REAL Happy Meals–an Interview in (at) Christianity Today

The current issue of Christianity Today features an interview with me by the truly lovely LaVonne Neff–who really knows how to ask insightful questions–and it’s online now here.

But to tempt you to make your way on over, here are a few samples:

Eating with joy is great, but lots of us get downright giddy—and our joy eventually becomes diabetes and heart disease. Shouldn’t we worry about that?

Diet-related illness is serious, and it disproportionately affects people who are poor, so it’s something to worry about on multiple fronts. Childhood obesity is a problem, too. But I don’t think joy and that old word temperance (meaning moderation) are mutually exclusive. Joy in food should include awareness of the things God cares about. God cares about those who are hungry, those who suffer the effects of a nutrient-poor but calorie-rich diet, those who must work in farm fields and slaughterhouses at low wages and in unsafe conditions. Thinking about the real people and serious issues involved in food can encourage us in temperance.

Joy isn’t a free-for-all. It’s the deep pleasure that comes by slowing down, recognizing God’s gift, remembering those who don’t have enough, appreciating the labor and resources involved in bringing the food to the table, and purposefully eating with others. If other cultures can blend pleasure in eating with relatively low rates of diet-related disease (as do the French, as do the Italians), so can we.

So what do you do if your kids’ grandparents regularly stuff them with things that aren’t good for them?

{click through for the answer}

Some of LaVonne’s other questions:

Is the evangelical community starting to pay more attention to joy in the created order?

You quote N. T. Wright on the importance of “the small but significant symbolic act.” If a Christian wants to eat joyfully, what’s a good symbolic act to start with?

{and you can read the rest here. If you like what you read, it’s always nice to share. xo}

Ten Reasons You (or Someone You Know) Might Like to Read My Book

I’ve recently received word from InterVarsity Press that my book is now in print, and will soon be shipping from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other places where books are sold–like the wonderful Hearts & Minds bookstore. As the book launches, I’ll be sharing excerpts and reviews in this space. If you think people you know would be interested in reading this book, would you consider sharing these posts? And if my book sounds good to you, but you aren’t in the position to be buying books just now, would you ask your local library if they’d be willing to purchase it?


Today, here are ten reasons why you—or someone you know—might like to read this book.

You might like to read this book if…

10. …you are dismayed by stories of abuse and maltreatment of the people who produce your food.

9.     …you don’t know about the abuse and maltreatment of the people who produce your food.

  1. …you are more likely to associate the word “chocolate cake” with words like “guilt” or “sinful” instead of words like “pleasure” and “celebration.”
  1. …you are weary of diets, including diets that are purportedly aimed at ‘optimal health’ rather than weight loss

6.   …you are obsessed with diets.

  1. …you are concerned about the American “obesity epidemic” or you are concerned about all the fuss about the American “obesity epidemic.”
  1. …you are worried about the environmental effects of the American way of eating
  1. …you, or someone you love, has struggled with a full blown eating disorder, like bulimia or anorexia–or, you, or someone you love, has struggled with an eating disorder that doesn’t seem to fall into any official category, but is worrisome all the same.
  1. …you appreciate good food but are weary of the snobbish “foodie” culture
  1. …you’d like to find peace and pleasure and communion with God and others at the table, but aren’t sure how to do that in today’s busy world—or if it’s even worth the effort.

Who Would Jesus Feed?

A recent study from the US Department of Agriculture noted that more than one in five children in the United States lives in a household that struggles to put enough food on the table. Among Latino children, says the organization Bread for the World, it’s more than one child in three that’s at risk for hunger. Ivone Guillen, immigration policy fellow at Bread for the World Institute, noted that while many immigrant families might qualify for programs such as SNAP (formerly known as food stamps), they are often afraid to apply, fearing that they might be at risk for deportation if they do. As a result, just 44% of eligible Latino children receive SNAP benefits.

What’s more, current laws limit access to safety-net programs. Undocumented immigrants–AND legal immigrants who’ve been here for less than 5 years–can’t receive SNAP.

I could be wrong, but I don’t think that most Christians would argue that Jesus would ask someone’s immigration status and only feed those who entered the country legally. And yet, I’ve encountered Christians who doubt whether we have an obligation to neighbors in need who may be undocumented or “undeserving” in some other way. But extending fellowship and help in the form of food is so basic to Jesus’ ministry–and so basic to what he called his followers to do–that I can’t help but feel certain that it’s these very people–the most at-risk and the least secure economically and socially–that we are especially obligated to serve in Jesus’ name.

It says “Jesus es mi amigo mejor” (Jesus is my best friend.)

“Well,” one might counter, “that’s fine if you want to have a food pantry, or otherwise privately conduct handouts, but the government has no obligation to feed people that have broken the law by coming here.”

It’s true: government might not have any particular obligation to people who’ve entered the country illegally, and so if Congress chooses to cut SNAP even from the eligible recipients, my obligation to my neighbors–all of them–remains the same. My primary allegiance is to Jesus’ values, not Uncle Sam’s. But that doesn’t mean I can’t support my government in measures that I believe are right and just, and protecting the safety net that keeps our most vulnerable members from falling seems to me to be right and just and in harmony with the values of Jesus.

I know that negotiating the relationship between faith and politics is sometimes less than clear. I’ve found that while Christians are often anxious that government doesn’t make legal things we find immoral, we are sometimes less concerned with doing our civic bit to protect those whose rights Jesus would have us defend but whose rights the government does not recognize.

But 20%+ of all children, and 30%+ of Latino children, going hungry, here, in the USA, where we spend almost as much money on weight loss as on SNAP? Where we routinely throw away THIS MUCH food per month?

(Meanwhile, the Justice Department spent $4,700 on 250 muffins for ONE event–that’s almost 7 times the amount given by SNAP to a family of four for a MONTH’s worth of food.)

So I can’t help but wonder: whose benefits would Jesus cut?