It’s a Sin to Be a Foodie?

The current (March 7) issue of The Christian Century has a round-up review of 5 ‘food movement’ books by Christians; since I’m revising my own such book for InterVarsity Press, I read it with great interest and a touch of dismay.

Rev. Martin B. Copenhaver, the author, fears the moralism and judgmentalism in food talk, concluding that the “hyperfocus” on good food is a middle-class indulgence; that it’s possible that being “too mindful” of what we eat is itself the sin of gluttony:

“There are just so many ways to get food wrong these days and no shortage of people willing to judge the food practices of others.”

Rev. Copenhaver has sounded two of my favorite alarums:

1. Being overly fussy is a privilege of the middle-class

and

2. It’s not conducive to joy to eat with anxiety–or to judge others for their food choices

Our final analyses, too, are similar: Jesus eats imperfect meals with imperfect people, so it’s all grace and therefore all good. True enough.

But I think Copenhaver is, ultimately, unsympathetic to foodies; I get the sense that he’s much more “just eat the darn cheeseburger!” than “search for a grass-fed alternative…” He seems to think foodies are fussy for fussiness’s sake.

In a way, it is too bad that we have to have so many books decrying the industrial system of food production and pointing a different way forward. But food activist types (like me, I guess) would like nothing better than for the revolution to be done and dusted–wouldn’t I love to be able never to wring my hands over feedlots or government-subsidized processed corn and soy because these things don’t exist any more?

You bet I would. I fuss about food because there are real things to fuss about: the treatment of workers, of animals, of soil and water and air.

As to the charge of gluttony, yeah, I know St. Thomas Aquinas listed six ways to be a glutton, and being “too fussy” is one of them. But here’s where that whole “love God and your neighbor” thing trumps Aquinas’ rules: it’s okay to be fussy when it’s more loving toward your neighbor–and more honoring of God’s creation–to be so. 

Is it possible to be annoyingly picky about your food and judge-y about other people’s food? Yes, it is. But it’s possible to care about good food–and all that good food means–without doing either.

For me, gratitude is the best antidote both to over-fussiness and to judgmentalism.

{Oh yeah, and JOY, too.}