A Theory Of Everything
August 25th, 2008 by Sonja

 … but I might revise it later

So, as you know I’ve been on vacation.  No television (thus no Olympics to squander my braincells).  Lots of porch time for pondering.  I’ve been doing a lot of reading.  I’ve been trying to catch up on my belated Ooze reading (and I have … sort of).  Then my brother came and landed a new book in my lap.  My mom insisted I read it … first … so I could send it on to my other brother and his wife.  Okay.

In Defense of FoodIt’s an easy read.  Well, the reading is easy and engaging.  But it pulls you into some deep deep thinking too.  Dangerous territory.  The book is “In Defense Of Food:  An Eater’s Manifesto” by Michael Pollan.  You might recognize him as the author of “Omnivore’s Dilemma” and “The Botany of Desire.”

As I’ve been reading this book, the Lakeland Revival and Todd Bentley have been unraveling rather publicly.  You can read blogger opinions about it in various places.  I (of course) have been following Kingdom Grace (start with Apostolic Bullshit and then read parts II and III), Brother Maynard, Bill Kinnon and iMonk (among others).  In a post the other day, Bro M asked the question whether or not Christians are more gullible than the rest of the general population.  And something that has been unsettled in my head clicked into place.  This post is a result of that click; perhaps it was an epiphany or maybe it’s just a rant … I’ll let you be the judge.

As I first jumped into the book I found it striking how closely it paralleled the Christian sub-culture.  Quotes such as this jumped out at me:

“The story of how the most basic questions about what to eat ever got so complicated reveals a great deal about the institutional imperatives of the food industry, nutrition science, and – ahem – journalism, three parties that stand to gain much from widespread confusion surrounding the most elemental question an omnivore confronts.  But humans deciding what to eat without professional guidance—something they have been doing with notable success since comgin down out of the trees—is seriously unprofitable if you’re a food company, a definite career loser if you’re a nutritionist, and just plain boring if you’re a newspaper editor or reporter.  (Or, for that matter, an eater.  Who wants to hear, yet again, that you should “eat more fruits and vegetables.”?)  And so like a large gray cloud, a great Conspiracy of Scientific Complexity has gathered around the simplest questions of nutrition—much to the advantage of everyone involved.  Except perhaps the supposed beneficiary of all this nutritional advice:  us, and our health and happiness as eaters.”

Then there’s this:

The first thing to understand about nutritionism is that it is not the same thing as nutrition.  As the “-ism” suggests, it is not a scientific subject, but an ideology.  Ideologies are ways of organizing large swaths of life and experience under a set of shared but unexamined assumptions.  This quality makes an ideology particularly hard to see, at least while it’s still exerting its hold on your culture.  A reigning ideology is a little like the weather—all pervasive and so virtually impossible to escape.  Still we can try.  (italics mine for emphasis)

Well, I won’t bore you with the quotes on all of the pages I’ve flagged, just tell you that this book looks like a veritable rainbow when you see the long page edge of it shut.

Michael Pollan does a masterful job telling us that it is highly likely that the source of many of our health ills (from diabetes to depression, heart diseases to hyper-activity) in the modern world is the so-called “Western Diet.”  That diet composed of refined sugar, refined grains and refined fats.  We have so depleted our soil that we are now both overweight and starving ourselves to death.  It’s the Modern paradox.

(Aside … I’m particularly fond of Michael because he outs soy as a modern evil.  I’ve been convinced for years that soy will be our downfall and refuse to consume it in any form if I can help it –I’m also highly allergic to it–but now you know what my tinfoil hat is 😉 )

So what, you would be correct in asking, does any of this have to do with Todd Bentley and the unraveling of the Lakeland Revival?  Nothing at all.  And … well … everything.

You see, a long time ago, and not so long ago when you look at it in the grand scheme of things, we humans relied on each other for advice.  We relied on our elders to teach us how to walk in the world, how to behave, what were good things to eat, what weren’t, who the charlatans were and who they weren’t.  We lived in close community with one another.  Sometimes that was painful and ugly.  Sometimes it was beautiful.  But regardless, the advice we got from each other was given by people who knew one another with some level of intimacy and (here’s the important part) the giver of the advice didn’t have a horse in the race.  In other words, the giver of the advice wasn’t going to receive remuneration or paybacks for any kind of change in the behavior of the receiver of the advice.

Things have changed rather dramatically in the last 100 or so years.  Now we pay for advice that used to come from the elders in our communities.  Not only do we pay for it, but in paying for it, we subsidize those who stand to gain the most from our receiving their words of wisdom.  We change, and they get paid twice.  Something is amiss.

Or this example:  meningitis.  A drug company has developed a vaccine for meningitis.  I know this because LightGirl recently went in for a physical.  She was offered a vaccination for meningitis.  We took it.  But I was blind-sided by it.  I’m not so certain it was necessary or right.  The doctor presented it as a good thing, the insurance company covered it.  So … no big deal.  Not really.  But she’s young enough that she’ll need a booster before college and no one really knows the long term effects of this vaccine.  Really.  And what is this vaccinating against?  What are the realistic chances that she’ll contract viral meningitis?  Uh … slim and none … realistically.  When I look at it, the doctor had every reason to “sell” this vaccine to me and the drug company had every reason to “sell” it to him.   I had virtually no opportunity to sit back and peruse the situation from a dispassionate vantage point and the doctor?  He had horse in the race.  I was not getting unbiased information from him.  Now he’s a good doctor, LightGirl is not disadvantaged by having this vaccine that we know of.  My point is … we don’t know enough.  I don’t have enough information to make an informed decision.  I only have enough information to make a decision that benefits the person giving me advice.

I can never have enough information to make that informed decision … because I cannot get outside the box of the medical ideology that permeates our culture to find that kind of information.

Here’s where I find my theory of everything in the nexus between this book and Lakeland.  My generation (Gen X believe it or not) and Gen Y and Millenials and maybe even Boomers and really anyone alive today have been raised to be distrustful of their elders.  We’ve all … all of us … Christians, atheists, Hindus, whoever … religion has nothing to do with this … been taught to believe that only professionals can teach us what to do next.  That’s why we look to professionals in every area of our life.  We have professional Christians, professional nutritionists, professional child rearing experts (of every stripe) … you name the issue … we have professionals to tell us what to do.  Often confusing professionals who dole out conflicting advice which changes every few months or years.  So we must keep changing the stuff we purchase … the gadgets, gee-gaws and books … more and more books on every subject under the sun.

The reality is that most of us know … we know … what to do.  We know what’s best and good and right and true.  We know the right way to be and how to be that way.  Or maybe we don’t … but an expert is cannot tell us the best road to choose.  Only someone who knows us can give us advice.  Only someone who is intimate with what is important to us, can ask the right questions.   Sometimes we do know in our heart of hearts that when Sara Lee markets a loaf of bread as “Soft & Smooth Whole Grain White” bread it’s an oxymoronic crock of smelly dung so deep and wide that not even God’s grace can cross it.  We don’t buy it and we shouldn’t buy it … not literally and not metaphorically.

It’s not that we (Christians … or anyone else) are necessarily gullible.  It’s that we’ve been taught to suspend our native intelligence over and over and over again on so many issues.  We’ve been taught by our governments and our religious leaders; our politicians and our teachers to listen to the experts.  Listen to the experts and the professionals … they know what they’re talking about.

But they all have a horse in the race.  No one ever told us that part.  They all … every DAMN ONE OF THEM has something to gain by getting the lot of us to suspend our good judgment and believe their twisted un-truths.

So … are Christians gullible?

Not any more gullible than the Congress of the United States who believed George W. Bush when he said that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, yet it patently did not … according to every single unbiased study that had been done.   Hell, I knew it didn’t … a stay at home mom in Virginia.

Not any more gullible than the hordes of people who believed Bill Clinton when he said he hadn’t had sex with Monica Lewinsky or hadn’t smoked marijuana because he hadn’t inhaled.

The problem is not that we’re gullible.  The problem is that we’re listening to the wrong “experts.”  For hundreds, even thousands of years we listened to people who knew us and were in relationship with us.  People who know, for example, that I get wigged out when faced with unexpected trouble (like a car breaking down on my way to college is likely to ruin my entire college career).  I have learned over time how to manage those issues better, but my elders who know me, also know to ignore some of my outbursts as, “she’ll get past it.”  Not, “let’s medicate that.”  Or they might ask a few pertinent questions, such as, “How important is this?”   Now we think we need to see an “expert” or a “professional” about the many different issues in our lives … these experts, these professionals have a vested interest in “selling” us something … a way of life, a medicine, a book, something …

So, the next time you get all hyped up about something, remind yourself that you live in a capitalist system.  You do.  Every thing.  Every damn thing costs.  So when you ask for or receive advice from an expert or a professional, ask yourself what does that person stand to gain from their advice … even if it appears to be as wholesome as a revival in a church.

11 Responses  
  • brad writes:
    August 25th, 20089:25 amat

    brilliant, sonja … rockingly brilliant.

    where else can we get a book review and a crook review at the same time?! or would that be an apt and pert expert nixes the nixperts … sort of a verbal palindrama, eh? but now i’m being silly. coffee shall fix that. soon. indeed.

    and generationally speaking, i always suspected you had that … oh … let’s call it, ‘GenX sais quoi,’ eh?

  • raffi shahinian writes:
    August 25th, 20089:54 amat

    I read your piece with a great deal of interest. I guess someone’s (Christian or otherwise) level of gullibility depends on the strnegth of their worldview. I’ve done a piece about Bentley, miracles and healings in general today, with that slant. Thought you might be interested.

    Grace and Peace,
    Parables of a Prodigal World

  • Sonja writes:
    August 25th, 20086:15 pmat

    @Brad … GenX sais quoi? I like that. I have a theory about generations … I think the membranes (the years on the edges) are porous. For instance, my younger brother (born in 63) is more boomer-like than I. But I have a cousin who is older than I (born in 58) who is fairly Gen-X like.

    In any case, thanks for the props … I’m just tired of being surrounded by lies everywhere I turn. And plastic crap.

    @Raffi … I’ll definitely check that out. Thanks for stopping by.

  • Peggy writes:
    August 25th, 20086:40 pmat

    The Abbess agrees that soy is the modern evil in food (and is thrilled when others “out” it as well), which joins refined sugar as the previous modern evil….and don’t get me started on Teflon cookware and microwave ovens, either! 8)

    She also agrees that too many have sold out to the professionals instead of cultivating common sense! I left the vaccination camp about 8 years ago, so don’t get me started on that subject. 8) That was about two years after I left the pharmaceuticals camp…and the surgery camp (just because “they” don’t think something is “necessary” doesn’t mean I’m interested in them taking it out!).

    But I do think there is a difference between outright lying and believing what an “expert” has told you…and feel that there is quite a lot of current consequence that goes with the latter when many want to put it in with the former.

    Where have all the Berean’s gone?

  • Maria writes:
    August 25th, 20087:24 pmat

    I have an abiding, gut level (i.e., not quite rationally worked out) belief that what has been done to our food supply is very much a spiritual matter (or a symptom of all the other things that have been done by capitalism to our spiritual lives). Thanks for another take on the issue. I agree that the “experts” and our dependence on them lead us far astray most of the time. There are so few voices around us that teach us how to listen to our hearts and the God-given wisdom to be found there (otherwise known as the BS detector).

    BTW, as a boomer, I believe it was my generation that coined the phrase, “don’t trust anyone over 30.” Of course, by now inflation (aging!?!) being what it is, we should translate that to don’t trust anyone over 70.

  • LightMother writes:
    August 26th, 20087:33 amat

    In the past we didn’t just get advice from elders but also from diverse peer groups as in groups of mothers and kids for coffee klatches – we shared our minor/major problems of the day and also overheard other conversations and solutions – this helped newcomers discover local customs as well. Now all the networking is one dimensional – focused on one major problem – again being told rather than discovering what is best.
    Looking back the advantage was the diversity of the people – that’s what provided the widest range of options.

  • vikingfru writes:
    August 26th, 20088:28 pmat

    WHEW!!!! You opened a whole big can of worms with that for me and I have soooo much I would like to comment on, BUT it would turn into a tirade. So, let me say this….People want the quick fix, Christians looking for the next big thing, or parents not wanting the hassle of dealing w/ chicken pox or what ever. We don’t want to have to get down in the mire and get our hands dirty. In regards to the church, the people who have stepped back and realized that we were sold a bucket of %&#$ are now labeled as rebellious. It has been that through history, and not just in regards to the church. Now for a quick story. Before we were parents, Growing Kids God Way parenting style was all the rage. it was rampade in the church, and EVERY GOOD Christian parent adopted this style of parenting. When we had our first baby we read the book called Baby Wise by the Ezzos, the couple who came up with this very “godly” way to parent your kids. The long and short of it is this, it went against every instinct I had as a mother. I was a wreck, afraid to hold my baby in fear I would spoil her. I now grieve to think that I allowed someone to tell me I was a failure as a mom if I didn’t do what the book said. So all that to say, yes, I agree with you, we have to listen to the inner voice that God Himself put inside us and use common sense and disernment.
    Umm I guess that was a bit of a tirade;-)

  • grace writes:
    August 27th, 20088:23 amat

    Yep, follow the money.

    I believe the celebrity culture has infiltrated the christian culture in the same way that britney spears and paris hilton dominate the pop gossip culture. And I think the church suffers greatly for idolizing and chasing these christian celebrities. Maybe a big dose of reality is exactly what was needed.

  • My Thoughts on Lakeland, Suffering and Maybe Some Other Stuff. « Vikingfru’s Place writes:
    August 31st, 20089:37 pmat

    […] Sonja […]

  • Baraka writes:
    September 2nd, 20081:28 amat

    Warm greetings of peace,

    One of the many reasons Pollan’s writing resonates with me is it speaks to the Abrahamic values of community, conscientiousness, and caring for the gifts of our bodies, our families and neighbors, and for the earth.

    Most of all I love that slowing down, tuning in, and eating better makes for such a delicious revolution! :)


  • Recent Links Tagged With "millenials" - JabberTags writes:
    April 15th, 20095:04 pmat

    […] on Sun 29-3-2009 How To Manage Millenials (like Me) Saved by begmartins on Sat 28-3-2009 A Theory Of Everything Saved by LaydJust on Sat 28-3-2009 Zogby: Small, real churches are the future Saved by uolter on […]

»  Substance:WordPress   »  Style:Ahren Ahimsa