Seeds of the Gospel: NYC’s Soda Ban – People know morality means discipling our desires

No longer available in “venti”

Mayor Bloomberg’s proposed ban on the selling of soda in sizes greater than 16 oz. has been pretty controversial and has been widely publicized on the internet. If you haven’t heard, here’s an article about it.

Before you think I’m endorsing it (based on the title) see my take at the bottom. But it’s interesting isn’t it? The goal is to help people live healthy lives by limiting the amount of damage they can do to themselves.

It makes sense, sort of. But the reason I listed it as a seed of the Gospel (or good news), is that classically, morality as been understood as the willful discipline of human desires that are disordered–that is, which don’t contribute to our overall well-being.

One obvious type of this is food. It’s pretty easy to desire a large pizza, soda, cheese fries, etc, etc when what we really need is veggies and lean protein. Of course there is also the flip side of being so focused on body-image that we don’t eat enough. Both inclinations have problems (hence they are disordered). It’s virtue that moderates between them.

So here’s part of what I think about the NYC soda ban, the mayor and people in general understand this concept of virtue-driven morality deep down inside. And they want desperately to live good, healthy (that is, moral) lives.

But the catch is because it’s not politically correct to advocate disciplining the sexual desires, which can really create havoc in our lives if left undisciplined, our leaders turn to food as an outlet for their moral legislating. Ie: it’s ok to say, “eating too much is bad for you” or “smoking is bad for you,” so “let’s limit their use.” It’s not ok (nowadays) to say “casual sex is bad for you and hurts others” or “divorce is harmful” so no one says that anymore.

So when our leaders want to be moral, they spearhead elaborate campaigns about the evils of certain foods. There is some good in that. It’s true that our desires for beef and beverage are many times in need of discipline.

The problem is that disordered desire for food isn’t really the most pressing problem our society has. The very fact that we are concerned about an “obesity-epidemic” shows just how affluent and well-off we are. And of course, the government can’t force people into living virtuous lives.

As for the soda ban itself, 16 oz, the proposed limit, is the size of a “grande” at Starbucks. But of course the ban doesn’t apply to Starbucks because they don’t sell soda. But to use them as a helpful example, that means the “venti” would be off limits in soda world. And the hugely ironic thing is that Starbucks lattes and frappacinos are loaded with WAY more calories (and fat) than the average carbonated pop.

Also, the ban means that my husband and I couldn’t walk into a movie theater and buy a big Coke to split. (Because, seriously, movie snacks are so over-priced it doesn’t make sense to buy two when a large is $0.25 more than a small)

That seems a little weird.

So–the soda ban rightly (if not haphazardly) recognizes that we humans have tons of desires that we out-of-whack and need to be reigned in by us. But virtue is individual morality and not really the purview of the government.

Lastly, soda is the least of our worries.

What do you think of the soda ban? Will it even have an effect? If so, is it worth it?

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2 thoughts on “Seeds of the Gospel: NYC’s Soda Ban – People know morality means discipling our desires

  1. I don’t think it should be up to the government to regulate how much food we can eat. The idea that I’m not allowed to order a large soda with my meal because the government won’t let me is ridiculous. But what’s stopping people from just ordering two medium sodas? That’s almost like having a large soda, right?

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