There are many followers of Christ in this world who don't think much, if at all, about the connection between their food choices and their theology. For many of these, there's a good chance they'll be eating a big slab of meat tonight, cooked over a fire, complemented by a pesticide laced salad, enhanced by an Italian Red, and washed down with coffee that was utterly affordable thanks to the rainforest that was cleared to increase the crop size. None of these foods are seen as making a statement about their faith, but I'd argue that they do. If I thought it was all going to burn up, especially in the near term (as I've been told it will, any day now, for the past 35 years), I'd join them in buying the most food for the least money.
Instead, I'll be having a slab of meat, a salad, red wine, and coffee, just like them, except utterly different. My meat will be grass fed, my salad organic and local, my wine from a local winery, and my coffee shade grown. That is, at least, what I'll be eating when my food choices match my theology. Believing that God's people are called to make God's good reign visible here and now in some small measure means that I need to make choices that exalt health, justice, and ecology (among other things) in all areas of my life, including "what's for dinner?"
Concerned about the state of environment and the horrible carbon footprint of the beef industry, I'd always believed that vegetarians were on to something, but could never manage to get there myself because when I tried, I'd be continually hungry and sick (not to mention that truth that I enjoy only about 1/2 the vegetables available). A recent read called "The Vegetarian Myth" (see intro here), written by a left wing activist former vegetarian, opened my eyes to the realities that the real culprit isn't meat or not meat; it's industrial agriculture. Monocrops require heavy pesticides (oil), deplete the topsoil, which then requires heavy fertilization (oil), so that the crops can be maximized and then harvested by machine (oil), to then be shipped to warehousing locations (oil), where they'll either become something else (twinkies, made from oil), and/or shipped yet again to stores (more oil). The problem is that this is our world, whether we're vegetarians are meat eaters, if we just run down to the supermarket and buy the cheapest beef and spinach on the market.
The food that comes out of this system is destructive to the human body, the earth, and industrial pork and cattle that inhabit it. Why are we doing this? Maximum profit of course, and cheap products. Do we really think, even if Jesus were returning tomorrow, that He doesn't care about us trashing his planet, compromising our bodies, and torturing his animals like this?
On the other hand, if I buy, organic vegetables, and grass fed animal products, and as local as possible, several things happen:
1. I participate in a sustainable model that actually builds topsoil, rather than destroying it.
2. I dramatically lower my carbon footprint, by consuming things that required relatively small amounts of energy to produce.
3. I ennoble small farming and local economies, both of which are far healthier and more resilient than ADM, supermarket to the world.
4. I declare by my choices that monocrops and the forced migration of small farmers to the urban centers, a destructive global trend, is wrong.
5. I gain a healthy ratio of Omega 3- Omega 6 fats in my diet, and enjoy lower blood pressure, good heart health, and the taste of real, rather than industrial food. I'm sick less, sleep better, and just generally feel more alive.
I'm as guilty as anyone regarding my food choices, even more so because I now know better and still choose cost and convenience way too often. This conversation, if we take it seriously, is a portal to many other topics. Since we who can afford to eat this way don't, how can we ever expect those with neither the means nor understanding to freely choose these healthy alternatives? Is it enough to live 'alternatively', or is activism appropriate? And if activism is appropriate (as I sometimes sense is the case), why do I feel like I'm wasting my time? Wouldn't it be better to just grab a Big Mac and get on with handing out Bibles?
I welcome your thoughts!