On Taunting the Cows

Fawkes Factory

The task this morning is to follow up on some reasonable questions raised in the comments of the previous post, God's Bistro. The basic outline of my response will be to grant a point at the center, but to differ as to what the appropriate responses and applications ought to be. The questions I want to address concern the pervasive force and influence of advertising, questions about justice in the production of food (e.g. fair trade), and the matter of basic health issues and diet. I quite agree that advertisers and mass marketers have figured out that there are a lot of people out there who are like sheep without a shepherd. They want to prod and steer everybody into various purchases and brand loyalties, and they industriously work at it. This is something we should respond to, but my suggested response would not be to say that people have to choose between Ads and Adbusters, between corporate and fake alternative corporate. Protesting the new global economy and actually … [Read more...]

God’s Bistro

What is the balance to be kept when it comes to saying that God "doesn't care what you eat," which He doesn't, and saying that we are to exercise dominion in all that we do? If there is no neutrality anywhere, and there isn't, then how does this fit with statements like "God doesn't care"? The answer is that God cares about everything, but He doesn't care about things the same way we do. Our job is to learn how to care the way He does, instead of invoking His name to make it seem like He cares the same way we do. There is a way that seems right to a man, but the dead end of that cul de sac is death (Prov. 14:12). Men have a way of esteeming things that God considers below dumpster scrapings. "And he said unto them, Ye are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knoweth your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God" (Luke 16:15). So there no neutrality anywhere, but this is not the same thing as saying that everything matters … [Read more...]

Fear, Shame, and Guilt at Lunch

My friend Toby Sumpter has written a series of posts on food here (starting with his Free Range post), and this has generated some back and forth in various places, both online and off, and I thought I should join the discussion. But first some exegetical background. In John 6, the Lord fed the five thousand, and when they thought this was a good reason for making Him king, He got away from them across the water. However, some who found His message for the belly particularly compelling tracked Him down. Jesus told them that they were following Him because of the physical loaves, which was the wrong reason. He told them to work for the food that endures "to everlasting life" (John 6:27). Do not work, He said, for food that perishes. And if we should not work for food that perishes, we shouldn't get worked up over food that perishes. They asked what they needed to do in order to work the works of God. Jesus told them that the work of God is believing in Jesus. In other words, when … [Read more...]

The Gravy of Grace and Gratitude

If you like to eat what you like to eat, this means that you are a human being. If you are morally indignant about the food choices of others, this means you are well on the way to becoming a food leftist. Leftism is that impulse that wants to establish coercion and call it community. Apply the coercive impulse to food and farming choices, and you have the food leftist. And it begins with the indignation. Once the indignation is established, it becomes possible to draw on a hidden premise that too many Americans share -- that sins should be crimes -- and move from that position to the idea that made up sins should be made into real crimes. … [Read more...]

Food Libertarian

From time to time the authorities haul in some renegade cheese maker, and those who love bureaucratized food safety all breath a sigh of relief. This kind of tyranny is heavy-handed enough to get noticed by those who yearn for food freedom -- as I do -- but not so noticed generally that we can get the food fascists to stop it. Yet. There are two basic points that need to be made about this. The first is that the government does have a role in food safety -- but it is not the role of preventative regulation. Rather, in a realm of food libertarianism, the government would set the definitions and standards. This is what a fluid ounce is, and that is what counts as cleaning a chicken. These standards would not be enforced by food inspectors before the fact, but would rather be used whenever an action had been brought by a dissatisfied or food-poisoned customer. The civil magistrate would publish, before the fact, what weights and measures they are going to use to adjudicate legal … [Read more...]

Hen-pecked . . . But Still Free Range

One of the ways to tell if an issue has become politicized is by seeing if qualifications, when appropriately made, are actually heard. For example, if a member of faction y says that from time to time members of faction x have been convicted of corruption, the politicized two-step works like this. First, the intentions of the person making that statement are discerned by telepathy, along with the trajectory of future hypothetical statements. He only said that some members of our party are corrupt because it is the desire of his heart to maintain, sometime in the future, that all of us are. Therefore, I will respond in the present as though he has already said that. Now sometimes this guesswork about the future happens to be right, but many other times it is wildly wrong. Sometimes the qualifications are made in the interests of speaking the truth. I say this because the subject I am about to broach -- food -- is a place where I see this happening all the time. Ironically, when … [Read more...]

Eating the Bag Itself

This morning I sent out a link to what I called an edifying food rant, which you can read here. Having done so, I thought it might be good for me to summarize a few basic observations about food and the modern Christian. This is by no means exhaustive, but it should give the lay of the land. This is why this subject is of such major concern to me. The basic food law for Christians is love. The basic food law for Christians is that of reducing friction to table fellowship. Adding diet barriers increases potential points of friction. Whenever diet barriers are necessary for medical reasons (as they often are), we should work with them, of course. But we should all recognize what our shared goal should be -- free table fellowship, for all Christians, in every direction. Two Christians, with completely different brown bag lunches, should be able to laugh and talk together over those lunches, even though one bag is filled with food that is full of pure thoughts and the healthiest thing … [Read more...]

Sixteen Sausages in a Row

A few days ago, I republished a post from a few years back on food allergies. This was mostly because I am still sorting things out in my new WordPress surroundings, and wanted to see how to repost something. Tinker with this, click on that, you know. A new commenter had just referenced that old post, so I just reloaded that one, just for grins. But it has generated some fresh discussion, as these things always do, some in the comments, and others with me in real time. I know that when I write on things like this, I routinely try to qualify what I am saying, so that nobody can say I am mocking the sick and the infirm, or being hard-hearted toward those who are truly hurting. But those qualifications can be taken (as some have taken them) as simply a pro forma sort of thing, giving myself plausible deniability, in case someone's feelings get hurt and I wanted to have something to point to while maintaining that I didn't say that. But no, I really believe my qualifications. So in this … [Read more...]

Allergic to Other People

The church is capable of including any number of subcultural groups within her pale, and can do so without great difficulty. Ham radio operators, rodeo riders, surfers, and rock climbers are all welcome. And what they all do the Saturday before worship does not disrupt the reality of their worship together. But food subcultures are a different matter. Food scruples are the deathly enemy of church unity. Every pastor is called by the Lord to hate food divisions, and every pastor who does not hate them is an enemy of his own peace. I don't want church splits, even if they come in a reusable bag. The central pastoral issue of the New Testament was a dietary one -- whether Jews and Gentiles could eat together. And if the apostle Paul fought so long and hard on this one -- to keep the body of Christ from being divided this way -- when the issue really was created by the laws of the Old Testament, how much more would he be militant about food divisions that resulted from an article … [Read more...]

The Need to Cross-Check

How do we know things? How do we confirm things? With regard to any claim that matters enough that we need to check it, the Bible teaches that we look for external corroboration, internal consistency, and a clear willingness for the claim to be falsified. "In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established" (2 Cor. 13:1). "But neither so did their witness agree together" (Mark 14:59).   "He that is first in his own cause seemeth just; But his neighbour cometh and searcheth him" (Prov. 18:17). Consequently, the big concern that I have about many believers going in big for foodie concerns, or those with treatments for designer allergies, or exotic treatments for various ailments, is not the proposed treatment itself. The issue is the nature of knowledge, not the nature of the stuff in the world. If oils made from pine needles were able to do marvelous things, there would be no one happier than I. But if no one is allowed to ask any judicious questions, then … [Read more...]

That Magnificent JuJu Bean

One of the larger pastoral problems in the church today is the trend to ever-increasing fruitiness, coupled with the cowardice of those who see what is happening, and yet say nothing. Whenever someone proposes any particular pursuit in a singularly fruity way -- and I am speaking of weird diets, oils with superpowers, medicinal oddballery, and other variations on the ancient spirit of haruspicy -- and someone objects to it, one of the first things that will happen is that someone else will point out that there are all sorts of connections and remedies that we could not have anticipated beforehand. The whole world is weird. Well, yes, the world is weird, magical, uncanny, and penicillin is a fungus that kills bacterial diseases -- ho, ho, ho. If we compare this to the folk remedy of trying to cure a sore throat by wrapping your neck in bacon before bedtime, which one is "weirder"? They are actually on the same plane. But the point isn't weirdness at all. When I shake my head over the … [Read more...]

Why Chesterton Doesn’t Fit in Skinny Jeans

In my review of the The Truth About Organic Foods, I had occasion to quote Chesterton, and this raised an important question in the minds of some -- where do I get off quoting Chesterton in the midst of a post that, for all intents and purposes, looked to some like a valiant attempt to keep my Monsanto stock from collapsing completely? It didn't look that way to others, like to me, but let's leave that to the side for a moment, and simply address the Chesterton question. Chesterton was the geunine article, and the contemporary organic foods movement isn't. He wore an artificial and manufactured cape to cover a heart that did nothing but overflow with Christian insight. This, as opposed to those who wear a Central American coarse-woven authenticity cape to cover up the aching hollowness within. There is a difference, as he might say, between a man who stands in the face of all the prevailing winds, and the one who is driven before them. And when we have grasped the difference, we will … [Read more...]

All Hipster Mortifications

"Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances, (Touch not; taste not; handle not; Which all are to perish with the using;) after the commandments and doctrines of men? Which things have indeed a shew of wisdom in will worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body; not in any honour to the satisfying of the flesh" (Col. 2:20-23). The prohibitionist streak that is so attractive to many Christians is a religious streak. And we must come to understand that this religious streak goes as deep as the flesh does. There is a kind of religious duty that is of the flesh, for the flesh, and by the flesh. We do not have to reconstruct the particular rationale for the prohibitions that the Colossians were having to deal with. What we have to do is simply recognize that there is something like this out there in the world, in the religious world, and in the religious heart. There are certain practices which … [Read more...]

Phevered Phood Pharisaism

What do you think of when you think of someone with a seared conscience? The natural thing that might come to mind is the image of a sociopath, someone who has no compunction about doing anything whatever. "Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron . . ." (1 Tim. 4:2). That is a  natural move, but it is a mistaken one. In scriptural terms, when a person's conscience is seared with a hot iron, he doesn't become an anarchist, he becomes a fierce moralist. Notice the next verse -- "forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth" (1 Tim. 4:3). A man with a seared conscience is the prohibitionist, the wowser, the fusser. On reflection, this should not be surprising. As long as we bear the image of God, we have to function in terms of antithesis, in the light of a foundational right and wrong. But because we are in rebellion against God, we … [Read more...]