Wednesday, November 4, 2009

To Start Stepping on Toes: Addressing AN Elephant in the Church

Here is where I am coming from:

The work in the garden is a prayer. The fruit is the result of that work—mine and natures and God’s. That fruit is the most nutritional, and healthy—for consumers and growers. I believe food (and I mean food in the truest sense of that word and nothing of fuel or filling) grown using sustainable methods and consumed within a local context is what God would intend for us. I truly believe—in that religious sense—in what I am doing.

I am also imperfect. My relationship with the food I consume is so far away from I want it to be I feel hypocritical when talking of the subject, and I am perceived as the novel authority of food consumption simply because I’ve grown some vegetables for myself and have read a few books. I am going to stand on these following words though.

If it’s not obvious by now and by previous entries, I am someone with a certain belief in something much bigger than we can conceive. When I attend church or church related functions “food” is sometimes involved. When this happens there are often words like “fellowship” and “thankfulness” and “blessed” and “praying for those who are hungry”. Often it is displayed on long plastic tables, and at white churches, consists of processed meats, sweets, cut vegetable platters with those “baby carrots”, broccoli, and tomatoes with ranch dip. There is often processed crackers and processed cheese. Sometimes there are doughnuts. I think you are getting the point.

I think these displays are desecrations of the church, and I think of the story of Jesus turning over the tables of the money chargers. In my mind the tables of the money charges are the same as the tables of food.

But hear me, this does not make the church unsacred. In his poem “How To Be A Poet”, Wendell Berry says, “There are no unsacred places; there are only sacred places and desecrated places.” We are desecrating a sacred place—the church is still sacred. I am not trying to discount the truly amazing things that happen around tables at churches. I merely address what is on the table.

As Jesus is overturning tables he says, “My house is to be made a house of prayer and you have made it a den of thieves” (Mark 11:15-19, Matthew 21:12-17, Luke 19: 45-48, and John 2:12-25). The food on display represents a type of thievery. That food has robbed the soil of nutrients. That food has robbed migrant workers of dignified work. That food, robbed of taste, robs the consumer of enjoyment of taste. And it’s the cooperation’s behind all that processing that robs everyone—from field worker to factory worker to consumer—of freedom.

I recently had the urge to overturn the tables at the last church function. If the church is to stand on what it says, those “food” displays need to be abolished. Instead, I urge churches to buy locally, seasonally, and sustainably; to support those local prayers. I urge churches to plant a garden and eat the fruit of their prayer—live that prayer. I urge churches to stop making the house of God a den of thieves. I urge the church to make the church and its surrounding community wholly sacred and beautiful.

In someways my work is addressing this problem. I have started a garden at a church (and we have a prospect of another garden at another church). I have said my work is my prayer, and that means i have praying a lot. I've praying for help though. I need to be meet somewhere in the middle; it doesnt have to be half-way, just somewhere. I will come as far as you let me.

1 comment: