Empty (Theological and Ideological) Calories

The term empty calories refers to food that offers little or no nutritional value. The description of the term under the link from the Harvard Medical School website on the search engine results page added the following: “[Empty calories] can contribute to weight gain, chronic inflammation, and other health problems.”

Pretty much every health website you go to will give you tips on how to avoid empty calories. Most common among the suggestions is to avoid sugary drinks and pastries. Usually they also try to provide some “do’s” as well – eat your vegetables is a common refrain. The consensus is pretty clear – empty calories are not good for you.

We should apply the same reasoning to empty rhetorical calories too – empty theological, ideological and partisan rhetorical calories.

I think there are plenty of empty calories in our theological, ideological and partisan political rhetoric. Most of this rhetoric offers little or no theological or political value. Often the empty theological and ideological and partisan calories contribute to fear, chronic mistrust and dehumanization, and other societal health problems and really bad and destructive policies.

Just like empty food calories don’t fill us, the same can be said of empty theological, ideological and partisan calories. Sure, the rhetoric might look tasty from a cursory glance, but the rhetoric is simply not satisfying and certainly doesn’t last. We have to keep pumping ourselves with more empty rhetorical calories.

The latest example of empty theological, ideological and partisan rhetorical calories is the fuss over the Transgender Day of Visibility which happened to fall on the same day as Easter this year. There was a great deal of gnashing of teeth about the proclamation with critics saying how it is an insult to Christianity, blah, blah, blah.

Here’s how I know it’s an empty rhetorical calorie. First, we will have forgotten about it by the end of this week. Empty calories are not filling, remember. You have to consume more empty calories quickly and often. We’ll be on to the next empty rhetorical calorie before we know it.

Second, you know what else happened to be celebrated on March 31???? There are whole websites dedicated to all the sorts of holidays for each day of the year. I’m sure you can find something to complain about regarding one of the 21 listed on www.nationaltoday.com. I mean, how dare they celebrate National Clams on the Half Shell Day on Easter. This certainly goes against the Leviticus 11:9-12.

Third, I don’t hear these same people complaining about the Easter Bunny. It’s not like the Easter Bunny is Scriptural, or even somehow related to Jesus. In some places, the Easter Bunny ends up taking the spotlight for the day over Jesus. And kids seem more interested in the Easter Bunny than in Jesus. The Easter Bunny bribes kids with chocolate after all. Where is the outrage!!!!

Fourth, this is the biggest offense on Easter? Really? Not all the things Jesus actually talked about – like greed and excess wealth, or poverty, or abuse, health problems, or how we treat enemies, or feeding the hungry, welcoming the stranger, and more. Nope, apparently what we need to be upset about is something that the majority of people can feel innocent about. Apparently, there are enough people who need to find something that others are guilty of so they can feel innocent. It’s an empty rhetorical calories because it looks sooo very tasty. I mean, how good does it feel to be able to wag a finger in disapproval at someone else and at the same time make yourself feel spotless? Lord knows there’s plenty of Christians who ignore or dismiss the poor, are abusive, and think society has no responsibility for community health, and that we should just kill our enemies, and turn people away. And let’s not even talk about how we use our money, obtain it, or how much we have. Hands off Jesus – that’s my money!

Consuming empty rhetorical calories allows us stuff our faces and bellies with sweet tasting condescension against “those” people. In this case, “those” people happen to be transgendered people. Next week “those” people will be someone else. Remember, empty theological, ideological and partisan rhetoric have to be consumed often.

Instead, maybe we should avoid the empty rhetorical calories of theology, ideology, and partisanship. They might look good, but they really aren’t good for us. They are making us unhealthy in so many ways.

Here’s a tip for what to consume instead – try asking how we are called to love “those” people, just like Jesus called on followers to do. Maybe we can chew on our own sinfulness as it might prevent us from judging others. Maybe we can eat the fruit of the Spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. These are health foods by comparison. They are good for us and contribute to the overall health of the community.

As for the left over empty rhetorical calories – just pitch them in the trash. That’s where they belong.

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