I had never heard of the word “adiaphora” before until (adult) Sunday school a few weeks ago. I love learning a new word and this is a good one. Not only does it have a lovely sound, but the meaning is oh-so intriguing. Adiaphora is the gray of scripture. Many things are clearly good or clearly sin. Adiaphora? Je ne sais pas. You can choose. You can work in real estate or be a stay at home mom or a nurse. You can garden or paint or play the piano. The notion of adiaphora illustrates a great freedom in Christianity.

“…the true unity of the Church it is enough to agree concerning the doctrine of the Gospel and the administration of the Sacraments. Nor is it necessary that human traditions, that is, rites or ceremonies, instituted by men, should be everywhere alike.” (from The Augsburg Confession

In other words, there’s freedom in choosing the formats of our celebrations, ceremonies and worship. I appreciate a liturgical service, stained glass, an organ, a small choir and a sermon that is more serious than stand-up. But this is personal preference. Five friends in a field of flowers chatting about Christ could be another lovely church. Food is deeply entwined in spiritual and cultural traditions, and in the discussion of adiaphora I thought about food as it illustrates the term.

“For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” Romans 14:17

So if a vegan sees someone eating bacon, should they give them a lecture? Or is being sensitive to those around you more important than with what you choose to stuff your own gullet? If you know someone feels strongly about say, abstaining from alcohol, why not too abstain in their presence? Sample vegetarian fare in the presence of vegetarians?

What about eating what is served when you’re a guest? You can usually maintain any personal dietary habits without having to verbally make some declaration of “I DON’T EAT THAT.” Such proclamations can really make people uncomfortable and aren’t they sort of annoying? If you choose not to eat what is being served, how about just quietly don’t eat it?

“Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for anyone to make another stumble by what he eats. It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble.” Romans 14:20-21

Eliminate meat and dairy from your diet? Great, but let me not shout it from the rooftops lest I make omnivores uncomfortable? I mean, I’ve toted the nutritional value of quinoa like the rest of the annoying “health conscious” people. Come on! I’m a nurse! I can’t help it! And indeed, nutrition is a topic I frequently discuss with patients. What duty do I have to serve as an example to patients? To eat the optimal diet? Advocate the “healthiest” dietary habits supported by research? To not post recipes that aren’t optimally healthy on Spy Garden? I recently read this article on Medscape and I think it suits this topic well…

“Many people are turning to “Mediterranean diets” or “Paleo diets,” terms that are so appealing and meaningless that they have attracted millions of adherents.”


“Mediterranean” conjures up summery images of yachts and glasses of wine by the seaside. But the Mediterranean region is vast and diverse, extending from Spain across southern Europe to Turkey, Lebanon, and Israel, and across North Africa. The culinary traditions in these regions vary dramatically. For one person, a “Mediterranean diet” might mean more olive oil. For another, it means pasta. For someone else, it’s red wine, or maybe chickpeas or fresh fruit.
What these variants have in common is a reduced emphasis on animal-derived foods, which is in fact a step in the right direction. A traditional Asian diet would reduce animal products further, and a plant-based diet would remove them altogether — both more powerful than a “Mediterranean” pattern.
“Paleo” brings images of our loincloth-clad forebears whose mastodon-conquering adventures are far more exhilarating than microwaving a frozen dinner while listening to NPR.


“The Paleolithic period is popularly understood as the band of human history beginning with the advent of stone tools and ending before the development of agriculture.”

(Which is not necessarily accurate at all)

“So following a “Paleolithic diet,” we get to eat meat, but we shun grains and anything else that requires a green thumb.”

Heaven knows Spy Garden is not going to shun anything having to do with green thumbs!

“The most effective diet, by far, is plant-based. A plant-based diet reopens narrowed arteries, trims waistlines, lowers blood pressure, and is more powerful against diabetes than any other regimen…
Here’s how we do it with diabetic patients, but it works just as well with other conditions: When you see patients in your practice, invite them to attend an evening group session, which you schedule at a convenient time. Just as your office staff is turning out the lights at 5 PM, one staffer — a nurse, dietitian, physician, or health coach — turns the lights back on, puts the waiting room chairs in a circle, and welcomes 15-20 patients for a lecture. The staffer presents a simple class, or even easier, hits “play” on a DVD player, showing a short video. Twenty minutes later, the patients have learned how a plant-based diet works and the potential benefits it offers.

Ummm, thanks, if only patient education were so simple and straightforward!

Now that patients are intrigued,

(naturally) Who needs rapport? It must’ve been a great lecture haha…

…everyone is asked to jot down ideas for plant-based foods that they would like to try. Common breakfast choices are oatmeal with cinnamon and raisins, a half-cantaloupe, whole-grain cereal with soy milk, rye or pumpernickel toast, veggie sausage, or tofu scramble. Lunch might be lentil soup, split-pea soup, or white bean chili with crusty bread and steamed vegetables. Or maybe pizza without cheese, but with extra sauce and veggie toppings. Dinner could be a green salad and a bowl of minestrone, followed by angel-hair pasta with artichoke hearts, seared oyster mushrooms, and chunky tomatoes, along with spinach lightly sautéed in garlic. Over the next week or so, participants are asked simply to test out these foods to see which ones they like.
One week later, everyone comes back to the office to compare notes. By now, they have a good feel for plant-based foods they enjoy. The next step is a 3-week test drive. For 21 days, everyone sets aside animal products and keeps oils to a minimum, with weekly meetings for support.
After 3 weeks, many choose to make the plant-based diet a permanent lifestyle change. They recognize how simple it is and like the feeling of taking control of their health, and they want to continue eating the foods that promote optimal health. They also notice that their tastes are changing so as to embrace new, healthy foods. We have codified this program into a simple curriculum that we make available to clinicians anywhere.” (Excerpts from Medscape Neurology/Is Avoiding Grains a Mistake?/ Neal D. Barnard, MD/

It’s great that this particular physician has had success with this program, but I do question the assertion of a “simple curriculum”. Food, culture, emotion, spirituality, economics: the whole thing is far more complex than a simple matter of patient education. Really enjoyed this article and other plant-based diet diatribes and do agree with the health benefits of a plant-based diet, but still feel that spiritual health must be part of the equation. Introducing nutrition from the “It’s So Easy! So Simple!” angle may not be the most empathetic approach.

“So Spy Garden, are you an omnivore? A vegetarian? A vegan?”
You know the word vegan really has a terrible ring to it. It’s just not the most attractive sounding word. And diction and syntax are big concerns of mine. And unlike some people, I do not find my dietary preferences to be the most fascinating subject. I find shouting proclamations of what I chose to eat or not eat to be altogether unnecessary. But if I had to put a name to it, how about: I am an Adiaphoron? Hahah
In case you were wondering, an adiaphoron consumes honey. Lovely golden, sticky, sweet honey.
I mean, come on! These buzzing fuzzies are not marginalized or exploited:

They’re living in paradise! (Honey Bees at The Missouri Botanical Garden)

They’re living in paradise! (Honey Bees at The Missouri Botanical Garden)

I’ve been eating at least a teaspoon a day of local honey in order to combat the spring pollen cloud o’ the midwest from making me sneeze into oblivion. I think it’s working! Though I’m also taking Claritin daily for a few weeks. But normally the Claritin only fixes part of the symptoms, so I’m giving the local honey some credit.

“My son, eat honey, for it is good, and the drippings of the honeycomb are sweet to your taste.” Proverbs 24:13
“Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.” Proverbs 16:24
If you have found honey, eat only enough for you, lest you have your fill of it and vomit it.” Proverbs 24:16

HAHAHahha so MODERATION is key! Got it!
As an adiaphoron I would also likely gun down…







If there was, you know, a zombie apocalypse in progress and the kids were hungry.
Probably I’d try to shoot a deer first as this fox (as seen from Spy Garden!) is pretty scrawny.
Thankfully we are not in the midst of a zombie apocalypse and can dine freely, out in the open.

quite leisurely, in fact.

quite leisurely, in fact.

If you’re interested in sampling some plant-based fare locally, Frida’s in Delmar Loop is delicious. Spy Sister and I checked it out and had a delicious lunch with some chocolate mousse (made with avocado) for dessert!
I especially loved the fact they had a little basil forest on the sidewalk and a huge mass of nasturtiums in the window:

Adjacent to Frida's

Adjacent to Frida’s

They grow lots of their own ingredients right there! Pretty cool, right? Even if this is more your jam…

lebowitz quote

There’s loads of gray in even what things actually are adiaphora. The considerations and conversations that arise from our freedom of choice are part of the beauty of the word.

6 thoughts on “Adiaphora

  1. narf77

    I am SO with you on this post. We are all in this together, best learn to get along and play nicely with each other, respecting and caring and just being good neighbours. It’s not like any one of us is better than anyone else so where do we get off expecting special treatment? “Diets” are just means to large profits as people jump from one bandwagon to the next in fear that they are missing out on something. Why is it important for people to be aligned with any particular type of “diet?” Some people have important reasons for eating the way that they do (their religious beliefs or allergies) but for most of us its a choice that we get to make and what we eat is our business. I might be a vegan but I have no problems with other people eating what they choose. Live and let live is my motto.

    I see that you have tethered your tree securely behind you at that cafe…can’t be allowing our trees to wander willy nilly about while we are otherwise occupied.

    Our freedom of choice is all that we have that makes us “us”. We are born and we die but our choices that we make in this life are what constitutes “us”. Excellent post…good food for thought (pun fully intended ;) )

    1. Spy Garden Post author

      hahah I think they are tube lights on that tree. Glad you liked the food for thought and thanks for the comments on this topic: well said (as always!)

  2. penueaj

    I will gun down a Fox any day with you followed by vegan meal! Love the flexibility of this word ;)


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