INTRODUCTIONThefunction of religion is to explain the inexplicable, thus providing humans witha sense of comfort in a chaotic world. Food, because it sustains life, is animportant part of religious symbols, rites and customs, those acts of dailylife intended to bring about an orderly relationship with the spiritual orsupernatural realm.
Many of the features that shape dietary habits are derivedfrom religious laws. All over the world many people choose to eat or avoidcertain foods according to their religious beliefs. When a dietary practice ispreserved by religious dogma it is given additional force. Dietary differenceslinked to religion should be considered when planning a balanced diet.
CHRISTIANITYChristianityis a religion based upon the teachings and miracles of Jesus. Jesus is theanointed one from God the Father who came to this world, fulfilled the OldTestament laws and prophecies, died on the cross, and rose from the deadphysically. Christianity teaches that there is only one God in all existence, thatGod made the universe, the Earth, and created Adam and Eve.
In the world, morepeople follow Christianity than any other single religion. The three dominantChristian branches are Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodox Christianity andProtestantism. The central convictions of the Christian faith are found in theApostles’ and the Nicene Creed. The creed explains that people are savedthrough God’s grace, the life and death of Jesus, and his resurrection asChrist.
For most Christians the sacramentsmark the key stages of worship and sustain the individual worshiper. Thesacraments observed, and the way they are observed, vary among Christiangroups. The seven sacraments of Roman Catholicism, for example are baptism(entering Christ’s church), confirmation, (the soul receiving the Holy Ghost),Eucharist (partaking of the sacred presence by sharing bread and wine),marriage (union of a man and woman through the bond of love), unction (healingof the mind, spirit and body), reconciliation (penance and confession) andordination of the clergy. ROMANCATHOLICISM Thelargest number of persons adhering to one Christian faith in the United Statesare Roman Catholics. The number of Roman Catholics in the world (nearly 1.1billion) is greater than that of nearly all other religious traditions. Thereare more Roman Catholics than all other Christians combined and more RomanCatholics than all Buddhists or Hindus. Although there are more Muslims thanRoman Catholics, the number of Roman Catholics is greater than that of theindividual traditions of Sh??ite and Sunni Islam.
ROMANCATHOLICS FEAST DAYSRomanCatholic Feast days are days set aside to remember important people and eventsthrough the course of the Faith from the time of Mary’s birth all the waythrough today honoring the saints. Other than Christmas (the birth of Christ)and Easter (the resurrection of Christ after the crucifixion), Americans in theUnited States also celebrated New Year’s Day, the Annunciation (March 25), PalmSunday (the Sunday before Easter), the Ascension (forty days after Easter),Pentecost Sunday (fifty days after Easter), the Assumption (August 15), AllSaint’s Day (November 1), and the Immaculate Conception (December 8).ROMANCATHOLICS FAST DAYSTheCatholic Church historically observes the disciplines of fasting and abstinenceat various times each year. For Catholics, fasting is the reduction of one’sintake of food, while abstinence refers to refraining from meat (or anothertype of food). The Catholic Church teaches that all people are obliged by Godto perform some penance for their sins, and that these acts of penance are bothpersonal and corporeal. The purpose of fasting is spiritual focus,self-discipline, imitation of Christ, and performing penance.ForRoman Catholic, fasting permits only one full meal per day at midday. It doesnot prohibit the taking of some food in the morning or evening.
The law ofabstinence requires a Catholic 14 years of age until death to abstain fromeating meat on Fridays in honor of the Passion of Jesus on Good Friday. Meat isconsidered to be the flesh and organs of mammals and fowl. Also forbidden aresoups or gravies made from them.
Salt and freshwater species of fish,amphibians, reptiles and shellfish are permitted, as are animal derived productssuch as margarine and gelatin which do not have any meat taste.Thelaw of fasting requires a Catholic from the 18th Birthday (Canon 97) to the59th Birthday, to reduce the amount of food eaten from normal. The Churchdefines this as one meal a day, and two smaller meals which if added togetherwould not exceed the main meal in quantity. Such fasting is obligatory on AshWednesday and Good Friday.
The fast is broken by eating between meals and bydrinks which could be considered food (milk shakes, but not milk). Alcoholicbeverages do not break the fast, however, they seem to be contrary to thespirit of doing penance. Besidesthose outside the age limits, those of unsound mind, the sick, the frail,pregnant or nursing women according to need for meat or nourishment, manuallaborers according to need, guests at a meal who cannot excuse themselveswithout giving great offense are people who are excused from fast orabstinence. EASTERNORTHODOX CHRISTINITYTheEastern Orthodox Church is as old the Roman Catholic Branch of Christianity,although not as prevalent in the United States. The orthodox church consists offourteen self-governing churches, five of which- Constantinople. Alexandria(the Egyptian Coptic Church), Antioch, Jerusalem and Cyprus. FEASTDAYS IN EASTERN ORTHODOX CHRISTINITYEasternOrthodox feast days are Christmas, Theophany, Annunciation, Easter (FirstSunday after the full moon after March 21), Ascension (40 days after Easter),Transfiguration and Nativity of the Holy Theotokos. Easter is the mostimportant holiday in the Eastern Orthodox religion and is celebrated on thefirst Sunday after the full moon after March 21, but not the Jewish Passover.
FASTDAYS IN THE EASTERN ORTHODOXSomeof the strictest rules for fasting are found in the Eastern Orthodox Church.During the Lenten season, there are a number of days when members areencouraged to severely restrict their diets or refrain from eating altogether:Lentis the forty days before Easter. On the third Sunday before Lent (Meat FareSunday), all the meat in the house is eaten. On the Sunday before Lent (CheeseFare Sunday), all the cheese, eggs and butter in the house are eaten. On thenext day, Clean Monday, the Lenten fast begins. During the second week of Lent,full meals are allowed only on Wednesday and Friday. However, many members donot fully comply with this rule.
On weekdays during Lent, meat, eggs, dairy,fish, wine, and oil are restricted. This also applies to any food productscontaining these items. The week before Lent, all animal products, includingmeat, are prohibited. Good Friday is a day for a complete fast during whichmembers are encouraged to eat nothing.Thosereceiving Holy Communion on Sunday abstain from food and drink before theservice. Fasting is considered an opportunity to prove that the soul can rulethe body.
On fast days no meat or animal products (milk, eggs, butter andcheese) are consumed. Fish is also avoided, but shellfish is generally allowed.Older or more devout Greek Orthodox followers do not use olive oil on fastdays, but will eat olives. PROTESTANTISMThesixteenth century religious movement known as the Reformation established theProtestant churches by questioning the practices of the Roman Catholic Churchand eventually breaking away from its teachings. The man primarily responsiblefor the Reformation was Martin Luther, a German Augustinian monk who taughttheology. He started the movement when, in 1517, he nailed a documentcontaining 95 protests against certain Catholic practices on the door of thecastle church in Wittenberg. He later broadened his position.
A decade later,several countries and German organized the Protestant Lutheran Church based onMartin Luther’s teachings. Themost significant food ordinance in Protestant churches is the Eucharist, alsocalled communion, or the Lord’s Supper. However, other than a liquid and abread like morsel being offered, there is little consistency in celebration ofthis ordinance. It can signify an encounter with the living presence of God, aremembrance of the Passover Seder attended by Jesus, a continuity of traditionthrough community, or an individual spiritual experience.
Though wine istraditional, many churches switched to grape juice during Prohibition andcontinue this temperance practice. Some churches offer the wine/juice in asingle cup which is shared, while others provide small, individually filledcups.Manyliturgical churches, such as the Lutheran church, offer wafers similar toCatholic practice. Others such as Methodists, often use a bread pellet.
Someorganize their members to bake bread and many denominations simply cut up whitebread. FASTINGPRACTICES IN PROTESTANT CHURCHESAmongthe many Protestant churches, there are variety of suggestions regardingfasting during Lent. This is a product of the Reformation during which leaderssuch as Martin Luther and John Calvin wanted new believers to focus onsalvation by God’s grace rather than traditional spiritual disciplines.
TheAssemblies of God views fasting as a form of self-control and it is animportant practice, though not mandatory. Members can voluntarily and privatelydecide to practice it with an understanding that it is not done to curry favorfrom God. TheBaptist Church does not set fasting days, either.
The practice is a privatedecision when a member wishes to strengthen his relationship with God. TheEpiscopal Church is one of the few that specifically urges fasting during Lent.In particular, members are asked to fast, pray, and give alms on Ash Wednesdayand Good Friday. TheLutheran Church addresses fasting in the Augsburg Confession. It reads,”We do not condemn fasting in itself, but the traditions which prescribecertain days and certain meats, with peril of conscience, as though such workswere a necessary service.” So, while it’s not required in any particularfashion or during Lent, the church has no issues with members fasting with theright intent. TheMethodist Church also views fasting as a private concern of its members and hasno rules regarding it. However, the church does encourage members to avoidindulgences such as favorite foods, hobbies, and pastimes like watching TVduring Lent.
ThePresbyterian Church takes the voluntary approach as well. It is seen as apractice that can bring members closer to God, rely on Him for help, and aidthem in resisting temptations. SEVENTHDAY ADVENTISTSTheSeventh-day Adventist Church recognizes the autonomy of each individual and hisor her God-given power of choice.
Rather than mandating standards of behavior,Adventists call upon one another to live as positive examples of God’s love andcare. Part of that example includes taking care of health and believe God callsus to care for our bodies, treating them with the respect a divine creationdeserves. Gluttony and excess, even of something good, can be detrimental toour health. Thepractice of Adventism varies greatly from congregation to congregation. Someare more conservative, others more liberal. Some example are:Homosexuality:In common with essentially all conservative Christian denominations, the SDAdoes not allow the ordination of homosexuals.
Loving, committed same-sexcouples cannot be married or have their civil unions recognized or blessed. Sabbath:Perhaps their most obvious practice which differentiates them from most otherChristian churches is that they follow observe Saturday as their weekly Sabbath(from Friday sunset to Saturday sunset). Their religious education classes arecalled Sabbath Schools, not Sunday Schools.
Some followers give a “HappySabbath” greeting when they meet. Education:Higher education is highly respected within the church. The rate of collegegraduates among the Seventh-day Adventist church membership is about twice theUS national average.
Adventistsbelieve the key to wellness lies in a life of balance and temperance. Naturecreates a wealth of good things that lead to vibrant health. Pure water, freshair and sunlight, when are used appropriately can promote clean, healthy lives.
Exercise and avoidance of harmful substances such as tobacco, alcohol andmind-altering substances lead to clear minds and wise choices. A well-balancedvegetarian diet that avoids the consumption of meat coupled with intake oflegumes, whole grains, nuts, fruits and vegetables, along with a source ofvitamin B12, will promote vigorous health.Adventistsbelieve that sickness is a result of the violation of the laws of health.
Vegetarianism is widely practiced because the Bible states that the diet inEden did not include flesh foods. Most Adventists are lacto-ovo-vegetarians(eating milk products and eggs, but not meat). Some do consume meat, althoughthey avoid pork and shellfish. Mrs. White advocated the use of nuts and beansinstead of meat, substituting vegetable oil for animal fat, and using wholegrains in breads.
Likethe Mormons, the Adventists do not consume tea, coffee, or alcohol and do notuse tobacco products. Water is considered the best liquid and should beconsumed only before and after the meal, not during the meal. Meals are nothighly seasoned, and hot spices such as mustard, chili powder and black pepper areavoided. Eating between meals is discouraged so that food can be properlydigested. ISSUESABOUT FOOD ALLERGIES VS FEASTING AND FELLOWSHIP IN THE CHURCHEatingcan be a source of fellowship, but in a fallen and allergy-ridden world, it canalso present challenges.
For most people, eating is a joyful opportunity forChristian fellowship. But for people who have allergies, it can be a source ofdivision and isolation. Church feasts which serve as a visible symbol ofChristian unity and identity can be complicated in a fallen world. Feastingtogether is good, but it can also get complicated. If we want to love ourbrothers and sisters in Christ well, then it is worth time to think deeplyabout food sensitivity and its relationship to Christian hospitality andself-sacrifice. Food allergies are growing more andmore common. We know friends and family members who have food allergies. Maybewe have them ourselves.
Given the reach of social media, we also hear thestories of children and teenagers who have gone into anaphylactic shock afterone bite of a Rice Krispies Treat. The causes of food allergies are not clearbut the effects, however, for some, they are relatively minor such as skinreactions, eczema, rashes, itchy and watery eyes, and congestion. For others,they are life-threatening: shortness of breath, obstruction of airways by aswollen tongue or throat, drops in blood pressure, chest pain, loss ofconsciousness, and sometimes, death.Forthose with food allergies, though, the shared table can be a minefield. Becauseof the risk allergies pose to congregants, many churches are beginning to setfood policies like those in schools. Some will label dishes that areallergen-free or set them on a designated table to reduce contamination, whileothers offer gluten-free bread for communion.
As awareness of allergies grows,so do churches’ abilities to bear the burdens of those who risk their healthevery time they gather to eat as a congregation.Churchmembers are also starting to bear each other’s burdens by discerning thedifference between the risk brought about by allergies and the food preferencespresent in any body of diverse people. If the last two decades have seen a risein food allergies, they have also seen growing interest in food sourcing, withmany consumers growing increasingly conscious of what they take into theirbodies and committing to eat only clean, organic, or locally sourced foods. CONCLUSIONThethree dominant Christian branches are Roman Catholicism, Eastern OrthodoxChristianity and Protestantism. Food regulations differ from one Christiandenomination or group to another, with some groups not observing anyrestrictions at all.
Some fasting days are observed by Catholic and OrthodoxChristians on certain days such as Good Friday or during Lent. In conclusion,food selection is due to different reasons and religions. Understanding therole of food in cultural and religious practice is an important part of showingrespect and responding to other people from different religions.