Book of the Month/January 2014

Food Police

Charles Krauthammer has noted, more than once, and I have quoted him, I also think more than once, that liberals don’t care what you do, so long as it is mandatory. This coercive spirit driving them applies to everything, and what once used to be used as a reductio ad absurdum in our debates with them (about tobacco or health care, say) are now embraced by progressives as a serious part of their agenda. Anything to grow the girth of the state. They want control of the food supply, and they want it to further their statist ends.

Like it or not, food is now a serious political issue. The Food Police by Jayson Lusk is a very fine book about the politics of food, and the politics of food — as it turns out — is quite an extensive subject. We’ll get to some of the details of that in a moment.

cooks in a van

First, there are a number of distinctions we need to make before moving on to a closer interaction with the book. As those who have been following my posts on food should know, the need of the hour is for us to leave one another alone. What someone else has for lunch ought to make me purse my lips not at all, and a censorious gaze should be the last thing on my mind. We should all be allowed our laissez faire lunchtimes.

But this is precisely why we need to make a distinction between lunch and the politics of lunch. Lunch is what we order off the menu. Politics is what we order off the stage. Politics is about what we are willing, corporately, to require of one another. Politics has an element of coercion, always, and because of my adherence to the golden rule, I want to keep that coercion to a minimum. Coercion is always a big deal, and so I don’t want to make anybody do anything unless I have sound biblical warrant for it. This is why I am willing for the coercive power of the state to be applied to rapists and murderers, and not to the purveyors of raw milk, unregulated cheeses, and/or Big Gulp sodas. On the matter of foodstuffs I am a libertarian. Let the people buy, if they so desire, junk science or junk food.

To run ahead to the moment when the entree called the point of this blog post arrives at this table of ours, piping hot, I don’t have biblical warrant for making people eat what a bunch of other officious people might think might be healthy.

One other distinction needs to be made. The modern foodie movement is native to the Left, and is therefore just two steps away from making whatever it is compulsory. This is an important point to make, but it has to be made without falling into the genetic fallacy. The Kellogg brothers were wingnuts back in their day, but many a normal American kid has had his corn flakes without partaking of the wingnuttery. The same thing applies in the consumption of Graham crackers, the flour of which was originally thought to help us deal with original sin. More than that is involved, apparently.

So I am not talking about the suspect origins of something, long ago and far away. And neither am I talking about the libertarians and crunchy cons who eat alternative foods just because they like it. I know that many such exist, and may God bless every crunchy mouthful for them. You can buy Shaker furniture without swearing off sex. But it needs to be acknowledged that the overwhelming ethos of the contemporary foodie movement is statist in its assumptions. Orwell’s vision of the totalitarian future was a boot stepping on a human face forever. These soft despots want to do it with pillows, but they still want to do it.

Turning to Lusk’s book, he notes this important aspect of Michael Pollan’s entire project.

“Reading Pollan’s farm policy proposal, one is struck by the vision of an all-encompassing government that knows no bounds so long as its purpose is to provide us fashionable food. Lurking behind the compassion and glowing rhetoric is a deeper reality of food totalitarianism” (pp. 115-116).

Just one example of this — Pollan wants the government to “establish a strategic grain reserve” (p. 129), in order to control and moderate the price of grain.

“In his book The World is Fat, Barry Popkin says he wants to ‘change our eating pattern . . . through taxation'” (p. 146).

So before debating (or, rather, discussing) what foods are best for you, or which taste better, or which are less filling, what I would like to do is insist that all parties agree beforehand to keep coercion to a minimum. Just let people buy what they buy, and eat what they eat. No subsidies, no price supports, no restrictions, and no federal departments printing brochures about it. Let’s make a deal — no stupid laws. Let us have our discussion in the context of liberty. If you believe in free markets, as I do, this needs to include farmers’ markets.

This is keeping coercion to a minimum, which is not the same thing as anarchy. The state should legitimately hear civil suits brought in cases of salmonella and E. Coli. If the patron of a restaurant left this valley of tears while on the restaurant floor after drumming his heels on the floor for five minutes, clutching at his throat, making quite a scene, and scaring the couple in the booth next to the window, then a legal action should be able to be brought. But if we are debating whether an excess of moon pies shaved three and a half years off some guy’s life expectancy, I would urge us all to let his wife make the necessary and prudent moon pie calculations. Let’s not do that through the nearest circuit court, or make it the remotest concern of any cabinet level departments.

This is because we live in a time when food opinions are not just food opinions. They are being expressed against a backdrop of thinly veiled legal threats. As soon as a certain kind of mind decides that something is disreputable, then the next step is to say “there ought to be a law.”

“I write about the food police because they have been spectacularly effective in influencing how our culture thinks about food” (p. 181).

And moving from how we have come to think about food, to the next step, which is how we already unfortunately think about the law, we need to be really careful. But the leaders in the foodie movement are not shy about helping us not to be careful in this regard.

This is an important commitment for us to make because there are many issues where the fears seem — at least initially — far more reasonable. I used the example of the gent who had too many moon pies, but what about genetically modified foods, as in, the so-called “franken foods?” How many hundreds of thousands of acres should be under the control of “corporate farming”? Let’s consider these questions in turn:

My operating assumption is that we ought not to be banning anything without clear moral warrant, and fears about insect-resistant crops shouldn’t be in that category.

“The food police have fought tooth and nail to keep the current technologies out of [Africans’] hands . . . While rich farmers and consumers in the United States are enjoying the benefits of insect-resistant corn, these groups [Greenpeace, Food First, etc.] somehow find it morally justifiable to hinder Africans from developing and using drought-tolerant maize” (p. 111).

Not only can a plain moral case not be made against such crops, a quite compelling moral case can be made against those who would interfere with a serious attempt to feed a continent where starvation is not rare.

This leads to another point — corporate farms, family farms, and economies of scale. It is easy to disparage “corporate” farming, but . . .

“The food police can maintain their hypocrisy by demonizing ‘factory’ or ‘corporate’ farms. But the reality is that 97 percent of all farms in the United States are family farms” (p. 122).

“It is true that some family farms are quite big. These large-scale family farms represent only about 7.5 percent of all farms in the United States, but they produce most of the food, accounting for more than 60 percent of agricultural output” (p. 122).

Returning to my earlier point about coercion, I am happily prepared to acknowledge that the elimination of subsidies from the Department of Agriculture would change the picture drastically for a number of these farms, a result I would be quite prepared to cheer on. Some of these farms would get bigger, and some smaller. But all of them, and all of us, would get freer.

But suppose a true free market in agriculture. We still have the task of feeding the world, all seven billion of us, and boutique farming isn’t going to do it. This does not mean that I am against niche farming at all — I am not, and God bless them. I am simply saying the entire job at hand is much bigger than that.

“Pollan tells us that, in a year, the Virginia-based Polyface farm produces 30,000 dozen eggs, 12,000 broilers, 800 stewing hens, 25,000 pounds of beef, 50,000 pounds of pork, 800 turkeys, and 500 rabbits. Add it all up and it amounts to about 300,000 calories per acre. Impressive! Or is it? When an efficient large-scale farmer plants his field with corn, he yields over 15 million calories per acre” (p. 166).

If you look at the Polyface web site, they say this: “We are in the redemption business: healing the land, healing the food, healing the economy, and healing the culture.” This is a bit much because — ironically — it doesn’t claim enough. If their web site said “the best eggs in North America,” we could take it in the same spirit that we do when we see a restaurant sporting a sign that says “voted the best hamburger in Spokane.” We all understand hyperbole, and what the “cutest grandchild ever” means. But this seems to be a serious claim, and so I would dispute it on its own terms. I don’t believe feeding the world with boutique farms is “sustainable.” But — and this is important, crucial — I believe that we are enriched by the presence of Polyface Farms and similar endeavors, and this is because I believe that we are all enriched by liberty. If I am wrong about farming on this scale, and by these methods, and if we stay far away from coercion, we will see the market sort it out and farms like Polyface will spring up everywhere — and I will cheerfully eat a little organic crow. But I would rather it not be free-range crow. I’ve seen those guys on the highway.

One last comment about my writing on this and related issues. I am what Stewart Davenport would call — in his Friends of Unrighteous Mammon — a “clerical economist.” But though I am a minister, I am not willing to pronounce on menu choices from the pulpit. Tofu is adiaphora, and my views on it are not part of the ministerium. At the same time, I am willing to insist on certain closely related subjects. I am willing to insist on the correspondence view of objective truth, the authority of argument, logic as an attribute of God, hermeneutics as both art and science, the goodness of market liberties, and an absolute rejection of all amphigorial postmodernism. Within those liberating boundaries, the only authority I would want for my arguments would be located in the relative soundness of them.

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69 thoughts on “Book of the Month/January 2014

  1. Hey, I have an idea: Let’s pretend Proverbs 18:17 is my life verse, so when I state my case first, and refuse to listen to the other side, no one will realize I’m just perpetrating Sacred violence.

  2. I think it was VanTil who said there is no neutrality. One world view will stand triumphant in the public square. The vanquished will pay homage or be punished. The Christian world view has been vanquished. The High Priests of the New Morality demand obsequiousness. Those who dare oppose them are destroyed. Sadly, Christians have bought into this New Morality regarding food hook, line and sinker. I enjoy my Hershey’s chocolate in moderation. Individuals try to shame me for my unrighteousness. ‘Healthy’ is the new Shibboleth. Woe to those who cannot pronounce it. 

  3. SWAT raids on dairy farms are ludicrous, of course, but I must be reading too much Charles Murray and R.R. Reno. Measures like the Bloomberg soda ban are starting to look like a wise touch of noblesse oblige. We have to face the fact that a significant portion of our population has an IQ below 80 and an unhealthy lack of self control. If you think its hard getting them to put down the soda now, try getting them to take their insulin later.

  4. Scott, we could do far more with regard to helping people live responsible lives if we got the government out of the education business instead of trying to get them into the food business.

  5. “liberals don’t care what you do, so long as it is mandatory”
    “Anything to grow the girth of the state. They want control of the food supply, and they want it to further their statist ends.”
    “The modern foodie movement is native to the Left, and is therefore just two steps away from making whatever it is compulsory.”
    “But it needs to be acknowledged that the overwhelming ethos of the contemporary foodie movement is statist in its assumptions. Orwell’s vision of the totalitarian future was a boot stepping on a human face forever. These soft despots want to do it with pillows, but they still want to do it.”

     
    ^This is the language of sacred violence.^

  6. Also indicative of sacred violence, your posts encourage, people to make fun of those liberals based off a conservative hit piece that mocks the title of an article, and you do not correct them.

  7. It is true that obesity is a major  problem in our country due to the fact that food is plentiful.  Gluttony is a sin that is rampant in the U. S.  Fast food contributes to the problem, of course.  We need to downsize our portions and eat meals that are more balanced and nutritous.  We also need to increase the amount of excercise we get.  Unfortunately, in today’s society, we are mostly sedantary.

  8. Matt, that list of things you cite is what I object to as sacred violence. I am against food-based coercion — fines, imprisonment, licensing, permits, all that jazz. They are the ones who will come and take you away for food sins. How is it sacred violence to object to sacred violence?

  9. Matt,
    Sometimes I think a little genie of the old school takes over your fingers when you sit down to comment. Perhaps a little dousing in some scripture wouldn’t hurt. Instead of using the ludicrous term ‘sacred violence’, perhaps you should show us where Jesus or the prophets condemned such commentary. I think you’ll have to squeeze those fingers real hard.

  10. Sacred violence is a concept from Girard. Communities form their coherence (and escape from the evils of mimetic violence) by finding a scapegoat to team up on. In teaming up on the scapegoat, the community acts unified, and so finds coherence and peace. We can usually see it pretty easily when other people do it–like when the Huffington Post posted pictures of all the senators who oppose the rape exception to abortion, or their rather ludicrous treatment of Mourdock’s comments. By ganging up on “Conservatives” they give coherence to their platform, eliminate rivalries within it, and suck more people into their agenda. (Though this is just one example. Another comes from U.S. propaganda about “Japs” during World War II, or about Huns in World War I, or Nazi treatment of Jews, or the treatment of Jesus, or Pr. Wilson’s treatment of liberals, or (some people’s) treatment of Doug Philips after he resigned, or …) At a fundamental level, this practice is a rejection of the Cross, and our victimless unity in Christ, a unity which allows us to listen to everyone, and hear them, in trust that Christ will give us coherence, and peace. 

  11. Doug: It is true (as my last post shows) that liberals often participate in sacred violence. That does not mean you don’t. Indeed, that you would be imitating their sacred violence seems to be exactly in line with my charge, not a counter to it.

  12. Joshua: You say that the term is “ludicrous”. Do you mean it’s a ludicrous charge, or that it’s a silly term? It isn’t a term I invented, and the reference to Scripture is embedded in the term.

  13. Matt, this requires a longer response which I will try to get to soon. But quickly, our unity in Christ is not victimless precisely because He was the Victim, and we have been crucified with Christ. We participate in that death — He was the propitiation for our sins, which means high octane Girard is out. And secondly, if you categorize “arguing a side” as sacred violence, or arguing it vigorously, then you get caught in a self-contradictory pose, because you have to use sacred violence on those who insist on using “sacred violence.”

  14. Matthew, what’s with the “sacred violence” term?  Is this an attempt at sophistication?  It sounds like another euphemism for uncritical tolerance of things we don’t agree with.  All Doug did (rightly, I might add) is state his viewpoint on the coercive nature of many liberal policies, which they are.  Neither Doug (nor most followers of this blog) “refuse” to listen to the other side.  We do listen, and we disagree where applicable, in the spirit of cordial debate (hopefully cordial most of the time).  Is it the term “liberal” that you do not like?  You stated that “liberal” is the new “uncircumcised”.  What term would you prefer Doug use? 

  15. Matt: If Doug’s approach is equivalent to Girard’s concept of “sacred violence,” and is thereby preaching a false gospel, how do you see Scripture teaching us to speak against coercion? Can you give an example of how you would warn readers to not be deceived by the philosophy that endorses controlling what other people eat?

  16. Pr. Wilson: Briefly, I agree with you about Christ as the victim, and by “victimless” I did not mean to exclude Christ, but to exclude other victims. That is, I’m accusing you of treating Liberals something like you accuse Conservatives of treating each other here: http://dougwils.com/s22-money-love-desire/what-makes-satans-factories-hum.html

    Also, it isn’t that you are disagreeing with liberals that I object to (though I think your disagreements are very flat, which is related, but not quite on point), but that this review is extremely one-sided, with your opponents categorically castigated, not for what they say, but simply for “being liberal”, and their supposed motives used to attack their arguments without real engagement with the arguments, and that it is written in a way that encourages others not to listen critically, while rejecting much chaff, but to dismiss “them” out of hand, without hearing them, and lumped together as a “they”–this last point is evidenced by the comments you received which did not provide thoughtful interaction with your opponents, even thoughtful criticism, but merely mockery of “them”.

    So it isn’t that you argue a side, but, actually, that you begin by not, but by prejudicing the case against “them” before the arguments even begin. Attack the bad ideas, listen to the good. But it’s the attacks against the people as a class, the use of this as a tool to reject their ideas, and how your actions are imitated, that troubles me. You’ll note that the passages I quoted as evidence were not arguments against your opponents, but categorically castigated them.

    Also, I’m using blockquote for paragraphs. I’m not quoting anyone.

  17. I said

    without real engagement with the arguments

    I mean, in those quotes. There is engagement later, after we’ve already learned they are wrong.

  18. Dan: I’d prefer he didn’t poison the well against his opponents, treated their arguments with respect, as arguments that real humans seeking real goods, with real points, and no ulterior motives, and refered to them by name and title. And no, it’s not sophisticated, it’s a very serious charge, as Pr. Wilson’s response, and David’s did too.

    He should be concerned with coersion, and when it manifests, oppose it. But unless he can find opponents who *actually* think they should come take us away for what we eat, he shouldn’t act as if they do.

  19. Matthew: Maybe I’m one of the aforementioned folk with an I.Q. under 80, but I’m not following you.  Suppose A is committed to various acts of sacred violence.  Any person B who calls out A’s sacred violence is automatically vulnerable to the countercharge that he is just trying to unite his own constituency by aligning them against common enemy A — which is to say, B stands accused of sacred violence.  But there must be some righteous means to call out A’s sins — God did it through His prophets often enough.  How might one call out the sacred violence of the foodie left without being guilty of the same?  On what principle might Doug be guilty of sacred violence for calling out the offenses of the foodie left, while you are not guilty of sacred violence for calling out Doug’s offenses?  How does this work?  (Despite the tongue-twisters, for which I apologize, this is a serious question.)

  20. Matthew,

    Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21envy,d drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
     

    When I see the fruits of the flesh in a person, I have a reliable guide to their character without actually engaging their ideas. When, over time, a person, community, people or nation (Like the U.S.A) evinces these, their past behavior provides  a very reliable guide at what fruits to expect from their “next great idea”. So when the fallen start eyeing my T-Bone steak, I do not feel the least bit guilty in holding my steak knife at the ready on the justified suspicion that they intend to steal it.
     
    .Somebody, please pass the salt.
     
     

  21. Matt, I think you are attempting to instruct Pastor Wilson in the Marquess of Fantailler (Queensberry in the vernacular) rules for argumentation. But our esteemed opponents play by the Devil’s rules. They welcome your consideration on your behalf, but will not repay you in kind.
    Also, I think a lot of people around the world would be surprised to discover they’ve been referencing Scripture all along, just because they used Sacred in a term or phrase. And yes, I think it is both a silly term (perhaps useful once, but not in today’s climate) and a clearly ludicrous charge that you bring.

  22. Matthew, the issue is individual freedom versus coercion; it has nothing to do with whether the coercers might be correct in their dietary agenda. They have no business telling — telling, not engaging in conversation or even debate/argument — other people what, how, and whether or not they can, should, or must eat or abstain from eating anything. They certainly have no business getting forcible legislation to enforce their agenda. Must there be arrests, beatings, imprisonment, rather than mere fines and fees, before you can recognize the illegitimacy and ultimate criminal brutality behind it? That is the issue. Men and women presuming to play God for their “inferiors.”
     
    And Scott P., unless a caretaker has legitimate authority — given by the patient — to force a patient to take his/her insulin, that, too, is illegitimate coercion. There is no such thing as “noblesse oblige;” there is no such thing as a “noble” human being with a right or qualifications to rule others. The way to make IQs go up is to stop making your neighbors the state’s children: GET GOVERNMENT OUT OF EVERYONE’S LIVES. When people MUST be responsible for themselves, they improve. The only reason this “issue” is even on the radar is because Nanny Government FORCES us to participate in its criminality and tyranny, keeping each other infants rather than treating each other as adults, no matter what the artificial and imposed barely-above 70 IQ may be, through TAXATION. It is no one’s — and certainly NOT the government’s — place or right to force anyone else to be healthy. Stop taxation and this criminal government nannying stops, too. Simple.
     
    Who among human beings has a right to rule other human beings? Only One in all history, and He’s not delegating His absolute right as Creator, LORD, and Savior.
     
    Who among human beings is qualified to rule other human beings? Only One in all history, and He’s not abdicating or sharing His exclusive qualifications as Creator, LORD, and Savior.
     
    Where in “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” is FORCING them to do what you want them to do — and robbing them to pay you to do it, to boot?

  23. Matt: I recognize the seriousness of your question in general, but I don’t see how it applies to Doug’s post. “Sacred violence” refers to scapegoating, which is blaming someone for the sins of others and targeting him for punishment that others deserve.  Better to describe NYC’s targeting of shop owners with a fine for serving large soft drinks as “sacred violence” because shopkeepers are being blamed for someone else’s lack of self control and receiving the punishment (even assuming that consuming a certain quantity of sugar ought to be classified as a crime in the first place!) At least that example fits the pattern of mob violence that you refer too.
    Doug’s opening line was a reductio ad absurdum of his opponents’ actual position as described at various points later in the post, not a poisoning of the well. Likewise, the other portions you quote are summaries of actual positions, as Doug clearly shows via examples, both named and unnamed but obviously implied (such as NYC’s ban of large soft drinks).
    Are you objecting to all classification of political opponents? Or do you think that it is unfair to categorize “left,” “liberal,” “progressive” and  “statist” as synonyms, and to say that the “foodie movement” is primarily a leftist phenomenon? I really don’t see how it is unfair to lump those positions together when it comes to discussing whether or not God has placed limits on the authority of government to regulate food. All of the philosophies at issue (in their modern form) reject the idea that God has limited government in that way. I think Doug was very fair to his opponents, not inciting people to violence against an innocent foe, as you suggest.

  24. As the earth turns, the short days of winter are getting longer and soon spring is upon us.  Spring reminds us of our regeneration in Christ and it also a time to be outside enjoying Idaho.  Matthew, or anyone else, who wishes to exercise their right to Sacred Violence is welcome to visit my place, pick up a shovel or a pick ax and prove that they can walk, talk and work all at the same time.  After all, what is more enjoyable than claiming the land and making it into a useful and beautiful garden.  I have plenty of dirt to move and conversation makes the job easier.

  25. The complete inability of most of the commenters, especially Pastor Wilson, to even try to engage with what Matthew actually said is frustrating.

  26. Jonathan, I’m not sure why you’re frustrated.  It seems obvious that Matthew wasn’t intending to “engage” Pastor Wilson’s argument, but instead express disdain at Wilson’s use of the term “liberal” apparently.  It’s Wilson’s blog, and he put forth an argument, a point of view.  Matthew stated: “…so when I state my case first, and refuse to listen to the other side, no one will realize I’m just perpetrating Sacred violence.”  Of course Wilson stated his case first, since it’s his blog for Pete’s sake.  The “listening” comes in when someone puts forth an alternative viewpoint.  This blog fosters debate, and Pastor Wilson encourages it.  But Matthew decided to not deal with the actual “coercive” argument that Pastor Wilson put forth, but instead chide Pastor Wilson outright for “not listening” to the other side.  I gathered right away that Matthew didn’t like Wilson’s use of the word “liberal”.  Matthew also stated: “I’d prefer he didn’t poison the well against his opponents, treated their arguments with respect…”  Now in my mind, that’s a serious attack on Pastor Wilson’s character and motives.  Hence, Matthew didn’t like the word “liberal” being used, even though Pastor Wilson didn’t use it against an individual person.  Yet Matthew maligned Pastor Wilson’s character, simply because he didn’t like Wilson’s argument or the way he framed it.  Thus, Jonathan, there’s really no way to “engage” Matthew in reality, since he didn’t seem to want to engage the issue at hand.  So I think it’s better to just move on in such cases.

  27. Thanks, Pr. Wilson, great article/review!  While I believe we do well to heed a Michael Pollan’s observations on the subject of food, it’s his prescriptions that produce the problem for me.  For example, I’m definitely no fan of Monsanto and other representatives of Big Ag, for working cheek-by-jowl with Big Gov to regulate and intimidate the small, independent farmer out of the market, etc., but, like you, I part ways with these folks when their solution is more government, the very thing, by the way, that keeps the Big Ag (or a lot of Big Anything) bad boys in business in this one-time constitutional republic, now corporatocracy!  I want a free market in food, to include, yes, farmers markets, raw milk and dairy, etc., but that also means I want things like the property tax, zoning and eminent domain abuses eliminated.  No man’s land and other forms of property should be coveted by central planners in chambers of commerce or in local, state, and federal governments for the potential revenue they might generate. 
    I don’t want to venture too far down this road, but you can see how quickly this topic morphs into other closely related issues dealing with our governance, both personal and corporate. I mean, amen to leaving folks alone about what they eat, whether it be free-range organic or processed!  Down with the food do-gooders, busy-bodies, and other tyrants!  However, without too many intuitive leaps, it becomes clear this topic isn’t simply about food!  My right to eat what I like (or engage in anything) ought to be regarded as fundamental; but my “right” to insist on my convenience in eating whatever I want oughtn’t stand if it means the continuing support and maintenance of a system that deprives others of liberty or property (life?), which can happen on whichever side you’re on in this debate.
    I’m sure that opens up another can of worms, so I’ll leave it there for now. 

  28. This debate, and particularly Matthew’s arguments, reminds me of the Zacharias quote that was brought out in a previous set of comments (and surely elsewhere).  Namely, that the either/or emerges rather fundamentally from the world.  Of course, this is essentially the same argument Doug regularly makes regarding “not whether but which”, and what both quotes remind us is that the world Matthew wants to live in is a world of his own making (which is something Doug anticipated in naming the correspondence view of truth as a boundary).                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         On a lighter note, I’m doing the Polar Bear Plunge today…should be fun!

  29. I hate when Jesus used the language of sacred violence against those scapegoat Pharisees.
    He was ultra-violent rhetorically against “the rich”!
    And St Paul’s abhorrent rhetoric against the “Party of the Circumcised”… don’t get me started. Also, remember what the Apostle said about those poor Cretens?
    …Etc….

  30. We need to start regulating ourselves as to what we eat and drink.  The problem is that we have not been making healthy choices for quite a while.  How many of us consume vegetables and fruit on a daily basis?  How many of us excercise for roughly one hour a day?  How many of us eat moderate portions?  It is important that we regain a healthy lifestyle in this nation.  The number one killer, I have heard, is obesity!

  31. “This reader is still eagerly awaiting the day when Pr. Wilson will take seriously the question, “How should we then farm?” ”

     

    While Pr. W will speak for himself, but when I  look at his character, methods and teaching the answer for we Christians when we need an answer is “what do the scriptures say?”.

     

    I will start with 1 Corinthians 10:31 “Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”

    Now, Pastor Wilson has taught me to always consider context when reading scripture–who is the author talking too, what is he talking about– so I don’t thing the specifics of Paul’s exhortation directly apply to your question.

    Does anybody with a good knowledge of scripture have any other ideas?
     
    Grace and Peace.
     
     
     
     

  32. Thanks for the response, Timothy, and I think that’s a good Scripture to start from.  Everything I know about factory farming disqualifies it from any reasonable interpretation of “farming to the glory of God,” regardless of how many calories per acre it might produce.  

  33. Thanks Matt.
    As a man who had a cow poop on his front yard last week, I share your abhorrence to treating any animal like a Socialist treats a human being.
    I don’t have an answer to this and I am genuinely curious about the right way to approach this.
    Should we wait a day or two and let others chime in to get some more context? (my preference)

  34. Timothy and Matt:
    Having read your latest postings here, I appreciate what you’re attempting to get at.  I’m not saying this individual has got it all down (He’d no doubt admit he’s still learning!), but perhaps it would also be a good thing to see how some amongst us, like Mr. Herrick Kimball here at “The Deliberate Agrarian”, attempt to embody “farming to the glory of God”:
    http://thedeliberateagrarian.blogspot.com/
    Mr. Kimball is a Christian, of the Reformed variety, I believe.  I’ve found his articles both enjoyable and instructive.
    Blessings and Happy New Year!

  35. Pr. Wilson, Dan’s post is absolute. It isn’t that he says liberal, but that he tells us what *they * are really about, and uses that as an excuse not to listen. He begins by poisoning the well “Liberals don’t care what you do, so long as it is mandatory”. Oh really? Let’s try this from the other side: “Wilson doesn’t care what you say, so long as you cow-tow to his position.” There are people who say that. What do you think they’re doing? What do you think they’re doing, Doug? Are they not, as in my example from the Huffington Post, attempting to scapegoat you? But you get to make the exact same sort of accusation against your opponents. This is a HUGE problem. You say your goal in these posts is to fight against looking sideways against your neighbor. But, though they may be in error, a Christian is free to be politically liberal. And a Christian is free to take Polian’s side against Lusk. But you so thoroughly prejudice the argument that anyone who takes their side stands accused before hand as evil. Thus you are putting “not liberal” and “not foodie” before Baptism and the Supper–hence my statement that “liberal” is the new “uncircumcised”. 

    Furthermore, you said before that Proverbs 18:17 was your life verse. Yet, you poison the well against the other side, as an excuse to keep yourself from having to listen to the other side, to command your parishioners not to listen to the other side (rather than seeking peace within the Church between the sides), and encourage your readers to refuse to listen to the other side. Thus that claim is exposed as mere empty rhetorical posturing, and thus a lie, coddling both yourself and your readers.

  36. Dan and Pastor Wilson – it has nothing to do with which term Pastor Wilson uses. The idea that the issue was the term “liberal” didn’t even occur to me. The problems that Matthew Peterson has with what Pastor Wilson was saying are clearly laid out, and to claim that he “doesn’t like the term ‘liberal'” is a complete distraction from the reasoning he actually gave to you. Instead of assuming his motives and reacting to what he is supposedly thinking, why not just reply to what he actually said?

  37. “Pollan tells us that, in a year, the Virginia-based Polyface farm produces 30,000 dozen eggs, 12,000 broilers, 800 stewing hens, 25,000 pounds of beef, 50,000 pounds of pork, 800 turkeys, and 500 rabbits. Add it all up and it amounts to about 300,000 calories per acre. Impressive! Or is it? When an efficient large-scale farmer plants his field with corn, he yields over 15 million calories per acre”………………………………………….. I don’t know what the original context of this Lusk statement is, but putting it out-of-context in this post is a fantastic representation of how badly you’re missing the issues at hand here, Pastor Wilson. I want to respond in detail to the context that is missing from this statement. (I don’t know whether the failure to grapple with the issues around such a statement was Lusk’s failure too or not.)

  38. First off, the Polyface farm produces MEAT. Anyone knows that meat production produces a tiny % of the calorie output of corn production. What Polyface is trying to do is create a more sustainable way of producing meat. If Pastor Wilson and Lusk are arguing that everyone should switch to a corn-only diet? If not, then why the heck are they comparing Polyface to a large-scale corn farm? It’s a completely pointless exercise unless you are anti-meat entirely.

  39. Second, the large majority of corn production isn’t even for human consumption. Most corn is produced for animal feed and biofuels. And the stuff that is produced for human consumption is primarily made into corn syrup, corn oil, and cornmeal – the kind of stuff that contributes little to human health and quite a bit to obesity. So to compare corn production to a diverse small farm’s production is ridiculous – it’s not apples and oranges, it’s apples and non-food.

  40. So why is a corn figure quoted and not some other food? Because the number for, say, beans or lettuce would have been a fraction of that, much less impressive looking. And an actual equal comparison, to meat production, of course, would have been right in the same ballpark. 70% of all land related to agricultural production is devoted to the meat industry, primarily for feeding the wealthy, because the calories/acre in meat production isn’t that good anywhere. If we replaced all the world’s current meat production with small diverse family farms suited to their land, there’d be no problem matching the world’s current calorie needs. But that fact is ignored in favor of a meaningless comparison between meat and corn.

  41. The other problem with that figure is pretending that such a farm exists independently acre-by-acre. What are the real costs to other acres that the factory farm ignores? How much pesticide and fertilizer and antibiotics and special feed is added to that acre in a factory farm, and how much energy and land was used to produce all of that? Where does all the pesticides and fertilizer and antibiotics and waste products that you’ve dumped into your land flow out to, and how much land and water downstream is being destroyed in that process? Since the produce isn’t sold locally, how much fuel and how many vehicles and transportation networks have to be built to ship your food to the other side of the world, and how much more fuel and vehicles and networks have to be built to ship the stuff the you need for yourself back to you? And how much water has to be shipped in from afar to support your acre? A single steer in a factory farm requires 1,200,000 liters of water to get it to harvest size – if this water came from a reservoir, how much land was flooded upstream for it to be stored, and how much land was parched downstream when it was removed? And, one of the most ignored but most relevant questions, how much soil are you losing each year when your factory monoculture has left you with a bunch of bare ground for months, and how much land will be left as a deserted wasteland when your soil is all gone?

  42. More problems with factory farms, once you compare apples to apples. Giant factory farms are more wasteful than small family farms, because their owners aren’t worried about the same limiting factors that small farms have to concern themselves with. When you have a ton of land, land is no longer your limiting factor, so there is less pressure to use the land efficiently and sustainably. Instead, to maximize profit you use as little human labor as possible, giving less human attention to the land. You maximize time by mechanically harvesting as quickly as possible, not worrying about the produce you destroy or miss on the edges along the way. You maximize government subsidies by producing whatever the ag industry lobbyists have gotten the government to give the biggest payouts for (say, corn-based ethanol or wheat or soybeans or rice or cattle), ignoring what the land would actually produce best or what is actually best for your community’s needs. And you maximize the output of the land right now even if you’re destroying the land for the future, because in a corporation you don’t tend to care much about who does or doesn’t get any profits 50 years down the road (or, the way stocks are traded, companies are sold, and CEOs are replaced today, even 10 years).

  43. To Johnathan,
    Can you cite any evidence that farms do not benefit from the economies of scale that benefit all other industries? Why would industrial farms “destroy the land for the future” when they would be destroying their own investment? Have you seen any Midwestern wastelands produced by farming? I see the same plots of land producing crops decade after decade. I may like the idea of the culture supported by small family farms. I may enjoy feeding my children hormone free organic milk and meats. However, I also appreciate that industrial farming has freed the third world from the Malthusian trap, at least for the time being.

  44. ” We still have the task of feeding the world, all seven billion of us, and boutique farming isn’t going to do it.”
    While agreeing wholeheartedly with the basic thesis of your post, Pr. Wilson, I do have reservations about your words here.  Frankly, I don’t give a rip about “. . . the task of feeding the world, all seven billion of us . . .”; this smacks too much of the progressive/neo-con/”corporacratic” so-called mandate to “spread the blessings of freedom throughout the world.”  While there’s certainly room for trade and cooperation in food production with the rest of the world, our priorities need to be realigned properly back to the local.  This means we all need to reassume responsibilities we never should have delegated as members of the Body of Christ, as parents, and as citizens. 
    For example, on a seemingly unrelated note, I am disturbed when I see police departments increasingly militarized, its members tricked out in combat gear my buddies and I sported in Iraq, and an unarmed/disarmed citizenry cowering in fear so the professionals can take care of their defense.  Certainly, some delegation on broader matters is in order here; but I fear too much has been given away.   
    Any community functions best of course when each member is performing his delegated function harmoniously with the greater whole, but there are some tasks that concern all in common, regardless of their individual gifting.  I believe food production is one of these, and the Industrialized paradigm we’ve been under for the last several decades has delegated these responsibilities too far outside the appropriate control and welfare of the family and community spheres.  As I believe Mr. Berry has observed, not all of us can or should be farmers, but all of us should be concerned with food production and not simply leave it to the “experts” to attend to.  That likely means, incidentally, that a good many of us probably ought to be more involved in farming, or, at the very least, produce some of our own food, particularly in light of the hard times that are undoubtedly ahead.
      

  45. Scott P – The first easy answer is that mass concentrations of any living thing extremely increase the problems of disease and pests. That’s why mass-produced cattle has to be loaded up with antibiotics, and plant monocultures have to be covered with pesticides. Mass production also only works if you assume all the starting material is alike, or relatively so. But land is not all the same, not even remotely so. Mass production encourages the land efficiency of farming any particular plot of land sustainably to be sacrificed for the cost efficiency of farming everything the same. The long-term costs of destroying portions of the land are small, at least in the medium-term, compared to the short-term benefits of mechanizing everything and doing it all exactly the same way. Also, large-scale monocultures can choose to benefit best from government subsidies, which are targeted towards monocultures and volume. But government subsidies are a measure of absolutely nothing good other than getting free money from the government.

  46. Another set of problems come from the fact that someone with a small-scale operation is far more likely to live close to the production and may therefore care about the land and community more than someone who owns a great deal of land, or than corporate ownership. A small scale operation can pay more attention to every piece of land and work to save it. A large-scale owner can’t take care of every bit of his land the same, and the machinery or underpaid migrant workers who actually touch the land are not going to make up the difference. Large scale operations producing enormous amounts of waste might save the most money if they just let the waste run off into the local waterway (same with pesticides), but it’s less likely that the small-scale farmers are in mass all going to make such a decision if they live in the community and know the people who are sustained by the forests and waterways that their waste is running into. And a small-scale family farm is most likely to think about preserving the land for the generations to come since they are likely his grandkids, while the large-scale or corporate farmer likely has a lot less attachment to the land (since he spends so much less time caring for any individual piece of it), not to mention the likelihood of corporate ownership.

  47. Finally, Scott, you make the automatic assumption that economies of scale benefit industry, which isn’t at all true. Economies of scale benefit profit, mostly through automation and specialization. But they do not benefit quality in many cases. For example, my dad reloading rifle cartridges in his garage can produce much better ammo to his needs than the mass-scale factory does, and makes it consistently more precise and accurate as well. Mass production also enables you to survive with inferior products made with much lower profit margins, because the small producer has to have a much superior product in order to achieve the higher profit/product ratio he needs to survive on lower volume. Mass production assumes that all customers want the same thing, which is also not true. And mass production of all industries means that you have to ship your products a great distance because the local community can’t possibly consume so much of one good. That assumes that transportation costs are cheap and that buying and burning so much fossil fuel isn’t harmful to the air we breathe and our environment.

  48. Actually, I left out other things. An agricultural economy of scale encourages the farmer to concentrate on a single species, which eliminates the balance/diversity that works best in nature. Planting multiple species of plants to complement what each one puts into the soil, or to keep roots in the soil year-round to reduce runoff, or using your animals’ waste products to fertilize your plant crops, is possible for a small farmer because it requires individual discernment and attentive manpower. But a large-scale farmer isn’t going to devote the personal time and care for those things, and so he ends up with a monoculture that needs far more outside input and produces far more waste that needs to be shipped out, because it saves labor costs. This, in turn, is far worse for the land, so the long-term costs (even if it takes 100 years) are greater in terms of more lost soil and more pollution in favor of short-term financial benefit. And the large-scale farmer is encouraged to concentrate as much product as he can in the space that he has, far more than the land will naturally support, because he’s already bought into the economy of scale mentality. In practical terms that means that most large-scale plant operations deplete their soil nutrients and rely on a ton of fertilizer and a ton of irrigation that both have to be brought in from a long ways away. And it means that most large-scale animal operations overgraze their living land and thus rely on a ton of imported feed and water, again which have to be brought from afar. Again, this transportation and monoculture and reliance on the application of things from outside has plenty of hidden costs (both to the environment and to the community) which don’t hit the farmers’ bottom line anytime soon, but hurt God’s creation and His people.

  49. Scott P said
    “Have you seen any Midwestern wastelands produced by farming?”
     

    Not since the Dust Bowl, but preventing a recurrence of that involved a lot of mindfulness and changes in farming methods on the parts of farmers (and a plentiful subterranean aquifer) to undo the damage that had already been wrought.

  50. It’s bad husbandry to exhaust your land with too much crop production and no rest (so saith the Law), recovering it only by the application of petroleum-based pest-and-herbicides and fertilizers.

    (NB – I am not objecting to better-living-through-chemistry in and of itself)

    Perhaps not to the same extent that exhausting your wife through constant childbearing with no rest and recovering her only through the application of vitamin pills and stimulants and fertility drugs is bad husbandry, but probably arising from the same reasoned impetus.

    (NB – this is merely and analogy and not an accusation or implication – veiled, overt, passive -aggressive or other – that any of the men in this comment thread would or have endorsed or considered such a course of action regarding anyone’s wife.)

  51. Perhaps this will explain why I find this article so objectionable. If we simply replace “liberal” “progressive” “leftish”, etc. with “Jew” and “Jewish” in the first few paragraphs, this piece of antiSemic propaganda is what we get:

    Many have noted, more than once, and I have quoted them, I also think more than once, that Jews don’t care what you do, so long as it is mandatory. This coercive spirit driving them applies to everything, and what once used to be used as a reductio ad absurdum in our debates with them (about tobacco or health care, say) are now embraced by Jews as a serious part of their agenda. Anything to grow the girth of the state. They want control of the food supply, and they want it to further their ends.
    One other distinction needs to be made. The modern foodie movement is native to the Jews, and is therefore just two steps away from making whatever it is compulsory. This is an important point to make, but it has to be made without falling into the genetic fallacy. The Kellogg brothers were wingnuts back in their day, but many a normal American kid has had his corn flakes without partaking of the wingnuttery. The same thing applies in the consumption of Graham crackers, the flour of which was originally thought to help us deal with original sin. More than that is involved, apparently.

    .

    So I am not talking about the suspect origins of something, long ago and far away. And neither am I talking about the libertarians and crunchy cons who eat alternative foods just because they like it. I know that many such exist, and may God bless every crunchy mouthful for them. You can buy Shaker furniture without swearing off sex. But it needs to be acknowledged that the overwhelming ethos of the contemporary foodie movement is Jewish in its assumptions. Orwell’s vision of the totalitarian future was a boot stepping on a human face forever. These Jews want to do it with pillows, but they still want to do it.

     

  52. I never got the impression any kind of conspiracy was underway.  People act according to their beliefs, and unfortunately many people’s beliefs are very wrong.  But it is not conspiracy in the strict sense.  And I don’t think it ever was.  People who rely on conpiracy theories to explain phenomena do so because they offer easy explanatory frameworks.  It’s kind of like the Dispensationalist propoganda.  Not only that, but once they recognize these conspiracies, they are absolved of any responsiblity.  They do not need to work for the kingdom.  The world is in charge and its plan will prevail.  The biggest fight the church has to win in our day is not homosexuality.  That’s an oustide affair.  Churches merely have to excercise discipline to prevent acceptance within.  The biggest war is over whetehr we will allow dispensationalism to be an ‘end-times narrative.’  Will we allow a large segment of the chruch to write the ending?  Or will we, classic premills, amills, and postmills, stand our ground and reiterate classic orthodoxy and the hope with which we are entrusted for the world?  We must insist that dispensationaism is heresy–heresy because it offers an anemic version of the truth and opens wide the door to various heretical ideas. 

  53. Matthew – that attack on liberals by Pastor Wilson is especially ironic as it occurs at the same time that Pastor Wilson is opposing the generally liberal-led legalization of marijuana.

  54. Thanks for the affirmation C. Frank Bernard. I don’t think I’m saying much that a lot of other people haven’t said before, decades before I did. Though I only recently read him for the first time, I think that Wendell Berry says a lot of these same things quite well (I read Citizenship Papers). But lots of people say them coming from a lot of different circles. The problem is that the short-term profiteers make a lot of money in the course of destroying the land, and right now we live in a world where money rules. The saddest thing about the entire Christian Church to me right now, and about this blog in particular, is that a sizable portion not only buys into the propaganda spread by those with the money but makes targeted attacks on anyone not willing to support the Imperial Status Quo. I’m going to stop reading this blog (again) do a lot of frustration and the predominant feedback of negative responses that don’t even engage what I or anyone else is saying, but if you ever want to dialog with me you can go here: http://totrustingod.blogspot.in/

  55. One can choose to be politically left or right. Jew is predominantly ethnic. In a post about the consequences of one’s beliefs one cannot interchange the ideological adherents with genetically permanent attributes and expect there to be an analogy.

  56. Matthew N. Petersen wrote:

    If we simply replace “liberal” “progressive” “leftish”, etc. with “Jew” and “Jewish” in the first few paragraphs, this piece of antiSemic propaganda is what we get:

    What do we get if we replace those words with “Pharisee” and “Scribe”?  Perhaps something that sounds reminiscent of Jesus’s conclusions and rebukes about the Pharisees?  Hmm.  Now what?  Was Jesus an antisemite too?

  57. No, it doesn’t sound anything like Jesus condemnation of the Pharisees. It sounds like the Pharisees’ condemnation of Jesus.

    katecho, let me warn you: I don’t know you offline, and perhaps you aren’t like this offline. But, Psalm 4 asks God to ponder our words. You would do well to spend more time imitating God, and pondering others’ words, and less time sitting in the seat of the scornful. Particularly, if you insist on judging others only through scorn, God has promised to do the same to you. If you want him to ponder you, and not scorn you, do unto others as you would have Him do unto you.

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