The Perdition of the American Buffet Mentality
Part Eleven of
CATHOLIC IDENTITY CRISIS IN THE USA
Like irresponsible parents the modern American hierarchy abandoned good nutrition of the soul and let their flocks pick and choose what they wanted, allowing the sheep to grow slothful and selfish. Long before fast-food became the fare of American Catholics, there souls had been starved, deprived of the True tenets of the Faith. Malnutrition of souls has been the result for Cafeteria Catholicism has caused not just food-poisoning of the soul, but has proved fatal to the life of the soul.
"Also, the highest form of service is service to others as exemplified by Christ. While self-service has value, that value must never be held above serving God and others as Christ guided us to do. Many dissident Catholic frauds throw stones at true Catholic doctrine while crying that they are devoted Catholics. In truth, one's defiance against a truth is prime evidence of devotion, not to that truth, but to its destruction rendering defiant loyalty impossible."
Much has been written about the numerous forces at work in today's society that either individually or in unison work to drag many toward perdition and eternal doom, and certainly many of my previous pieces deal with many of these forces. While observing lunchtime patrons at a local eatery, I was fascinated by how various people would approach the buffet section, picking and choosing the ingredients of their impending meal. The popular phrase cafeteria Catholic came to mind, but I realized that this phrase is incomplete and not precise enough to describe its intended targets. I have come to realize that the self-help/buffet mentality is yet another one of those concepts whose success in everyday, morally neutral situations has been disastrously applied to morally charged situations.
The Continuum of Nutritional Choice
We all began life being served by our parents. They would choose what food and drink we had and when. It is assumed that being rational and conscientious adults, they would certainly know what kinds of foods were most nutritious and appropriate for infants. As we grew into toddlers and small children, we clarified and communicated our preferences, and distaste, for certain foods. Using this input, our parents may have somewhat modified what they served us. Certainly knowing that a child detests corn would cause most parents to consider alternatives or at least seek to reduce the frequency of corn in meals. However, the more important and critical the food we detested, the less likely our parents would reconsider, reduce, or eliminate that food from our diet, despite our protests. Most parents, for example, would still try their best to serve vegetables to their child despite that child's dislike of all vegetables. It is one thing to serve one vegetable instead of another to someone who dislikes that particular vegetable, but it is quite another to simply eliminate all vegetables from our children's diet just because they dislike vegetables. After all, do not vegetables as a group have many vitamins and nutrients? On the other hand, suppose a child does not like rice. Most parents would simply serve little rice or simply substitute rice with something else on the premise that rice is not the center of the nutritional universe. We thus see that we moved from being fed without our input to being fed with some input, but always at the discretion and vigilance of our parents and their perception of what is good for us.
As we grew into older children, teens, and young adults, we slowly moved from being served at the discretion of our guardians to being served by others at our discretion. In other words, the waiter serves us at a typical eatery, but serves us what we want him to serve us. At this point we were given a menu and chose from that list of potential foods.
We may have chosen our meals based on previous experience, suggestions from others, a desire to try something new and different, and/or curiosity. Choice, change, and challenge became our mantra as we sought self-determination, a feeling that we controlled our destiny, and a desire to try the unknown and flee the typical, safe, and known.
In today's society, the ultimate nutritional arena is the buffet. In a modified buffet I choose the foods and they are served to me. In the full buffet I choose the amount of food I want and it is weighed to determine the price of the plate. If I want to serve myself 20 pounds of grapes, that is my choice and my problem, in deference to the typical American way of looking at things. It is there that American self-determination and individuality meet food pyramids and nutrition. I determine what, how, and where I eat. I serve myself with no or little help from others. I consider what combinations and amounts of food I can have. So, we see, I move from being fed to being fed with some notice of my preferences to being fed what I choose to feeding myself what and how I choose. While this kind of thinking can be constructive or neutral in many life situations and choices, it becomes toxic when applied to the moral, spiritual, and religious spheres.
The Myths of Buffet Mentality
Buffet mentality is a lie propped upon a distortion of thought. It pretends many things that it cannot deliver fully and effectively. In simplified terms, these myths are:
- There is something inherently wrong with being told what one should have
- There is something inherently right about determining what one should have
- The more control one has over choice, the better
- The preeminent type of service is self-service
- One can be devoted to a cause and defiant toward that truth at the same time
- Buffet thinking is pure choice and freedom
- Buffet choice honestly made is free of soul poisoning
Obviously each of these myths is a lie carved from hell and sold by the devil to a ready, willing, and able public so gullible as to be tragic. In truth, being told what one should and should not have is the crux of absolute truth and adherence to natural order, natural law, rational law, and any semblance of moral structure. Additionally, if one is a moral imbecile, the more control one has over one's choices, the more imbecilic one's choices will ultimately be.
Also, the highest form of service is service to others as exemplified by Christ.
While self-service has value, that value must never be held above serving God and others as Christ guided us to do. Many dissident Catholic frauds throw stones at true Catholic doctrine while crying that they are devoted Catholics. In truth, one's defiance against a truth is prime evidence of devotion, not to that truth, but to its destruction rendering defiant loyalty impossible.
Additionally, although one may think that one has total choice in a buffet, the fact remains that someone else chose what foods to include in that buffet and hence the moral buffet is a trap of the devil who depicts choice on his terms. In these terms, there is neither choice nor freedom in this society's buffet moral arena since the terms of that choice are dictated by the evil one. Finally, buffet choice, whether honestly or diligently made or not, can still be wrong and evil. The measure of a choice is not how honestly or diligently it was made, but whether it was made toward God or against God. Buffet thinking pretends that we are qualified and capable of choosing one way or the other, but this is yet another lie of the devil. Absolute truth tells us that we should leave our choices to God by following His dictates. He is the Navigator who knows the way through the worst of storms, and all we are called to do is follow the directions of that Navigator in complete trust and humility. While we may not be qualified to chart our own course toward salvation, we are certainly qualified to hook our ship to the Lord and let Him to the navigating.
God Almighty provides us with His menu plan for salvation. He gives us the menu of what we can and cannot do. His "special of the soul" is His love, mercy, and boundless patience with us despite our unworthy inconsistency and constant betrayal of His love.
As Christ demonstrated at The Last Supper, Our Lord is happy to serve us His meal of eternal salvation based on His Body and Blood. The appetizers for this meal are the Laws handed down by God to Moses and other guidelines of conduct to follow. Our tip to God for this loving service is our obedience, love, loyalty, and devotion. This tip is nowhere near the accepted 15% of the value of the meal, which is obviously priceless. However, God does not measure the value of our tip to Him based on the mere value of devotion from a creature bound by common sense and simple logic to such devotion, but rather based upon His desire that we offer what little we have in sincerity, love, respect, and a desire to serve. We do not approach God to pick and choose as we wish. Rather, God approached us through His only Son Christ who came to serve us and teach us to serve in return. In return for this priceless act of love and mercy, He merely asks for our loyalty, service, obedience, faith, trust, respect, recognition, and above all love. In a way, it is God who chose each of us to be born into this world. We must return His investment in us by proving to be a good investment indeed, rendering a return consistent with the gifts that God has given us by living a life of service in His honor. So, you see, God is not about self-service. He is about love-service.
Would we choose to operate on ourselves or handle all of our legal affairs? Of course not, for we recognize that medicine and law are fields that require expertise which most people simply do not have. In addition, the importance of physical and legal stability renders foolish swipes at self-determination in these fields absurd. Our moral health and eternal salvation is much more important than how filled our gas tank is or if we got enough mashed potatoes at dinner. While self-service may be acceptable at the gas station or buffet, it can be deadly to our eternal salvation in the moral arena. At the end of the day, no moral buffet can lead to God!
Columns in this series thus far:
Editor's Note: Heaven is once again under attack by those who would seek to ignore and overthrow God's majesty and authority. Gabriel Garnica, educator and attorney, submits regular insights and commentaries to remind and help guide readers toward a deeper and more assertive faith. Touching on topics and issues ranging from personal faith, doctrine, education, scripture, the media, family life, morality, and values, Gabriel's notes are music to traditional ears but unpleasant tones to those who have bought into the misguided notions so prevalent and spreading in today's Catholic world.