Of Dieting and Doughnuts (but not the way you think)
I have not written in a while… I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the topic I’m going to address today and wanted to form my thoughts to balance truth and grace. This will be a two-part work handling the same topic in two different ways, with two different manners of focus. I trust these thoughts will be challenging and helpful…
Shortly after the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage, a certain placard has been making the rounds on many social media sites. I’m quite certain you have seen it – but if you haven’t, I have included a photo of the placard here.
I must admit that my first response to reading this statement was confusion. I really wasn’t sure what was being said – or who was saying it. When I discovered the context of these words, I began to understand. In light of the issue of same-sex marriage, a comparison was being drawn – and a conclusion was being made. The target was Christianity – or, more accurately, the Bible’s view that marriage should only be between a man and a woman.
With this in mind, it seems to me that the prevailing thought of this analogy is that it is wrong to be “angry at someone for eating a doughnut” when you are not allowed to eat doughnuts yourself (because doughnuts and dieting are incompatible!). The perception is portrayed that “dieters” are judging “doughnut eaters” based solely upon the fact that the dieters have chosen to diet (and not eat doughnuts) and they are angry (and vocal) about those who choose to eat doughnuts, around them. The conclusion? Why should dieters make the lives of doughnut-eaters miserable, just because they have chosen to diet.
I get it. No one likes being judged. No one enjoys being the brunt of criticism or verbal abuse. Anger expressed at another person’s personal preferences is just silly (if not bigoted). After all, what is the crime in eating doughnuts? Why is it wrong? Why should it even matter?
The essence of this placard, and its corresponding analogy, seems to be centered upon people’s choices – and the fact that choices are based upon what we believe is right. How we determine what is right or wrong depends upon what we think about certain issues. There are several factors involved in our thinking processes (environment, upbringing, spheres of influence, what we read/observe, etc.) but we all, eventually, draw some conclusions about certain things, and those conclusions form the basis of how we think – and the choices we make.
Our current culture is dominated by the way of thinking that says things like: “follow your heart” or “do what feels right to you” and, especially, “live and let live.” In other words, we each have the right to determine what is in our best interests, and everyone should just accept those choices without criticism or judgment. To come back to the analogy at hand: If anyone wants to eat doughnuts – they should be allowed to eat doughnuts (without criticism or judgment), because that is their choice and their choice isn’t hurting anybody else. Dieters have no say about those who eat doughnuts because their choice to diet has no bearing upon any doughnut-eater’s choices.
As long as the question is an issue of freedom or rights (about determining our eating choices) doughnut-eaters certainly have a valid point – dieters really have no valid reason for being angry with those who eat doughnuts.
But what if it is not about an issue of right or wrong. What if the dieter (in the placard) is not really expressing anger towards a doughnut-eater (in a confrontation over eating a doughnut) – what if there is another important issue at hand…
What if, in this case, the dieter has received information about the particular doughnut that is about to be eaten. What if the dieter is absolutely convinced that the doughnut in the doughnut-eater’s hand is tainted with a deadly poison. This changes the scenario. Now, the dieter has a moral quandary. Now, the issue is not just one of freedom of choice (or right and wrong), the issue is now about life and death. The dieter, at this very moment, has a moral obligation to warn the person, who is about to consume the doughnut, that his life is in eminent danger. To not try to prevent the doughnut-eater from eating the doughnut would be cold-hearted, apathetic – and irresponsible. To have information about tainted doughnuts AND the opportunity to prevent someone from eating one AND, then, do nothing with this information and opportunity is inexcusable. One cannot claim to be a compassionate human being if we do not act to prevent someone from being harmed. Even if those preventative actions may appear to be self-serving or self-righteous.
Motivations are very difficult to read. We simply cannot look inside a person’s mind (or heart) and readily determine WHY someone is doing something. For the doughnut-eater, the assumption might easily be one of anger (about eating doughnuts) simply because the one confronting them has chosen not to eat doughnuts (because they are dieting). Any action, on behalf of the dieter, would likely be perceived as malicious or misguided.
The truth is often hidden from our perceptions.
There is another old placard that goes like this: “Not everyone who is patting you on the back is your friend; and not everyone who is kicking you in your backside is your enemy.”
This means that the real test of love is not always acceptance. It is the ability to do whatever is necessary for the good of the person you care about – even if those actions may seem to be unfriendly, unloving, or hostile. Sometimes a painful intervention is better than an indifferent acceptance.
If, for example, you were about to fall off of a cliff, the loving thing for me to do would be to reach out and grab you – even if, in so doing, I dislocate your arm from your shoulder. I have injured you, but my intent was to save your life. Should I be ridiculed for my injury to you? Should you complain about my harmful actions? Should you be proclaiming, loud and long, that I should just keep my hands to myself?
This is the quandary that faces Christians every day. We live in a world that has largely rejected God’s laws and moral standards. Because of the Supreme Court, abortion and same-sex marriage are now the law of the land. Both of these things are diametrically opposed to the laws of God. But, in our current cultural climate, the laws of God do not seem to matter anymore. This makes Christians sad and frustrated – sometimes angry.
But these things are far more than just issues of freedom or choice or personal preference. These issues are really matters of life and death. This is what we believe. This is what we have to believe. And we believe these things just as strongly as others who are opposed to our beliefs. We have trustworthy information that warns all human beings that there is a terrible consequence for ignoring the laws of God (who gives these laws out of His love for us – to protect us from our selves). What we do with this information is difficult for us Christians. Whatever we do is often ill-received, and openly criticized, in a society that preaches tolerance for everyone but those who hold to God’s truth and standards.
All true Christians have a sacred responsibility to live as God’s light wherever there is darkness – and we are concerned as we witness our culture contentedly wrapping themselves in a cloak of blinding darkness. The number of “doughnut-eaters” is ever increasing, but the Hope for all people is still the same glorious Light as it has always been (Jesus!).
In all honesty, we Christians have not represented the Light as well as we should. There are reasons for this… and we will discuss those reasons in our next installment…