The Food Network and Porn

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What constitutes immoral behavior?  This question initiated my Doctoral Thesis. Sometimes it’s based in societal law.  It’s mostly illegal to steal or murder, although our law does permit both on a regular basis.

Sometimes it’s religious law. Adultery is seen as a violation of religious law but not civil law. Some prohibitions of behavior go well beyond the Ten Commandments. Mormons strive to follow the word of Wisdom by avoiding “strong drink” (alcohol, teas & coffee). Jews and Muslims are forbidden to eat pork. Breaking religious or moral law is known as sin, and many view religious law as superseding civil law and this is why issues in politics become extremely heated.

But what makes a sin sinful?

To find out let’s compare two religious sins: Sexual Immorality and Gluttony

In scripture, sexual immorality (Greek word Porneia) is the junk drawer of sexual behavior that is outside of a committed marriage of two people. We get our word pornography from this term. Gluttony is scripture’s term (Hebrew “Zalal” and Greek “Phagos“) for the over indulger in food or drink.

Sex and food are both biological drives required for life. Religious law instructs people to manage both drives because they are so powerful and uncontrolled they are harmful. The teaching is that it’s ok to have the impulse for sex or food, but it’s not ok for that impulse to have us. Food and sex are both celebrated within a context, not outright condemned.

What is shocking is how religion vilifies the sexual impulse but celebrates the food impulse.

  • The Food Network is ok, but late night Cinemax is not.
  • It’s sinful to touch a weiner (especially if its yours), but its ok to be obese.
  • A woman cannot dress provocatively at church, but the bake sale is held in the foyer.
  • No heavy petting allowed in the back seat of the youth group van, but feel free to have as many donuts as you want.

Consider this:

What if our Thanksgiving holiday wasn’t a celebration of our abundance in food, but our abundance in sex? Not only would a family thanksgiving take on a new level of creepy, but Plymouth Rock would be the stage name of your sweaty uncle and not the location of the first Thanksgiving.

What if there was a time of the year where we looked forward to a season of sexual binges? “It’s a tempting time of the year, all the different kinds of sexuality everywhere, in all the stores, and at the company party. I’ll be paying for this after the New Year.”

So what makes a sin sinful? Why are some people reading this and resisting the correlation here? Why is a gourmet pastry chef celebrated but a porn star shunned? Why can the church have a potluck and not an orgy? The answer is not because sex is bad and food is good. Sin is sinful because it’s the loss of a key aspect of our humanity.

If we push the boundaries of food and sex exploration, we discover new horizons of tastes and delights but only up to a point. I’d argue that this is the good part of the dominion mandate to go forth and multiply (Gen 1:28). In it, sex is implicit. We were meant to turn apples into apple pie, but apple pie is the exception and not the rule. If all we eat is apple pie, then we begin to lose something of our humanity because we are no longer eating to live, but living to eat. The result is death.

Can you see the difference?

If our sexuality has become completely about our personal satisfaction then we lose something of our humanity because we have separated it from love, depth and intimacy with another. When we carve sexuality out of the whole human experience we diminish it. Pornography doesn’t show us too much it shows too little. The admonition to avoid sin is not the killjoy of the party but it is the threshold beyond which we hurt ourselves and others. God and health coaches share one voice.

A sin is not a bad thing we do. Sin is when we go after the best things in life in harmful ways. It’s not that sex or food is the sin, it’s thinking we can find validation, acceptance, or love through sex or food that is the sin. Sin is making an end out of the means.  We can do the right thing the wrong way and its a sin like the prayer of the Pharisee in Luke 18:11. Or we can do the wrong thing in the right way and it isn’t a sin like breaking the sabbath in John 5:8.

Right and wrong are not established by God in the same way that religion establishes them. God offers far more freedom than our institutions.

       “The faith that you have, keep between yourself and God.” (Romans 14:22)

This Thanksgiving, I hope we are fortunate enough to experience the full range of human creativity in cooking and celebrate a tremendously enjoyable feast and I hope we feel all the love and care that goes into each dish. But let us reflect on just how much goes beyond the feeding of our bodies. If we look at our plate and feel that our feast is not unlike most meals, then let’s heed the voice of scripture and health coaches so that we can regain our humanity and place eating back into its proper context.

And this goes for sex and all transgressions. Then watch as our world becomes new again.

 

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