Is it a Sin to Eat a Cheeseburger?

Newspaper%20sectionsYou never know what you’re going to find in a small town newspaper. Here in Cool we have a newspaper called the Georgetown Gazette, which arrives every Thursday for our reading pleasure. The Gazette is a great newspaper that I love to peruse in order to learn more about the community and what’s happening here on the Divide.

A few weeks ago I was perusing my favorite small town newspaper when a letter to the editor jumped off the page and almost knocked me over. Since the Gazette doesn’t have an online version, I’ve included a copy of the letter below.

It’s a sin to eat a cheeseburger

Editor –

I have been reading letters from folks who cherry-pick passages from the Bible to justify a political point of view. They seem to believe that not following their selected biblical scripture is a sin.

Did you know that eating a cheeseburger is a sin? Also it is a sin to eat sirloin steak, leg of lamb, barbecued spareribs, shrimp, lobster, crab, clams, oysters, scallops, duck, goose, catfish and sturgeon. If you don’t believe me, look it up in Leviticus, Chapter 11. I must confess that I am a sinner because I have a fondness for scallops and crab.

Please folks, use the holy book to to restore your soul and to find faith. Using the Bible to validate your political agenda and then inferring that others who do not comply with your politics are sinners is nonsense.

By the way, you can eat mac and cheese with a glass of chardonnay, that’s okay.

Harry N. Zelinka

Diamond Springs

Having had some experience with these things, I decided to respond to Mr. Zelinka’s letter. The following is my response, which was published in the Gazette this week.

Dear Editor,

The August 2nd edition of the Georgetown Gazette contained a surprising letter from a Mr. Harry N. Zelinka. The letter was surprising on a number of counts. 1) It was surprising to find a theological conversation in the pages of our small town newspaper. 2) It was even more surprising to read Mr. Zelinka’s claim that it is a sin to eat cheeseburgers.

I’m sure that we’re all aware that Mr. Zelinka’s remarks are not intended to steer people away from the evil of consuming cheeseburgers. I’m quite confident that the last place Mr. Zelinka would like to direct fast food patrons is to Chick-fil-A. Rather, his letter is an attempt to undermine the authority and the sufficiency of Scripture by attacking it’s integrity.

In 2005 I completed my Master of Divinity, concluding over seven years of theological studies. I’ve also had the privilege of serving as a full time pastor for over 10 years, so I feel qualified to speak to this issue. The passage that Mr. Zelinka is referring to is found in Exodus 23:19 where it says "You shall not boil a kid [baby goat] in its mother’s milk." Even a cursory glance over a study bible will tell you that this command has nothing to do with mixing dairy and meat products, rather it is a command for the Israelites not to participate in the gross idolatry of their Canaanite neighbors. Canaanite ritual, according to excavations at Ras Shamra (ancient Ugarit), called for sacrificial kids [baby goats] to be boiled in milk.

Further, Mr. Zelinka fails to take into account that the Christian Theistic world view holds that Jesus is the fulfillment of the law (Matthew 5:17). In Mark 7:18-19 Jesus said, "Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him, since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled? (Thus he declared all foods clean.)" Even the laws recorded in Leviticus 11 have been fulfilled in the coming of Jesus Christ, so feel free to eat as many oysters, scallops, catfish and cheeseburgers as you would like. If you have placed your faith in Jesus Christ you are free from the curse of the law.

Pastor Drew Buell


Cool Community Church

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August 24 2012 04:00 am | Blog

7 Responses to “Is it a Sin to Eat a Cheeseburger?”

  1. Bernie Andringa on 24 Aug 2012 at 5:55 am #

    There you go again Drew, stirring up trouble! And, to top it all off, you tell the members of your community that it’s OK to eat as many cheeseburgers as they want?!! Oh, the horrors! Now you will have PETA after you as well!

    Just for the record, I do this at my school as well. Our cafeteria recently declared “meatless Mondays”, to which I replied “McDonalds Mondays”.

  2. Mom and Dad Buell on 25 Aug 2012 at 7:58 am #

    Hey Pastor Drew;
    Well done. You are so good at discerning the issue and getting to the heart of it(i.e. sufficiency of scripture)
    We love your response.
    Love you,
    Mom and Dad

  3. Charles Chrisman on 26 Aug 2012 at 5:36 pm #

    Hi Pastor Drew,
    I don’t know whether Mr. Zelinka is an atheist or not, but this attack of his is a very typical tactic among the more aggressive atheists out there today. There is a concerted campaign of misconstruction over the text of scripture in an attempt top show logical contradiction, usually by forcing a very narrow definition or meaning on a specific text without taking into consideration the broader context and purpose of the Bible which is to reveal the love and wisdom of God. Atheists view the Bible as an intolerable book of rules set against their happiness and freedom and will generally use any means to defeat it that comes to mind. As you have shown, the best defense against this is to know and use the full body of scripture as the context and reason from that standpoint back to the specific charge.

  4. Drew on 27 Aug 2012 at 8:11 am #

    I’ll be interested to see if Mr. Zelinka responds to my letter, I’ll be interested to hear what else he has to say.

  5. Harry Zelinka on 18 Apr 2015 at 2:11 pm #

    You may not realize it but Muslims and Jews adhere to the biblical dietary laws as specified in Leviticus. That does not make them atheists.

  6. Nathan on 29 Jul 2016 at 11:16 am #

    If Mark 7:18-19 absolves the sin eating of shellfish, does it not also absolve anyone who practices sodomy?

  7. Drew on 01 Aug 2016 at 10:08 am #

    That’s a good question Nathan. I think the answer is three-fold. 1) The passage is specifically about the dietary laws of the Old Testament, so addressing sodomy isn’t the author’s intention at all. 2) Other author’s do deal with the question of sodomy (both Old and New Testament authors), so they would be the most appropriate references for that kind of conversation. 3) All sin (including the sin of sodomy) can be forgiven through the gospel of Jesus Christ.
    I don’t know if that answers your immediate questions, but hopefully it helps a little bit.