Hey, Christians, Even Progressive Ones, Let’s Quit Being Ashamed.

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Recently I reviewed a book that I hoped I would love–Jennifer Ayres’ Good Food: Grounded Practical Theology. While there were admirable aspects to the work (I liked that Ayres spent time with Christians practicing various forms of sustainable agricultural and community food security projects) I was disappointed overall, not least because for someone doing Christian theology, Ayres seems remarkably suspicious of, well, Christian theology, which she claims has frequently been unduly anthropocentric.

For example, she criticizes theologian Karl Barth’s understanding of creation as “the stage on which the drama of the divine-human relationship will take place” of “exaggerat[ing] humanity’s role in the drama of creation, when in reality ‘we are by no means the whole show[.]’” She does not quote or cite Barth directly but relies on another scholar’s critique of Barth, which is unfortunate given that Barth’s Church Dogmatics, volume III, deals seriously with the question of humanity’s right to shed the blood of animals for our own needs and desires, among other decidedly non-anthropocentric creational concerns that complicate the idea that Barth regarded creation as a stage and nothing more considerably.

 Similarly, Ayres cites Lynn White’s influential 1967 article, “The Historical Roots of Our Ecological Crisis” as evidence that “theology does not offer an unambiguous ‘answer’ to the problem of the global food system.” I read the article in question, which is filled with claims (which Ayres does not cite) so sweeping and unsubstantiated as to defy credulity:

“Christianity [unlike paganism and Eastern religions] not only established a dualism of man and nature but also insisted that it is God’s will that man exploit nature for his proper ends.”

Perhaps it is not surprising that New Testament scholar Richard Bauckham’s 2010 book The Bible and Ecology does not appear on Ayres’s bibliography. Even a glancing look at Barth (or John Calvin, for that matter, to say nothing of the Psalms and Job) casts serious doubt on the claim that our ecological woes stem directly from the Bible or Christianity. Perhaps Ayres wants to avoid giving the impression that she has all the right theological answers, or that she is sufficiently critical of her tradition’s shortcomings, but oversights of this kind only undermine her case.

Why, I wonder, do so many thoughtful Christians ashamed of Christian theology, of Christian history, of Christian thought and action? Of course there is much in our history of which we should be ashamed. But there is also astonishing and inspiring courage, wisdom, and sacrifice that it would be a disgrace to forget.

I hate writing negative reviews. But if you’re interested, you can read it at the Englewood website here.

Weekend Eating Reading

…the weekly weekend post!

Weekend Eating Reading briefly discusses at least one good book that’s somehow related to ‘joyful eating,’ and is, throughout the weekend, updated with links to notable or newsworthy articles on topics relevant to readers of this blog.

This week’s books:

Guess which is designed to make you eat more than you want to--carrots or carrot cake?

The End of Overeating, by David A. Kessler, MD

The British have a term for it–“more-ish.” It means a food that you WANT TO EAT MORE OF. Or, maybe more precisely, a food that makes YOU want to eat more of IT. If you’ve ever struggled with overeating, whether occasionally or chronically–and maybe even if you haven’t–you’ll want to read this book. It offers a staggering account of the science that goes into engineering foods to make them hyperpalatable–that is, to make them press all the right buttons in your body and brain to get you to want more, more, more, and more. This book is fascinating and disturbing. Read it! (or read more about it here, first.)

Oh! And this book:

Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More than We Think by Brian Wansink, PhD

The picture’s extra big because that’s what American serving sizes are like–EXTRA BIG. And guess what? When packages are extra big, and you can’t get a good visual clue on what you’re eating, YOU EAT MORE, even if you don’t really like it. (!) And that’s just the way Big Food wants it.  This book’s also got some fascinating science, though it’s more psychological than bio- & neuro-chemical (as the other one is.) There’s lots of fun stuff to read about here.

More links will appear hear as the weekend goes on:

Chilling cartoon about widespread starvation in Somalia & US nonresponse HERE

HuffPo’s reporting on the ground turkey fiasco HERE

Cassie Green, remarkable food person! Read about her HERE

Enjoy it! And eat your food with JOY!