Why have we included the theme of food and food productions systems?
1. A holistic gospel includes emotional, economical, spiritual, and physical dimensions.
2. It has a significant biblical presence. Land is a central theme in the Old Testament, and the Law includes attention to agricultural practices and food. At the very center of Christian worship is a meal–Eucharist, the Lord’s supper. Originally in the New Testament it was a real meal. Table fellowship is a prominent theme in the gospels.
3. The Breadth and depth of this theme. It touches on so much: lives, jobs, working conditions, health, land, fellowship. And it is intertwined with many of the other themes and paradigms of this website. As we explore this theme we learn more not just about food, but also about Mammon, technique, consumerism, etc. Tentacles from this issue go out in many many ways.
These are reason enough, but today we think this issue calls for special attention because of the degree of alienation and distortion that pervades this theme in our lives today.
There are a number of fine documentaries on this topic, such as : Food Inc., Inhabit, King Corn and Nourish. Fresh is the one I use in class. It provides a great mix of exploring the problems of our food system and providing examples of people working to correct those problems. It does not demonize farmers and displays positive examples from both rural and urban settings.
Click here for a link to their website where you can purchase a copy of the film.
Food and Faith - Norman Wirzba
Norma Wirzba is the leading theological voice today on the theme of food—production, eating, table fellowship. You can listen to him explore these themes biblically and theologically in the sermon posted here and in this interview. His book Food and Faith: A Theology of Eating is a revelation.
Making Peace with the Land: God’s Call to Reconcile with Creation by Fred Bahnson and Norman Wirzba.
My daughter Julia, who has read more on this theme than I have, tells me that if someone is going to read just one book on the topic this is the one to read. It is well written, biblically and theological rooted, filled with concrete examples of both problems and solutions. It avoids a bounded approach that exudes from the work of too many activists. Although short, the book covers a breadth of topics related to the theme of food and food production.
The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals By Michael Pollan
In The Omnivore’s Dilemma Michael Pollan presents the history of four meals from their source to his plate. He follows the path corn takes from Iowa to his fast-food meal; he compares the journey of two organic meals, one purchased at Whole Foods and the other from a single farm; and he describes the hunting, gathering and growing he did to produce the fourth meal. Technique is a dominant theme in the book. Often it is explicitly on the surface.
Click here to for the rest of this book review on our blog.
In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto by Michael Pollan
Pollan explores the origins and ill effects of what he calls the “age of nutritionism” and “the Western diet” and proposes guidelines for escaping those ill effects. For a shorter version read this New York Times Magazine article, “Unhappy Meals” Pollan has a new documentary that covers similar material.
The "Lunatic Farmer"
Joel Salatin, a farmer in Virginia, is featured in Food Inc. Fresh, and The Omnivore’s Dilemma. He provides a model of an alternative approach contrasting with what is critiqued in those same works. He overflows with passion, humor, strong opinions and concrete examples. In this lecture at Duke Divinity School, hear him integrate biblical and theological thinking into his advocacy for changing our agricultural paradigm.
Christian Food Movement Website Article on Dinner Churches
By Kendall Vanderslice, Jan. 13, 2017
In 2009, Saint Lydia’s, a Lutheran church in Brooklyn, New York garnered national attention when it began holding a weekly service over dinner. Longing to dispel feelings of isolation often reported among young New Yorkers, founder Emily Scott decided to model her service around the early church practice of having a meal together as Eucharist.
Meanwhile, the Assemblies of God Community Dinners in Seattle, Washington, the Disciples of Christ Potluck Church in Madisonville, Kentucky, and the Episcopal Southside Abbey in Chattanooga, Tennessee, began experimenting with their own ideas of meal-centered worship. One by one, communities began to emerge, though many remained unaware of others participating in the movement. Read More
Listening to a brief news story on increasing numbers of farmers working to improve the health of their soil led me to a website of Brown’s Ranch in North Dakota. It inspired and encouraged me. As I read the statements copied below I noticed similarities with what I wrote about last month in a review of Joel Salatin’s book, The Marvelous Pigness of Pigs.
“We believe that faith, family and working with the natural resources that God has provided allows us a meaningful life. We enjoy using these resources to regenerate landscapes for a sustainable future. . . We believe in and practice Holistic Management, a part of which is farming and ranching in nature’s image. We strive to solve problems in a natural and sustainable way. . . [We] continually ask ourselves the question, ‘Are we solving a problem or just treating a symptom?’ Rather than continually using fertilizers, herbicides, fungicides and other artificial inputs, which are just treating a symptom, we focus on solving problems. This means we start by concentrating on improving the health of the soil.”
I encourage you to read the short descriptions of their approach (Soil Health, Livestock, Grazing, Cropping) under the “Learn” tab. Read to be encouraged. Read and think about farmers and ranchers you know that might be open to hearing about this approach from a fellow rancher. Read to think about lessons and applications for other areas of life.