Thursday, April 21, 2011

theology of eating

This week for my New Testament ethics class, we've looked at the ethics of eating and food. Kind of frightening to learn more about the food industry—what we're actually eating and how it's gotten to us. It's already making a difference in how I'm eating, or at least in how I'm thinking about eating. For example, our house is hosting Easter lunch this Sunday, and I'd been considered ideas for a main meat dish. Unluckily (or luckily?) for our guests, however, my assignments have had me reading about the ethics of food and watching Food, Inc., and... well, let's just say after that I'm thinking more along the lines of a vegetarian meal.

Below you'll find posted the text of my very brief theology of eating paper that I turned in today, but before we get to that I wanted to share a couple of resources with you that you might find enjoyable and helpful. I'd absolutely recommend Food, Inc. (nominated for an Academy Award for best documentary) and Michael Pollan's book In Defense of Food. Additionally, you should check out the Better World Shopper website, book, and iPhone app.

Here's the paper. I'm wondering, what would you see as the most important change you could make to your eating to make it more ethical?

A Christian theology of eating and food will take into account at least three fundamental issues: that we eat, what we eat, and how we eat. I will here focus on our eating as a practice that illustrates all our relationships. Eating exposes our identity as humans in comparison to God, depicts our bonds to the rest of creation, and allows for the formation of individuals in relationship to one another in community.

The indispensible practice of eating says much about the identity of humans, who are created in the image of God but are not themselves God (Gen 1:26-27). Taking for granted the necessity of everyday functions like eating ignores the possibility that God could have created us to be more efficient and self-sufficient—not needing to breathe, eat, or sleep—but chose not to. Instead, God created inherently limited beings who were intended to recognize their finitude and rely on God to meet their needs. Even in determining that we would eat, God made it irrefutably clear who is God and who is not.

In addition to delineating our relationship with God, eating—particularly what we eat—both establishes and depicts our relationship to the non-human creation. Eating is a way of manipulating and controlling the world for our benefit, and how we do so exhibits how we conceive of our relationship to the world. Is the dominion over the earth imparted by God (Gen 1:29-30) a right to be exploited or a privilege to be handled carefully? Was God’s concession that humans could eat meat (Gen 9:1-3) a natural progression to be celebrated or a result of the fall to be mourned? A number of conclusions to these questions are theologically defensible, but common to their viability is a profound respect for God’s creation and our place within it.

Finally, how we eat is significant, for it demonstrates how we are formed (or malformed) as individuals and as communities. Meals are meant to be times of fellowship and community building (for example, the many feasts throughout Scripture, including the Lord’s Supper), in which the people of God proclaim their kinship to one another through Christ. How we eat—alone or together, with intention or haphazardly, lavishly or moderately—demonstrates who we are in relation to a world of hungry, aimless, and lonely people (1 Cor 11:20-22, James 2:15-16). To build upon the adage, perhaps we are how we eat just as much as or more than what we eat.

With all this in mind, I believe the most important change I can make to my own eating (and hopefully therefore influencing the world around me as well) is to be more knowledgeable about where my food comes from and what process it goes through to reach me. I would like to be more ethically conscientious about my eating, but in order for me to make good choices, they will have to be informed choices. Therefore, since I truly know very little about the foods I am eating and the ethical dilemmas they would pose if only I looked closely enough, I commit to doing more research about the food industry, especially its treatment of animals, adjusting my diet appropriately based upon what I learn.

The St. Ann Community already participates in a community garden and plans to cultivate a portion of a 4-acre plot of land we have access to. We have purchased shares in the Brazos River Farms CSA so that we can receive a greater quantity and variety of foods than we can grow ourselves at the moment without turning to the non-local grocery stores as much. We buy cage-free eggs locally and even hope to have our own chickens and goats in the future.

These steps forward, while important, are only initial steps toward a larger lifestyle change. They improve the sources of our food somewhat, but they do not change our diet drastically. As I continue my research for this class, however, I hope to come to a clearer understanding of what it would mean for us to embrace a healthier relationship with creation through our eating. At the least, I believe my findings will lead me to buying ethically- and locally-raised meat and to eat and serve less of it than I do now. Throughout the process, rather than framing my conclusions negatively, in terms of what I am giving up, I would like to speak them positively and in a life-giving way, in terms of a healthier lifestyle and relationships.

1 comment:

Pinnacle Security said...

A lot of people are not still aware of it. It's one reason of mane obesity cases.