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July 11, 2011

Questioning Dinner

How much should Christians really care about their food and where it comes from?

Diets. Overeating. Body image. Weight. If you trusted the headlines in the grocery store checkout line, you’d think that these were the only food-related issues of importance to women. But especially in recent years, there’s been a growing interest in an entirely different set of words: Natural. Organic. Local. Vegetarian. Hormone-free. Seasonal.

Thanks to movies like Super Size Me and Food, Inc. and books like The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Fast Food Nation, and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, there’s been greater attention paid in our culture to questions related to food—and they’re more about ethics and health than developing an ideal figure. They’re questions like . . .

Is the food I’ve just purchased as healthy as I assume it is? Or are there hidden dangers—like chemicals, hormones, or antibiotics inside?

Should it matter to me how my food was grown and who grew it?

How did the animals that this meat or these eggs came from live? What did they eat? How were they treated?

Did the farming practices that produced this food hurt the surrounding environment? Were the workers who produced it paid adequately and treated with respect?

How much fuel was used and pollution produced to get fresh veggies to my plate in the middle of winter?

And perhaps the biggest question for us is: Do any of the above questions really matter?

After all, these aren’t really spiritual issues.

But I believe that, for the Christian, these questions should matter. As good stewards of the wonderful gift of creation given to us by God, we should be concerned about practices that damage and degrade it. As those who share in God’s deep and enduring love for all of humankind, it should matter to us whether or not our cheap grocery prices are built upon injustices toward the poor. And if we believe that our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19), we certainly should strive to take good care of it.

But if you’re like me, one glance at some of the questions I’ve mentioned above can immediately bring about feelings of guilt, confusion, and frustration. After all, these matters are complicated. We must balance many issues when we make choices about food: our wallet, our family’s tastes, our own cultural and familial food background, as well as the geography in which we live. (After all, it’s easier to eat locally and seasonally in California than in, say, North Dakota in December!)

The reality is that in our modern world our eating choices will almost inevitably be laced with contradiction, as we balance the real need for convenience and affordability with a desire to honor God through our food choices. Most of these ethical questions about food just lead to more and more questions! But nevertheless they are questions worth asking as we seek to enjoy and appreciate the very good gift of food that God has given to us.

So tell us: How does your faith interact with your food choices? Should Christians care where their food comes from and how it was produced? Why or why not?

Related Tags: Ethics, food, health, stewardship

Comments

I am currently working through this very subject. I just read Skinny Bitch because I heard it was about vegetarianism. If you're offended by language, don't read it.

It has quotes that are extremely graphic by meat packaging workers.

I think it's easy to say God can take care of my diet or that food isn't a spiritual question. I'm also looking forward to watching Forks Over Knives.

Thanks for bringing this up and I'm interested in others thoughts on this subject.
jan

Hi Kellie!

Thanks for sharing this with us. My husband and I have recently been extra careful about what we eat. It has a lot to do with my blood pressure rising after I have children. However, even after I learned it wasn't food-related, my interest in eating healthier was great. We decided to make that lifestyle change and eliminate certain things from our diet. I tell you the truth though, after watching Food Inc and keeping up with the show Food Revolution (Jamie Oliver) it really has opened our eyes at what's going on with fast food, and food we think is "fine".

I definitely agree that it's important that we are conscious about what we put into our temples. These are the only bodies we have and if we want God to continually use us and if we want to be there for our families, we have to take the best care of it.

I'm really leaning towards owning my own farm! :)

Warmly,
Kennisha

I always find it interesting to hear preachers rail against drinking alcohol (something Jesus did - not being drunk, just drinking wine), and smoking, yet encourage "pie and praise" night, and donut binging every sunday morning ("fellowship").

I think the usual assumption is that only women have body-image issues, whereas nothing could be farther from the truth. I have had a weight issue all my life, an issue which is, at this point, more or less under control. But when I was in jr-high school, I went through the usual humiliation from the boys'-gym coaches, publicly humiliated because I was fat, etc., etc., as were all the other fat kids in my jr-high class.

I struggled with this issue for the rest of my life, still struggle with it, in fact. I dieted. I lost weight. I gained it back. I prayed. I fasted. I sought God. Etc., etc.

Long story short: at this point in my life -- I am 62 now -- I have concluded that God was not there. He may have been there, probably was there, for others. But not for me. So now, I have chosen to be a "functional atheist", because, when it came to the biggest, most all-overriding problem in my life -- my body -- God abandoned me and left me for dead.

After my decision -- a quite conscious decision -- to walk away from God, Jesus, Christianity, etc., etc., a decision my wife fully supported and participated in, I did begin to get my weight under control, lose weight, learn to eat healthily, learn to exercise regularly, etc., etc., etc. ... but ONLY after I divested the issue of all its theological "energy' and got the Great Divine Cosmic Monkey off my back.

All along, I found that God was the Problem, not the Solution; the Disease, not the Cure; the Enemy, not the Friend. Good riddance and -- now -- good health.

Jim

You know what? I will buy the most healthful food that I CAN AFFORD. all those other questions are purely secondary to the need to feed my family within my budget, a factor that is often omitted from posts like these.

To our honest friend, John....
I applaud your sincerity and honesty. If we were real, many of us would admit that we've wrestled with issues of faith, too. I empathize with your frustration and disillusionment with religion, John. At my moment of deep despair, 40 years of religion was helpless to me and I was hopeless. It was then that I met the person of Jesus. The past five years of my life, consequently, look and feel completely different than the legalistic, religion-bound days that preceded them. I've found liberty and emancipation in Christ that defy the legalistic mindset I had developed and reinforced over meany years, and am still working to adjust my thinking to the Truth that, indeed, the Truth will make you free. I pray for you, too, John, that you don't give up on Jesus, but rather consider if, like me, you have found religion to be empty and meaningless. Jesus felt the same way. He had an abundant, free life waiting for me that I wouldn't have in my wildest dreams imagined. He loved and loves me for who I am, just as I am today; not who I think I need to be to gain any more of His love or acceptance. Lots of stuff to still work through, but I now have what I always wanted and unknowingly searched for for many years...a relationship with the living God. That, not religion, has made all the difference. Love to you, John, and best wishes in your journey.

Sorry....the post from John was signed by Jim! God knows your name; sorry if I messed it up. :)

Thank you, Lisa ... Over the 50 or so years I was a Christian, I was at various times: a fundamentalist Baptist (how I started out as a kid), a conservative-evangelical Protestant, a left-of-center Protestant, a conservative Roman Catholic, and finally a left-of-center Roman Catholic. In all those cases, if you had asked me, I would have said I did indeed have a relationship, not just with the Church, but with Jesus Christ. In retrospect, I realize now that what I had was an ONGOING ATTEMPT to have a relationship with Christ, and that I had been acting, fooling others, and especially myself, into believing that I already had such a relationship.

So I quit.

I quit because I was exhausted. I quit because I had never had any indication of any kind of reciprocity from God. Looking back, I have no idea whether or not the life I lived was pleasing to God. In fact, I don't even think, at this point, that it is even possible to know God's attitude toward me: whether God loves me, whether God is pleased with me, whether God was ever pleased with the least thing I ever did. I was running on empty -- which is not a psychological state that can be sustained indefinitely.

The healthiest thing I ever did -- again, I realize this only in retrospect -- was to quit. I was, quite candidly, living a life of addiction, in this case, addiction to God. And addiction to God is no less tyrannical and destructive than addiction to heroin, crack, or alcohol. The addiction-God is as cruel a master as any drug.

It was something -- retrospect / hindsight again -- that I had to evolve out of, and in order to do that, I had, like any addict, to hit rock-bottom. Now my life revolves around my marriage, first of all, but also around a vast community of friends and "adopted family" stretching from Leipzig, Germany, in the east to Singapore in the west, and most states in the Union in between, built up over a professional lifetime of 30 years. That community is as important to me as God used to be, and in that sense, I am more religious -- more authentically religious -- now than at any previous time in my life.

(In fact, I have come to believe that the only really healthy kind of religion is religion that is centered on people, not on God. But that is obviously a thread for another time.)

To quote Fleetwood Mack: "Been down one time, been down two times ... Never goin' back again".

Jim

Jim
I will pray for you. From your comment I sound bitter, confused, frustrated, hurt and lost. I will pray that you receive freedom from whatever bondage that you have at this current time in your life. God is love! He is the Way, The Truth and the Life.
I pray for your true salvation and that in your lifetime here that you have an authentic relationship with Jesus Christ, who died on the cross for you and me. He took our place on the cross! He received what we deserve! Are you willing to die for someone elses sins as He did? He was sinless, but yet still went to the cross for us. Now that is genuine LOVE! I am, because He is a good God a loving and true God, He has so much in store for us that is the ultimate best for us! Better than we can ever imagine! The only One who honestly and truly has our BEST interest at heart. He knows best,certainly better than we do!
I pray that you will come back to Him and have that loving relationship with him living a life free of condemnation and have a full understanding and experience what "relationship" with Jesus Christ is.
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, NO CONDEMNATION.
Love to you in the precious name of Christ

GodzGrl ... Thank you, but you don't understand. When I was a Christian, I always felt condemned. I only became liberated when I left Christianity, i.e., 180 degrees from what you say. For me -- not for everyone, but for me -- God was bondage.

Jim, I am so sorry that you have been involved in churches that made you feel condemned. God does not offer condemnation, but liberation. Anytime we look to people to fulfill our need for affirmation, we cheat ourselves and God because we are looking in the wrong place. Anytime we seek anything away from the face of God we turn our backs to Him, so to speak, and what He desires is our undivided devotion. I'm not judging how you approached God; all I am saying is that in His infinite wisdom He will not give us anything that would steer us in the wrong direction, and if He chose not to honor your requests for help with your weight, it is because to do so would have been detrimental to your relationship with Him somehow. Sometimes it's difficult for us as the self-centered humans that we are to understand that He wants all the glory, but until we understand that and seek His glory in all that we do, we will come up short, and often mistakenly think that it is God who has come up short and abandoned us. I understand this with faith, and can't say this is always my experience, but even when I'm low and feeling like "Where are You, Lord?" - He is Lord and in perspective, I have to simply trust that He is working it all out somehow. Suggestion: Go to the Psalms and ask God to reveal Himself to you there.
On the subject of food, it is a very frustrating subject in this day and age. It's hard to feel like there is anything pure in our contaminated world. We have to consider our budgets, and organic food is not cheap. I just try to do the best I can, with what I have, and trust God for the rest. I think that we do have some accountability in how we take care of ourselves, though. God has numbered our days. I watched my grandfather suffer through years of emphysema and arthritis ( and probably much more- he never went to a doctor). And he smoked- a lot- through my entire life. He had animals and grew vegetables, and I don't even know what he used on them. But I do know there was a lot of sugar in their diets, always chips and candy and soda around- he had a small store and we had access to it all. But I often wondered in those last days if he had taken good care of himself if he would have not suffered so much? I know that some people who are in good health still get sick, still get cancer, etc. But what are our chances of avoiding some of this if we take intentional care of our bodies, and avoid what is bad for us, and eat/use what is good for us. I'm also speaking of what we put on our bodies, as there are so many unregulated toxins in Health and Beauty Aids, cleaning products, etc. It can make you crazy and slightly unbalanced to think of it all, but there are small steps we can take to reduce the levels of toxins that we take in and to prmote health in our bodies so that they can fight the bad stuff that will unavoidably get in. And in the midst of it all, we glorify God because we are healthier and have more energy to work for HIs kingdom!

Thank you, Gail ... I can only repeat what my experience has been, and that is that I began to have consistent and sustainable success in losing weight, and in resolving all the attendant problems, e.g., high blood pressure, etc., only when I rid myself of the theological "overlay". To me, God was just one more thing to keep track of and to take into account, one more variable to deal with. God meant "complexification" -- if that is a word -- instead of simplification. As I said earlier, life is much "cleaner", much more open, with much more room to breathe, than when, as I said, the Great Divine Cosmic Monkey was on my back.

I think the basic problem is that I spent at least 40, probably more like 50, of my so-far-62 years trying to control that over which I had no control. Back when I believed in God, I wanted to "please God". I wanted God to say "Well done, faithful servant". Etc., etc., etc. The key insight for me was that I had no control over those things: no control over whether my life was "pleasing to God", no control over whether God would say "Well done", etc., etc., etc. -- no control over any of that. These days, I often tell people who are familiar with me and with my journey that my life as a Christian was like being given a gun, being blindfolded, then locked into a dark room and ordered to use the gun to blaze away at bull's eye targets -- even though you can't see the targets and no one has told you where they are. So you never know when or if you have hit the target, or even how close you are coming. That was my life as a Christian.

After 40 or 50 years of doing that -- probably, 50 is a better number -- I realized I couldn't do it any more, literally could not ontinue, and that any God Who would ask that of me did not deserve to exist, and, even if He existed, dis not merit my worship. So I hit upon an arrestingly simple solution.

I just quit. I followed Mrs. Reagan's advice. I just said "No".

That is not to say that my path is for everyone. It is not. There are people -- good people, intelligent people -- who would shrivel up and die without God. For them, they would, quite frankly, have to be crazy to take my path. Some people would call me "god-less". I would not quibble with that word. But I much prefer the term "god-free".

Jim

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