“Absolution can be Disconcerting; Gimme Some Fire ‘n’ Brimstone!”

I’m delighted to point you to another good review of my book, this time in The Christian Century, by Valerie Weaver-Zercher.

Early in the review she talks about the general readiness we all have to be screamed at about our many and varied food woes, but how my book, even though it gets into some sordid details, doesn’t deal in fire ‘n’ brimstone.

I come by that honest: my Daddy may be a Baptist preacher, but he ain’t never been the screaming kind, not even when that’s what people wanted.

Here’s a taste of Weaver-Zercher’s review:

A substratum of biblical and theological earthworks fortifies Stone’s argument: that no matter how broken or polluted or alienated our food and eating practices have become, eating remains a great and God-blessed practice, one that should give us pleasure instead of guilt. Her refraction of scripture through the lens of food as gift is one of the greatest contributions of this slim volume. The Genesis account of Eden as an example of biodiversity, the story of Ruth as a narrative of food justice, the Bread of Heaven as more than a spiritual metaphor: some of these theological points are not new, but Stone makes them accessible without diminishing their depth.

Another gift of this book is Stone’s refusal to bow to food orthodoxy of any kind. Regarding the gift of eating communally, she writes, “Better the occasional meal shared with friends at McDonald’s than organic salad in bitter isolation.” She acknowledges that McDonald’s food “can’t speak clearly of God’s love and provision for creatures because of the many, many injustices involved at every stage of its production.” Of course, a meal home-cooked with ingredients from one’s garden speaks more lucidly of God’s provision than chicken nuggets and Diet Coke any day. But Stone doesn’t push us toward perfection. Instead, she nudges us toward greater faithfulness, suggesting that occasionally this might mean holding one food ideal more loosely than another.

{You can read it all online–free, no paywall–here.}

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Seeking the Straight and Narrow

I have a review in this week’s issue of The Christian Century, taking a look at this book:

Here’s how it begins:

Last year a furor erupted when Alix Spiegel’s story “Can Therapy Help Change Sexual Orientation?” aired on NPR’s Morning Edition. Spiegel talked to two men who had undergone what is sometimes called conversion therapy, briefly exploring the ethical questions raised by the controversial practice, which the vast majority of health practitioners regard as not only ineffective but harmful. For Rich Wyler, one of the men Spiegel interviewed, being gay and Christian simply cost too much; despite the substantial criticisms of “reparative” therapy, he wanted it. “How dare they tell me that my goal is not legitimate,” he said. “That is unethical.”

Some listeners complained that NPR was giving a hearing to a project that was discredited by the American Psychological Association in 1975. Others suggested that people wishing to become “ex-gay” have the right to engage even in disputed projects like reorientation.

Most people outside evangelical culture contest the legitimacy of groups like Exodus International, the world’s largest conversion therapy organization, with over 260 local organizations. But most people unquestioningly support and even share, at least in principle, the goals of groups like First Place, a weight-loss program associated with the Southern Baptist Convention, even though permanent weight loss is nearly as problematic and unsuccessful as sexual reorientation.

And you can read the rest here.

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.}