Category Archives: WWJE

Begging the Question

So, the idea for this blog came out of my quest for what to do with my life after seminary. The title is just a clever and catchy way to get at the main theme of this blog, food and theology. As I have unpacked this silly little question it seems to have sometimes taken me far afield. Lately I write a lot about economics, anti-civilization, collapse and consumerism. In my mind, of course, they are all interrelated and connected, but maybe these connections are not always obvious. I try to tie it back in to this question “What Would Jesus Eat?” that’s really about making ethical choices in a very complicated world and helping us navigate these murky waters.

Well, my primary purpose for this blog is to be a place where I can process out loud my own thoughts about these issues from my own reading, experience and thinking and hopefully get some feedback from the few friends and readers that occasionally read and comment. The secondary hope is that some of this will be helpful to other people. Sometimes I think that this secondary purpose would help give more clarity to my thoughts and writing. If I delve into ideas about civilization collapsing, how does that help you understand and live in the world more faithfully? If I go on about economic theories or obscure aspects of finance that I don’t even understand, how does that answer the ethical questions we face about what to eat and what to buy?

In some ways my recent excursions have subverted (or at least criticized) the big question always on the top of this website. The question assumes a certain stance towards the world concerning what we eat and buy. It presupposes that we are consumers and the question of utmost importance is how to choose the ethically correct (or least ambiguous) products on the shelves of our local big box store. I use to have a relatively simple formula for answering this question.

  1. Buy local.
  2. Buy sustainable/organic.
  3. What you can’t buy local try to get fair trade.

It is perhaps still a helpful start in some ways, but it misses the deeper issues that we face. It does not question the assumption that consumption is the answer to the question of making ethical decisions about how we participate in the world through economics and in particular through what we eat. Nevertheless the goofy question that started this ball rolling still haunts me. What do average people living in the world today do to make the most ethical decisions given the world as it is? How does faith, Jesus and the Bible speak to the kinds of ethical dilemmas that plague us? What are practical things that people can do?

I don’t expect everyone to become some kind of radical anarchist, join an intentional community, protest, grow all their own food, forage, dumpster dive, make everything they need, somehow drop out of the economic system and in the end move to a developing country just like me. I’m certainly not as radical as I like to think I am. I depend on the food system and other conveniences of civilization that all of us do. So, in some ways the questions for me are not that different than the questions for the guy working in a cubicle.

So, as I’m coming down off of a reading, writing and thinking binge, I would like to return to this basic question about Jesus and what he might have to say about food and our choices, including issues around consumerism, agriculture, environment, economics. However, I would like to keep in front of us where some of these things really hit the ground, like building and maintaining a composting toilet system which is something I experience every day. I’ve often said I want to get back to the Food in the Bible series for numerous reasons, but I think it fits in with returning to some of the reasons why I write and what I hope for. I’m not making any promises, commitments, resolutions or covenants. As usual, I’m just thinking out loud.

If anyone is out there, I would love to hear some ideas, thoughts or suggestions about what would be helpful to you for me to explore. Here are some questions I’d love to hear answers:

  • What are your questions when walking down the aisles of your supermarket?
  • Where do you face ethical dilemmas or questions about food or consumption that don’t have easy answers?
  • Where do you find your economic life in conflict with your life of faith?
  • What practical skills or knowledge would help with growing your own food, living more simply or living off the grid?

I really look forward to hearing your responses and hope they can spark some new conversations.

WWJE? Pt 1: You Are What You Eat

I’ve flirted with starting a blog dedicated to my obsession with food. For now I will settle for a series of posts on this blog called What Would Jesus Eat? The first posts will give a glimpse into the history of my personal obsession. Later we’ll look at some of the issues that food connects such as poverty/hunger, globalization, creation care, table fellowship as well as health and wellness.

When I think about my relationship with food, I immediately think about my vegetarianism. But I have only been vegetarian for seven years and I’m 29. You do the math. I’ve been eating my whole life… pretty much every day. I grew up in rural Texas on a quasi-farm. We never depended on livestock or crops for our livelihood, but we were always raising something: sheep, goats, pigs, chickens, horses.

One year… and one year only… I raised a sheep for the county livestock show. Mainly this involved getting up before the sun to walk/run my sheep in circles for 30 minutes or so. Every day before school I got up and did this. You get to know an animal when you spend this much time together. My sheep had a name that I no longer remember. It had a personality, moods and emotions. I’m not claiming animals have the consciousness of humans, but they become more than an object when you spend this much time getting to know them.

If I remember right my sheep was a mutton. As a member of the male half of the species I am ashamed to say that I have participated in turning sheep into muttons. This involves super thick tiny rubber circles that are stretched open by a four-pronged contraption. The stretched out rubber band is then placed around the testicles which eventually fall off due to lack of circulation. This is the same way we cut their tails short. It’s hard not to feel for an animal when you’ve been an accomplice to emasculating it.

The time finally came for the stockshow. If you’re not from rural america, you don’t realize what a big deal this is. We get time off from school and the whole town turns out to the fairgrounds. It was the only time I’ve ever donned a pair of boots. I don’t even remember how my sheep did… not well is all I can say. But I distinctly remember the feeling afterwards when, I realized that the next step was the auction. My sheep would be bought by someone or some group of people and turned into food of some sort. Without testicles this poor guy was just dinner for a month for somebody.

This isn’t why I became vegetarian (more on that later). I really don’t have any objections to eating meat per se. Hunting has been a part of human existence for millenia. In the past though, eating meat meant being intimately connected and aware of where your food came from. You either hunted it or were involved in the preparation. Most of my life I have been very disconnected from the sources of my food. But growing up on our quasi-farm and making deer sausage with my Dad and Opa at least gave me a sense of the give and take of eating… at least more than most Americans, who think that meat comes from the grocery store and cheese comes in slices.

Next time… You Kill It, You Eat It