I remember vaguely the first time I heard Andrew talk about ethical eating. I must have been fourteen or so, with all the rebellion and complete disregard for the world around me that entailed. I would have my cake and eat it any way I liked it, thank you very much. Fast forward ten years. One of my best friends was an Orthodox Jew, which meant we couldn’t just go out to lunch. So all of a sudden, I was forced to think conscientiously about the food that I was eating – its preparation, its source. I still would go home to have a lovely cheeseburger on my own, but this practice of ‘observing’ and ‘remembering’ while eating continued to haunt me.
You see, eating used to be easy for me. I am not Jewish, but rather a Gentile, a Christian. And to top it all off, I am one of those remarkably liberty-oriented evangelicals. I have this lovely freedom in Christ to eat (and do) whatever I desire — or so the story of Peter in Acts tells me. Even Jesus reminded me that it wasn’t what was put into my mouth that was evil, but what came out of the heart. So it was easy to disregard my eating habits under the pretense of liberty. There was another worldview that shaped me, however: the apocalyptic mindset. There was this idea that our planet was a sinking ship about to be Armageddonned into oblivion (thank you Moody and Lindsey), which left many of us believing that we had to shove enough food into our faces to have enough energy for our revivals, or possibly share meals around a table with family. Our job was to save people from the world, not to save the world. Most of us could have cared less about environmental impact or sustainability – or really any of that “hippie nonsense.”
And then, something funny happened. I became more involved with interfaith dialogue – and started spending time with communities who kept kosher, and I started to study the broader Christian context, ripe with feasting and fasting disciplines – rituals of communal and individual spiritual practice completely centred around food. So one year, with the help of numerous people – including Rabbi Lizzi (whose post you enjoyed the other day) – I chose to observe the seasonal fast of Lent by keeping kosher. I studied up on eco-kashrut, and its ethical and spiritual issues. The lovely part of Lent was that there are six fast days each week, with one feast day – in which you celebrated freedom from the fast. By Easter, I had learned much. It had been nearly impossible to determine the source or ethics of the food I found in conventional supermarket aisles. Even if the ingredient list looked wholesome, there were far too many unknown and unverifiable variables to determine whether or not the food was ethically sustainable. This forced me to primarily eat local, organic produce and products made from scratch. As an avid dairy lover, vegetarian fare became immensely pleasing, and I did not feel deprived by only eating meat once or twice a week (instead of once or twice a day). I also then learned about the significant environmental ramifications of the meat industry and the Western diet’s demand for beef. Conscientious eating had changed so much more than my diet. It had nourished and watered the seeds for sustainable and ethical living that had been planted decades earlier.
These days, within in my own Christian community (still evangelical), we are trying to re-learn the disciplines that are embedded in our own testament. As we learn that the authors of the New Testament actually cared about these things – even if they didn’t impose them on others – we can begin to see that what we put into our bodies has so much more significance than simply being fuel for another evangelistic rampage. Our theology tells us that our bodies are temples of G-d’s Holy Spirit, and I’m not too sure I would want to offer the Divine any of the chemicals on a traditional food label. In many ways, foundation stones for our beliefs invite us to be aware of our food choices. If we accept the concept of a “Fall” in the Garden – we realize that it was a choice to eat something that was not in our best interest. Jesus tells us that he is the “Bread of Life” or the “Vine.” So many of our parables in the New Testament are about planting, growing, and Jesus was always eating in the New Testament. And our sacrament of communion is grounded in a concept of a communal meal. Paul even warns people taking communion that to take it in an unworthy manner is inviting judgment upon yourself. If we look at a celebratory view of the end times instead of the doom-and-gloom of the apocalypse, we are invited to the wedding feast of the Lamb. The concept of caring about how we engage with our food bleeds into every aspect of our faith.
It says in Paul’s letter to the Romans that all creation is longing for the day in which G-d’s children will live into its glory and deliver it from the corruption and decay to which it’s been subjected (8:20-22). This means then, that as Christians, it is our responsibility and even our birthright as G-d’s children to deliver and save creation – not just the souls of people in it. It means approaching creation as a glorious gift that has fallen with us – been subject to our disasters – and that we are responsible for. Celtic monks would often call our planet “Sister Earth” and would encourage people to care for it as a dear relative. As Christians, we are living from glory into glory – but we are supposed to bring the whole of creation along with us. So, as you ponder these things in the last few days of October Unprocessed, I encourage you to dive into a gospel that is good news not just for the ephemeral souls of people you have not yet met, but the Good News that you can make a difference. Your choices regarding food and sustainable living are not just for your own health or household, but they will be a part of G-d’s plan to save and restore the world.
Corn & Black Bean Chowder
- 3 cups Vegetable Stock
- 12 oz. Black Beans pre-soaked
- 12 oz. Corn
- 12 oz. Tomatoes
- 1 Green Bell Pepper
- 1 Red Bell Pepper
- 1 small White Onion
- 1 small Red Onion
- 3 stalks of Celery
- 2 Carrots
- 3 cloves of Garlic
- 1 tablespoon dried Oregano
- 1 teaspoon ground Mustard Powder
- 1 teaspoon ground Fenugreek
- 1 ounce crushed Fresh Basil
- Salt and Pepper to taste
- 1-2 tablespoon Olive Oil
Chop your vegetables in advance (feel free to use the food processor, as they get all mixed up eventually anyway). They need to be diced, but not minced. Garlic should be minced or pressed into a paste-like substance.
Sautee the onion, celery, & carrot until tender and the onions are clearing. Then add the green and red bell pepper.
When the vegetables are soft, add the garlic, and a pinch of salt and pepper.
Add the tomatoes and corn and stir gently, adding the beans and dried seasonings.
If you are using a crock pot, at this point simply transfer the mix over to the Crock Pot, add the vegetable stock and cook on medium-high for 20 minutes and then low for as long as you need.
If you are keeping it on the stove, add the vegetable stock and bring the mix to a boil. Keep stirring it for approximately 5 minutes while it boils. Then take it down to a simmer. Simmer until the vegetables are almost falling apart.
About 10 minutes before you would like to eat, remove approximately 1/3 of the mix from the pot and blend it in the blender. Then add back to the mix along with the crushed fresh basil.
Stained glass photo by Lawrence OP.