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Friday, April 23, 2010

Real Food and Religion series: The Levitical Diet

Today our guest blogger is Hallee who blogs at HalleetheHomemaker. She blogs about family, food, homemaking and her religious beliefs. We'll take a break from the Real Food and Religion series and I'll cover some of your questions over the weekend, and then we have some more great guest bloggers coming up next week. Enjoy!
I am a Christian. I am a devout, set-myself-apart, Bible believing Christian who strives to make everything I am and all that I can be for God, to God, or about God. My beliefs are not tied to any specific religion. As a family, we choose to worship God in and work for God through and with the My family and I chose to worship God in a the Church of God (formerly called the "First Church of God of Anderson Indiana") for a few reasons:

  • They are a holiness church, and choose to use the Bible as a guideline for what to believe rather than a written doctrine.
  • We have a strong family background within the Church of God that goes back several generations.
  • They have a strong focus on missions, and this is extremely important to our family.
  • The area in which we live and the surrounding areas have many different Church of God churches, providing opportunities for inter-church fellowship and meeting.
This specific article is supposed to talk about our religion and what it teaches about food and abstaining from certain foods. I did some research, because I couldn't find anything readily available to me about foods within the Church of God, and had never heard or seen anything specifically taught about it. It seems that without a written doctrine, and using the Bible as a guideline for belief, that there would be something taught about food or abstaining from foods, but there is not. They do believe in abstaining from all alcohol. Other than that, and since there is no written doctrine, the abstaining from alcohol is simply an understood and traditional practice, there is nothing else other than a regular observance of the Communion that is done with bread or crackers and grape juice.
Apart from having any specific rules about food or abstaining from food, our church body definitely has a food culture. In nearly every instance of fellowship with the church body, there is food. Be it a "Soup-er" Bowl party on Super Bowl Sunday night with different soups and chili's being enjoyed together after evening worship, Valentine Dinners, Corn Husking picnics in the early fall when the corn comes in, or just a potluck supper "Linger Longer" after morning worship. Food is a way to bring people together, a chance to sit at a different table and chat with a brother or sister in Christ and enjoy the company of fellow believers.
Our church does some sort of fellowship something at least once a month, if not more often. It is definitely one of the benefits of being part of our congregation.
Our family, however, apart from the organized religion that we choose as a worship and works platform, follows a Levitical diet. We believe that the restrictions God gave pertaining to food in Leviticus are there for health reasons.

What is the Levitical Diet?

There may be some confusion between what defines a Levitical Diet -- sometimes also called a Levitican Diet -- and how it is different from a Kosher diet. The principles of keeping Kosher go far beyond the principles of a Levitical Diet. Without writing a book to explain the differences, there are 3 principles to the Levitical Diet and they are:

  1. Eat only substances that God created for food.  Avoid what is not designed for food.
  2. As much as possible, eat foods as they were created - before they were changed or converted into something humans think might be better
  3. Avoid food addictions.  Don't let any food or drink become your god.
The reasons our family follows these principles are easy to explain.   The bottom line is that the Levitical Diet is healthier than alternative eating lifestyles (III John 1:2).  However, the diet we choose for our family does not reflect judgment of what others eat or how they prepare their food. When we are guests at another person's table, we eat whatever is offered in the spirit of hospitality and are blessed by their generosity (Romans 14:2-17).  While we realize that following this diet is NOT the key to our salvation, we follow the guidelines offered in God's word as an act of worship and faithfulness.

The Principles

1) In brief, the first principle allows for eating what the Bible calls  "Clean" foods and avoiding foods that the Bible deems "Unclean."
Clean foods include herbivorous animals that have divided hooves and chew cud, such as cattle, sheep, and goats (Leviticus 11:3); all fish that have fins and scales, either fresh or salt water fish, such as perch, trout, tuna, and salmon (Leviticus 11:9); birds that do not eat carrion such as chicken, pheasant, goose, duck, and turkey (Leviticus 11:13-19); a few insects (so we have something to complain about, I guess) like locusts and grasshoppers (Leviticus 11:21-22)-  dried locust is nearly 75% protein which could explain how John the Baptist remained in such good health; milk (Exodus 3:8); all seed-bearing fruits, nuts, grains, and vegetables (Genesis 1:29); and honey - we purchase our honey from a local beekeeper and we try to get the comb as well. If you don't have a source of local honey, try your best to purchase "pure honey" (Exodus 3:8).
Unclean foods include pork, kangaroo, rabbit, anything without a divided hoof and chews the cud (Leviticus 11:4-8, 26-28); fat (Leviticus 7:23); blood (Leviticus 7:26); kidneys; (Leviticus 3:4 ) bottom feeders such as catfish, oyster, shrimp, crab, lobster, shark, octopus, squid, clams, coral, and any fish that doesn't have scales and fins; any plant that grows in water, whether salt or fresh water, such as spirulina (algae), sea weed, kelp, and food additives such as carrageenan (Leviticus 11:10-12); birds that eat carrion such as the eagle, osprey, hawk, kite, vulture, raven, ostrich (including eggs), goat sucker, seagull, buzzard, swan, pelican, owl, carrion eagle, stork, heron, crane, hoopoe; bats (Leviticus 11:13-20); any insects that crawl, as opposed to hopping like locust and grasshopper, which makes nearly every insect off limits (Leviticus 11:23-25); rodents such as the mole, mouse, rat, and shrew; any animal torn, mangled or worried (painful death such as roadkill);  any cattle dying of disease (Leviticus 11:29-43); all reptiles including turtles, lizards, alligators, and snakes (Leviticus 11:4, 10, 29, 42); and any food that has touched anything unclean, such as a mouse chewed on it (Leviticus 7:23).
The health reasons for the distinctions between clean and unclean are fairly apparent. Avoiding unclean foods means avoiding harmful toxins and possible disease. For example, unhealthy toxins are stored in the fat and removed by the kidneys of every animal. Bottom feeders were created to remove toxins from the seas and their flesh is full of unhealthy toxins and metals. There are many, many reasons to avoid pork. Pigs will literally eat anything, and pork can contain up to 30 times more toxins than beef or venison.
Conversely, lean meats, fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, milk, and scaled fish are healthy foods in so many, many ways. The benefits of each are so plentiful, I won't attempt to list them all, but they include: good proteins and amino acids, healthy omega-3's and 6's, healthy carbohydrates, and balanced measures of beneficial and soluble minerals like calcium, magnesium, and potassium.
2) As much as possible, eat foods as they were created - before they were changed or converted into something humans think might be better. There are some excellent examples of this and more and more research is showing that the further we remove ourselves from our food sources, the unhealthier we become as a result.
Consider margarine: Leviticus 7:23 prohibits eating any of the fat of even clean cattle.  God noted in Leviticus 3:17that this would be a "perpetual statute" prohibiting the eating of fat.  Back in the nineteenth century, a Frenchman learned how to turn vegetable oil into an artificial animal fat substitute we know as margarine in direct conflict with the Levitical dietary law.  In the last 200 years, we have changed our diets and our lifestyles so much that we have caused an epidemic of cancer, obesity, diabetes, hypertension and heart disease. Angina pectoris has only been described in the English medical literature for the last 200 years. Two hundred years before, NONE of these diseases or conditions existed at all or in any appreciable numbers.
Consider unfermented soy. In recent studies, even the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) has listed unfermented soy as an Endocrine Disrupting Chemical (EDC) meaning it contains natural hormones that emulate human hormones, the consumption of which can lead to obesity, infertility, genital malformation, reduced male birth rates, precocious puberty, miscarriage, behavior problems, brain abnormalities, impaired immune function, various cancers, and cardiovascular disease. The American Heart Association (AHA) recently withdrew support for any definitive health claims related to soy protein and coronary conditions.
Consider genetically modified or engineered foods (GMOs or GEOs) many of which are sterile and thus are not "seed-producing" which has been linked to a variety of health concerns including many of the same problems with unfermented soy.
Consider high fructose corn syrup, added to literally everything from ketchup to cough syrup, which shuts down the human metabolism and has been linked to high blood pressure. Consider enriched bleached, white flour" which contains none of the healthy oils or nutrients of whole grains and is enriched with industrial grade chemicals.
Consider that it is highly unlikely that you will ever encounter any health problems as a result of preparing and eating unmodified "real" foods. You won't live forever, but you will certainly live longer and better as a result.
3) The final principle, that of not making any food or drink or any diet or eating lifestyle into an idol, is a bit subjective but also not difficult to integrate into our eating lifestyle.  Some things which can become too important include alcohol, caffeine, and sweets (Ecclesiastes 10:17).  Devoting too much energy or too much of your finances to purchase exclusively this or that kind of food is also a danger, especially if you place more financial importance on that practice than on, for instance, offering a tithe (1 Corinthians 10:31).  If rich delicacies or rarities rank high on your dietary priority list, this can also present a risk (Proverbs 23:1-3).
One way to break food addictions or binge cycles, a method which also has definite health benefits, is fasting. According to recent studies, Americans in particular rarely if ever experience real hunger anymore. Essentially, we have not yet digested our last meal before we have already eaten our next meal.  Therefore, we never feel hungry. A short fast, such as a "daylight" fast can offer time for prayer and meditation and alert you to certain unhealthy cravings or food attachments. If you take no food or drink, or else only allow for drinking pure water, during the hours of daylight, coupled with prayer, your body can send you signals of certain foods which have become too important. This is particularly true of caffeine and alcohol.
A prolonged fast, such as the Daniel's Fast, also offers time for prayer and meditation while weaning your body of possibly dangerous addictions to any but "clean" foods.

1 comment:

  1. I agree with most of this. I don't understand the plants that grow in water ideal however: that means watercress is also out. Very useful post on what would be considered an eco-kashrut approach to foods.

    - Lindsay