By: Jay Richards – stream.org – February 9, 2018
Valentines’ Day will be tricky for Christians who follow the liturgical calendar. This year, the holiday coincides with Ash Wednesday — the first day of Lent — which is a fast day. That means that on Wednesday, faithful Catholics “in good health aged 18 to 59” will “fast and abstain from meat. … They may eat one full meal, supplemented by two smaller meals that together do not equal the full meal.”
Well, this isn’t really a fast, if by that we mean not eating. It’s just eating less than usual and abstaining from certain foods. Catholics can still have a Valentine’s Day lobster for dinner. They just can’t have three big meals, gorge on turtle pecan clusters, and then pass blissfully into a coma in front of the TV.
The fact that we call such small self-denials “fasts” shows how much the practice has declined as a regular Christian discipline.
Christians used to fast. A lot. Now, for the most part, we don’t. Not really. At least not in the West.
As you might have guessed, we’re wimpier than our ancestors. We’re creatures of comfort. Most of us have never gone a full day without eating. We get shaky if we go more than four hours without a vanilla latte or Greek yogurt smoothie or granola bar or protein shake.
Aren’t We Supposed to Eat Like This?
But the wimp factor is only part of the story. Many of us eat the way we do because official sources have said it’s good for us. We’re armed with supposedly scientific arguments for the virtues of eating lots of small meals throughout the day. This habit, we think, keeps our blood sugar steady and protects our body from going into starvation mode, where it clings to fat and sheds muscle.
Besides, if we go too long without eating, we’ll be ravenously hungry and overeat as soon as we gain access to the fridge or manage to pierce that tamper-proof bag of tortilla chips.
We wouldn’t dream of telling our kids, as parents did for most of the twentieth century, to eat only three meals a day with no snacks in between. Haven’t human beings always had carb infusions at 10 am and scarfed down a big bowl of sweet cereal right before bed? And if not, isn’t that just too bad for them?
The practice of this daily grazing casts fasting in a bad light.
Our Modern Diet Makes It Much Harder to Fast
Our modern diet has also made it much tougher to fast. I don’t just mean our actual diets, which are packed with processed carbs and refined sugar. I mean the official “healthy” diet, which the USDA and other smarty pants groups have pushed for decades. No doubt you learned, as I did, to fear dietary salt and fat. Especially saturated fat.
The food pyramid, with carby grains at the wide bottom and fats at the tiny top, is burned into our long-term memories. In recent years, the government has used a plate rather than a pyramid to explain its Dietary Guidelines for Americans. It’s much harder to remember than the pyramid. But it does serve to distract us from asking the obvious question: Why do we take dietary advice from the US Department of Agriculture?
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