One of the (few) good things about belonging to the European Community is the law relating to the sale of goods, by which manufacturers are required to display the composition of their products. For foodstuffs, the law requires that each ingredient is listed in decreasing weight order. With other products, such as toothpaste, hair shampoo, and soap, each chemical constituent must be fully displayed. As a result, everyone should be able to inspect their articles of purchase, to see whether they match up to their personal standards. So far, so good.
What happens in practice? The majority of people are either too busy, too lazy, or otherwise disinterested to bother about the things they buy. They take it for granted that products for sale in supermarkets are genuine, wholesome, and vetted by Consumer Councils, and Trading Organisations. Hence all the “small print” is ignored. But is everything we buy quite “clean”, quite “wholesome”, as we are led to expect?
Let’s stop for a moment and “have a nice cup of tea.” (I admit that this article is directed mainly to British readers, but the essence of what is said would, I am sure, be equally applicable to elsewhere in the world.) What is involved in making a cup of tea? Water, tea leaves, milk, and maybe sugar. Let’s take these in order. Water is supplied to us, and we take it from the tap without thinking. (That’s not a privilege shared by all the world.) However, the water has been treated, and often has a residual taste of chlorine, used in the final part of processing, to kill off any remaining germs. This chlorine is harmful, though probably in the amounts we imbibe it has little effect on our health. It doesn’t taste very nice. It’s better to use one of the many filters available today.
Tea leaves are usually bought in tea bags, nice white tea bags. But the paper of the bags has been bleached by a chlorination process, so that for three minutes, one is infusing, not just tea, but also whatever remains from the bleaching process for the bag. 50 years ago there were very few of these bags. We used tea strainers instead. The tea itself has come from different parts of the world, and has been “blended” by the supplier to give the best flavour. O.K., that’s fine, but the chemicals used in some parts of the world as sprays are quite vicious in their effect on human health.
Milk. No longer left on the doorstep in glass bottles, but bought in the supermarket in plastic tubs. Milk has a nasty tendency to draw something out of the plastic by chemical means, and many people complain of the “plastic flavour” imparted to the milk. There are harmful ingredients in the plastic. The milk itself comes from cows that have been given antibiotics as routine measure, even though in most cases this is quite unnecessary.
Sugar. Nice white sugar! White has always been associated with purity, ever since the second world war. But in point of fact there is no such correlation at all. Natural foodstuffs come in all different colours, each being representative of its own growth. To insist on changing the colour to comply with some traditional myth is not only unnecessary, but harmful.
Now don’t get me wrong. In our own household we have been drinking tea for years without being concerned about any of these things, and so far as we know there has been no harmful result to our health. But of recent days, after making a few enquiries, and learning the facts presented above, we have seen that it is possible to find packets of “unrefined sugar”, “organic tea”, (not in bags), “organic milk” (in cardboard cartons) and a variety of water filters that certainly make the water taste sweeter. If these products are available in supermarkets, then discerning buyers must be keeping the cash flow, otherwise they would be withdrawn from the shelves. Since altering our purchases to restore (as much as possible) everything to its more natural condition, we find a better flavour to our tea. Some will call us finicky, but we have chosen to do this because the Lord tells us that our bodies are inhabited, not just by our own spirits, but also His Spirit, and therefore we have a duty to retain health as far as possible. I’ve taken tea as an example because of its universality. In America coffee takes more of a prime place. Have you noticed that supermarkets supply “unbleached filter papers” for coffee making. That tells a tale.
What about things like toothpaste and hair shampoo? Is there a problem here? The important thing to remember is that our skin absorbs chemicals, whether it be inside the mouth or over the whole surface of our skin. Try having a look at the composition of any brand of toothpaste, or soap-dispenser when next purchasing, and ask yourselves whether you can understand the amazing array of bio-chemicals presented. I doubt whether one in ten thousand of us really knows what, for example, Cocamidopropyl Betaine is, or even a simpler sounding chemical like Sodium LaurylSulphate (SLS). But you will find this latter product in 99% of all toothpastes. Why? On investigation one is told that it causes frothing, and people feel that they are getting a better clean thereby. This is why SLS is also found in washing up liquid, and for the same reason. But basically it is quite unnecessary. It is purely cosmetic. Furthermore, SLS should be made from coconut oil, and we are told it is then safe, but these days it is derived from crude oil sources, and is not safe to the skin.
I could produce many other examples of how life today is full of unnecessary cosmetic additions, many of which are deleterious to our health in some degree or other, even if they have been “passed as unharmful” by the E.U. and given “E numbers.” This is part of the age in which we live. My grandmother, living in central London in the latter half of the 19th century told me about sugar. The grocer would have it in wooden barrels, and scoop it from the top. It would have a golden brown colour, and be a bit sticky. At the bottom of the barrel there was a tap, to run off the molasses. That was natural sugar. Tate and Lyle’s white stuff is no longer a food, but a chemical having the formula C12, H22, O11. Very many products on the supermarket shelves these days greet us with slogans, “New and improved formula.” or “Enhanced flavour.”
Why has it been necessary to write about these things, under the title “Cosmetic Christianity”? Simply because the way in which man has been “improving” life today in the natural world, is parallel to the way in which Christianity is being devitalised by the artificial “whitening” of some things, and made more palatable by the cosmetic addition of others.
It is doubtful whether church congregations today would even recognise what first century Christianity was like. It in fact takes a lot of serious reading of the New Testament to come to terms with what the Lord really requires of His people. It would do many a lot of good to leave their church for a few months, and make a study of this sort. It cannot be done alongside normal church activities, simply because churches tend to bend the minds of congregations towards form, practice, and tradition. But the most important aspect of true Christian living is the persecution factor. To live a godly life in Christ inevitably produces opposition, persecution, misunderstandings, and sometimes violent hostility. If “letting one’s light shine” in public produces that effect, then it is a safe anvil on which to hammer out one’s own position and progress spiritually. It is the “fruit” that distinguishes true saint from pretender.
Churches here and there, across continents, have prostituted Paul’s words to the Ephesians, found in chapter 4 of his letter. They have made it read as though –“He ascended on high and gave gifts to the church. . . He gave anointed charismatic leaders, worship leaders, musicians and dancers, and elders for the covering of the flock, gifts for the swelling of the congregation, for the financial security of the ministers, and for the entertainment of the body of Christ, until we all love each other with a hug and a happy smile, and persuade each other that we are in need of nothing, being identified with, and a living part of the Christ, God’s complete Man, so that henceforth we shall no longer be adults, but children, tossed this way and that by whatever is in vogue, and by whatever devices the leadership considers useful in expanding the spectrum of our experiences.”
God forbid! A day must come soon when all this will be sorted out, a day when plastics will no longer pollute our food, when toothpaste will consist only of chalk as a abrasive, with a natural oil to bond it into paste, when “white bread”, and “white sugar” will be things of the past, and when religious entertainment will be shot out of the church’s back door, and serious, uncluttered, holy living will become the norm. Jesus said that Elijah will be sent to “restore all things,” and it will come before the great and awe-inspiring day of the Lord. Neither the world nor the church will greet that day with pleasure.
But wouldn’t it be better to attend to this now?