Sunday, December 12, 2010

Gluttony: Notes on Pentecostal Behavior

Seven Deadly Sins: Gluttony

When studying the Seven Deadly Sins, as traditionally taught by Christianity for over 1000 years, which were probably inherited from moral teachings from the Greek philosophers such as Plato and Socrates, I was struck by common Pentecostal practices that not only violate these traditional “deadly” sins, but actively encourage these deadly sins.

In browsing some Pentecostal websites with pictures of gatherings and meetings, I was struck by a strange sight of obesity. Now, we all know that some people are fat or bubbly somewhat. However, when it gets to the point of not being able to perform basic functions without undue stress, I think we need to take a closer look at what is going on. Are these people just a little big large or are they gluttons at the table, consuming food like wild hogs? Are they having some medical problems, or do they have a problem with self-control? And, let me be clear that I probably have been guilty of this myself.

Traditionally, one can commit gluttony in several ways, according to Thomas Aquinas (reference Wikipedia):

(1) Eating too soon
(2) Eating too expensively
(3) Eating too much
(4) Eating too eagerly
(5) Eating too daintily
(6) Eating wildly

Now, look at this list again, and tell me that Pentecostals regularly violate several of these guidelines. I would say I have always seen Pentecostal meetings where they (a) Eat too soon, (b) Eat too much, (c) Eat too eagerly, and (d) Eat wildly. I was among Pentecostals recently, and I was struck by something I never noticed before: they were devouring their food as would a hungry dog or a hog. Being away from that crowd for several years, and seeing this activity struck me as memorable.

What is wrong with all this gluttonous behavior? Who is being harmed? Well, in most ethical systems, we are taught how to be good to others, but also we learn forms of self-control because an extreme lack of self-control in one area almost always signals a moral problem in many other areas. It is an outward sign of an inward disorder. Why do we become gluttons? Are we substituting food for socializing? Are we substituting food for not confronting undesirable situations (cowardice). Are we eating because we are lonely? Are we devouring food because we lack meaning and spirituality in our lives (I think this is the piece de resistance, myself)?

Also, think about the prohibition of alcohol among some of the more extreme fundamentalists. Well, do they prohibit and police gluttony? Well, drunkenness is only a subset of gluttony! What is drunkenness? Consuming too much alcohol to the point of neglecting our duties. Again, lack of self-control is the key.

What do you remember about the hoggish consumption of food in your Pentecostal experience?

25 comments:

Anonymous said...

Oh my, the stories I could tell about potlucks and such! I was a Pentecostal for over thirty years and saw a bunch of different churches in my travels. (I made a pig of myself in many of those places, too.) It seems that food/eating related behaviors are a protected area among certain fringe religious groups and certainly among Pentecostals. After my husband and I left our longtime Pentecostal "home" last year, we landed in a Methodist church--a denomination that has a reputation for liking to feed people lol. But WHAT a difference between our first church luncheon there and our monthly "leadership meetings" at our A/G church. This was no competition for the fanciest potluck recipe. It was a thoughtfrully planned and organized layout that was plentiful, budget conscious (though all donated by members) and resembled a balanced (though carb-heavy) meal.

Leftovers were neatly packaged and distributed to persons known to appreciate the help, mostly shutins from the congregation and a couple friends/family members of those present. The rest of these "care packages were promptly taken to homeless folks housed in broken down old motels, our county's answer for "homeless shelter.

I can't tell you how much that impressed me.

My apologies for using the anonymous tag. I should get an ID that's connected to this name :-).

Elizabeth Niederer

Anonymous said...

This is interesting. Do you think that it is because Pentecostals are generally less elitist and gracious in that they don't judge others with psychological and health problems? Most of the Pentecostal leadership I have witnessed tend towards a healthy and fitness lifestyle. Given the sheer numbers which attend Pentecostal churches and conferences, do you think also that their crowds are more visible than say the Methodists and Lutherans who generally don't broadcast their meetings? Just a thought!

Andrew said...

Honestly I do believe a lot of Pentecostals, preachers especially, are hypocritical when it comes to gluttony, but I don't think having a potluck qualifies as gluttony. I think that's a little over the top don't you think?

Anonymous said...

I stumbled across this site while surfing for some material for tomorrow's Pentecost service. While I am not a member of a Oneness/United Pentecostal congregation, I am a minister in a 1st Pentecostal congregation (which is quite a bit different). Despite this, I couldn't help but remark on the hypocrisy I'm seeing just in this post and its comments. Do you honestly believe that Pentecostals are the only congregations that have overweight members? I can tell you for a fact that is untrue! I was raised in a non-denominational church, I also visited my grandparent's Baptist church, and I have attended events at various churches of other denominations (including Methodist and Lutheran) and I can assure you that I saw plenty of members that were past the "normal" weight range.

"And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye." -Matthew 7:3-5

If you disagree with someone's take on doctrine, discuss doctrine. If there is truth in what you have to say, there should be nothing else you need to use.Don't be a hypocrite and talk about the physical appearance of a certain denomination's members. That's nothing but a personal attack, and very un-Christlike. Have a blessed day.

Anonymous said...

I have friendnin this religion, most of them fat and obese. What happened? What about loving yourself? Most of these people are divorcees, unhappy and cussing people. Very much of a hypocrites.

Anonymous said...

Don't leave the Baptists out on this one! Overeating and bragging about it from the pulpit is standard operating procedure. I'm a Baptist and it sickens me to no end how gluttony is the "only" sin not brought public. Smoking, drinking, lottery tickets, all on the list. Just leave off that fried chicken and "nanner puddling." Them is holy relics in there!!

Anonymous said...

Pentecostals are God's people, just like others who chose to practice other religions. I am Pentecostal and eating habits are bad EVERYWHERE not just with Pentecostals. We never said we were perfect; no one is. And by the way I am a very small individual and have been in Pentecost for 18 years. Can you explain that by your posts? No you can't. So before you make crude remarks at other religions you need to ask yourself "Would God want me to do something like this?". I am sorry that you left your religion and decided to go to another, but everyone makes their own choices; not God or anyone else can make them for you. I thank the Lord for allowing me to grow up in this wonderful religion where I am free to be myself.

Anonymous said...

Before posting an article, putting down a religion and also interpreting biblical text, know what you are talking about... when the bible talks about gluttony, it is something far more intense then just eating a lot, or expensive or what not. At those times, the rich were so prideful and selfless that they would eat expensive food, and when full, they would eat more. Gluttony is basically purposely eating to the point where you throw up.

I will enjoy as many pies as i want, or eat as much pasta as i want. Different bodies need more or less food, i will never judge someone for how, or what they eat.

God Bless.

Anonymous said...

Interesting observation. I think there are two reasons:

1. Over-eating is an outlet for an otherwise over restrictive life.
There have been studies that show that when people are restricted in one area, they look for an outlet in another. Pentecostals don't drink alcohol, are discouraged from parties, dances, etc., are encouraged to be successful (and work hard), and go to church more often and have longer services than most other denominations. The only fleshly thing they can look forward to is food.

2. Many Pentecostals are from the South and Southerners tend to be fat. When I lived in the South, I gained a lot of weight especially in the summer. Southern food is delicious and it's too freakin hot to do anything outside.

Rachel said...

Oops, I placed my gluttony comment in the worng place!

Rachel said...

Sigh I tried to move the comment so I will just create a new one. It is true that over eating is a sign of a misirable life. The is a fact So here is the question: if I go to a stranger on the street and explain how our church is the answer yet I am hugely fat, how can I explain this away. I know full well members of my former church stuff themselves to have the release of chemicals in their brains to get happy. I have seen this over and over. You cannot tell me that this is not happening.

Anonymous said...

This article is full of fallacies. The term "gluttony" cannot be applied to a potluck dinner. Look at all of the luncheons hosted by employers for various reasons. Take into consideration block parties and barbecues hosted by communities for various reasons. Also, please note that while there may be Pentecostals present, the majority of the crowd is rarely Pentecostal. Looking at one specific error and applying it to one specific religion as a way to "recover from the effects of an intensely emotional religion" is foolish and demonstrates a lack of rational thinking. To say that one is a hypocrite for making a mistake is hypocritical in itself. Everyone makes mistakes. The one that claims perfection is a liar, plain and simple. To make a general statement that the majority of Pentecostals are obese is also untrue. There is no solid ground of truth for this statement. I am Pentecostal myself, as well as the majority of my family. We are all within a healthy weight zone. I have been small ever since I was a child. The same can be said for my sister. I have several friends who are Pentecostal that encourage fitness and health and are within the healthy weight zone for their height.

To say that Pentecostals are restricted in what they can do would also be a false statement. I have a choice to do whatever I wish to do at any moment. No one can make my decisions for me or order me what to do. What I do and what I do not do is guided by convictions that I hold, and convictions are not merely a "Pentecostal thing." Take into account a person who has succeeded in becoming a business owner by age 25. This person has convictions of hard work, effort, and diligence. Anything that you consider a standard can be considered a conviction. In this way, no one is "restricted." He makes his own choices according to his convictions. How is being encouraged to work hard a restriction? If this is the case, many of my friends who are not of the Pentecostal denomination are restricted. Since when did a good work ethic become a restriction? Since when did success become a restriction? If one is truly living his life for God, then religion is just a word. My love for God is not my religion nor my upbringing. It is simply my love for God. Nothing can change it. No rule that one attempts to impose upon me could ever make me love Him more or less.

One's spirituality and salvation must be sought out of his own volition with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12).

I hope that I have shed some light on this rather poorly constructed criticism of Pentecostals. While I am a Pentecostal myself, the name of the denomination will not get me into heaven. I am not proclaiming that no Pentecostal is a hypocrite; you will, sadly, find them everywhere that you venture.

God bless.

Anonymous said...

I find this so true. I went to a few of these meetings at a Pentecostal Church in the town where I reside. I find the most of Pentecostals to be wolves in sheeps clothing. Some do not value their marriage vows and marry, divorce and remarry. They curse and cuss like they were a non-believer. Most Pentecostals I know cannot control themselves in their behaviour which is why it explains they are obese. I stay clear of Pentecostals. They are literally frightening!

Anonymous said...

Maybe this is an American problem and not a pentecostal problem

Anonymous said...

I am so glad to see you make the connection between gluttony and alcohol. On the one hand evangelicals are quick to judge others who may enjoy the occasional drink, but are morbidly obese themselves.

Anonymous said...

I don't want to be judgemental or offensive.. Every word spoken into existence will be judged. My thoughts are that not any church or denomination is perfect. I don't like to point out things that other ppl in certain churches are doing wrong and to call it a sin, For all of us are sinners. And no religion should be brought up thinking any other religion than what u practice is an enemy to u. Great things.. Signs and wonders and great moves of God happen in lots of churches. To say that any religion is better than the other is wrong. I think that we should all love each other and quit letting the devil win over contentious arguments regarding religion. Everything in love! We're all brothers and sisters, can't we act like it

Unknown said...

Amen! Sounds like some people wear their feelings on their sleeves.

Robert Slattery said...

I was raised in the UPC my family began its journey in a world that seemed helpful at the time, but then as my family followed the pastor, he the pastor separated from the UPC and it seemed we enjoyed food because it took our mind off the control from the pulpit this eventually led some to gain a love for food. Families learned that food was an easy access from the depression we dealt with as a result of that control, but to make matters worse the pastor assigned the group to quarterly fast so even the eating habits had their limits. So in this group it was total submission to the pastor. One psychologist termed it "bite" which is how a cult operates they take and regulate how you live: including your eating habits. This church was supposed to be an apostolic organization, but as I learned the pastor became the high priest of the church: In fact I was told by this pastor that he wanted only Mercedes and royal royaces and a preacher I know told me maybe GOD wants to use cheavies and fords: Im referring to be used in the ministry. Basically I was told only the pastor elects preachers. Sound like a cult to you?

Prion Indigo said...

You can't preach holiness and then engage in sin and expect not to be criticized. That's the point here.

Prion Indigo said...

Just be sure you don't preach modesty because that's a personal attack and not a sin. Stop preaching holiness, it just makes you judgemental.

Prion Indigo said...

Just be sure you don't preach modesty because that's a personal attack and not a sin. Stop preaching holiness, it just makes you judgemental.

Prion Indigo said...

You can't preach holiness and then engage in sin and expect not to be criticized. That's the point here.

Freddy Martini said...

Prion, that is a good point. It is funny how some people can be so nasty about holiness standards, dress, etc, but tolerate gluttonous behavior like it does not exist, and has been a deadly sin in Christianity since the beginning. Also, preaching against smoking and drinking (which are not identified as sins anywhere in the Bible), and tolerating gluttony, a deadly sin, is another strange thing about holiness organizations.

Unknown said...

Great words of wisdom. The scriptures should be our moral reference point, not ancient teachings by Greeks and so called saints. God bless you more

Marcelino said...

The point is, that gluttony is as sinfull as being drunk of wine. However, wine in its entirety are being labelled as forbidden in the pentecostal community while gluttony is tolerated. Why?