Unless you start a commune and eat only food that you grow yourself, you can’t ever claim to eat 100% ethically. Even if you did eat only your own food or the 100 mile diet, there is the matter of billions of people elsewhere in the world still starving. Eating local doesn’t solve the world’s problems…only your own guilty conscience. Don’t get me wrong. It’s better than the 1,500 mile diet that the average American eats, but it’s not a panacea.
So when it comes to making ethical choices about food the harder you try the more complicated it gets. Michael Pollan has simplified it to seven words, “Eat Food. Not Too Much. Mostly Plants.” Here are the WWJE rules of ethical eating…
- Do not talk about eating ethically
- Do not talk about eating ethically Matthew 6:5-6 I am THE worst at this. If someone asks me about being vegetarian, I dig into my bag to find my trusty soapbox and get on it for a while. I’m convinced that the purpose of the church is NOT to preach at people and shout “the gospel” from the roof tops and in the streets at random strangers. We are supposed to be witnesses to the kingdom, to a different order, to the way things should be. So put the soapbox away and let your actions speak for you.
- You are not Jesus. The “What would Jesus…” question only goes so far. I’m not a sold out Niebuhrian, but he reminds us that living in a broken world means making compromises all the time. We shouldn’t pretend that we can accomplish a perfectly ethical diet. Cut yourself some slack and it may seem easier to take the next step toward a more ethical diet.
- What Would Jesus Eat? Once you realize you’re not Jesus you can ask what he would eat or do and try to be more like him without getting a savior complex. That said this is a hard question. Not everyone is going to come up with exactly the same answers. It means that we should do some thinking about what faith tells us about issues of justice, creation care and how we treat our neighbor.
- Put a Face on Your Food This is a hard step. The people connected to your food often live in distant lands and you will never meet them, much less understand their culture. The effect of our globalized industrial food system is to remove the face from our food. It’s a lot harder to maintain eating and buying patterns when food has a face on it.
Are there rules you would add?
Yeah, here’s one.
Keep learning. Don’t stop asking questions. Talk with local farmers and other people who are also concerned about our food. Read books and blogs and essays. Most importantly, engage with others around all these questions and ideas. We’ll never get where we’d like to be alone. We need support for the times when it seems hopeless, and fresh ideas when we fall into ruts.