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Food Poisoning From Religion: Be Careful, Church (Part I)

One morning, I suddenly felt like eating some salad for breakfast.

I know. “Who does that?”, you ask. I thought the same thing. But sometimes you just want leftovers, right?

So I pulled out a small bowl from the fridge of salad from the previous night, mixed in with some leftovers. Perfect. Usually, I’d wash it, but that morning, I thought I didn’t need to. We just had it last night, right? I picked out the salad pieces and nibbled on them, satisfied with my breakfast.

Later that evening, I was at a friend’s house, eating food and watching movies. There were cupcakes. Now, normally, I love cupcakes. Eating more than one is not a problem for me. But this time, I was full after half a cupcake.

Shortly thereafter, the movie started. Within minutes, I was nauseous. Within a few more minutes, while everyone was focused on the movie, I excused myself to the washroom and threw up. I tried to convince myself that I was fine, but within a half-hour, I ended up returning to the toilet again to vomit my guts out.

It was food poisoning from the lettuce, and I didn’t know it yet. I just knew I needed to get home somehow. I told my friend that I wasn’t feeling well, and she immediately showed concern, gave me some Midol, and drove me home.

After a gruelling 13 hours, my stomach decided to settle. But my relationship with lettuce was compromised from then on.

It’s been years since that incident. Regardless, any time I see lettuce that’s remotely wilted, discoloured, or in any way compromised, I don’t just avoid it—my gag reflex is activated. I feel physically nauseous and repulsed. I can now, however, eat fresh lettuce without problem.

I’ve realized that it’s normal to actively avoid foods that caused food poisoning. Your relationship to food becomes drastically changed, and some people actually never eat that food item ever again.

I bring this up because I’ve noticed that people tend to have a similar reaction not just to food that’s given them a bad experience, but with people and organizations who have caused a bad experience. Restaurants, entertainment spaces, business owners—even Uber drivers face the brunt of this. One bad time leads to a negative review, and people boycott the franchise.

Even the church faces this to some extent. I cannot tell you the number of times I’ve heard “I don’t go to church, I had a bad experience there”, “I went to church once, and it felt like everyone there didn’t really care about me and I felt so judged”, “When I last stepped into a church building, it felt so cliquey”, “This girl I knew was a Christian, but she was mean, and I don’t want to be like her”.

Much pain has been caused by those who claim to be Christians, and from doctrine that’s not well-prepared. People can get food poisoning from religion. I call this “doctrine poisoning”.

It’s true—there are parts about the Bible that can be hard to swallow. Our pride really takes a hit. But I’ve noticed that when I finally get close enough to people to have them open up to me, it’s not necessarily those parts that push them away from the church.

The problem is inconsistent behaviour. It’s TV preachers who are focused on the prosperity gospel than the real one. It’s abuse they’ve received by the hands of those who claim to be Christians, whether it’s physical, emotional, or spiritual. Sometimes, it’s a well-meaning soul in a time of crisis, but they lack tact. Ultimately, much of this rejection of Christ is actually a result of improperly executed doctrine.

It’s fine for someone to not like the flavour of your meal when it’s cooked properly, because tastebuds differ. It doesn’t mean that the food isn’t good for you. The meal itself won’t cause any harm. But when the meal is improperly prepared or is dropped on the floor before serving, we can cause a lifelong repulsion we never intended. Doctrine poisoning has horrific consequences, pushing people away from the only One who can help them.

There are many reasons why people deliver improperly prepared doctrine. Most of the time, it’s unintended. The reasons why and how to avoid doctrine poisoning will require another post, and so I will touch on this next week.

One bad egg will ruin the whole omelette, and so we, as Christians, must be vigilant. It is our duty as Christ-followers to discern what is good and what is not, and to only plant seed for more good.

Let us plant wheat, and not weeds. As the Lord says, “Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, ‘Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn'” (Matthew 13:30). The weeds harm the wheat and will be tossed away, but the wheat will remain to be baked into living bread.

Let us be life-givers.

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