Amaranth; guilt by association

As summer turns to autumn and the flowers in the garden begin to fade, one plant stands out in bold contrast to the ever-increasing browns and grays of the dying plants. Dotted here and there among the aging garden plants are the majestic spikes of ornamental amaranth. The bright magenta plants were given to me years ago by a fellow gardener who had sown too many. They drop their tiny seeds as they mature, providing that welcome splash of fall color for the next year.

The nutritional value of amaranth’s seeds and leaves are quite impressive. The seeds, while not technically a grain, contain higher quality protein than wheat. The leaves are rich in calcium, vitamins A and C, and folate.

While amaranth is increasing in popularity lately, it was almost completely ignored for centuries. It was an important food source for the Aztecs. Known to them as huauhtii, it also was made into shapes of their god Huitzilopochtli after combining it with honey or blood. The figure was then cut up and eaten, as human sacrifices were made to the false god.

Appalled at the barbarity of the natives, the Spanish conquistadors burned the amaranth crops, and prohibited the growing of this grain-like seed.

Amaranth, whose name means “never fading flower,” then faded from common usage until the 1970’s. This was the horticultural version of “throwing the baby out with the bathwater.” The Spaniards associated this amazing and nutritious grain with the horrific religious practices of the culture.

You might call it “guilt by association.” The amaranth itself wasn’t evil, but the rituals surrounding it were.

When God made amaranth, he pronounced it good. Every plant has either a nutritional or medicinal value….except maybe poison ivy. I haven’t figured that one out yet, but I expect the herbalists and scientists just haven’t discovered a use for it yet.

“Then God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you” (Genesis 1:29, NASB).

While it would be a dangerous thing to adopt every practice of the world that we live in, we have to be careful about what we reject simply because we retain a negative association with it.

By the same token, some associations are so close that it can cause some to stumble, such as the example of eating meats sacrificed to idols (1 Corinthians 10:23-30).

For many years, dominoes and cards were associated with gambling, and no self-respecting Christian would indulge in such games.

Others might avoid good ideas that they’ve heard of from a denominational church – not because the idea was bad, but because someone else came up with it.

“But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21).

I will enjoy my beautiful red amaranth, not because I can make a god with it, but because it was made by THE God.

Yes, we do need to be careful in what we accept and adopt; but we might prayerfully consider before we reject good things simply because we do not like something we associate with them.

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Christine (Tina) Berglund

Christine lives in middle Tennessee with her husband Gary, a.k.a. "The Yard Boy." They have served churches in eight states where Gary has preached full-time most of their married lives. The children have flown the nest, but they "baby" their plants now, and even get to visit grandchildren once in a while.

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