From day one, there was much expected of me, not just as a preacher’s kid, and not just as the son of an ultra-religious family, but as the representation of everything SDA, the same as every other child of the church. This representation included, but was not limited to, how I dressed (in suits), how I acted (respectfully), how I treated others (with deference), what I did sexually (nothing until marriage), and when I went to church (on Saturday). It also included what I put into my body, or the infamous “health message.”
In my household, the health message ruled. Number one: No meat. At all. For any reason. We were as kosher as kosher could be, because that was the rule. That meant no meat products and no meat byproducts. That went for both my parents, my sister, and myself. And I never felt deprived, because it was just a way of life. In the Bible, god said to Peter that you should neither handle nor eat unclean meat. Unclean meat came from impure animals like goats, birds, and swine. In addition, we also did not eat meat from cows, even though in the Bible it was seen as clean, because the SDA health message includes the teachings of the prophet Ellen G. White, who expanded heavily on the basic principles of vegetarianism as part of the health message. She spent a great portion of her time revising the health message for Seventh-Day Adventists with John Kellogg up in Michigan, and my mother owned all of her prophetical books growing up, including health reforms. My mother swore by her, and so no cows, beef, or other meat products made from the cow made its way into our home.
It was interesting, though, because there was a faction in the church who believed in Ellen G. White as a prophet, but did not subscribe to that particular portion of the health message. My parents were not born vegetarian, or Seventh-Day Adventists, so it was interesting that they went in whole-hog, but so many others who had been born SDA conveniently forgot that portion of the prophet’s teachings. In fact, there remains a faction in the church that doesn’t follow those particular teachings, while following all others of Ellen G. White, but my parents remain staunch. I myself have still never eaten meat, even though I don’t believe in every teaching of the SDA church, a fact that many others find interesting in and of itself. This includes byproducts such as gelatin and lard.
Health message rule number two: Low sugar intake. While we have known for a long time that excess sugar, which includes the use of high fructose corn syrup, is instrumental in the rise of obesity, high cholesterol issues, and the rise of tooth decay in humans. Kellogg created Corn Flakes as an alternative to high-sugar cereals. Ironically, Frosted Flakes is one of the highest sugar-content cereals on the market today. Most SDAs I know do try their best to follow this part of the health message, making meals that are low in sugar content, which is the only way to ensure the content is actually low in sugar. Fast food is high in fat, cholesterol, and sugar, so while it may be convenient, it is also instrumental in poor health, as a practice.
And health message rule number three is the simplest: No smoking. This is the one most heavily supported by the secular community as well, today. But when it was first included in the Adventist health message, the ill effects of smoking weren’t taken seriously by the community at large. The Adventist church was the first to be pro-active in this regard, and stays active on the non-smoking front. All three of these health message rules have been validated by society and by medicine, and yet for some reason even a lot of Adventists don’t follow them to this day. Why is that? It’s because like everything else, we are human, and we have weaknesses. I have my own troubles with low sugar intake. I mean, come on, chocolate is so good! But I have stayed firm on the other two, and I am working on the sugar issues. It’s a start.
By the way, if you’re keeping track, I have never eaten meat. Weird, eh?