On Hot Dogs and Too Much

Yesterday, for a snack, I warmed up one hot dog, the longer ones, which, if you happen to be a Los Angeles Dodger fan, you would know it as a “Dodger Dog”. No bun, no condiments, nothing — just a microwave-warm hot dog.

It was nasty. Of late, my sodium consumption has been remarkably reduced, and the shot of salt in that skinny, tubular piece of overly processed meat put a taste on my tongue which was gross and disgusting.  It seemed as if I had tried to eat a hot dog flavored salt lick.  No amount of water flushed the residue of the taste off my palate. Finally, at lunch, some pieces of peach chased the obnoxious stuff away, and I all but vowed I would eschew hot dogs in their natural state.

Most of the processed foods offered in America have their share of sodium in some form, and many depend on a high level of the salt to carry their flavor. I looked at the label of a nationally known brand of chili — over 1000 milligrams of salt per serving (2 servings in the can), which is enough to pickle anyone’s arteries. One soup that touts itself as natural and a return to what soup was meant to be sports over 700 milligrams of sodium per serving. There is strong doubt in my mind that our forebears were doing such a tight dance with salt. Perhaps they actually wanted to taste the food, not anesthetize their tongues with salt.

I will be the first to admit I am not a health-food proponent; things like kale and tofu are never on my menu choices. While I have no problem eating far too many carbo-loaded foods than I should, in the past few years I have changed a lot of my eating habits, partially in team with my wife as she has salt with some health issues, and partially in the realization that my earthly body cannot endure the continual abuse of a junk-food diet, not now that I can see Social Security just over the next couple of blocks. Breakfast is no longer half a box of cereal; it is a controlled portion protein drink and either a piece of toast or some fruit. I choose to keep small bills — ones and fives — out of my wallet, for if I have those, I am far more likely to stop my brain from reasoning with me and head to the local donut shop (I can’t bring myself to break a ten or a twenty just for a donut).

But this missive is not a plea for better health habits (although given the expanding girth of the Church in America, and the mantra that a church does potlucks best). Instead it is about flavor — the flavor of being a believer in an essentially flavorless world. Like that odious hot dog, instead of having its own flavor, the world is obsessed with deadening the conscience with the salt of hedonistic pursuits. Much of the Church is the same way. Instead of displaying the aroma of Christ, there are layers of “salt” — arguments over hymns v. choruses, length of hair, casual v. dressed up, tradition v. Biblical truth, egalitarianism v. complimentarianism — and somewhere along the line the simplicity of the Gospel message is encrusted with more layers of human conditions than there is salt on fast-food French fries. I am not so naive as to believe that before Jesus returns there is going to be a cosmic kum-bay-yah moment and all those in every tradition and ecclesiastical communion will suddenly find united harmony and bliss. The ecumenical movement has tried to foster such only to achieve a watered-down sham of what is nothing more than Christian in name only, more concerned with social justice issues and economic equality than it is whether someone might be on the road to hell.

It is my perhaps minority view that we humans have managed to make the simple Christian faith far more complicated than Jesus ever meant for it to be. We can take a verse like Micah 6:8 and its plain call for doing justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly with God, and produce volumes of material seeking to give explanations as to what each of those things needs to look like. There is a deviousness in us wanting to find the loop-holes, the exceptions, the rationalizations, something which would allow a lessening of the true flavor and aroma of what the Bible teaches. We filter the Word through the lens of our own particular theological purview — and I admit, I am as guilty of this as anyone, the rabid Arminian that I am. I suspect some of the wood, hay and stubble burned up before Jesus in the eschaton will be all the salt-laden stuff we have heaped on the natural goodness of the Biblical revelation of God to man. It may be a huge surprise at the end of time that what any of us thought was Christianity had little resemblance to what Jesus wanted it to be.

I am aware of those who are doing their best to clean up the Church, who are promoting a simpler, allegedly more “Biblical” way of being the Body of Christ, and I am in amazement how different, at times, the varying efforts look from one another. It is perhaps the consequence of being human, in a fallen state, needing a Redeemer, and being in that place where knowledge is yet imperfect. For the present, it may well be the better course to continue to serve with an honest heart that is earnestly seeking the Lord and open to His correction on those areas where there was wandering off the path of righteousness. My Pentecostal beliefs are not going to square with any Baptist, cessationist brethren, and I am not going to try to either shave down the full-gospel leanings to meet the cessationists mid-stream, nor am I going to snidely huff they aren’t even saved just because they might cast tongues as of the devil and tell me as an Arminian I am not really saved. I suspect we need to spend some more time actively meditating on Micah 6:8 with the hope that as the Holy Spirit gives His promised illumination, we might discover a little more what it is to be the flavor of Christ, free of the worldly salt we pour out to make things palatable for our own selfish ends.