The Se7en Deadly Sins: Gluttony

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“I eat because I’m unhappy and I’m unhappy because I eat.”
– Fat Bastard, from Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me

Thanks to the pervasive spread of gluttony within the Land O’ Plenty, Fat Bastard is no longer just a character in an Austin Powers’ flick . . . chances are, he’s your kid. Never in American history has there been so many sweaty sea cowesque adults and so many man-boobed little boys and chunky cheese, disease-primed little girls.

I’m forty-three years old as I write this column. When I was twelve years old growing up in Texas there was only one overweight kid in my sixth grade class of 300. That was one boy, not two, not 60% of my school carting around junk in their trunk, but one. Today, according to MSN online, over half of the adults in the good old US of Excess weigh too much and nearly a quarter of our kids aren’t just a little pudgy, but are obese. Wow.

Just yesterday while I was kayaking in the Atlantic, I saw this one boy (somewhere between 6-8 years old) on a boat with his shirt off. This kid was so chubby you could have hidden small toys in the folds of his fat. This kind of ruinous abuse, to me, is just as sad and as bad as the eight-year-old Russian heroine addict I saw on a video blog last week.

So what is gluttony?

Gluttony, according to Os Guinness, is the “idolization of food.” Os states, “Just as avarice idolizes possessions and lust sex, so gluttony idolizes food. It lifts it out of its place and distorts both food and eating. Thus, unlike a gourmet who enjoys and appreciates food, a traditional glutton enjoys eating, almost regardless of its taste, beauty or the company shared.

Whereas the gourmet savors, the traditional glutton devours.” What’s funny is that the church used to look at you weird if you were a glutton. Yeah, the ecclesia used to side with God and denounce the glut. We can’t do that nowadays because the church is packing more pork than a congressional subcommittee. Oh sure, we will condemn the obvious bacchanalian, Diddy-like excesses of the unwashed rich and famous with their groaning tables and uncouth comportment; but that doesn’t keep the called out ones from getting seconds of the Savory Sausage Slam at Denny’s! Glory, hallelujah!

I find it real convenient for the chunky church of the 21st century to go postal on the vices of drunkenness and porn, but you don’t hear a peep out of them when it comes to their paunch. Just the other day I was watching TBN . . . Why? I do not know . . . Anyway, the preacher was railing against drinking, smoking and pornography. Y’know, the unholy trinity, the three big sins the church really needs to be focusing on right now. The funny thing was that this man of God was at least, at least, 100 lbs. overweight, and he had more chins than a Chinese phone book.

Yes, the church will go medieval if you snort coke by the gram or toke marijuana by the ounce, but they won’t say a word if you commit spoon suicide by eating chicken by the bucket, pizza by the foot and hamburger by the pound. Why won’t they? Well, to say something about the sin of overeating would equate putting a knife to their own throats.

Now granted, in the grand scheme of things, gluttony is less egregious to other people than some sins. I’d rather be driving on the road with a guy who’s had eight hot dogs than a Mel Gibson lit up on eight Glenlivets. Having said that, gluttony (unless you want to blow off huge chunks of the Bible) remains a sin; and according to historic church doctrine, a deadly one. Can you say, “deadly”?

But before all the svelte health freaks start to self-congratulate, the medieval view of this vice was not simply constrained to ravenous appetites and bulging hips. That’s way too easy and such a narrow definition; it lets far too many food fanatics off the hook. No, the medieval ones saw five ways in which one could maintain the sin of gluttony without looking like a manatee: by eating and drinking too soon, too expensively, too much, too eagerly and with too much fuss. Ouch, baby, very ouch.

Guinness states that the above “are all symptoms of a philosophy of life that is finally materialistic, and hedonistic, captured in the motto, ‘let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.’ Thus modern ethicists point out: modern gluttony is not observed only in bulging midriffs, high blood pressures, poisoned livers, bottlenoses and bad breath. It can also be traced in the fanatical modern devotion to dieting, health foods, and drug taking. In a society in which cookbooks outsell the Bible by something like ten to one, food and diets have been given a time and a place that are gluttonous.”

So what is the cure for the obvious glut and for the carb counting, package over-perusing, tofu fussing, soymilk manic?

How’s about getting a vision, sir or ma’am, of being and doing something great? Yeah, that’s it. Why not instead of sitting and gorging yourself or getting wrapped around the axle obsessing over your grub, getting fixated on something noble, something that will cause you to place food in its proper light; namely, as just a tool that is used to fuel greater ventures instead of the end all, be all that you’ve made it to be?

Jesus, Moses, Abraham and a bunch of other believers in the Bible loved life, lived large and ate well without bowing to their belly—and you can, too. They found fulfillment in an eternal mission and not just in their temporal taste buds. They could eat and drink and stay in controooooooooooooooool. And you know what? So can you. Yeah, it’ll be tough but that’s life in all it’s glory, girlfriend.

So, work with me now. Put down that gallon of Ben and Jerry’s cookie dough ice cream and back slowly away from it. Now, put on a fresh change of clothes and go out into the desert to speak to God about giving you some reason for living . . . something great to live and die for. And watch, just watch, what that’ll eventually do for your waistline—and your life!

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