Leftists Aren't Religious? Ask Them about Food
Muslims eat halal. Jews eat kosher. Devout Catholics and Orthodox Christians abstain from meat on Friday and certain holy days. Hindus are vegetarian. But you will never see food practices take on religious intensity like they do in the more politically blue/left-wing bastions of the United States. This food intensity has been a gold mine of joke material for comedians like JP Sears.
Spend some time with vegan, gluten-free, and paleo devotees and you will realize that a fish filet on Friday can never match the cultlike seriousness these food fads take on. (And if you should ever be trapped at a restaurant table with somebody who is both vegan and gluten-free, run like the wind.)
Studies show left-leaning individuals are less likely to identify themselves as religious. But the truth is they have merely replaced well-known western religious traditions with more rigid ones. If you move to a politically blue part of the country, you will experience the cultural shift the minute your kids enter preschool. School picnics, snack time and birthday parties can become an anxiety-inducing strain as you try to determine what you can bring that all the children can eat. The parents are generally nice people who would never expect you to consider their dietary rules, but you will nonetheless feel a twinge of guilt if you bring that batch of traditionally-made cupcakes and accidentally feed it to a kid who is not allowed to experience it.
Once when my child’s preschool class had a little picnic, I got the hairbrained idea in my head that I would find a food somewhere in the grocery aisles that every kid could eat, without exception. I was determined to leave no three-year-old behind. Finally, I hit it upon it: raisins! They could all eat raisins. As I grabbed the Sunsweet, I thought about how far this new cultural milieu was from my Gen X school gatherings filled with Tang and peanut-butter-and-fluff sandwiches.
Devotees of these practices always feel a need to announce their customs to a degree that traditional religious believers do not. Their e-mails never just state, "I'll bring cookies." It will state, "I'll bring the gluten-free cookies with all-organic ingredients." The grocery list can never be a mystery. Weirdly, the Jewish parents never feel the same need to announce if the ingredients they buy have that little "k" for kosher. I myself never once experienced a desire to declare, "We'll be bringing cheese squares instead of turkey cubes tomorrow because we abstain on Friday." Left-wing food faddies are far better evangelizers.
The popular food fetishes of these cultural enclaves often go hand-in-glove with a neo-pagan mishmash of Gaia-worship, 4th century Gnosticism, and rejuvenated new age/occult practices. Every religion has its food rituals. The left is no exception.
Now I know there are valid reasons to be concerned with the mistreatment of animals on factory farms and there are legitimate medical reasons that some must reduce gluten. Paleo eaters can have points about unnecessary additives in contemporary foods. But the reality remains that the food habits of contemporary leftists have the ritualistic feel of dogma, with many of its followers being far more rigid than the most fundamentalist religious believer.
The left tells itself that it does not impose religion on its fellow citizens, but of course that is not true. Senator Cory Booker, who said he became vegan because eating eggs “did not align with my spirit,” endorses policies like the Green New Deal that would drastically increase the cost of meat. The Green New Deal itself, with its dire warning against farting cows, is not a mere political document. As writer John Zmirak noted, “the Green New Deal is so unhinged from any economic or political reality, we ought to see it as a religious document -- a prophetic, Utopian call to free oneself from this fallen world, and live instead in a gnostic, end-times fantasy.”
The cultural boroughs where new age food fads flourish are the same places that push apocalyptic visions of imminent climate disaster. Their apocalyptic fears encourage governments to impose punitive taxes, the sort of taxes that punish struggling farmers in France and lead to mass riots in the streets of Paris. Their Gaia worship has led to eroding dams in California and raging wildfires from forests left unthinned to preserve species. They promote population control on reluctant third-world nations to supposedly save the earth from certain doom. Their Gnosticism has manifested itself in a transgender agenda in publicly-funded schools and libraries that dismisses taxpayer and parental concerns.
So the next time a left-wing ideologue criticizes religious voters (right before she prays to “the universe,” practices her yoga poses, and consults her “spirit candle”) just quietly chew on your steak and enjoy a preservative and gluten-filled muffin. Remind yourself that although you think many of her religious notions are silly or backwards, you will continue to debate her in the arena of ideas and not just dismiss her out-of-hand. Then let her catch her flight to Scandinavia so she can dance in a big circle for the Winter Solstice.