This is an article by Doug Wilson, one of my favorite writers. It is much needed, given the absolutely overwhelming growth of “foodies” in our culture and the Church. For more from Doug, see www.dougwils.com.
When an insecure third grader wants to be accepted by his schoolmates, and he is afraid that they will see and identify his lowly origins — by which he means his folks and the rest of his family — the way he tries to insinuate himself into the good graces of the cool set that he wants to impress is by making fun of (or distancing himself from) his own people first. The maneuver is perfectly transparent to everyone outside the peculiar dynamics involved, and perfectly invisible to those in the grip of it. But for those who want to know what is going on, disloyal insecurity would be one way to put it. Insecure disloyalty would be another.
What does this have to do with food? Nothing, actually, not with food as such. But it does have something to do with the hunger to be hip that afflicts (a stronger word would do) a particular quadrant of the evangelical world, which is searching in vain for a way to look like they are standing up for biblical faith while they are in fact capitulating to the very latest forms of unbelief. The hunger to be culturally engaged and cool is the driving force behind evangelical calls for stewardship — whether it might be stewardship of high priced produce or the weather we seem to be having. Stewardship is cool, unless of course, you try to be a steward on behalf of unborn children or biblical monogamy.
There are all kinds of legit reasons that can be appealed to as we make our food choices. Cost (up or down), taste, challenge, fun, romance, color and so forth can all enter into it. And there is no reason to be egalitarian. There are superior forms of farming, transport, selling and cooking of food, just as there are better ways to harvest the hard wood for the making of superior cabinets. There is such a thing as superior cooking period, as can be seen in a high end restaurant, as compared with the ministrations of a third rate hash slinger manfully wielding a skillet in a back room of a diner off I-90 in rural somewhere. There is such a thing as superior comfort food, which can be seen in the kind of mac and cheese my mom used to make and my wife now makes, and there is mac and cheese that is burned on the bottom by some enemy of humanity. There is corn on the cob that was picked and shucked ten minutes ago, and popped in the boiling water, and there is corn on the cob that was harvested in the days of Edward the Confessor. And let us say that the butter you put on the fresh corn was butter you churned yourself, right before you picked the corn. Who but a Philistine would object to the delights that are involved?
And who but a Pharisee would connect any of this to spirituality, or moral superiority? We
live in a country where the unborn are still routinely slaughtered, and homos are married off like nothing unusual was happening. Whether the grain in my bread spent too much time in a truck somewhere in Wyoming is a moral consideration that is clean off my radar. Like, who cares?
“Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; 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. For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving: For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer” (1 Tim. 4:1-5).
So what, exactly, can be sanctified by the word of God and prayer? A list would include, but not be limited to, escargot, homegrown cantaloupe, grilled steak, chicken strips and jojos from the supermarket deli, sharp cheddar, Safeway cantaloupe, those cool little Japanese crackers with the seaweed on them, bread — all kinds, a double Whopper with cheese and onions, trout the way Francis prepares it, hand cranked ice cream, ice cream that was squirted into a carton by a machine that cost three million dollars, corn on the cob, bacon, eggs, bacon grease, eggs cooked in bacon grease, ginger snaps with Stilton cheese on them, red, red wine, homemade croutons, and Caesar salad adorned with the aforementioned croutons. One should get the drift, although many unfortunately do not.
So what does it take to sanctify a plate full of stuff that comes to us through the industrial food chain? A grateful, overflowing heart, lifting the word of God and prayer over it. Then open your eyes (and heart) and reach for the fork. There are no cooties in the cupboard.