Please forgive me if the whole toward-a-theology-of-whatever-the-hell-you-want thing bugs you. It is something of a theological cliché these days with your “Toward a Theology of Economics,” your “Toward a Theology of Fundraising, ” and the slightly more sanctimonious “Toward a Theology of Feet.” There’s “Toward an Evangelical Theology of Cussing,” and who could forget the ever popular “Toward a Theology of Rabbit Breeding” (I haven’t made any of these up, I promise). Name aside, I will attempt to make these series of posts as thought-provoking as possible, though I don’t see any reason to be too serious.
These posts are inspired by Reed’s excellent series on Leviticus and Law in Post-Culture War America (especially Part III) in conjunction with some reading I’ve been doing on Agrarianism, and especially a book entitled Scripture, Culture and Agriculture: An Agrarian Reading of the Bible by Dr. Ellen F. Davis (Episcopal, Awesome, Duke Univ.), as well as a year-long (or so) infatuation with the Agrarian himself, Wendell Berry. On top of all that, I’ve recently become a stay-at-home da…delitante, and consequently have been honing the cooking and baking skills that I’ve aquired over the course of my marriage, but have, up to this point, usually been too tired after work to really care. So, as a consequence of all these stimuli, I really want to talk about food. Are you hungry, yet?
Here’s what I envision for this series: I want to talk about the morality of food, and I also want to talk about the connection food has to living the everyday simple life of the Church Kalender (that’s right, I spell it with a K now), I also want to chronicle my quest to create the world’s greatest beer bread; yes, there will be recipes in this series, that is, if all goes well, and I don’t burn down the house.
First, let us begin by gnawing on some thought provoking passages from various sources concerning the morality of food and where we get it. These are about the morality of food generally. I hope to approach the topic more specifically in a later post.
What does the Bible have to say about the food we as Christians eat? Nothing, right? Oh, except for all that crap in Leviticus. Here’s what theophiliacs’ own Reed Carlson has to say about that:
“Too often such foreign sounding prohibitions [as those found in Leviticus concerning food] can be explained away as the archaic superstitions of an agricultural, pre-modern people. In reality, such interpretations say far more about how removed the average American has really gone from the source of his or her food than it does about the text itself. These clever little things called “farmer’s markets” which we believe ourselves to have invented are actually one of the oldest and still by far the most common methods for human beings to get their food.” [Emphasis is his]
Maybe the reason the Bible isn’t saying anything to us about the food we eat is because we have removed ourselves so thoroughly from the context of the biblical authors–who were all thoroughly agrarian in outlook–that we have become blind and deaf to their message. Open our eyes, Lord, that we might see!
When one contemplates the careful protection of food, the respect for created beings, and the demand to care for the land that one finds in the Mosaic law (as well as in the rest of the OT), and when one takes a careful look at one’s own environment and discovers the multiple ways in which it is affected by one’s own eating habits, one is drawn to the same conclusion (though probably one would not be able to formulate it so clearly) as the estimable Dr. Davis:
“The essential understanding that informs the agrarian mind-set, in multiple cultures from ancient times to the present, is that agriculture has an ineluctably ethical dimension. Our largest and most indispensable industry, food production entails at every stage judgments and practices that bear directly on the health of the earth and living creatures, on the emotional, economic, and physical well-being of families and communities, and ultimately on their survival. Therefore, sound agricultural practice depends upon knowledge that is at one and the same time chemical and biological, economic, cultural, philosophical, and (following the understanding of most farmer in most places and times) religious. Agriculture involves questions of value and therefore of moral choice, whether or not we care to admit it.” [Emphasis is mine]
In short, to live a consistently moral life, we must not neglect the sanctification our food aquiring, and food eating habits. How do we do that?