In the first of my series on multiculturalism, I spoke about eating whatever is set before us. Today I want to talk about one thing that, so far in my life, I have never managed to bring myself to eat. It is a good example perhaps of how some cultural values are so deeply entrenched it is impossible to shed them. I am speaking about a deep-seated revulsion I have to the concept of eating blood.
Your reaction to the news that I will not eat blood will reveal a lot about your own cultural background. Ironically enough, there is a cultural bridge that I have just not been able to cross to another tribe in my own country. I am, of course, speaking about that curious bunch of people called “Northerners.” Incidentally, my favorite line in the first episode of the revived Doctor Who series was when Rose becomes aware of the fact that the Doctor (not to be confused with Martyn Lloyd-Jones) is an alien. He looks just like an English human, and speaks with a Northern accent, so how could he be from another planet? The Doctor just says “Lots of planets have a North!”
But one of many ways that Northerners differ from Southerners here in England is in our diets. In particular, there is this strange item called “black pudding” which is very widely eaten “up north,” but broadly despised “down south”! Black pudding is made of a mixture of blood and oatmeal which is then fried. The black color of what looks like clotted blood quite simply turns my stomach. Yet many thousands of people eat it quite happily alongside their bacon and eggs.
Some of you will probably be as horrified as I am about such an abominable practice. But is our revulsion merely a cultural one? Some of you will, no doubt, argue that, in fact, the Bible bans us from eating blood. As much as I might feel gratified to leap to that brilliant excuse to justify my firmly held cultural prejudices, perhaps we should think carefully about this. What does the Bible actually say about this subject?
The Old Testament is, of course, very clear about this. God’s people were not to eat the blood of an animal. But, of course, they were not supposed to eat pork either, and I have absolutely no problem with eating bacon! Ah, say some, the prohibitions against eating blood are repeated in Acts. Certainly, at the council of Jerusalem, the following statement was issued to all Gentile believers at the time.
“For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay on you no greater burden than these requirements: that you abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols, and from blood, and from what has been strangled, and from sexual immorality.” (Acts 15:28-29)
For many Christians that would settle it. We have a New Testament instruction to not eat blood. Certainly if you have a cultural aversion to eating blood like I do, it would be easy to see this passage as supporting that. In fact, however, to truly obey this command, we would have to eat Kosher or Halal meat as the meat is killed in such a way that the blood is all drained from it.
The only other problem we have is that Paul seems to see this as a temporary agreement by the church, and later sets aside the requirement not to eat meat sacrificed to idols in 1 Corinthians 8. But interestingly he does so in a context of explaining that different people will be allowed to eat different things by their own consciences on such issues.
So, should Northerners stop eating black pudding? Absolutely! Not because of what the Bible says, but rather because I tell them to! No, seriously, I can’t really find justification to tell them to stop from the Bible. But that does not mean I am about to start!