My friend Michelle has an excellent post over at More With Much Less about our collective disorders and neuroses when it comes to food, health and body image. I posted my thoughts in a comment over there.
My good friend Michelle is starting a blog about being Mennonite with an eating disorder called More With Much Less. I love her willingness to, not only be vulnerable, but laugh at herself and approach being Mennonite, living in community and her own disorder with a sense of humor and play. Here’s her summary of what she’s up to:
“I intend to read [More With Less] and cook one of the recipes each week and blog about my experience. You might wonder what the point of this is. Sometimes, I wonder the same thing. But I think it is important as Mennonites and other Christians think about the ethics of food, hunger, and the poor, that we do not shape the conversation around the idea of guilt.”
I’m very excited about her project and how it might overlap and inform the work and thinking that I’ve done on the ethics of eating here. Maybe I’ll have her guest post over here on something. So, add it to your reader and saddle up.
This story is the perfect convergence of theology, food issues and what I believe to be the center of a theology of food – Eucharist. This blurb from Soulpancake sums up the story.
It looks like a handful of Catholic churches across the country are changing their sacred practices in reaction to the swine flu (pardon me… H1N1) outbreak. A Beliefnet story indicates that hundreds of churches in Mexico have temporarily closed. Meanwhile, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is encouraging priests to wash their hands with anti-bacterial soap before Mass. Many churches are taking it a step further: In Austin, Texas, Catholic churches are being encouraged to dispose of holy water at church entrances and suspend Communion. Similar advice is being offered in Chicago and Green Bay, Wis. Now, the country’s largest Catholic high school—St. Francis Prep in Manhattan—has also shut down in light of swine flu outbreaks. I’ve always thought it a little unsanitary to share a gilded cup with thousands of other people. Maybe this outbreak—and the rapidity with which many diseases are spread today—will cause us to rethink communal religious practices.
Okay, I completely understand the health concerns. I respect those issues and take them very seriously. (Even though I’ve admitted I don’t believe in germs and I’m a fan of the common cup. I want to be able to drink deeply at communion and I mean that.) However, I think this is actually a symptom of something deeper that is going on.
First, it points to the continued depersonalization and fragmentation of our communities. Part of what makes us so afraid of things like the swine flu is our lack of community. We don’t know our neighbors and fellow congregants. Fear breeds and grows in a petri dish of the unknown. This doesn’t mean that just by knowing each other better we will prevent disease, but it does mean that we would react differently.
Historically, faithful Christians have often been the ones to care for those ravaged by disease and plague. Rodney Stark claims that this is an essential element of what precipitated the growth of Christianity prior to Constantine. When we embody our doctrines in acts of compassion and mercy the kingdom becomes flesh and blood. What would this mean right now for the swine flu (or future outbreaks or the financial crisis)?
Second, this outbreak has been connected over and over again to the conditions created by factory farms. It is true that there has not been an actual link established yet, but it is clear that the conditions for swine flu to develop come from our industrial food system (New Scientist).
In this sense the food system has now infected the Eucharist. Our insanity in food production has made its way into the church’s central act of worship. We should certainly care for our members and take precautions. We should also be outraged that our disconnection from each other and our food has now infected our spiritual practices.
How could we practice Eucharist in a way that would protest this system and stand against the problems that it is creating? I don’t know. I’m really asking, because I think this is what the Eucharist should be.
Tonight I am teaching at Meadow Oaks Baptist Church where I’ve been a member for about 4 years. I am teaching about my journey and calling toward agricultural missions and understanding the role food plays in our lives, globalization and justice. This is a pretty concise summation of why food is so important, my theology of mission and how food fits into God’s mission for the world. By concise I mean I had to cut a whole lot of important stuff out. Luckily I have a wife who listens to me ramble and tells me which parts to cut and which parts don’t make sense. So this is both very long for a blog post, but too short to say everything I wanted.
The full text after the jump.
Sometimes I think, “Is eating really necessary?” I’ll confess I’m addicted to Raisin Bran. It’s somewhat of a mystery, but it’s partly due to the speed at which I try to live life. (Maybe I should open a Cereal Bar) I’m usually in too big a hurry to actually make food for breakfast or lunch. It’s this very attitude that I want to fight against.
Is there a middle ground between being obsessed with food and functioning in our modern world? The solution for many is to go with the flow and just not think about it. For others they retreat to the country where they can control the pace of life, places like the World Hunger Farm and Homestead Heritage. Maybe the latter option is still a form of control that is not entirely healthy.
What about the millions and billions of people for whom neither of these options is really helpful? If they ignore the food, or lack thereof, they eat they will suffer the consequences, diabetes, obesity and high blood pressure, or hunger and starvation. However, they cannot choose to buy organic local produce or start their own farm. Their choices are limited.
Clearly those with the choices must be the ones to make change. Yet somehow I still choose Raisin Bran…Go figure!
image from jsynnott.