I love how Rod Dreher, a Catholic conservative journalist and author, describes the instance when he first realized that he he had a few ‘liberal’ tendencies. “A few summers ago, in the National Review offices on the east side of Manhattan, I told my editor that I was leaving work early so I could pick up my family’s weekly delivery of fruits and vegetables from the neighborhood organic food co-op to which we belonged. ‘Ewww, that’s so lefty,’ she said…Lefty? Moi? But on the subway home to Brooklyn, I had to admit she was right. A taste for organic vegetables is a left-wing cliche, and here I was, a writer for the premier conservative political magazine in the country, leaving my post on the front lines to consort with the liberals in my neighborhood as I filled my rucksack with the most beautiful and delicious broccoli, carrots, greens, and whatnot in the city. ”
I want to preface this with that there is no one way to honor and glorify God through our eating habits. Eating more naturally is not the only way to eat as a Christian, but it is still a Christian way to eat.
I know plenty of Jesus-lovers who pull through a McDonalds on their way to a meeting and are praising God all the time for the nourishment it provides. I know Christians who don’t have a formal sit down dinner with their children each night, but make other times of checking in with them a daily priority. This article is supposed to provide some insight to a different kind of life. A Christian life. A slower life. A life that honors and glorifies God more by defining ourselves as Christian – not by a political party. A life that benefits from slowing down and prioritizing meal time as a moment to invest in our loved ones. And a life that, by eating a more natural diet, full of the flavors that God himself created, promotes health and wellness.
The stereotype for the ‘tree-hugging, organic food eating, hippy’ is fairly rampant in our Christian circles. We associate living close to the earth and more natural approaches to life with that of a band of nudists with dreadlocks. Though there are a number of the stereotypical, secular, environmentally minded individuals in the world of those who live more ‘earthy’ lifestyles, there are also their fair share of highly conservative vegans, hobby farmers, and naturopaths. So why the discrepancy? Why do we balk at the idea of a naturalist Christian?
Well, to put it frankly, we have been lied to. We have been tricked into believing that as Christians we are therefore Republicans, and as Republicans these are the things we should care about (the Republican political agenda) and these are the things we should care about less (the Democratic political agenda). We are told that environmentalism, living off the land, and natural healing efforts are inherently secular – and because of our faith, many Christians won’t entertain any ideas resembling relying on ‘Mother Nature’ for their health, nutrition, or wellness.
I think one of the initial battles of eating more naturally, eating more the way God designed us to eat, is jumping the hurdle of first realizing that we, as a society, have grouped certain tendencies, agendas, and habits with certain groups of people – and that as Christians we don’t belong to ANY group of people other than those who belong to Christ.
This presidential election has opened my eyes to the stereotypes people earnestly believe in, Christians included. We have to believe that we can be a Pro-Life, organic foodie, yogi, Christian. Because if we can’t, then we are only believing things and doing things because that is what society tells us to.
Secondly, though the world has made huge advances in science over the course of mankind, one very sad advancement, I think, is processed foods. Chemicals that allow our food to last months and months on the shelf. Additives that make our food addictive. And flavoring that numbs us to the tastes God created for us in our fruits and vegetables.
I mean, really. Do you take a bite out of a radish and say, “Dang! That’s a GREAT radish!” No. You complain about its lack of flavor or that it doesn’t have the right flavor and you add heaps of ranch or another dip to essentially mask its unique taste. I’m paraphrasing here, but Kim John Payne, author of Simplicity Parenting, discusses the addictive nature of today’s convenience foods (and processed foods alike) and how our taste buds are over stimulated so often and so consistently that we truly cannot enjoy the taste of raw veggies. I find that quite sad really. But when I peruse the aisle of the supermarket it becomes all too apparent. I cannot pronounce even half of the chemicals, additives or compounds on the back of a box. And most of them have to do with flavoring. Why eat a carrot when you could have a Cheeto? Get what I am saying? What do your kids ask for as a snack or treat or reward? Cookies? The Naturally Flavored Welch’s Grape Fruit Snacks (thanks to my sweet sister-in-law for that suggestion)? Unless, perhaps, you have one of those unusual kids who really loves strawberries or something, but getting them to choose a ‘healthy’ snack is not their first instinct. And if you offer them a plain veggie? I’ve seen kids cry. That is the result of addictive processed foods – we are trapped and so are they.
The other component at work here is that we are a convenience nation. We eat on the run and pulling through a drive through or popping a frozen meal in the microwave is just EASY – so why not? There are many dangers in convenience food including the health of our family, but one Biblical principle I see dismissed again and again are the benefits of sit down meals – of time spend invested in our children and friends by using the times in which we eat to slow down, fellowship, and worship together. We have been told the lie that we always have to be busy – that to slow down and take time is lazy, or unproductive. We are told that if our children aren’t in a million activities, like youth group and sports and clubs, that they will fall behind. So instead of a sit down family meal we are rushing through the drive through and off to various activities planned for our kids. The point here is that an evening meal isn’t going to happen for your family unless you prioritize it and make changes to your life. If you fill every second of your day with ‘stuff’ there won’t be the opportunity to cook fresh, good quality food for dinner and then sit around a table and fellowship.
Simple eating: naturally delicious, naturally joyful, naturally Christian. So why do we find it so unnatural?