September 1, 2014
The food-centered comedy of Jim Gaffigan reminds us why Christians would be wise to not get caught up in the food purity movement.
You forgot to mention that Whole Foods is guilty of extreme discrimination against fat people.
Care to expand on that, kbrigan?
Josh (TC editor)
Do you really mean to say that Christians need to avoid "getting caught up in the food purity movement"? Or just that Christians should avoid being smug pharisees about it? What does "caught up" mean? Where is the line between "caring about food ethics" and getting "caught up in the food purity movement"? If you care but don't get involved does it mean anything? Is like "raising awareness" vs. actually doing anything?
I'm glad you bring this up - and Jim is hilarious of course. This Kale riff seems like the flip side to his famous Hot Pockets bit. But I don't follow the logic of why Christians should avoid the food purity movement because it's complicated? Seems like a cop-out. So it has political implications. It also has money implications and corruption and disease and special interests and all kinds of other stuff. Christians SHOULD get caught up in it for all of those reasons. Can't we get caught up in it with grace and humility and even - humor?
I think Wendell might kick your butt on this one, and he's an old guy who's been eating well for a long time so you might be in trouble ;)
John, thanks for your comment. Let me clarify: I think the label "food purity movement" tries to capture what I take to be a sort of Pharasaism in the approach that some people have toward food ethics. It's more about the fad and the badge than it is about the long, slow work of eating in a way that does justice to God and creation. As I see it, the complexity around food ethics is not a reason to avoid ethical eating; it's a reason to avoid jumping to judgmental conclusions about how others eat. I completely agree with you that Christians should be engaged or "caught up" in food ethics, but I still want to differentiate that from those caught up in "food purity" (where the focus is primarily on how morally upstanding I am). In sexual ethics, one can remain both externally and internally free from lust but still get tripped up by pride. The same goes here. Pride is a perennial temptation but I think as our culture's focus migrates from sex to food, Christians need to be vigilant about how pride distorts both.
By the way, I should also say that one reason I really appreciate Berry is because he sees and outlines the link between our food ethics and sexual ethics. For example, his essay, "Freedom, Economy, Sex, and Community" is brimming with insight into the links between the two.
And believe me, I wouldn't want to start trouble with Wendell. In most farmer vs. professor rumble scenarios, my money's going to be on the farmer. :)
Fair enough - but I don't think the "Food Purity Movement" is a known element distinct from things like "food ethics" or the "food movement." I've been reading and studying this area a lot over the last couple of years and I've never noticed that distinction. When I read "food purity movement" I think you're just talking about the purity of food, not a specific subset of pharisees.
As the awareness of food issues continues to increase we are confronted with many people who jump on the bandwagon because it's hip. Many seem to wear their food choices like a status symbol. "I can afford the best," they seem to be saying. I'm convinced that for many people things like "Organic" and "Fair Trade" are nothing more than the culinary equivalent of a luxury car logo. But that doesn't change the underlying importance of the issue a single bit. It's maddening to see people dismiss the food movement because of its smug members. I think the challenge for Christians is to push past the surface issues to the important stuff and to realize that it matters. It falls to us to find compassionate and gracious ways to speak the truth about food in love and to invite the Holy Spirit to guide us into a more God honoring way of eating. We don't bail on Christianity because of the pharisees or the blow-hards on the TV, we apologize for them and try to engage our friends in a more meaningful way. Same thing here, right?
I guess I'll jump in here, John, because the "food purity movement" headline was mine, which Branson was OK with using, both there and in the text. And I think he was OK with it - though he can correct me if I'm wrong - for the reasons he gave in answer to your first comment: "I completely agree with you that Christians should be engaged or 'caught up' in food ethics, but I still want to differentiate that from those caught up in 'food purity' (where the focus is primarily on how morally upstanding I am)."
My experience has been similar to Branson's (and Jim Gaffigan's, for that matter), when it comes to practicing food ethics: it can be very easy for me to puff out my chest over my "responsible" food choices (or those I'm forcing on my children) and look down on others who have different practices. In this sense, there are echoes of the Christian "purity" movement, which has as its dark underbelly the self-righteous shaming of those who don't (or didn't) practice abstinence. Branson's piece cautions against such judgmentalism when it comes to eating habits; other than that I think you're both on the same page.
Woah, Buddy am I excited that someone is addressing this! I have spent entirely too much time on this website this morning already, so I am going to to try to keep this brief, but let me just say that I have wasted a goodly portion of my life worshipping at the alter of the food pyramid through various practices such as vegetarianism, veganism, or gluten, corn, caffeine, dairy, and refined sugar restriction... and I would still say it's a fine line.
When God was doling out punishments in the garden, Adam was assigned to labor and toil for food. Since that time, we have extended massive efforts to escape that punishment. When I look at the rates of cancer, autism, and unexplainable auto-immune diseases, I can't escape the thought that God may be saying, "Get your nose back in the corner."
I do believe that God created us to run on a certain type of fuel and that we are forever trying to replace it with undigestible, inexpensive, hydrogenated plastic in the name of convenience. I might shyly posit, that this can stand as a bit of a slap-in-the-face to God who just wants us to eat so we can grow up big and strong, by golly.
HOWEVER, I also believe that many people in the world serve the obsession over pure eating as a poor substitute for holiness. Holiness - to set apart - for which the devil has always offered asceticism as a stand-in. If offers the allusion of control, the fight to conquer desires, and a sense of righteousness. Of course, it is to the end of self rather than to the end of Creator and His purpose for us, but it will do in a pinch.
In my opinion, it returns (as ALL things do) to a question of motivation. Are we eating well to honor the creator or are we eating sticks and bark to worship the created (forgive me, the question mark on my keyboard is dead...I have been trying to make do without questions which has been a fun challenge, but sometimes you just have to apologize for the lack of punctuation and leave it at that). When we look at it in terms of who we are serving, it sort of provides a framework for the ethics and purity issues.
I once received a free pin from Whole Foods that said, "collards are the new kale." You have to admit, there is something really funny about turning food into status...and something really sad, also...
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