The Biblical Diet?

What is a Biblical Diet? During my pursuit of optimum health and living responsibly, I’ve read about and tried a number of different diets. Many of them were extremely restrictive, difficult to follow, and overly time consuming. While they might have resulted in some added health benefits, many of them were simply fads or marketing schemes. And even if there were a few health benefits, the cost to follow the diet ultimately outweighed the benefits. What we eat is extremely important, but it should not consume our lives. If what you eat is consuming you, rather than you consuming it, it’s time to rethink your diet strategy. There is more to life than eating. The Bible teaches that the most important reality is the Kingdom of God, not this world or our physical bodies. According to Romans 14:17, “The Kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.”

Some of the diets I’ve tried include: vegetarian, vegan, raw, low-carb, and primal. I’ve also read about several biblically-based diets that give dietary recommendations based on the Judaic law. While everyone has differing convictions and beliefs about how to eat responsibly and healthfully, I have a few insights I’d like to share that might free some of your time and energy from trying to follow a complicated or overly restrictive diet.

Regarding the healthfulness of food in general, one of the greatest factors of health is how you perceive things. This has been demonstrated scientifically through the placebo effect. Basically, if people believe something is good for them, it often is! I think this has powerful implications when taken into consideration with the Biblical teachings of apostle Paul. He taught that our perspective plays a part in the purity of what we eat. He said, “For every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be refused if it is received with thanksgiving; for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.” – 1 Timothy 4:4-5

While purity and Judaic food restrictions aren’t necessarily related to health; some biblical-diet authors try to argue that they are. Yet, when taken as a whole, the laws of the Old Covenant are primarily related to ritual cleanliness and to actions that set Israel apart from other nations. After Jesus fulfilled the law, however, the requirement to abstain from particular foods was eliminated . Thus any teaching that claims abstaining from particular foods is more holy is a works-based teaching that contradicts God’s word. We are taught in the New Testament that if we receive anything with thanksgiving it is sanctified through the word of God and prayer! The heart condition of how we receive our food is more important than what we eat.

That being said, there are definitely some foods that are healthier than others, but by an large the unhealthy food are the ones that are processed and deformed through human innovation. In the beginning God granted Adam and Eve the permission to eat from every seed bearing plant. After the flood, God gave Noah and his sons the permission to eat meat as well. In other words, everything God made is ok to eat. Yet, in our Technological Age we have a new problem: industrial food. The more I read the latest nutrition research the more I find the only truly unhealthy foods are the processed ones: refined grains, refined sugar, artificial flavors and colorings, artificial sweeteners, preservatives, and trans fats. I believe the debate between researchers about whether the low-carb or the high-carb diet is more healthy exists because it isn’t so much the quantity of these nutrients that matters as much as their quality.

God designed our bodies and the foods needed to properly nourish and sustain them. Our bodies are also capable of adapting to a wide variety of diets. When people start altering what God designed, that is when we get ourselves into real trouble. The most important thing to remember when choosing foods is to eat a varied diet that consists primarily of whole foods. Also, purchase organic or chemical-free whenever possible. These principles aren’t directly taught in the Bible but are extrapolated from Biblical and human history. God made the world, and it was very good. People chose to do things their own way, and things went south.

One thing that is taught directly in the Bible, however, is the importance of love. Jesus said that love is our new command. Thus another important dietary consideration is social justice. Much of our food is grown and harvested by workers that aren’t paid a fair wage. This is especially true of luxury items like tea and coffee. While we shouldn’t do anything out of obligation or legalism, it makes sense to purchase food locally or from companies we know are treating their employees and laborers fairly. Another consideration when purchasing food is the treatment of animals. According to Proverbs a “kind man considers the welfare of his animals.” Also, Jesus said that he cares even for the sparrows. These teaching reveal God’s heart for his creation, and as his children we should care too. Many of the industrially raised animals are treated inhumanely: raised in the dark, confined to small cages, matured too rapidly, or killed in painful ways. You can help ensure animals are treated kindly by purchasing meat-products labeled “free-range” or buying locally and researching the farming practices.

Hopefully these tips and insights free you from worrying too much about what you eat. Eating healthy is simple: Eat the foods God made and avoid the foods people changed. Our tastes and likes are highly malleable Research indicates that our taste preferences are largely based on marketing strategies. You can chose what you enjoy by looking at it in a differently light. You don’t need all the extra sugar and added fat of processed foods. Resist the marketing schemes, and don’t let huge companies force unhealthy food on you. Learn to enjoy the natural flavors and textures of the foods God made. Your body will thank you as you thank the Lord!

Originally posted 2011-08-24 21:03:00.

Mental Health — What Freud Got Wrong

was sigmund freud rightMuch of modern psychoanalysis, the methods by which we judge mental health, is based on the ideas established by Sigmund Freud during the 1920s.  The term “Oedipus complex” might come to mind, as it should, for Freud’s thoughts about the “Oedipus complex” form the core of his theory and legacy. Few people, however, really know what the Oedipus complex is or how it shapes the ideas of so many of the therapists and psychologists that we blindly trust.  So what is the Oedipus complex? And is the premise of modern psychology an accurate or useful way to analyze the metal health of individuals or society as a whole?  The present state of mental health in America, the West, and many other parts of the world seems to be in dire straits, making this an important issue.

The Oedipus Complex and Modern Myth

For those who aren’t familiar with the story Oedipus Rex, it’s a Greek tragedy by Sophocles, written in the 5th century BC.  The basic plot of the story is that King Laius has a child named Oedipus, but the child is abandoned because of a foreboding prophecy that the child would kill his father and take over the throne.  Then in a twisted turn of events, Oedipus survives into adulthood and kills his own father (like the prophecy predicted) on a country road (not knowing it was his father that he killed). Oedipus is then made king in his father’s place (still not knowing it was his dad he killed) and takes the hand of his own biological mother in marriage. The theme and underlying meaning of the tragedy, along with many other similar tragedies and myths, is the nature of rivalries between close relationships. Freud’s interpretation of this rivalry and the violence between father and son, as told in Oedipus Rex, is the basis of his psychoanalytic theory.

Basically what Freud tries to answer with the “Oedipus complex” is the question of the origin of desires that cause human conflicts. For example, why is it that a child desires the same objects that his parents desire?  In the exaggerated case of Oedipus, the underlying implication is that a boy desires his own mother. But why? In his earliest works, Freud places the origin of this desire with the child’s identification with his parents. In other words, a child learns desire based on seeing what his parents desire and wanting to be like them. Later, however, Freud hypothesizes that desire arises from innate, physical desires, rather than from imitating a model (such as a parent). Ultimately Freud comes to the bizarre conclusion that at some point, a boy will suddenly become conscious of an innate desire for his mother, which he will then suppress in his subconscious mind. This suppressed consciousness, however, is supposed to influence other aspects of life and desire.

The upshot is that modern psychology is built on a couple of underlying Freudian assumptions:  For one, it’s believed that desires, even desires beyond basic biological functions, are primarily innate and focused purely on an object. A healthy, socially-adjusted individual then is one who successfully recognizes and suppresses his or her desires for socially inappropriate objects (whether actual objects or people). Secondly, innate desires are considered highly individualistic, and individualism just so happens to be highly praised in Western society. Scholars, businessmen, artists — we all strive to be unique individuals, and we tend to deny the dynamics and influences of the group. Such denial, however, makes us even more susceptible to group think, advertisements, and propaganda.  Personally, I’m convinced that for those in therapy, these two assumptions can also cause a deterioration rather than an improvement in mental health!

Mimetic Desire and Ancient Knowledge

In his work Violence and the Sacred (which this article is largely based on), the renowned scholar Rene Girard argues that the real origin of desire and the cause of human conflict (whether mental or physical) is something he calls mimetic desire.  While the idea of mimetic desire isn’t really new (it can be argued that it’s something the Bible refers to as sin or covetousness), Girard provides a scientific explanation of the formation of desires, rivalry, and even what might be referred to today as “poor mental health.” Essentially, mimetic desire is as old as Adam and Eve or Cain and Able.  

Ancient stories, such as Cain and Able, teach us that desires come from an outside source, from a model, someone that can be imitated (hence the word mimetic in Girard’s theory). In other words, our desire for a particular object isn’t innate and doesn’t come from the appeal of the object itself, rather an object is made desirable by the person that possesses it. If you don’t think that’s accurate, think about any of the most effective television commercials. They’re never really selling an object; they’re selling the appeal of who one could become by acquiring possession of a particular object. For example, with the right luxury watch, any man might become as successful, rich, and handsome, as the man in the commercial.

The next truth stories like Cain and Able teach us (and human history will attest to), is that desire creates conflict. The reason desire creates conflict is because we don’t just desire the same object that our model possesses, we desire to actually become the model. The problem is that there are two obstacles to becoming or becoming like the model: the model himself and the model’s possession of the desired object. Mimetic desire, fully played out, thus results in depression, jealousy, rivalry, covetousness, and ultimately murder (all consequences of a disturbed mental state). In order to become like the model, the subject has to either steal the object from the model and/or murder the model; the model is the chief obstacle preventing the subject from obtaining the model’s elusive state of being.  

The psychological implications of mimetic desire are paramount. If our desires are not innate physical whims but formed by the imitation of role models, then more often than not our desires are neither fixed nor reasonable.  They’re not fixed because a role model’s possessions and interests may change over time, and they’re not reasonable because one can never obtain the state of being of another human. These two obstacles result in continued frustration, depression, high and lows, violence, and generally “poor mental health.”  Thankfully there is a solution to the primary cause of most our mental dis-ease.  

The Real Cure to Many of Our Mental Health Problems 

Girard argues that there are essentially two solutions to mimetic desire, though the first solution is really more of a band-aid than a cure. First, the relational distance between a subject and his role model has a direct affect on the amount of mental stress and physical violence that might result from a given relationship. Relational distance might explain why the fiercest jealousy or violence often occurs between the closest friends or the most intimate lovers. If one chooses role models that are at a greater distance, however, like a sports hero on a professional team instead of a high school teammate, the tension caused by mimetic rivalry is lessoned.  Our society tacitly acknowledges this benefit by constant emphasizing the importance of positive role models for children.

The second solution is receiving and following in the steps of Jesus Christ’s sacrificial love.  Instead of turning to violence and being controlled by the crowd, Jesus revealed that laying down one’s own life brings freedom and escape from the mimetic cycle. The ability to lay down one’s life, to surrender one’s desire (formed by imitation and ultimately resulting in a hatred for others), is only obtained by believing in the unconditional love of Jesus.  Love, which is sacrificial, can only be given after it is received.  In other words, those who believe, Jesus sets free from a mimesis that spirals towards death and leads into a mimesis towards life. Sacrificial love brings freedom from mental anguish, fear, jealousy, narcissism, concern over what people think, anxiety, depression, and a plethora of other mental health problems.

This isn’t to say that all mental health problems are solved by escaping mimetic desire, or that we’re ever fully free from mimetic desire. Looking to others for the cues for our desires is a constant struggle, one that requires daily returning to the love of Jesus and remembering his sacrifice through sharing communion with others. It’s also important to note that some mental health problems are caused by biology or the physical environment, such as when depression is caused by being inside for too long or when bi-polar disease is triggered by a nutrient deficiency.  But this brings up another point, most mental health problems, in one way or another, are  a result of not living the way God created us to live. The first and most important aspect to life and good mental health is love, after that, exercise, sunshine, fresh-air, and healthy foods all have a substantial impact on mental health.

The take away: It’s a Western myth that we are complete individuals with innate and unique desires. While the idea of the “stalwart individual” might be appealing, our mental health is intimately tied to our relationships with others.  We get our desires from the people around us (whether friends, family, peers, advertisers, movies, etc), and our ability (or inability) to realize these desires is the principle cause of mental dis-ease.  The only way to escape the bi-polar high and lows of desire is unconditional, sacrificial love.

What are your thoughts on mental health? 

Do you have any questions about mimetic desire?

Primary Reference and Suggested Reading: Violence and the Sacred, by Rene Girard.

Violence and the Sacred by Rene Girard recommendation review 

[ts_fab authorid=]

Originally posted 2013-09-26 16:03:06.

The Vital Difference Between Truth and Reality

In our culture, words like “truth,” “lie,”fact,” and “error,” are used on a constant basis.  These words are heard in the news, in the classroom, at the job, in church, and in the courtroom.  We insist on seeing the evidence and getting to the bottom of things.  This desire for a clear understanding of the facts or of the truth is found in both the secular and religious world.  In fact, it’s often a disagreement over the “facts” that causes irreconcilable differences between Christians and atheists, christians and other christians, creationists and evolutionists, or scientists and other scientists.  

While there are undoubtedly some important disagreements around “the facts,” I’d like to contend (along with the philosopher and sociologist Jacques Ellul) that the disagreements that exist in our society aren’t as much a result of inaccurate “facts” as they are a result of a fundamental confusion between the concepts of “truth” and “reality.”  This confusion is a product of the Scientific Age.  

Scientism, the belief that the only things that have merit are the things that we can “observe, measure, and repeat,” is pervasive in our culture.  The result is that everything that depends on words for explanation is looked down upon, while everything that can be seen (photos, videos, artifacts, repeatable research) is prioritized and given legitimacy.  The priority given to the visible even influences how people read the Bible.  Instead of seeking to understand the meaning of a passage or the moral lesson, emphasis is often placed on the literal reading of the text.  Looking at Biblical texts literally, as if they were science reports, can result in missing the primary purpose of the texts.  

Here’s the kicker, reality, that which can be seen, touched, or heard, has no meaning without truth.  Truth is the realm of the spoken word, the realm of meaning, purpose, love, faith, hope.  These are the spiritual aspects of life that can never be proven with a scientific experiment.  Truth and reality exist side by side.  Truth gives value to reality.  The realm of truth (which can be contaminated by lies, hate, doubt) also has a powerful impact on the real world.  For example, when we care about someone, that care can be seen and felt by others.  On rare occasions truth and reality fully intersect, like when Jesus came to earth, “the Word made flesh,” or when God’s kingdom comes “on earth as it is in heaven.” 

At this point, you might be wondering what “truth versus reality” has to do with health.  Well, to start with, the emphasis on reality is part of the reason the health industry is so focused on image, rather than holistic health.  The health goal portrayed by the media is that we should look like super models and that we should live a really long time.  Hardly anything is said about quality of life, spiritual well-being, or overall health down to the cellular level.  Mainstream health is all about getting “ripped,” having “a six pack,” “looking young,” or completing some obstacle course race for bragging rights on social media.  

Then there’s the lack of purpose in the health movement.  And what’s the point of having good physical health if you don’t have some greater spiritual purpose in life?  Purpose is something that doesn’t come from the physical world (reality) or science — it’s something that comes from belief or faith, which belong to the realm of truth.  According to the scriptures, abundant life comes from living with a purpose.  We were created to live freely and to live in God’s love! 

The next time you here someone talking about “truth,” ask yourself, “are they really talking about truth or facts?” If what they’re talking about gives meaning to the world around us, then they’re discussing something within the realm of truth.  If what they’re saying merely describes the world around us, then they’re just providing facts.  

For further reading on truth versus reality, I highly recommend The Humiliation of the Word by Jacques Ellul.


[ts_fab authorid=]

Originally posted 2013-09-16 20:38:41.