Warning: any resemblance to anti-Christian sentiment in this is article is purely coincidental.
One of the distinct impacts of Christianity has been the unilateral and wholesale destruction of cultures. Wherever missionaries have gone traditional ways of life, traditional knowledges, cuisines, religions, and material cultures suffer and dissolve. The blinding light of Jesus disintegrates everything before it, like a noxious cosmic bleach.
The Old Norse referred to Jesus as the “White Christ,” and he stood in particular conflict with blustery, red-beared Thor. The Christians of the day presented their religion in terms that would make sense to the Heathens, with the intention that they could then change everything around once they had power.
This still goes on today with Bible revisions and retellings tailored to specific audiences. Such duplicity, such slimy legerdemain, was the antithesis of straight-shooting, honest-to-the-root Thor.
The Heathens didn’t even have a word for themselves, let alone destructive designs. Indeed, new research suggests that even the Viking raids may have been little more than self-defence (of course, the Christian kings also got up to the same sort of behaviour, but to the Christians of the day it seemed that rape and murder was only verboten if you happened to worship more than one god).
There you go though: in place of the rich and subtle constellation of spiritual flavours afforded by decentralised polytheism comes the bland, one-size-fits-all model of Christianity (of course the reality is that there are infinite versions of Christianity, too, but none of them seem willing to acknowledge the extent of their de facto and abstract polytheisms).
In recent times the White Christ has taken on a new form: refined sugar. Refined sugar is the enemy of traditional cuisine and cooking. It is the enemy of healthy eating, the product of a worldview uprooted from the sacred interconnections of all things. This worldview might be nihilistic, but it borrows its contempt for the world from Christianity.
Don’t believe me? Here is an example of a good, respectable Christian opinion on the matter, from Robert Boyle in 1686:
“[love of nature is] a discouraging impediment to the empire of man over the inferior
creatures of God.”
We might as well say “reverence is a discouraging impediment…” or, given I am here writing about sugar, “good taste is a discouraging impediment…”
As I understand it, refined sugar causes massive health problems: obesity, diabetes, cardio-vascular disease, hypoglycaemia, depression and mood swings, and probably cancer. It contains no nutrients of its own, and apparently to process it the body needs to strip mine itself of existing minerals and nutrients. Eating sugar makes you fat and malnourished at the same time.
In my case sugar also exacerbates my allergies terribly, making my body attack itself. I won’t labour that particular analogy to Christianity, it should be perfectly obvious.
You could say that sugar is like monotheism. Instead of the endless subtle tastes and nutriment of polytheism – which has something for everyone, and acknowledges the sacredness of all things – we get the White Christ of the dinner table, White Sugar, which is poisonous, ruins the palate, and reduces human beings to a low ebb.
Trying to get White Sugar out of one’s life is not easy. Almost all processed, mass market foods have sugar added – regardless of what the food actually is, and even if it is meant to be sour or bitter. Don’t believe me? Have a good look. Oh, “high fructose corn syrup” is like the Pope of refined sugar, in case you were wondering. It isn’t just Jesus that gets rammed down our throats as children.
So not only is sugar very addictive, but it takes a lot of effort even to get food that doesn’t predestine you to sugar addiction. Imagine trying to quit smoking in a world where tobacco was put in everything in the supermarket!
I don’t know if Christianity is addictive but it is “the opiate of the masses,” and really, I think that it can be very hard for folk to disentangle themselves from Christian mentalities, even if they have formally rejected the religion. The apparently widespread presence of dualistic thinking in some Heathen circles attests to this in particular.
Keeping off the sugar once you are on your way is no easy feat either. I am at a point of getting onto and falling off the wagon at the moment. Last year I managed to stay “clean” for six weeks. I have never felt better in my entire life. Then one night I decided to indulge in an elaborate dessert and the next day fell into a rock-bottom depression, just like that.
All that said, as I eat less sugar I crave less sugar. Tastes are relative so the less we expose ourselves to the junk, the less our palate will require distorted and exaggerated flavours. We begin to appreciate richness, subtlety, the delicious tang of sweetness in its natural flavour context of bitterness and all the rest. I am getting there, slowly but surely.
If latter day “capitalism” (I use the inverted commas to distinguish from the thing that Clint would call capitalism) wants anything, it wants to present a seamless veneer of fixed-white—teeth-and-a-shiny-new-car happiness, the kind of shallow happiness that is utterly empty, like having a priest absolve one’s sins so that one is ready to recommit them for the rest of the week.
Much better is the honesty of vulnerability and depth, putting aside the ridiculous shining ideals (I use the word loosely) of capitalism and (particularly evangelical) Christianity. When we pass through the fake happiness of refined sugar (and its attendant ideologies), we give ourselves a chance to shoot for something much better: well-being.
Well-being isn’t necessarily happiness (sometimes happiness is an irrational and unhelpful emotion), although it does include a good deal of happiness. But rather than this happiness being the product of endless consuming, or the bloody death of some distant messiah, it comes from setting things right between you and the world.
How to do that? By adopting an attitude of reverence, by working to cultivate and deepen the living memory of the sacredness of all things – including our own bellies. Christianity tends to devalue the spirit of all things but their distant messiah (pantheistic Christianity is ok though), and capitalism sees only opportunities to cash in, sees no forests or people but merely resources and consumers. Units of exploitation.
So just as quitting refined sugar in our sugar-saturated world is hard, so is quitting irreverence. I think perhaps that if I make my battle against sugar a twin to my battle against the nihilistic amnesia that can so easily sweep over me (and most of us) then I might get just the boost I need. After all, if there is only spirit…then eating right is a spiritual practice of great sacredness.