Most know that a unique aspect of being human is our belief in a higher power. A diversity of beliefs and religions has developed throughout the centuries. I believe that these religions play a large part into human diets. Religion itself has multiple degrees of diet restrictions. Lets start with the big one, Christianity.
In Genesis, there are some guidelines for what God intended the human diet to be. However, there have been conflicting interpretations of what is stated. “Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you; as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything” (Genesis 9.4). Most omnivore Christians believe that this is what God intended. They are to eat all animals and plants that God has created. In contrast, vegetarian Christians believe God meant for us to only eat plants. “I have given every green plant for food” (Genesis 1.29). I will be focusing a lot more on vegetarianism later in my project, so lets focus on the omnivore view. It is seen as morally and ethically acceptable to eat both meat and plants. God created them for their use and consumption. If they were put on the planet for our use, then it is fitting to consume, domesticate, and use them for our labor. Many use the evidence of the bible to justify the dietary and treatment of meat in our everyday lives.
Another aspect of Christianity is Lent. Lent is a time in the Christian religion where there are forty days of fasting, prayer, and penance. It begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Holy Thursday. It is in the memory of Jesus Christ and his suffering, sacrifice, death, and ultimate resurrection. During this time the Church asks members to fast and abstain from meat on certain days. “Fasting means to limit food to one full meal a day with the possibility of two smaller meals as needed. Abstinence means not eating meat, although fish is allowed” (Jakoblich). The reason for not eating meat is as a form of penance in honor of Jesus Christ. Meat is such a large part of our diet, which makes it a sacrifice most can make. However, a little known fact is that the church encourages those to be abstinent on all Fridays throughout the year, not only during lent. However, substituting another penance is acceptable throughout the year. Fasting is also done to honor Jesus Christ and focus on one’s religion. It is done to cleanse the body so that one can pursue a life closer to God. It also is a way to remove distractions and focus on one’s devotion to their religion. Since food and especially meat are a huge part of our everyday life, it is a substantial sacrifice to make for one’s beliefs. Food is our life and surrounds every aspect of our day-to-day activities. So the time you would have spent preparing a large meal can now be spent thinking about God and one’s devotion. Lent is about reminding oneself what Jesus sacrificed for them. It’s powerful to think that food is one of the most common sacrifices and some may consider the hardest thing to sacrifice.
Another aspect of Christianity that involves food is communal meals. It derives from the Christian origin of the Last Supper. The Last Supper was Jesus Christ’s last meal that he shared with his apostles before his crucifixion. This meal is a huge symbol for the Christian faith that has translated into communal meals. It is common for those that attend church to share a meal after the service and to socialize with the members of the church community. With many churches they will host BBQ’s or potlucks for the members of the church to come together. The sharing of a meal creates a feeling of belonging, unity, and family. All of the members contribute to this feast, and in turn there is this overwhelming feeling of gratefulness. It gives them a chance to be surrounded by a community of those that share the same faith and beliefs. In my family, I remember that after church everyone would come over and we would all spend time together eating and talking. It was the sense of family that these Sundays created when we had meals together.
Communion is a time period during church where members will receive a piece of bread and a sip of wine. These two substances have such an impactful symbolism within the Christian faith. The bread symbolizes the body of Jesus Christ and the wine is his blood. This is a time the church community comes together to remember and celebrate Jesus Christ. I find it very interesting that this is done through the sharing of one loaf of bread and one cup of wine just as it was done at the last super. It is a spiritual moment that connects the members of the church together by sharing these items. It also connects them to Jesus Christ. By consuming pieces of him they feel closer to his essence so that he may live through them.
I am awe struck at the role food can have in such a powerful belief system. It is a tool that is used to become closer to our spirituality and others in religious communities. When we think of food, we don’t immediately think of its influence and the parts it plays in these larger belief systems. Something so simple as food has the ability to represent life, body, and soul.
Jakoblich, Jon. “Lent in the Catholic Church.” About Catholics. (2013): Web. 26 Sep. 2013. <http://www.aboutcatholics.com/beliefs/lent-in-the-catholic-church/>.