Cafeteria Living: Faith
Cafeteria Living: Faith
by Sam Morse
This may be a Canadian thing, or perhaps it is more of a City of Sudbury thing, but my high-school cafeteria had barely any options from which to choose. I remember always seeing in movies that many school cafeterias (I am assuming mainly within the U.S.A.) had these almost buffet style cafeteria line ups with multiple food items to choose from and one individual lunch lady per item to forcefully scoop said option upon your cafeteria tray. Perhaps film always uses the familiar to portray this environment, I'm honestly not quite sure, but my cafeteria experiences were nothing like this. There was always one lunch special per day (panzerotti Thursdays will forever hold a special place in my heart) and the normal "healthy" choices of fries, poutine, burgers, chicken sandwich, etc. to select from, with a reasonable amount of hard working cafeteria employees to run the kitchen. This of course is a much more realistic and logically frugal way to run a high-school kitchen to a societal population who mainly had brown paper bag lunches prepared for them before they had even got their lazy teenage ass's out of bed. I feel like I have gotten a bit lost within the breakdown of my cafeteria experiences as a teenager, but I trust that the thought of cafeterias has now fully taken over your imagination. The image of the cafeteria was often used in my younger years as a metaphor to describe a dangerous lackadaisical attitude towards the Christian faith.
So, once again go back to that stereotypical image of the cafeteria line up, with one burly sullen lunch worker per item waiting to scoop some form of nondescript mush onto each predetermined slot of the lunch tray. Each item represents a rule of faith that is, at the time, considered to be foundational to the definition of being a "good Christian". If you are a good Christian within the church it is almost assumed that you will gladly stand in line and fill your tray with every single item. You will then take your tray and eat to your hearts content every item required for a truly fulfilled life within the faith. There is, however, two major problems with that seemly simple system. Those items have consistently changed throughout history. At one point in history there had included items which represented rules towards treatment of slaves and even some trays which were only meant for the consumption by men.
Not to say that all problems have been fixed in Christian belief (not even slightly close) but some major ancient rules and negative presumptions have been removed from standard belief within the faith. To be called a "cafeteria Christian" in my youth, simply meant I couldn't handle the rules precisely placed out for me by God. I wanted to walk the cafeteria line and only choose the specific items. The choices which I would avoid would show others the things in life which I found difficult to obey, for such a sinner as myself. Now don't get me wrong some were absolutely ignored because I just did not want to grow in personal discipline. It is much easier in life to simply ignore important life and spiritual gifts such as patience, peace, humility (still working on that one), kindness, etc., but I now perceive that as simply being a teenager! You need to learn the joy of honing those skills and the blessings that it can add to your daily life and the lives of those around you. Then there were, however, some items in that line that I just didn't agree with on a moral level. How could I tell someone else in life who to love or which gender that person could be? How could I fight and judge against someone’s right to choose and rightfully expect safe and accessible healthcare when I wanted that right in my own life? How could I ignore the overt white masculine dominance of my faith when genetics and sciences have clearly shown that every person, regardless of race, creed, sex, sexuality etc., comes from the same genetic source? This is a small list of the issues I wanted to ignore...but for years allowed to be part of my spiritual diet.
I am not writing this blog post as a moral champion. I have spent years of my life with some very closed minded and judgmental ideas. I continue to feel deep shame for some of the ideas I have had and verbalized in my life under the banner of a "loving God". I will most likely spend years of my life in meditation reflecting on how wrong I was in order to continually grow to be better and kinder human being. Then when I walked away from the faith I had such a distaste for religious think that, to my own shame and dismay, allowed some of the worst human qualities to grow within me out of sheer anger and resentment. It is only until recent years that I have truly started to get myself to this better place; to finally work on the best version of me that I can be.
I still try to feed from the spiritual buffet on a daily basis. The line I take for this sustenance has changed though. I stand quietly and allow the nail scared hand to serve me from the dish simply labeled "love". I humbly accept the meal which I know I do not deserve but am forever grateful for receiving. Within this spiritual serving I have found access to every level of nourishment my spiritual life has ever and will ever need. Sometimes it is a difficult meal to handle...but it has always been the most worthwhile and fulfilling.
The Apostle Paul truly grasped the depth of the power of love when he wrote this piece of wisdom that I will leave you with. It is an overly used verse...but I reflect on it often.
1 Corinthians 13:3-7 (The Message Translation)
3-7 If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.
Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.