A Feast Fit for the King
It's Potluck Sunday. I stand near the end of a long line wondering what will be left by the time I get to the front, grateful that I'm not particularly hungry. I have some idea of what the offerings will be: hot dogs wrapped in white buns, cut in half for the more delicate appetites; buckets of drive-through fried chicken anchoring the table. Neon-orange cheese doodles will inevitably show up, somewhere near the salads. The greenest item will be several bowls of lime Jell-O with fruit suspended in it, which, I've decided, is to signal its inobvious function as food.
We pray our thanks over this smorgasbord of chemical wizardry and marketing genius, ask that it would strengthen our bodies (something I believe will take divine intervention), and invite Jesus to be among us as we eat.
When we lift our heads, I consider this last request and wonder, surveying the tables: What would Jesus put on his plate? Would Jesus eat lime Jell-O and cheese doodles? Would he care that the chicken in the bucket came from cages where the birds were likely fed their own recycled excrement? Would he eat that barbequed pork that came from massive pig farms that pollute the water, soil, and air? Would he stand, as I do, filled with guilt, dread, and judgment before this culinary minefield?
I think a lot about food these days, and not always charitably. I've been ruminating on the headlines and a recent crop of food books concerning what many are calling "the global food crisis," one that has given rise to a new food movement in the United States and abroad. The movement has taken on the momentum of a religious revival, changing the way Americans eat and how they think about food and the use of the earth. Eric Schlosser's Fast Food Nation; Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma; Nicolette Hahn Niman's Righteous Porkchop; Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle; Marion Nestle's Food Politics; Jonathan Safran Foer's Eating Animals; and many others expose the disturbing state of the nation's food supply and the destructive effects of industrialized food production on the national and global environment.
The most recent confirmation that all is not well on our plates came in August, when 1,500 people were poisoned by eggs contaminated with salmonella, leading to a recall of 550 million eggs. (The chickens at the culprit farms were kept in battery cages, which have been criticized for being both unsanitary and inhumane.) When The New York Times Magazine announced its intention to expand its already generous coverage of food this year, it explained that such writing is "perhaps never a more crucial part of what we do than today—a moment when what and how we eat has emerged as a Washington issue and a global-environmental issue as well as a kitchen-table one."
While elements of the new food movement are rarely Christ-centered (more on that soon), I believe the movement has much to teach Christians about stewarding creation, loving our neighbors, and eating and drinking to the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31).
Manure Lagoons, Superweeds, And GMOS
Where does the news begin? Most of the authors trace our crisis in food conduct and conscience to the events following World War II, when the federal government led a shift from family-operated agrarian economies to corporatized agribusinesses. In agribusiness, efficiency and mass production have, more often than not, overruled fair treatment of farmers, humane treatment of animals, and proper care of the land.