In Search of Food Leviticus

Speaking of Faith replayed Krista Tippet’s interview last year with Barbara Kingsolver called The Ethics of Eating. I caught a phrase this time around that grabbed my attention. Kingsolver said she was in search of “Food Leviticus.” I can sympathize with that!

For those who mainly stay away from the book of the Bible that famously has lots of strange arcane rules and calls for the stoning of all kinds of people (including insubordinate children 20:9) let me explain. We tend to think of law as oppressive and imposing. The law tells us what to do and prevents us from having fun. In the world of the Bible law was a kind of grace. They lived in a very confusing world (much like today) with a plurality of religions surrounding them with competing deities and beliefs. They were called to be a different nation that worshipped only YHWH (the Hebrew term used to designate God’s personal name). Leviticus, with all of its rules, boundaries and guidelines, actually provided a kind of freedom for the people. Now they knew what was okay and what was not.

I’m often looking for the same kind of guidebook in pursuing an ethical diet. What compromises are okay? What things should I avoid at all costs as absolutely immoral? Should I eat only local food or should I buy fair trade to support poor farmers in Third World countries? A food Leviticus would simply lay out what is acceptable and not and what the consequences should be for buying bananas from Chiquita for example.

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