I’ve said before that I see the primary contribution of this blog as adding the voice of the Bible, faith and theology to the discussion about our food choices and food system. So, back to the Bible.
Genesis 13:5-9: 5 Lot, who had been traveling with Abram, also had his own sheep, cattle, and tents. 6 There wasn’t enough pastureland for both of them. They had so many possessions that they were unable to remain together. 7 Quarrels broke out between Abram’s herders and Lot’s herders. (Canaanites and Perizzites were also living in that area.) 8 Abram said to Lot, “Please, let’s not have any more quarrels between us or between our herders. After all, we’re relatives. 9 Isn’t all this land yours also? Let’s separate. If you go to the left, I’ll go to the right, and if you go to the right, I’ll go to the left.”
There is an underlying tension in scripture (Cain and Abel) between farmers and herders, or different kinds of agriculture…or even just between farmers competing for market share. The tension between herders and farmers had to do with culture. Herders were nomads following the migration and grazing patterns of their animals. They were not a settled people. Farmers, on the other hand, are sedentary people who are cultivating one static plot of land. These different methods of providing food and sustenance for people must have a dramatic impact on the understanding of life. Much like the Plains tribes of North America, I’m sure the idea of staying in one place too long feels like being put in prison to nomads. Meanwhile, the wanderlust of the nomads seems silly to those dependent on the land.
What does this have to do with anything? Well, I see competing methods of agriculture today that have similarly dramatic impacts on the way we view and understand life. Those who consume from the industrial food chain are disconnected and distant from the sources of their food. This has created a situation where not only do people not know where their food comes from, but they really don’t care. Often when I’ve shared about my convictions about not eating meat and what the process of creating industrial meat looks like people refuse the knowledge. “If I read that book, I couldn’t eat meat anymore.” People actually choose ignorance to continue the lifestyles to which they are accustomed.
Change is hard. For some people this is like shifting worldviews or changing religions. We need to be more patient with people caught up in the machinery of the modern world. Some organizations come on so strong they sound like food fundamentalists evangelizing the world and condemning meat-eaters, or those who consume anything less than grass-fed, all-natural, organic, local and seasonal food.
Abraham and Lot were both herders and they had trouble keeping their people from fighting. (Sounds like the infighting that can be found in all kinds of movements.) Abraham was willing to let Lot make a choice. Lot ended up choosing the better portion of land as well. But that meant Abraham got the short end of that deal.
We have to allow people to make their own decisions and recognize we are not responsible for their decisions. We are only responsible for ourselves. Let your life speak for itself and, as a general rule, God will work out the rest.