Thursday, December 2, 2010

please hand in your ‘absence’ slips at the pearly gates…

Weight log: 211lb (forgot to take my pill again today – it is really hard to tell the difference between taking it and not taking it – Great work out today though!)

I’m a little frustrated with an article in Christianity Today entitled A Feast Fit for a King by Leslie Leyland Fields. Fields does an ample job of providing a provocative critique of industrialized food. Its a thoughtful piece that doesn’t skimp on guilt-tinged advice for meaningful redirection of food choices for people who are mindful of their desire to follow Christ. She outlines some of the important strategies that are beginning to be recognized as the best ways to address the problems resulting from turning food into an industry. Of these the admonition to engage with local food production in our purchasing habits is likely the strongest.

Leslie also provides a challenging look at the fact that the new (especially anti-agribusiness) food movements in fact are thinly disguised forms of ideological rhetoric which tend to wander far too much into realm of religion. This is a valid point and a helpful caution for those who might see reform in the praxis of food to be essential to solving almost all of the worlds problems. She points to the influence of Hindu and Buddhist philosophy in the core elements of these sort of movements. But she also marks the fact that these same philosophies are not that far from core values intoned by Christian dogma.

The problem that I have is that I think she gives up a little too easily. Her conclusion toward the end of the piece seems to recover the standard defeatist position that has been the Christian mantra since Augustine.

“Our attempts to restore the earth and return to Edenic communion with it ultimately cannot succeed. Just as we cannot perfect our bodies or spirits through eating pure foods, so we cannot perfect the earth, no matter how heroic our efforts. Because of our foreparents' appetite for authority and forbidden food, creation has been groaning, subjected to futility and death… We steward the earth and exercise dominion over its creatures as expressions of love for and obedience to our Creator, who named it all very good, but we cannot take back or re-create the garden. Not until heaven will we see the garden restored.”

Stewardship and dominion over the earth and its creatures makes absolutely no sense if that stewardship and dominion do not have some actual consequences. We may as well bury the earth and its creatures in a hole and wait for the master to return. The earth and its creatures matter to God. They are not just symbolic elements of a uber complex Lego world he has fashioned for us to prove we love him in. These are not play things we are dealing with – they are the work of the master designer? Right? Eden may very well not be recoverable but then Eden likely not even a desirable idea for us to pursue. A more realistic idea would be to work within the indictment of man’s relegation to the make food by the sweat of his brow. To see this ‘curse’ to be the most potentially redemptive feature of our engagement with the real world might be the start of finding ways to recover honesty and integrity into how we consume and produce food. And is it not time for intelligent Christians to refuse to engage with the narcissism that results in the standard “-not until heaven” line. How arrogant is that. I mean can you even imagine anyone with a thread of human decency saying those words to those facing starvation and mal-nutrition around the world. At best it sounds something like this, “We’re sorry we aren’t going to help you because after all we can’t fix everything and heaven is just around the corner when we can forget that these terrible things ever happened in the first place – now say your prayers!”

It’s time to admit that more can be done and more responsibly. We have not even reached heroic status.  

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