POTLUCKS AND PRINCIPLES
The Seventh-day Adventist church is not just another denomination. It is a movement raised up in response to prophecy to Finish the Reformation. But what has happened to its program of 'reform' which once touched almost every phase of Christian living? The reform of diet has been a trademark of the remnant church from its earliest beginnings, but that right arm has been slowly deformed through being gradually conformed to fleshly appetite.
In too many cases the great governing principles, based upon co-operation with natural law, have been slowly watered down and washed away. Adventist potlucks have become almost synonymous with over-indulgence. Except for the absence of meat on the groaning boards, the after-sermon fellowships have featured the same unhealthy mountain of sweets and spices which lure the world into gluttony.
The control of appetite is the basic victory which must be gained, through the power of Christ, to redeem the tragic indulgence of our first parents. Our Lord faced the issue squarely in the wilderness. Through prayer and reliance upon the Word, He overcame the tempter on the same point in which the first Adam miserably failed. This is the victory which every child of Adam must claim in order to be saved.
How has the original concept of health reform become so distorted that non-Adventists can only remember that we don't eat meat? What happened to the principles of exercise, right combinations, unrefined foods, little sugar and salt, no eating between meals, whole grains, no drugs, plenty of water, and not eating too much? Hundreds of thousands believe and keep the Sabbath, but are actually digging their graves with their teeth.
Almost imperceptibly a change has taken place among our people over the care of the body. No, we have not forgotten the texts about the temple of God. We still pride ourselves on refraining from pork and seafoods, and probably 50 percent of Seventh-day Adventists have given up flesh foods entirely. But this is not the health reform message in its entirety. Nowhere has Satan's argument about little things been more effective. By rationalising over small transgressions, the appetite has strengthened its hold over the bodies of Seventh-day Adventists. Obesity is just about as prevalent among us as it is in the world.
It would be interesting to conduct a survey that would give a tree reading concerning self-denial. How many members of our church really say "No" to their appetites? Would it be found that most of them eat just about the way their appetite dictates, without restraint or restriction? Perhaps you should stop reading this for a moment and answer the questions for yourself. Do you deliberately curb and restrict your desire to eat more than you need? Are you able to pass by the dessert tables with their dangerous assortment of sugary pastries? How often do you yield to the temptation to nibble between meals?
Too many have minimised these matters as being unimportant, but they are a considerable part of the great body of inspired counsel which God has committed to this church. Many books, with hundreds of pages, have dramatised the urgency of obeying the laws of our body just as carefully as the laws of God. Deliberate violation of those basic laws of our health could unfit us for the kingdom of God. Is that too strong a statement? Let's look at it a bit closer.
Why do we consider it a sin to use tobacco and alcohol? Because it is harmful to the body, and can shorten the life. The Bible says God will destroy those who defile their bodies (1 Corinthians 3:16, 17). Question: Can you shorten your life by not getting enough exercise? Indeed, it has been demonstrated by scientific data that thousands have died prematurely of heart attacks that could have been prevented. Cigarette smoking is not the only cause of heart attack and untimely death. Does this mean that refusing to get sufficient exercise might be just as wrong as using tobacco? Undoubtedly it does. Until Seventh-day Adventists stop rationalising away these clearly revealed principles, we cannot hope to escape the crippling effects of our transgression.
It must be understood that we are dealing with spiritual matters when we talk about extending the gift of life. We tend to smile away such inspired counsel as "Never should a morsel of food pass the lips between meals" (Counsels on Health, p. 118), but this is a vital principle of good health. Unless we draw lines to protect the delicate organs of digestion, we shall also continue to experience the same ill health and disorders which plague the rest of the fallen race. Sporadic spurts of obedience are not enough. The power of decision must be called upon. Stern battles with self will undoubtedly take place, but habitual conformity to the divine blueprint will bring its own reward.
In the light of so much counsel on the subject, how can we explain why almost half of our people still feed on the dead bodies of animals? Mrs. White wrote in Counsels on Diet and Foods: "Not an ounce of flesh meat should enter our stomachs." Page 380.
"Those who use flesh meat disregard all the warnings that God has given us concerning this question. They have no evidence they are walking in safe paths." Ibid., p. 383.
"Among those who are waiting for the coming of the Lord, meat eating will eventually be done away; flesh will cease to form a part of their diet." Ibid., pp. 380-381.
With the mushrooming growth of pollution and chemical poisoning, we hardly should need such pages of specific instruction to turn us from a meat diet. Some of the most popular meats have been tested and rejected by failing to meet minimum health standards. Consumer Reports magazine made an extensive research on hamburgers and gave the results in August, 1971. "A shocking large percentage of the hamburger we purchased was well on the way to putrefaction."
Ralph Nader, whose organisation did a prolonged investigation of packing houses, summed up their findings on hamburgers and hot dogs in the Florida magazine November 7, 1971:
"All these processed meats constitute an imaginative food innovation; they are often used as a handy and profitable dump that allows the packers to get rid of their scraps, substandard or diseased meat, and their less desirable cuts. All they do is douse all these inferior leftovers with colouring and seasoning agents, and market them to an unsuspecting public. Court evidence has shown that contaminated meat, horse meat, and meat from diseased animals that was originally slated for dog or cat food has often wound up as hamburger or sausage; while lungs, eyeballs, pig blood and chopped hides are mixed into hot dogs and luncheon meats.
"To reduce the stench and foul taste, such meat is frequently impregnated with sulphite, an illegal additive that gives old and decaying meat a healthy pink blush. Since the meat used is often filthy, detergents are frequently used to wash off the dirt and, to stretch profits, so-called binders are added to hold the shreds of meat together--generally cereals, but occasionally sawdust."
Perhaps a word should be said about the Adventist consumption of sugar. Recent medical discoveries have confirmed the Spirit of Prophecy statements as to the detrimental effects of sugar on the human body. But do we, as a people, eat less than the national average of 102 pounds per year? From the scenes around the Sabbath potluck table, it would seem that we don't. The average daily consumption is 32 teaspoons. One piece of apple pie has eight teaspoons and a bottle of root beer ten teaspoons. That's over half the daily average. One banana split contains 25 teaspoons of sugar, believe it or not. No, we probably are clogging our bodies just as effectively, and a lot more deliberately, than most non-Seventh-day Adventists. Excess sugar in sweets of various kinds is commonly associated with obesity, diabetes, hypoglycaemia, coronary heart disease and arthritis.
It would seem quite unnecessary to admonish Adventists about the wrong in using caffeinated beverages, but we are living in that age of creeping compromise. Strange as it may seem, this first cousin to nicotine has slowly wormed its way into many Seventh-day Adventist pantries. The old Lot philosophy, "Is it not a little one?" has justified the use of a little more and a little more. Beginning with the 3 percent variety, the taste and the addiction for caffeine has been indulged until the habit is fixed.
What is God's counsel about it? "Tea and coffee drinking is a sin, an injurious indulgence, which, like other evils, injures the soul." Counsels on Diet and Foods, p. 425. From this statement one might deduce that decaffeinated coffee is only 3 percent sin, but it may be more than that. The fact is that if all caffeine could be removed, the drink would still be highly detrimental. Quite apart from the caffeine, coffee contains caffeol, a volatile oil which gives the unique taste and aroma. It is the caffeol which does more damage to the stomach than the caffeine. In an interview published in U.S. News & World Report, Dr. Joseph F. Montague, a leading authority on intestinal disorders, made this statement about cafeol "If you take a cup of coffee before you add milk or sugar and let it stand a minute, you will see oil float to the surface and swirl around. These oils are very irritating to the stomach and duodenum, and to my mind are productive of more irritation, more preulcerous conditions than anything else people eat. When a person takes this coffee in the morning, he is pepped up. But in reality he simply tightens the screw that holds the string of nervous tension." U.S. News & World Report, February 26, 1968.
The cola drinks are required by law to contain some caffeine but not more than about 50 milligrams per ten-ounce bottle. Coca-Cola derives its flavour from the coca leaf, while other cola drinks are made from the kola nut. Please note that coca leaf is the sole source of cocaine, one of the most potent drugs, whose medicinal use is severely limited and supervised. The company claims that all the cocaine has been removed, but repeated efforts to learn the effectiveness of such a process have been in vain.
Many people do not understand that Dr. Pepper is also a caffeinated beverage, containing slightly more caffeine than the Coca-Cola. Not only have Food and Drug Administration sources confirmed this, but the Dr. Pepper syrup dispensed at the fountains is clearly labelled as containing caffeine. Large numbers of Seventh-day Adventists, some knowingly and others ignorantly, continue to consume the addictive Dr. Pepper, which is possibly more harmful than the worst cola drink.
Surely the time has come to throw off this cloak of compromise and follow consistently the grand pattern of truth that has been committed to this church. Revival and the latter rain are awaiting those who will stand firmly on the side of undivided obedience--an obedience rooted in a deep, spiritual, personal commitment to Jesus Christ