Thursday, May 24, 2012

Invasion of the Food Evangelists

I don't really talk about religion on this blog because it isn't a huge part of my life, but those who know me pretty well are aware that I identify as agnostic/atheist (depends on the mood I'm in when you ask!).  Those who know me very well, however, can remember when I was a teenager and in what I can only assume was a subconscious rebellion against my open-minded and liberal family, attended a Baptist church and identified as Christian.

My favorite part of being Christian was evangelism; I LOVED witnessing.  I loved handing out tracts, apologetics, all of it.   I especially loved when atheists or people from other religious backgrounds argued with me so I could show off my sweet Christian knowledge.  You see, at this time I was full of enthusiasm about having found Jesus, but I completely lacked any restraint or any concept of how annoying I was probably being when I witnessed.  Now this is not to say that all witnessing or religious evangelism is annoying, but I promise you, I lacked two very important things: tact and restraint.  There was nothing subtle about my strategy.  This was not a good thing.

This post isn't about religion, though, not really.

Strangely enough, this post is about food.

All the passion I felt inside about Jesus and Christianity at that time is similar to the passion I now feel about living a healthy and chemical-free life.  However, I'm older now so I like to think that I'm at least a little better at achieving a level of tact and restraint when I talk about it.  You see, it's not that I attempt to evangelize people with regard to matters of health, but the truth is, sometimes I accidentally find myself doing it.

I didn't realize this was happening until several months ago.  I was meeting up with an acquaintance to discuss a matter of business, and we were walking along the street in my neighborhood seeking out a place to grab some hot drinks and discuss.  We live near a Kingdom Hall where Jehovah's Witnesses meet to worship, so at various times of the day the sidewalks are full of Jevhovah's Witnesses handing out copies of their Watchtower publication.  The first time I was confronted with this, they caught me off guard and I politely accepted the publication.  I took the bus and read a bit of it; it was mostly about step parenting, endangered species, and then there were some religious bits in there as well (trying to keep it subtle, I suppose).  The second time they offered it to me, I kept my hands at my side, politely declined, and continued walking.  On this day, the acquaintance happened to be walking on the side of the Jehovah's Witness and when they attempted to give her a publication, she absolutely exploded.  I can't remember exactly what she said, but it was something along the line of HOW DARE YOU OFFER ME YOUR UNSOLICITED RELIGIOUS PROPAGANDA, I HAVE MY OWN BELIEFS, I DID NOT ASK YOU WHAT YOUR OPINIONS WERE ON THEM, F*** OFF!

To be honest, I was a little shocked and disappointed.  I mean, these are still people, right?  And the reality is, they truly believe in what they believe and all they want to do is "help" those around them to do the right thing.

We kept walking.

When we finally agreed on a coffee shop, we ordered some drinks, and grabbed seats.  I happened to be drinking a regular coffee that day with cream and sugar.

"You know..." she said, as she looked across the table at me. "You really shouldn't drink coffee.  There's lots of caffeine in it and it can de-regulate your hormones."

"Yeah I know I shouldn't drink it, but I'm totally tired right now, so I'm going to just try and enjoy it."  I responded.

"What's worse..." she continued "is the sugar and cream.  Do you know how bad sugar is for you?  I read a book on it..... [blah blah blah]"

"Yes, I know.  Like I said, I know I shouldn't really drink it."

"Even the milk, you know, they say that the milk in Canada doesn't have hormones in it, but the reality is, so much of it is actually from the states and then they package it here so it says it's from Canada.... [blah blah blah]"

"Yeah totally. So about that work we're here to do..."


Are those Bibles or tiny cookbooks?

Ok, I didn't really want to tell her off, but at that moment it all totally clicked in my head: no one wants to be criticized about their lifestyle, habits, beliefs, whatever.  Whether it's religion or it's nutrition, there's a way of approaching these things and there's a way of NOT approaching them.  Not 10 minutes prior to this conversation my friend was up in someone's face for imposing beliefs on her, but when it came to witnessing to me about her anti-coffee/sugar/cream beliefs, she gave it no second thought.  The difference? Values.  We all value different things, and we give significant weight to the things we personally value, and we don't place any weight on the things we don't value.  To my acquaintance, health and nutrition were so important to her that she wanted very badly to share her knowledge with me... no different from a Jehovah's Witness trying to do the same.  Because she doesn't believe in what the Jevohovah's Witnesses had to say, she assumed they were wasting her time by trying to get their message across to her.  At the end of the day, she'd probably bet her life her beliefs were correct and totally worth sharing with those around her, and the Jehovah's Witnesses very likely feel the same about their beliefs. 

I hate to admit it, but I sometimes find myself doing the same sort of thing.  If someone offers my kid something I don't allow him to eat, instead of just declining, I find myself going on and on about why we don't eat it.  When I do that, I'm not really helping anyone, I'm just sort of making the person who is offering feel badly about foods they eat and making them feel vulnerable.  Not cool, Monika, not cool.  Or if we are out with friends eating, and someone says they love something, I find myself saying "oh we don't eat that because we read blah blah blah blah." Again, not cool.  Instead of it actually transferring information I deem valuable to this person, it just makes them feel like crap.  Maybe every so often they Google it, and maybe they sometimes even do their own research and come to the same conclusion as me, but it doesn't feel good in the moment. 

So we all have all these beliefs, and we want so badly to share them with the ones we love, but how do we do this in a way that's not alienating? I'm not entirely sure.  All I know is, we need to be tactful but even more so, we need to value not only our beliefs, but we need to value the people we love.   Sure, I love it when someone I care about asks me about my opinion on a health matter, but from now on, I'm going to try and wait for them to ask me for it instead of offering it up at awkward opportunities.  After all, you don't want to be the kind of person people try to avoid. More importantly, the Christians I admired (and still admire) are not the ones who are constantly spouting their beliefs at every opportunity, but rather, they are the people who live them.  So instead of just taking about good decisions, just make them.  I promise people will notice.

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1 comment:

  1. Actually,for food, please tell me. Even if I don't ask if you think a food is bad. I can and do go look things up. I may read a lot but I still miss out on info. I work with a large group of paleo fans and while I'm not going to run out and eat a bear I have learnt some other useful things from our discussions.
    As for religion,i share the same current beliefs as you but have a fascination with it. I will, if in the mood chat with the street corner missionaries. I don't belittle their beliefs but I don't support them. Let me tell you one day about my time studying with the moonies. Yup the moonies.


I've adopted the same commenting policy as seen here at Off Beat Mama ( I won't post comments if they strike me as attacking, judgmental, rude, or unproductive. In general if you are willing to put your name to something, I'll post it, but remember to keep your words sweet, because someday you may have to eat them.