Americans wolf down 815 billion calories of food every day  – roughly 200 billion more than needed and enough to feed 80 million people — and throw out 200,000 tons of edible food, reports mindfully.org, a website of social research.

But food is not the only thing that has been supersized. The average American consumes as much energy, the site says, as two Japanese, six Mexicans, 13 Chinese, 31 Indians, 128 Bangladeshis or 370 Ethiopians.

The Rev. Brian Diggs, the Salt Lake City-based director of the United Methodist Committee on Relief for the West, is more concerned about collective, not individual, gluttony.

“Too often Christians tend to define sin as a personal choice, which it is, but it is also communal problem,” he said. “We are always trying to get something new, build up our material possessions, but are never satisfied.”

When you become conscious of living more simply, as large Christian movements are doing these days, he said, “smaller kinds of personal sins come into a clearer light.”

It should be part of a Christian witness, Diggs said, to be “mindful of the way that millions of people live.”

The Rev. Jeffrey Silliman, retired Presbyterian pastor and former president of the now-defunct Salt Lake Theological Seminary, said modern Americans are seduced by constant pitches about the connection between food and self-image.

“When we offer the Lord’s Prayer about ‘leading us not into temptations,’ ” Silliman said, “we should remember that advertising is a powerful temptation.”

Companies sell slimness and sexiness, wrapped in materialism, he said. It can be compelling and confusing.

“Most people don’t think of gluttony as a spiritual issue,” Silliman said, “just a case of bad choices.”

It is spiritual, however.

The Bible’s Apostle Paul preached that human bodies are God’s temple, the pastor says. “Junking up our holy temples is clearly wrong.”

Quakers don’t talk about sin, said Elaine Emmi, who belongs to the Salt Lake Society of Friends, but they do “strive to live in a manner of right sharing of the world’s resources.”

The United States’ “ecological footprint is immense,” Emmi said, “requiring many more resources than are available on our planet.”

Our modern lifestyle, she says, “often keeps us so caught up in accumulating more and working harder that we fail to understand the inequalities around the world. But this is also a problem in Third World and emerging economies, as all people seem to be striving to live as Americans do.”

Thanksgiving is a day to celebrate food with gusto, Emmi said, but it’s also an opportunity to meditate on those who have little for which to be thankful.

With every helping of steaming mashed potatoes with gravy, she advised, “we need to be aware of those who go without food on Thanksgiving.”

And, she added, on every other day of the year.

c. 2013 Salt Lake Tribune, reprinted by permission Religion News Service. Peggy Fletcher Stack writes for The Salt Lake Tribune.

Publication date: November 27, 2013