In John 10:10 Jesus promises His followers abundant life. This blog is about my life as His follower.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

What makes a behavior taboo?

We live in a day and age when we are exceedingly politically correct about how we refer to people and how we look at their problems. I've seen this sometimes be to the good, and sometimes to the absurd. But have you ever noticed that there are some problems that people have that do not extend to political correctness?

Two that come to my mind right away are smoking and over eating. For some reason these two problem behaviors have just about come to be seen as evil. Both inside the church and outside.

Lest you begin to throw stones at me, I'm not saying that either of these behaviors are wise, healthy, good or spirit controlled. I'm just saying that I find it interesting that these two are singled out from among many problem behaviors that many people exhibit and, almost universally in our culture today, people who have problems with these behaviors are looked down upon. It seems the thought process is that it's their fault they don't stop smoking/over eating, I resist the temptation to do that so should they; they're just lazy losers.

Poor smokers are practically shunned everywhere. Bill boards are not allowed to even advertise cigarettes; but they can advertise alcohol even though millions of people die at the hands of drunk drivers annually (please don't misunderstand, I don't think there is anything wrong with alcohol consumption necessarily). I've known lots of great people though the years that struggle with smoking; many have quit several times but just not been able to totally quit. These aren't incompetent fools, they just struggle for various reasons with smoking. We've learned that second hand smoke is bad for us so I recognize why smokers need to smoke in areas away from others; but I know plenty of considerate people who always go outside, away from others to smoke.

Currently the church I am in is without a pastor. We're a small campus in a small mountain town (posted population 3,500) but have a larger parent church (average Sunday attendance around 4,000) down the mountain. Various pastors from the parent church have been kind enough to fill our pulpit each Sunday. I'm really grateful to these pastors because they still have their regular duties plus preparing to preach for us and driving up the mountain to do so. There's one specific pastor who has preached in our church a few times during the past year who I've come to love. He's a dynamic preacher and very down to earth in his delivery. He's also quite a bit overweight. We have two services at our church on Sunday mornings and some "concerned" congregant felt that she needed to approach this visiting pastor between the two services and talk to him about his weight problem. Do you think he needed her to point it out? Do you think he didn't realize that he's over weight? Do you think what she said helped him in any way? What on earth could have motivated this behavior on her part?

In case you are unable to tell by the face shot with my profile at the side; I'm quite a bit over weight myself. Again, I'm not saying it's OK for me to be overweight. But I am grateful for the grace of God and that the Bible tells me that He loves me exactly as I am.

Not too long ago I was at a women's Bible study going through a 3-week video Bible study by Beth Moore. The leader asked me to facilitate in one of the small groups that broke up for discussion following the video. The first discussion question was about if there are things that the Bible considers sin that are prevalent in our culture. One slim lady in the group talked at length about how terrible a problem obesity is in our culture and of course we all agreed that obesity is a problem in American society. But this woman continued to talk on about the evils of over eating; she even said that it's interesting that eating was the first sin. At which point another woman in the group said that no, it wasn't the issue with Adam and Eve eating per say, that the sin was pride - Adam and Eve wanted to be as all knowing as God and do things their way. The next discussion question was what sin do you personally struggle with. Well no one wanted to answer that question, so, since I'd been delegated to lead I figured I'd lead by example and open myself up a bit. So I said that I have a problem with over eating (of course how big of a secret is that anyway? Since I'm over weight it would be a good guess that this is a problem of mine!) Ms Slim dismissively informed me that everyone has a problem with that. I waited a bit, and when no one else shared, went on to the next question. After the study had ended, Ms Slim cornered me and said she was sorry if she had seemed to be picking on me. I asked her what she was specifically talking about (she had talked a LOT during the discussion and I had been very challenged to let others have a chance to share as well). She said that she really doesn't have anything against over weight people and hoped that she had not offended me. Feeling extremely awkward at this point, I none the less assured her that I was fine. But she went on and on talking about how open minded she is toward fat people. It was really weird. When I got home I told John (my husband) about it and asked his opinion on the whole thing. He said it seemed to him like she had a judgmental spirit, at least for sure toward people who over eat.

My point here is not to champion over eating or smoking but to more to point out that if God's grace is enough, why do we put limits on it.

Is it just me, or do you also notice that people who smoke or over eat are practically considered pariahs in our society? Why do you think that is?


RCUBEs said...

We are always quick to see others' flaws. That's why the Bible warns us to remove the plank first in our own eyes. Being obese, being a smoker is the same as being a gambler, alcoholic...They are all addictions and like a spider's web, when we are trapped, it's just hard to get out of it...Though with God's grace, nothing is impossible...I think the scariest thing is to be full of pride...Thank you for linking my post in your side bar. God bless.

nettagyrl said...

Hi Tracy! Thanks for stopping by the blog.

Now it seemed that Ms. Slim had a problem and like so many people like that, she tried to overtalk her reasons as to why she is open minded. I think it was because she had no one agreeing with her. =D

GCT said...

The lack of tobacco advertising is because of the lawsuits brought against the tobacco industry and the proven lies they were spreading.

JPaula said...

It is interesting to see how society's attitude towards smoking has changed over the years. I know it seems strange, but I remember being a young child and thinking it so cool that my bobo (great grandma) smoked and I wanted to be just like her. Smoking eventually killed her (cancer) and my grandpa (heart failure). Smoking kills in a way that nothing else does. It's an addiction that's worse than anything and most of society gets that.
Obesity is a different issue, but throughout the ages and in most societies being over weight has been frowned upon. I agree with Ms Slim that obeisity is a serious issue in our society. What I don't agree with is her behavior, but due to society's view on being overweight it is a common view. I was amused to read that she was corrected that pride was the first sin, not "eating". My first impression of Ms Slim is that pride is her biggest sin. Because of her own pride in herself she felt justified in her behavior towards the writer of this post. I think Ms Slim's issues are bigger than the writers issues are.
Life is full of battles. We battle bad habits, bad choices, and bad behaviors. Because of our fallen/human nature we eat too much, smoke, drink and swear too much. If we are going to choose to fight those battles and beat those battles then we have to first remember that regardless of what the world thinks, God loves us and created us beautifully and wonderfully. We start there and put our self righteous pride aside and fight the battle with God on our side.

Valkyrie said...

Pariahs? Why, yes. I think we become lulled by the lie that unseen sin is no sin at all--by which I mean unseen by our neighbor.

People get comfortable with the idea that since others can't automatically see the thing they're struggling with, then they're fine. So they are free to sit in judgment over those who have problems that can be seen by the outside observer, ie smoking and obesity. When cornered, they of course will say they too have problems, but in truth, as they say this, they are also grateful that they don't have to carry around a sign that says things like "addicted to porn" or "hits my kids" or "unforgiving heart" or any myriad of our shortcomings or sins.

I am not saying that all these things are comparable, just that no one is perfect, and some people can hide their imperfection more easily. We should all remember this.

Tracy said...

This morning as I was spending time with God, in addition to the Bible I was reading in a devotional, these words by Brennan Manning really hit me in light of this topic:

"Self-mastery over every form of sin, selfishness, emotional dishonesty, and degraded love is the less-traveled road to Christian freedom. But there is not growth without pain and no integrity without self-denial. (Of course, neither pursuit is particularly attractive apart from the personal love of Jesus Christ.)"

Yes, as we grow in Christ we want to be free from selfish sin such as smoking or over eating or anything else. But it's all meaningless apart from the love of Christ.

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