Too much of a good thing

Too much of a good thing
I can’t remember a time when I’ve eaten more. Here’s a log of all the meals I ate while I was in Seattle for Thanksgiving: when we first got off the plane on Tuesday, Jinhee and I headed straight for a Chinese Banquet in honor of my mom’s 60th birthday; the next day we swallowed a large bowl of Pho; that evening, we chowed down on two giant slabs of salmon over rice with all the fixins; the next day we ate a large bowl of my mom’s Chinese noodles; that night was Thanksgiving dinner and our bellies were round with turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, green beans and cranberry sauce; on Friday, we went to Todai, an all-you-can-eat Sushi bar (and the place was packed the day after Thanksgiving!); that evening, we enjoyed succulent Thai food at Siam; the next day we loaded up on Tandoori Chicken and Nan at an Indian Buffet; that night we snarfed giant portions of soul food, Seattle-style at The Kingfish Cafe; on Sunday, we went to a Korean BBQ restaurant and then headed to the airport to fly home. As I sat in my airplane seat, I loosened by belt to let my food-conceived pregnancy protrude.

In historical Christian thought, there’s an old-school word for what I experienced that weekend: gluttony. It’s “the inordinate desire to consume more than which one requires.” Pope Gregory the Great (540-604 A.D.) included it in a list that would become known as the Seven Deadly Sins, but it seems to have lost any relevance to today’s culture. Though envy seems ugly to everyone, lust seems fun, pride seems essential to get anywhere in this world and gluttony is, well, taken for granted. It’s an everyday occurrence — we’re consuming all the time. For Americans, the line between a “want” and a “need” has become quite thin. (Who really needs an iPod or really needs to watch “Desperate Housewives” to survive anyway?) We’ve been groomed by Madison Avenue to use our dollars to consume, whether its food, energy, fashion, cars, gadgets or all kinds of entertainment — all for our appetites.

Here’s the rub: no matter where you stand, the term “homosexuality” evokes a visceral response. It’s a major battle line in our culture wars, and few Evangelical churches tolerate homosexual behavior in their congregations. But, wherever you stand in the debate, Jesus himself never once mentioned homosexuality. He doesn’t have a single teaching on it in the Gospels, either for or against. Jesus did, however, have plenty to say about how we spend our money. He taught more about no other subject, except the Kingdom of God — 11 of 39 parables talk about money and 1 in every 7 verses talk about money in the Gospel of Luke. Somehow, we’ve distorted the gravity of these two sins, and perhaps we need our judgment to be pulled toward the orbit of our gluttony instead. We offer too few challenges to the materialism that runs rampant in our churches. Wouldn’t it be great if our culture wars weren’t shaped by sexual preferences but instead over spending preferences?

Getting back to the meals, I think I lost the pleasure of eating somewhere between Todai and the Indian buffet. I had stuffed myself into a trance, eating just to eat. But now I’m back home and we’re heading into the Christmas season, moving from one gluttonous season to the next.

I think it’s time I started pulling in my belt.