them what they were pretending was more important. They know that too. So we tell them to get it right. They need to apologize to each other for breaking fellowship over a flashlight. I like for them to say that because it makes it perfectly clear to them what exchange they were making. Flashlight for sister… flashlights are not to come between us in fellowship. Ever (77-78).

Not only is this a great lesson for us as parents with children in our home, it’s also a wonderful reminder for us as members of God’s household, the church. It’s easy to think one child snubbing their sibling over a flashlight is silly, until we do the same thing to our brothers and sisters in Christ over, say, the kind of food we eat. The question we must ask, just like Rachel asks her children, is this: What is more important—this food, or your sister? 

Perhaps our willingness to snub our siblings over food choices is nowhere more obvious than on Facebook. Designer food fads aren’t just a thing of the culture outside the church. In fact I might argue that when these food fads take hold in the church they are often championed with religious fervor and unparalleled zeal, which makes them far more overbearing and relationally damaging than anything we find outside the church family.

All of this is unnerving, of course, since the issue of food is so clearly addressed in the New Testament, both by Jesus and his apostles.

Hear me, all of you, and understand: There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him… Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him, since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled? Thus he declared all foods clean (Mark 7).

Clearly, the idea that food makes you either pure or impure is not new for us today. This notion had to be opposed repeatedly in the early church, because even the disciples had a hard time grasping this truth. But that’s the reality—food doesn’t make you clean or dirty. You shouldn’t judge others by what they eat, and you shouldn’t let yourself be judged. It is not an issue worth breaking fellowship over. Ever.

But we are constantly willing to divide over food. Which brings me to my next point…

5. The food fights on Facebook are a denial of Scripture and the explicit teaching of Jesus and his apostles. 
The next time you want to update your status or comment on someone else’s about one of your personal food convictions, think about the last statement. The undertow of your never-ending food obsession pulls people into the deep waters of unnecessary guilt and condemnation. You say it doesn’t really matter to you, but the comments you make about your food preferences bite and cut like sharp teeth.

I know you’ve seen Food, Inc. and have unparalleled convictions now. I know the co-op is your life and the milk we buy at the store is filled with cancer-causing micronutrients and everything else evil in the universe. No, we can’t really afford to spend 60 percent of our paycheck to “buy local,” even though we appreciate the idea.

A memorable Facebook conversation between two sisters in Christ went something like this:

Status: “Had a great afternoon, great snack with the kids. Half-price cheese at the grocery and some yummy crackers. The girls loved it!”

Comment: “Hmmm… yeah, that’s the problem. When you get cheese like that at such a discounted price, it’s putting local farmers out of business and their family’s livelihood is destroyed. We try to only buy cheese that’s locally produced and supports honest, hard-working people. Plus it’s way better for you and especially your kids.”

Undercurrent of commenter: “Oh, wow, I’m sad that you enjoy putting people out on the street and destroying families. And for what? A buck or two off on your cheese purchase? I hope you stay awake all night thinking about the children you just orphaned. I’m sorry you like supporting corporate crooks, all so you can poison your own children with cancer.”

Come on, people, you seriously think that’s not divisive? You’re acting like the little kid who’s ready to disown his brother over a flashlight. What is more important, locally raised, cage-free cheese, or your sister?

Does this sound ridiculous? That’s because it is. We’re explicitly told as Christians not to divide over food issues, but yet here we are, dividing over food issues.

While it’s not typical for people to go so far, I know of one Christian family who won’t eat with other families if the food prepared doesn’t meet a long list of locally grown, organic requirements. They’ll politely decline, or offer to bring their own food. What’s more important, the flashlight, or your brother? What do your actions say? Why when Jesus and his apostles tell you not to make a big deal about food do you go and do the exact opposite?

In case I haven’t made my point clear, I think being judgmental and divisive—yes even making an issue—about food related issues is asinine, at least, and completely un-Christian, at worst. The only food laws that matter to Christians are ‘Take, eat, do this in remembrance of me.’

We are so far past the point of having an open-minded discussion about food matters that I would say it’s best to keep quiet. Have your convictions but shut up about them. Care more about not giving offense to your brother than bludgeoning him over the head with your petty food fads. Buy at the co-op, drink your raw milk and stay away from gluten. But stop making people feel bad about an issue that Jesus explicitly said doesn’t matter.

Food fads come and go, especially in America. Not so long ago, white bread was the miracle food that would perfect and purify. For many today, organic is savior.

Food was an issue in the early church, and Paul gives us coordinates for navigating through. First, do not let yourself be judged, and do not judge concerning food. Don’t judge your brothers who prefer the Coop, don’t let yourselves be judged for going to MacDonald’s. You aren’t judge. God is.

Second, all food is good because it all comes from God. Eat whatever is set before you. Whatever it is, it’s holy food if it is received with thanksgiving. Third, don’t form food factions. Food isn’t a club badge. Do not separate because of diet, and don’t destroy your brother for the sake of food.

Make your dietary decisions with the best information you can find. Discuss and debate the nutritional and aesthetics merits of food freely, publicly, respectfully, charitably. But remember that Christians have only one food law: Take, eat; this is my body. Only one food unites us, the bread and wine of the Lord’s table (A blog post by Peter Leithart)

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9 thoughts on “10 Things I Hate About Facebook (Part 3)

  1. There are some significant misrepresentations in the above post/lines of argumentation. If we want to argue “all food is good because it comes from God,” then we should just be eating things that actually come from God, not a factory. To think that a twinkie comes from God, a cola, etc. is just a plain factual misrepresentation. These don’t come from God. They come from a Darwinian approach to nature and life.

    To play this slight of hand is a real abuse of Scripture. To ignore the decimation that our food system has caused, the multiple other biblical commands it violates, the oppression it promotes (there is slavery here in the US in Florida for instance, well documented so that American’s can enjoy cheap food), and the now nearing 40% obesity hitting the US and the rampant diseases it causes… that is also unchristian and uncharitable – especially when people go on to then blame “providence” has somehow been hard on us when in actuality it is our foolishness. We are reaping what we as a culture have sown.

    Posts like this do injustice to what is a complex issue.

    • Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment, John. I agree that Christians need to make informed decisions about where their food comes from. If there is injustice (or stupidity) going on, then yes, we need to do what we can to correct it. The point I’m addressing, though, is this—food is not an issue over which we should divide the body of Christ, especially when Jesus and the apostles repeatedly tell us not to. Creating factions over food within the body is no different than the circumcision party refusing to eat with Gentiles because they still had foreskins (Gal 2:13-14). Food isn’t a legitimate biblical reason to separate what Christ has died to unite, namely, his body. If you want to call the clear teaching of Jesus and Paul “slight of hand,” be my guest.

      • Eric, let me pose it this way. If you came to my house for dinner, and I put a car tire on the plate, would you eat it?

        If not, why? And if not, why are others not free to reject things that are not food?

        I think your above goes far beyond just saying “don’t divide the body of Christ.” It treats negatively those with particular views based on those views.

        And more so, there are inaccuracies/misuses of Scripture, like the use of everything is to be received with thanksgiving, but also the whole “do let anyone judge you about food.” The way people often use these verses, the context around them, etc. is significantly different than the issues at play currently.

        Food sacrificed to idols (where no actual harm is done to anyone, it is in someone’s head) and food that is the causes of antibiotic resistant superbugs, which now put my wife and kids at risk if they were in need of going to a hospital, are different things.

        Food offered to idols (where no real harm is done to anyone, it is all in one’s head) and food raised in a way that because I live in a rural area dramatically increases the likelihood my kids will develop Parkinson’s disease are two radically different things.

        I spent a whole year doing a research on the relationship of Parkinson’s disease and pesticide/big ag chemical exposure. The maps of usage of one and rates of the other almost perfectly align.

        This isn’t merely about personal health – this issue directly touches on whether we love our neighbor as ourself and consider not our own interests only but also the interests of others.

  2. John,

    No one is asking that you change the way you or your family eat, or your convictions concerning the oppressive ‘slave labor’ being used to harvest the food in Florida, or your concern for America’s growing obesity problem. You are free in Christ to have these views and to structure your (and your family’s ) eating habits accordingly. But when you show up for a meal at Eric’s home, and the food served was rolling down a conveyor belt before being hand loaded onto a tractor trailer by an undocumented worker just days before, you are NOT free to break fellowship or to insult Eric’s hospitality by comparing the meal to a rubber tire. If you choose to abstain from Eric’s table because his ‘fresh out of the wrapper Twinkie dessert’ may be the cause of antibiotic resistant superbugs, then you are an enemy of church unity. PERIOD. In that context you are putting the emphasis on the wrong thing.

    John, you said “To think that a twinkie comes from God, a cola, etc. is just a plain factual misrepresentation. These don’t come from God. They come from a Darwinian approach to nature and life.” This view might explain why you would have such a difficult time bowing your head and saying grace over such a yummy snack. I know that Twinkies and colas don’t grow on trees, but there is nothing in them that is not part of God’s created world. There is God and that which is not God. There is God and that which proceeds from Him. No one is asking you to eat a steady diet of Twinkies. But those few times in your life (how I pray there were more of those times in my life) when offered one in a meal with a Christian brother, recieve it in faith and give thanks. That’s what God considers important.

    Blessings,

    Don

    • Don,
      So, how does your position square with Corinthians or Romans, where Paul does not say that those with differing views have to break their own convictions to remain in fellowship? Each was allowed to remain convinced in their own mind, not forced to violate their conscience for some unbiblical and unscriptural “unity.”

      Your position is the opposite of what Paul instructs.

  3. Also Don, does this statement, “I know that Twinkies and colas don’t grow on trees, but there is nothing in them that is not part of God’s created world” mean you would consume arsenic, plutonium, and other such things, since they are “a part of God’s creation?”

    Again, my point still stands, arguing that the verses about receiving food with thanksgiving begs defining what FOOD is. You can’t argue circularly, nor inconsistently.

    • John, thus far you’ve said you have the right to break fellowship with other Christians over food because Paul is talking about food and you’re talking about “non-food.” You’re saying a twinkie isn’t food, so you have the right to break fellowship over non-food. To which I disagree. We’re talking about a difference in degree here (good or bad), not kind (food or tire). A twinkie is bad food, sure, but food no less. It has 27g of carbs, 1g of protein and has some level of nutrients your body needs to survive. Unlike arsenic or a tire, they have no immediate damaging effects when consumed. Again, I agree that it’s not great for you, but it is food.

      The real slight of hand here is that we went from talking about food to talking about tires (made from rubber) and poison. A twinkie is neither of those two things, John. There may be elements that aren’t good for you, but it’s not a poison and it’s not a tire (that’s a difference in kind, not degree), just like it’s not a tree or a car. So stop using examples of non-food items to make the case about why you should break fellowship over food. If Don can’t argue circularly (which he wasn’t, by the way), then you can’t change the clear meanings of words to suit your fancy. You may not like some foods, but that doesn’t mean you can say they’re not foods at all.

  4. John,

    I want to say a couple of things and then I will bid you adieu.

    First, I would never knowingly put you or someone else I had invited to eat and fellowship with, in any sort of a situation where they might violate their conscience regarding certain foods or drink. That would be the opposite of Christian charity. I, as someone without all of your convictions, should defer to you. From MY perspective, I shouldn’t use my liberty to eat whatever I might want to enjoy at the moment (whether fattening, or chemically enhanced, or fresh out of the factory) as a stumbling block for you, or as a barrier between getting to know you better at the table.

    Second, from YOUR perspective, I think it would help to ask yourself if you would ever allow yourself to place barriers where God has not placed them. I understand that you have particular issues with certain foods; where it comes from, how it’s produced, and whether or not it should be classified a food in the first place. And I will accommodate you. But should you go around expecting to be accommodated, possibly reveling in a weak conscience? That is between you and God.

    Third, what I object to, and I think some of what Eric was saying, is the attempt by some to bind the consciences of the saints with regard to what they may eat. That needs to be rejected! As Douglas Wilson says, “We defer to the weaker brothers at lunch, which is not the same thing as letting them teach on this.”

    Fourth, try to avoid having more scruples than God. He gave up more than he requires of us just to be in fellowship.

    Have a good one,

    Don

  5. Pingback: Food As America’s New Religion: ‘It Can’t Save You’ | The View From Three Feet

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