This meditation is offered by Brian Crisp, who currently facilitates the Missions & Outreach Council at Pullen.
Recently, I experienced a phenomenon not felt in a long time: good old-fashioned conviction. Although we often disregard this act in the liberal church, it is a valid and real feeling. Conviction is simply when the full reality of a situation can no longer be ignored and requires action. My conviction has not caused me to walk a church aisle; rather, it has caused me to examine my relationship with food.
Like so many people, my life can be overly scheduled with food relegated to the utilitarian act of eating on the go. I began discussing this with a dear friend who comforted me with a simple task, “go to the store, make a list, take some time, and buy only fruits and vegetables just for today.” Seven days later my life has been filled with parsley, kale, beets, ginger root, blood oranges, apricots, cilantro, tomatoes, celery, lettuces, red peppers. The simple act of cutting these fruits and vegetables, photographing this process, and allowing myself time to recognize the Divine’s bounty has been nourishing. It has detoxified my assumptions about color and taste; it has connected my hands to the food I eat; it has provided ample gratitude for new tastes and nutrients; and it has made me keenly aware that this is all privilege.
My embracing of bounty was met with a stark phone call from my friend Jamie, a gifted teacher in rural Kentucky. “Can you believe the principal is making children throw away uneaten fruit?” Although Jamie works in a school where 98% of students are on free or reduced lunch, children, who are most likely hungry, cannot take uneaten food with them from the cafeteria and are forced to throw fresh fruit into the trash. This is a federal policy. Currently, many of our federal policies benefit large agribusiness while creating food deserts where access and affordability to fresh fruits and vegetables is difficult. It is estimated that more than 50 million people in the United States currently experience food insecurity, hunger, and related health issues.
These thoughts about food justice became even more rooted while attending a lecture and discussion with Nadia Bolz-Weber. Bolz-Weber is a minister whose creativity with the social praxis of the gospels is matched by her keen wit. When asked a poignant question about which texts from the Bible were most hard for her to reconcile, I leaned to my neighbor and sarcastically whispered, “how about the Rape of Tamar?” Bolz-Weber, without pause, replied, “…the gospels. It’s the most disturbing good news I have ever read.” God is the moment when I hear ideas that would, by themselves, never occur to me. God is the moment in life that disturbs my status quo and moves me into action.
Pullen is initiating a year examining and working with food justice. Our time begins Wednesday with Dr. Norman Wirzba of Duke Divinity School. In Wirzba’s book, Food & Faith, a Theology of Eating, he addresses the theological implications of disregarding the community of creation. The treatise skillfully addresses environmental, economic, political, and social mishaps in our current eating lives. In our working with food, Wirzba emphasize that this is never done as an individual but around the communion table, a table that makes us one. It is here we find humility, “the realization that for our living we depend on each other” (p.52).
Working for justice is never an isolated venture in the sacred texts; it is a web of relationships heralding a prophetic voice calling and working for change. The work of justice cannot be left to the government that favors subsidizing billionaire corporations while letting poor people starve. This work cannot be left to the marketplace where Coca-Cola makes love and justice a commodity. Justice work is our lives together.
This morning as I was cutting mango and kiwi, my gratitude transformed into a deeper dimension as I thought of people excluded from the table: The children that will go hungry, the people of color who will experience disease due to food access, the farmers unjustly pursued by large corporations, the undocumented workers displaced and frightened, the soil depleted by agribusiness practices focused on increased profit and products, and many others. In these thoughts, Jesus’ simple prayer took on deep social implications with “give us this day our daily bread.” Yes, Nadia Bolz-Weber, this is the most disturbing good news. Thank God.