The Role of Food in Religion

Published: 2021-09-11 18:10:10
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I will explain how Judaism, Muslims, and Protestants are all involved with shaping the community we live in and have a say so on what is to be eaten. In my opinion, food has a large social role with Americans and everyday life beyond just eating. As Mary Douglas explains in her article Deciphering a Meal, we as a people eat differently with certain groups of people. For example, she explains going out for drinks is not as intimate as sitting and having dinner with a person. This type of socialism with food leads to community coming together within religion.
Every religion seems to have a large focus on community, rather its to build it and make it stronger or if its just feeding the community your apart of. In the book Whitebread Protestants, it appears the church whole focus was on community. The church planned events to keep the community from doing things that were ungodly, this consisted of giant meals and parties that included meals as well. The church knows one thing that can draw a crowd( community) is free food, this was a way to help the community and gain more followers at the same time.
In the United States today tradition has died in many cultures. Its something that us as a people have really forgotten. This is what the book, Miriams Kitchen is all about, Ehrlich wanted to focus more on tradition in her home by following what Miriam did. Most traditions are based around food and rituals in every community. In the African American churches tradition is very heavy. African American churches focus on something called “working the spirit”, this comes from Africans that believe the holy spirit is something that is suppose to be nurtured and they choose to do this by food.
In the article, Theres Nothing Like Church Food, they explain that one tradition in the black community is always having meals at different occasion. I can speak from experience that this is true, the African American community will have a meal after a funeral, a church event like, family and friends day, an event for the pastor of the church, whatever it is we will eat. The article also points out the idea that African Americans have something called a “gospel song bird”, which is chicken, they like to eat chicken at these meals they are always having.
There are also special traditions that are practiced within some religions, Judaism has Passover which commemorates the liberation of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt and the Muslims celebrate Ramadan, this is a fast that cleanses the body and both end in a extravagant feast. The average person would not think there would be issues of purity and cleanliness tied in with religion and food, but there is. Communion and the sharing of the chalice was one of the major issues in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s.
In the Catholic church and in other American religions communion is something that is sacred and most church communities participate in this. Whitbread Protetants, explains that in the 1870’s the European and American scientists began to develop the germ theory and began to look around for communities that practice this. The church was a target. This led to a sanitation crusade, saying cleanliness was next to godliness, so drinking behind somebody of a lower class was not Godly. This led to the creation of individual communion cups that some churches agreed with while others had their point of view and decided not to take part in using them.
In reality this did not have to do with germs, it had to do with social class and not wanting to drink or head behind somebody that appeared dirty. Don’t think there are only issues of purity in the United States, India or where Islam is practiced heavily have major issues of what is considered pure to eat and what is not. In the Quran it explains what should and shouldn’t be eaten. Many foods, such as pork, animals that are not slaughtered properly and anything that is bloody is considered unclean. It is forbidden for Muslims too eat this type of food because God stated that it was unhealthy to out bodies.
Jews also have a set of Kosher foods or right foods that they are allowed to eat. These foods consist of beef, deer, lamb, and salmon but pork, rabbit, and shrimp are forbidden because they don’t contain the guidelines that are in the bible, for example an animal has to have fins and scales in order to be considered kosher. Food is looked at as nourishment, an instrument of solidarity, and a mechanism of community (Theres Nothing Like Church Food). Something that we take for granted everyday is a major support system for not only our bodies, but for our families and making the community in which we live in stronger.

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