Several of you commented positively when I suggested in jest that I might just have to write my own Christian nutrition reference. While I’m not sure a book of that sort is anywhere in my near future, I figured I might as well get a few of my thoughts into text–and give you all a sneak preview of what I might write about if I were to write a book on the topic!
Food plays an enormous role in our lives. Physically, it provides fuel for activity, essential nutrients for our body’s functioning, and a whole host of chemicals that either enhance or limit our body’s health. Psychologically, food offers comfort and is a repository of memories both good and bad. Socially, food provides the context for relationships, from school lunch rooms to church potlucks to awkward first dates at “fancy” chain restaurants. Developmentally, food plays an important role in the socialization of children to the norms of our cultures.
For most of humanity’s history, food was a matter of life and death. Subsistence farming meant that most of the world’s population was in a constant state of what today’s nutrition experts call “food insecurity”–not knowing where the next meal would come from (or whether it would come). Humans saw food from a survival standpoint.
In the past one hundred years, the sciences of agriculture and nutrition have grown in leaps and bounds. Food became abundant and readily available to most, at least in the developed world. Dozens of essential nutrients have been discovered and analyzed, multitudes of studies have explored the health impacts of the food we consume. We have come to see food from a health standpoint.
More recently, consumers have looked at the explosive growth of the agriculture industry and have called some of its tenets into question. They have started the local foods movement, the organic foods movement, the sustainable agriculture movements, the humane meat movement, and a dozen other movements looking at food from economic and/or ecological standpoints.
Christians, of course, acknowledge the broad array of standpoints by which to evaluate food–but many find themselves confused as to exactly what they should be thinking about food. How does Christianity influence what they eat and don’t eat? Does Christianity influence what they eat or don’t eat? Is the health aspect most important for Christians? Should Christians see food as fuel, nothing more? Should Christians be most concerned about sustainability or justice in distribution or taboo foods?
Abraham Kuyper, a Dutch theologian and statesman, once said:
“There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry: ‘Mine!'”
Most Christians would agree that food, which touches so many square inches in the domain of our human existence, is no exception.
My experience, however, has been that most Christians have a vague sense that their Christianity should influence their view of food–but they don’t really have any idea how their Christianity should influence their view of food.
They’ve heard so many different things about food from so many different sources that many of them just throw up their hands and resign themselves to a vague feeling of guilt that they’re probably not thinking about food as they ought.
So what does God have to say about food? How should the Christian view food?
Come along with me over the next several weeks as I explore a theology of food.
I anticipate posting about once a week in this ongoing series, “A Theology of Food”. Depending on how things turn out, I may decide to make posting about food and nutrition issues a regular feature on bekahcubed. I appreciate your feedback along the way!