Wandering the savage garden…


A few days ago, I made a reference to how eating a cheeseburger is wrong, and my conscience has been pricking me about it ever since. I decided I’d better offer an explanation and a retraction before too much more time elapses and I look like one of the legalistic dorks I tend to dislike.

First off, the Bible says:

19 “The best of the firstfruits of your ground you shall bring into the house of the Lord your God.
“You shall not boil a young goat in its mother’s milk. (Exodus 23:19, ESV)

The latter part is the bit I’m focusing on. The rendering thus becomes: you don’t mix milk and meat from the same kind of animal. Boiling an animal in its own kind’s milk…

But wait, there’s more. The prohibition ended up being applied to milk and meat, period. The rabbinical reason stretches to Leviticus 22:27:

27 “When an ox or sheep or goat is born, it shall remain seven days with its mother, and from the eighth day on it shall be acceptable as a food offering to the Lord. (Leviticus 22:27, ESV)

In the end, what you have is a reflection of the ban against the hybrid in Judaism, something beyond the whole. It works itself out to varying degrees based on your level of orthodoxy and conservatism. Some Jews won’t use milk for six hours after eating meat; others (including me) tend to reject milk of a specific kind mixed with the meat of that same kind.

For me, it works out from a humanitarian view. The animal – let’s say a cow, since I can’t stand goats – gives us the fruit of its body in two forms: milk and meat. It seems wrong to abuse the gift of milk by using that milk to prepare the meat.

And with that, let’s cross the theological divide and cross over to Christianity.

From a Christian perspective, meat and milk are not prohibited. Paul says it over and over again, and you find it in Acts as well: food is considered clean to the point where he who eats it considers it clean. (There is no unclean food beyond the Noachide laws, in other words. I suppose you could make a case even there, but… no. Just no. Be warned. That site may present language and maturity issues for the reader.)

For me, well, I generally try to obey the level of the prohibition as I have from my youth. It’s not a “hard prohibition” – I’m not going to go weep in a corner if I eat mixed foods that go against the mixture of meat and cheese. (Proof: my wife made a taco casserole the day before yesterday, with beef and cheese. I ate it then, and polished off the leftovers this morning.)

What’s more, I would never use this prohibition to deny the offerings of someone else. My wife’s food – goes without saying, I’m eating it. (She’s fantastic in the kitchen. Meanwhile, I can burn water.) If I’m a guest at someone else’s house and they prepare a pork sandwich with goat cheese – well, I’m going to struggle with my anti-goat bias, but it’d be an affront to the offering for me to reject it.

So I wouldn’t.

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