Last year around the same time that our annual consumer frenzy was reaching a fever pitch I was wrapping up a series inspired by fellow Truett grad, preacher extraordinaire and soon-to-be published author, Kyndall Rae Rothaus, about the nature of our purchases and how they function in the consumer religion (Holy Purchases). I’ve just gone back and re-read these posts and am again struck by how enmeshed we are (I am) in this religious-economic system.
I would love to say that because I have diagnosed these things to an extent, I am somehow immune or above, but that’s always the biggest lie. That is the danger of any purity code whether it’s Leviticus or Fair Trade. You believe somehow that you are able to live up to its perfection by following the letter of that law. Jesus clearly points out that the spirit of the law is more important than the literal interpretation and strict adherence when he repeatedly breaks the ritualistic practices of sabbath-keeping. Purity codes can twist us into valuing holiness for its own sake and devaluing life and creation. We keep ourselves apart and separate so we can believe that we are different.
Maybe this is why Paul writes in Phillipians 2:3 that we are to “regard others as better than yourselves.” It’s not about demeaning ourselves, but rather humbly exalting others and placing ourselves within the greater context of all creation. We are created and loved, but not as special and unique as we would like to think. We are no better or worse than others no matter what we buy or don’t buy. By all means live faithfully and follow your convictions, but don’t believe for a second that this gives you any special status with God or anyone else for that matter. It doesn’t and it shouldn’t.
Hope everyone has a happy and blessed holiday this week. Let’s remember our native brothers and sisters this week. They have given and continue to give gifts to us, if we are open to receive them. Sometimes it looks like repentance and confession, but those are also gifts to be thankful for.
I appreciated the diversity of comments on my Turkey D-Day post. I didn’t expect such a response and wrote the post in a more light-hearted manner than some received it. After a day of butchering I thought it would be worth some reflections.
The first time I participated in the butchering process was with chickens that had gone through their productive cycle and were not going to be sold. I primarily eviscerated the birds after they had been scalded and plucked. This alone was an intense experience, but I did not participate in the actually killing of the birds.
Today I did participate in killing two of the turkeys. This is something I and everyone at the farm takes very seriously. It is an intense emotional experience to be with any living thing that passes from life to death much less being responsible for that passage. It is a holy moment and one that can be soul wrenching and difficult. I think if it were not difficult for someone, that person should also refrain from eating meat because of their lack of respect for the life of the animal.
I will say, I respect people who refuse to eat meat for a lot of different reasons. I also respect people who choose to eat meat, but are thoughtful about where it comes from, how it is raised and how much they eat. What I (and most of the people commenting) affirm is that there are a lot of problems with the majority of meat produced in this country and responding to these issues is important for a lot of reasons.
What I don’t affirm is that people hold their opinions and convictions with a self-righteousness that condemns anyone who disagrees. There is one volunteer on the farm who was very emotional. Seeing the process affirmed her conviction to remain vegetarian. I can affirm and respect her conviction. I also think if everyone who ate meat were more involved in the process of killing and butchering we would 1) consume a lot less meat and 2) have a lot more respect for the animals that we eat.
Regardless of your convictions about eating meat, I believe seeing and being part of the process is important. It will either strengthen the convictions you have or make you rethink the way you relate to your food. Either way, that’s a good thing. The problem is more about being detached from the source of our food than whether or not we eat meat.
Thanks again for all the comments and thoughts. Enjoy your Thanksgiving with or without meat!
Today is turkey D-Day. About 40 birds will be prepared for the Thanksgiving Day table… in other words butchered. Tomorrow about 40 more will meet their maker and become someone’s dinner. I recently “talked” on facebook with a friend of mine from Fort Hood and shared about my transition to farmatarianism, eating only meat that you know personally. I was a vegetarian for eight years. I wasn’t a really good vegetarian, whatever that means. I was more concerned about the way meat was produced and what was in it. I was also concerned about the effects of excessive meat consumption on our bodies and the planet. I wasn’t concerned that animals should never be killed for food.
Anyway… it was probably strange for my friend to hear that I would be helping slaughter some 80 birds and what’s more I would happily eat them given the chance. I still don’t eat a lot of meat. It’s not often an option at the farm, but when it is I appreciate the life of the animals that we eat. Our turkeys are free range in every sense of that word. They roam free all day, foraging for food and stretching their legs. Our goats and cows also spend the majority of their time in pastures eating their meals straight from the soil. That is worlds apart from how your Big Mac or even grocery store meat is produced.
So, every year Cargill (God bless ’em!) donates about 100 turkeys to the farm along with their bedding and feed. We raise them and sell them for Thanksgiving and Christmas. We could ruminate on why Cargill would donate these birds to a farm that teaches methods of agriculture directly opposed to large industrial-scale production. Perhaps it’s a form of penance, an attempt at reaching some sort of redemption. Perhaps someone in the company has a subversive ironic streak. Regardless, it is a good things for these birds and the people that buy them.
Clearly, these turkeys have been bred for one thing and one thing only… meat. These are dumb animals. These birds see a large predator (aka me or Edwina, the wayfaring farm dog) and think to themselves, “Hey let’s all go check that out! Guys come over here! Look a predator! Let’s all go say hi!” Needless to say they would not last long in the wild. Unfortunately they also don’t last that long on the farm. One turkey randomly had a heart attack one day and became dinner. It seems they are looking for ways to die. Apparently it is not really true that turkeys can drown from looking up at the rain, but they’re so dumb it seem plausible.
Barbara Kingsolver’s account of trying to get her turkeys to reproduce and hatch eggs is a riot. The reason industrial turkey sex is so funny is because it simply does not happen. Imagine a couple of full grown adults who are supposed to be well versed in the birds and the bees, stumbling over what’s what and what goes where like a couple of pimply teenagers. Add to the lack of knowledge the fact that these guys are bread to be a tub o’ meat on toothpicks. They are no longer physiologically shaped for reproduction. In case this hasn’t been made abundantly clear let me say it. The turkeys you buy in the store do not have sex. They all have to be artificially inseminated in order to reproduce. That in itself is not humane.
There are heritage breed wild turkeys out there that you can buy. Those guys are smart and they know how to have sex. So, think about the life of turkeys this holiday season when you’re sticking that Butterball in the oven or deep fryer. Support turkey sex and happy turkeys this year and buy your bird from a farmer.
Sharon Astyk had some insightful reflections about Thanksgiving and saying grace or blessing before a meal:
The problem with saying grace is that it can get you into tricky places. For those who believe that God is involved in all of this, it gets trickier still. Faiths may have theological differences, some quite major, but most of us agree that there’s a partnership of sorts with God involved. That is, we thank the farmer who grows the food, and we thank forth God who brings forth bread from the earth. We thank the vintner who made the wine, and God who sent the rains. At the end of the day, most theists will be thanking God for the food – and thus, implicating God in the food.
But it isn’t always clear that we should be grateful for the food we have.
My practice of saying grace has evolved over time, especially as my food and justice consciousness has risen. I can hardly pray before a meal now without thinking about those who are doing without at that precise moment. More and more I find it hard to pray without thinking about our connection to the food we’re eating whether it’s a local/organic/seasonal feast or a fast food fix.
Sharon’s whole post is well worth the read. So, do you pray before meals? If so, can we be thankful for food that may not be just or even good for us? Like the Pre-consumption prayer, the way we pray before we eat may just change the way we eat.
Well, it’s what we slangily refer to as Turkey Day here in the continental 48. I’ve had my qualms and soapboxes on this genocidal holiday before (see myfourwalls circa 2004). But this year Barbara Kingsolver helped me with new lenses to look at this feast day. This is a truly American holiday. The food from start to finish is native to our land and comes in its proper season. That is something to celebrate!
So, as you’re digging in or reflecting back on that thanksgiving meal, remember that this is a time to be thankful for abundance, for the harvest being enough to last through the winter and for turkeys fat enough to eat. I’ve been particularly appreciating the squash (acorn and butternut) and sweet potatoes.
So, while I plan on being more realistic than legendary about American history with my kids, I also plan on celebrating Thanksgiving to the hilt as a feast worth celebrating with seasonal foods and thankfulness for enough.