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The husband-wife team, both veterinarians, were speaking on God's concern for animals. At the end of the Sunday school class, they explained why they were vegetarians. They clarified that vegetarianism wasn't required of all Christians, and presented their case in a gracious tone. Yet between the sarcastic asides and the hostile tone of questions, it was clear that the carnivores in the room had been threatened.

Food is so personal! Christianity Today editorial "discussions" on the topic have been intense and energetic. At my own dinner table, harsh words have been spoken and tears shed as children and parents have exchanged views on the matter.

We Christians do not like people telling us how to eat. This goes way back.

The Jerusalem Council told Gentile Christians not to eat food sacrificed to idols (Acts 15:29), but the admonition was ignored almost immediately (Rom. 14:2). In the end, Paul told believers to let their consciences guide them (Rom. 14:12).

But food is also a corporate enterprise. Every meal we consume has come to us through a complex chain of events—from fields to trains to factories to trucks to stores to the refrigerator—and each stage has an ethical dimension. Along the chain, workers are to be employed justly, animals treated fairly, the environment preserved wisely, and bodies fed nutritiously. And then there's this: food is to be enjoyed and celebrated as one of God's finest gifts.

The problem is that when we get serious about ethics, food becomes more of a problem than an occasion of praise. When we celebrate the joy of food, we tend to get lax about ethics. Who will deliver us from this alimentary tension?

Leslie Leyland Fields, for one. In this month's cover story, she lays out the contemporary ...

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In the Magazine

November 2010

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