The Love Affair with Pork
Recently I posted this article on my Facebook page and not one single person made a comment. I wrote, “I stopped eating pork about 10 years ago. Here’s why. Read it if you DARE! Maybe the God of the OT was just looking out for our best interests when He told us not to eat pork. Maybe Paul was wrong to tell us ‘all food is good to eat’. This is ‘food’ for thought. This is not the only article out there about this either…..”
I happened to speak to one friend of mine who read it, and he said it scared him to death. My gut feeling is that people read the article and kept mum, or started reading the article and stopped out of disgust or not wanting to know the truth.
Funny how the scripture says, My people perish for lack of knowledge. (Hosea 4:6)
Years ago, it dawned on me that I had misinterpreted Peter’s vision in Acts 10 of the sheet that was lowered from Heaven full of unclean animals. Here is the passage:
9 About noon the following day as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray. 10 He became hungry and wanted something to eat, and while the meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance. 11 He saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. 12 It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles and birds. 13 Then a voice told him, “Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.” 14 “Surely not, Lord!” Peter replied. “I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.” 15 The voice spoke to him a second time, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.” 16 This happened three times, and immediately the sheet was taken back to heaven. 17 While Peter was wondering about the meaning of the vision, the men sent by Cornelius found out where Simon’s house was and stopped at the gate. 18 They called out, asking if Simon who was known as Peter was staying there. 19 While Peter was still thinking about the vision, the Spirit said to him, “Simon, three men are looking for you. 20 So get up and go downstairs. Do not hesitate to go with them, for I have sent them.” 21 Peter went down and said to the men, “I’m the one you’re looking for. Why have you come?” 22 The men replied, “We have come from Cornelius the centurion. He is a righteous and God-fearing man, who is respected by all the Jewish people. A holy angel told him to ask you to come to his house so that he could hear what you have to say.” 23 Then Peter invited the men into the house to be his guests.
Like most people, I erroneously interpreted this passage to mean we could eat all the unclean things now that God had previously said in the Torah we couldn’t eat. After all, everyone eats pork and shrimp and catfish in Texas. What’s the big deal? But upon further investigation, I realized that this vision was a metaphor for the Jews not excluding Gentiles from salvation (Jews=clean animals; Gentiles=unclean animals), as it says further down in the passage. It really was not referring to food.
Why does God communicate with us this way instead of being straightforward? I am sure a Bible scholar could answer this, but here are my guesses: (1) He wants us to think; (2) He wants to test us to see if we have really hidden the word in our hearts; (3) He wants us to sharpen our ability to discern good and evil; (4) He wants us to seek Him in prayer when we don’t have the answer.
I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. (Psalm 119:11)
When I decided that perhaps eliminating pork from my diet might be a good idea physically and spiritually (I say spiritually, since God told us NOT to eat it, and if we do the opposite of what God says, that is called sinning and there are consequences to sin that might not be immediately visible), I discovered that this whole pork subject was quite the spiritual issue. Here are two stories to relate, but there are more.
In the first story, I was doing the Disciple bible study at the Methodist church I was attending at the time. We were on this Peter passage during this particular weekly meeting. We were meeting in the home of a woman whom I will describe as very elegant, very calm, almost a zen-like quality about her. Never raised her voice, never showed drama, very demure. Then, when we were all discussing this passage, I said that I didn’t think this passage was talking about food, therefore, it looks like we really shouldn’t be eating pork. I barely finished my sentence when this woman absolutely erupted in anger in front of the entire group. I’m sure my eyes were as big as saucers. I looked around the group and there were a few other surprised faces. At that moment I realized that the pork-eating topic was a much more spiritual issue than I had realized. What on earth would make this woman so drastically explode like that but a demon who did not want her to stop eating pork?
Another time, I was at the home of some dear friends of mine, and the husband, who was getting his PhD in “Religion” from Baylor University, and who had donned a pretty arrogant demeanor, volunteered to make omelets for breakfast. He asked me what ingredients I wanted and gave me some choices. I made my choices and they did not include the diced ham that was on a plate. He asked me, “Why don’t you want the ham, Mandy? What’s wrong with the ham, Mandy?” He continued to taunt me and lecture me. It took me quite by surprise. If it had been cheese or chives or mushrooms or onions, I don’t think this would have happened. Clearly the pork-loving demon in him was hard at work.
Upon further investigation about clean vs. unclean animals, you will find a common thread among both groups, but let’s take unclean animals like pork, catfish, shrimp, oysters, etc. That is, they are scavengers, they eat garbage, they are bottom feeders, and/or their digestive system is unsophisticated, so they retain toxins in their meat that clean animals might not retain. I liked the following commentary that I found on a website called answers2prayer.org:
One thing one learns when exploring the Bible – God is very practical. There are some quite good medical reasons for following the food health laws. Here are some of them.
All ‘clean’ animals are ruminants. That is they have four stomachs. This ensures a much more thorough processing of food than is possible with one stomach, and less pollutants are stored in the flesh. It has also been discovered that ruminants are not subject to flesh worms. These can be acquired from eating the flesh of almost every other animal. The pig, which got special mention as ‘unclean’, stores poisons in its body fat. A snake cannot kill a pig. The poison is just stored in the fat under the skin and is ingested by anything that subsequently eats that pig. Many outback Australian properties keep pet pigs around the home buildings to deal with snakes which come in plague proportions when the cracks in the ground, where they live, are closed by the swelling of the earth after rainfall. Pigs love snakes – they suck them up like spaghetti. My wife grew up with pet pigs that were kept for this purpose.
Concerning the flesh of the pig. With today’s hygienic methods of raising these animals it is unlikely they would carry the same risk as one raised in the wild, but consider this: the meat takes 4 days to digest in the bowel instead of 2 for ‘clean’ meats. Bowel cancer has been linked to excessive meat consumption and if the length of time spent in the bowel has anything to do with it then pork is twice as bad as beef.
Likewise the birds that are clean have an organ called a ‘gizzard’ which again permits the bird to process its food more thoroughly.
Most of what we call ‘sea food’, prawns, crabs, shell fish etc. are filter feeders. What they do is clean up the pollution in the oceans and store it in their bodies. Oysters for instance thrive best downstream from sewerage outlets. When one eats these creatures the pollutions become more concentrated in our own bodies. Calcium kidney stones for instance are often the result of over indulgence in these foods. Fish without scales, like sharks and catfish, are scavengers and are at the top of food chains. Their bodies will contain a much higher level of pollutants than creatures further down the chain.
Now one more thing to consider: When Paul said that all foods were good to eat (see I Timothy 4), what was he defining as food? We have to put on our thinking caps here. Perhaps a pig was not considered food any more than we consider eating a cockroach as food. Does that thought make you nauseated – putting a big crunchy cockroach, antennae and all, in your mouth? Perhaps Paul had the same thought about pig meat. We can’t assume that just because it’s common to eat pork today and consider it meat or food, that that’s what they were doing in Paul’s day. In the US, some of us would probably become nauseated at the thought of eating dog meat. Well it’s a meat, isn’t it? Other cultures eat dog meat. But is it food? Not in the U.S. You have to put the food argument in its cultural context.
Bottom line is, eat pork at your own peril, physically and spiritually.