James Jordan’s fascinating essay entitled Food and Faith speaks about the hunger that God places in man after the fall. Man was fully satisfied in the garden. He found satisfaction in the gifts of Yahweh. As Jordan writes, “Repeatedly throughout the Bible, especially in the wilderness wanderings, God made His people hungry so that they would cry to Him as the only source of life. ” God is the food of weary man. God is our food. Only as we eat his body and drink his blood do we find fulfillment and our hunger is satisfied.
I spent a couple of hours today chatting with an old friend of mine. He is now a pastor of a Lutheran congregation. He is a fine fellow whom I long to re-acquaint face to face with a pipe and a fine beer. After all these years we have kept a relatively lively relationship over the phone. We have even joined forces to write a lengthy piece combating an evangelical prohibitionist advocate of our day.
Interestingly what brought us together even more so in these last few years have been our theological journeys. We both attended a fundamentalist college, but even back then we were already pursuing dangerous literature. One time he brought a book back from home that had a warning sign on its first page written by his mother. The first page stated that we were to be careful as we read this book for it was written by a Calvinist. Lions, and tigers, and Calvinists, oh my!
How far we have come! It has been over 10 years since we parted those glory college days, and now we both are pastoring healthy congregations. We are in different theological traditions, but very rooted in our Protestant commitments. Beyond that, we are rooted in a vastly historic tradition.
As I pondered that conversation I wondered just how much I have changed over this last decade. I went from a revival preacher to a liturgical minister. Now don’t get me wrong, I long for revival, I just don’t long for the same type my brothers long for. This revival I long for is filled with beautiful images, a pattern-filled story, tasty bread, and delightful wine; church colors, rituals– in the best sense of the term—and lots of feasting. While my fundamentalist brothers longed for the sweet by and by, and times they would gather at the river to sing of that ol’ time religion. Those romantic days no longer appeal to me.
How have I changed? In so many ways! But my changes were not just theological. I have held the same convictions I have today on a host of issues for over 10 years. My changes were more situational and existential (and normative for the tri-perspectivalists out there). My reality has changed. I now treasure different things that I did not treasure a decade ago. You may say marriage does that, but the reality is I have taken my sola scriptura to the next level. I have begun to see its applicability beyond the sphere of the mind. The arm-chair theologian no longer seems admirable. Even marriage carries a symbolic significance to me. This is not just a privatized institution; it is, to quote Schmemann, “for the sake of the world.” Yes, I have changed.
I have also changed existentially. I have learned to delve deeply into personal piety and have found it refreshing. In the past my piety led me into the valley of pietism. It was discouraging; pessimistic. Now my piety keeps me in green pastures. My existential struggle with doubt is no longer a reality. I have found objectivity in the most unlikely places. They have kept me secure and alert to my own tendencies; to the idols that I have failed to crush. Jesus has become more than an intellectual pursuit, but the heart of the issues, because he is the heart of history.
Yes, I have changed since my college days. I would like even to affirm that this is the new me; a “me” broken by idolatry and restored and renewed by word, water, and wine. Thanks be to God!
The indignation of pro-gay groups is not surprising. What is surprising is that an extraordinarily wealthy businessman is echoing biblical truth with utter boldness. Chick-fil-A President, Dan Cathy says:
“I think we are inviting God’s judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say ‘we know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage and I pray God’s mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to define what marriage is about.”
Only dark, angry, deceived and misguided hearts could look at the kind of sex homosexuals practice and call it good. And not only call it good, but seek to destroy anyone and everyone who calls it what it is: immoral, unnatural and unhealthy.
The pro-family community must stand tall and strong and unapologetically with Dan Cathy. Supporters of natural marriage must realize that if the gay Gestapo takes out Chick-fil-A, they will be next in the kill chute.
Fortunately, there is a way for defenders of the family to show their support in tangible ways: let’s buy Chick-fil-A out of every last one of their chicken sandwiches. You’ll like ‘em, they’ll just make more, Dan Cathy will thank you, and what the gay lobby intends for evil will be turned by values-driven Americans into something good. Let’s make Chick-fil-A America’s official chicken chain.
Barach analyzes and offers a healthy alternative to the “food as fuel” theory. He concludes:
While it may be necessary for some Christians to diet, it seems to me that an approach to dieting that depends on eliminating all these other aspects of food in favor of presenting food only as fuel is wrongheaded.
In competition with each other and operating under the philosophy that bigger is better, restaurants often serve up a portion size that is equal to two to four normal servings, while menu boards at fast-food restaurants scream “supersized burgers and fries!” Consider these portion-size facts:
- In the 1950s, a regular fast-food burger was 2.8 ounces and 202 calories. In 2004, that same burger was 4.3 ounces and 310 calories.
- A regular Coke grew from six ounces in 1916 to 21 ounces in 1996.
These days, you can buy a “double gulp” drink that’s 64 ounces and more than 600 calories, and a burrito that’s 1,100 calories or almost three-fourths of the entire daily 1,600-calorie allotment for an average-sized, non-exercising woman. Have them both, and you’re over the allotment.
…in his For the Life of the World (St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press 1982), Schmemann writes:
…the Bible…begins with man as a hungry being, with the man who is that which he eats…nowhere in the Bible do we find the dichotomies which for us are the self-evident framework of all approaches to religion [e.g., “spiritual” vs. “material,” “sacred” vs. “profane”]. In the Bible the man that eats, the world of which he must partake in order to live, is given to him by God, and it is given as communion with God. The world as man’s food is not something “material” and limited to material functions, thus different from, and opposed to, the specifically “spiritual” functions by which man is related to God. All that exists is God’s gift to man, and it all exists to make God known to man, to make man’s life communion with God. It is divine love made food, made life for man. God blesses everything He creates, and, in biblical language, this mean that He makes all creation the sign and means of His presence and wisdom, love and revelation: “O taste and see that the Lord is good.”
Man is a hungry being. But he is hungry for God. Behind all hunger of our life is God. All desire is finally a desire for Him…the unique position of man is that he alone is to bless God for the food and the life he receives from him. He alone is to respond to God’s blessing with his blessing…the only natural (and not “supernatural”) reaction of man, to whom God gave the blessed and sanctified world, is to bless God in return, to thank Him, to see the world as God sees it and – in this act of gratitude and adoration – to know, name, and possess the world…The first, the basic definition of man is that he is the priest. He stands in the center of the world and unifies it in his act of blessing God, of both receiving the world from God and offering it to God–and by filling the world with this eucharist, he transforms his life, the one that he receives from the world, into life in God, into communion with Him. The world was created as the “matter,” the material of one all-embracing eucharist, and man was created as the priest of this cosmic sacrament. (14-15)
This is why, though animals all eat, only human beings have “cuisine.” The sacred, eucharistic, and communal nature of food is inscribed into our very being, driving us to prepare food as if it were an act of worship – with the care, dignity, and art that is ordinarily reserved for sacred vestments, sacramental vessels, and the bindings of holy books. Every meal is a ritual, implicitly expressing the nature of our priestly service to the creator, either faithful or not.
And is it any wonder that in a world of Happy Meals and cheese curls that our priestly service has devolved into the Willow Creeks and Jesus jingles that fill our Sunday mornings?