Confession time: I never really thought about what I ate until after college. Food was whatever was put in front of me or whatever I wanted/craved at the time. As I prepare to be a father, I have been reminded of the countless times my parents sat in the drive-thru at McDonald’s. I would often order a special way (ketchup only on my cheeseburger please) which sometimes resulted in my parents being forced to pull into a special lane to await my order. Looking back on this, I realize I was picky, but also quite shrewd. After all, they had to make my order then, so it hadn’t been sitting under a lamp for hours.
After college, two things happened. First, I watched the movie “Super Size Me.” If you haven’t seen this movie, stop reading this, go check it out, commit to eating salads for the rest of your life, and then come back to this. The movie didn’t stop me from eating fast food completely. Of course, I hadn’t been eating it that much to begin with. I like cooking and enjoy really good food, and fast food was mostly something I grabbed for convenience. The movie did make me think much more about what I ate overall, and whether it would even be considered food (especially the section on McNuggets – which I am proud to say I have never once eaten, cause really, why would anyone?!).
The movie also led me to the second thing: I became obsessed with the writings of Michael Pollan. Pollan contributed some to “Super Size Me” and afterwards released his masterpiece The Omnivore’s Dilemma. In it, he exposes the fact that most of us in the United States eat a large diet of variations of corn (which is not all that healthy for us, and is certainly not healthy for the animals who are fed massive diets of it that we then eat). He then traces several meals back to their original source. This was incredible for me. I have never lived on a farm, and fewer of us in the US do. And even fewer of us have anything to do with those who provide us with food. In his follow-up In Defense of Food, Pollan questions whether or not much of what we are eating would even qualify as food since so much of it is highly processed.
So at this point you might be thinking, “Yeah, yeah hippie foodie movement. Eat local. What does this have to do with Jesus?” Well, the main thing is this: Jesus did live around farmers and herders. He spoke with them all the time. He called those who fished for a living to follow him. He also ate lots of meals because he was fully human. Yes, wondering whether or not he would eat fast food is an exercise in some extreme imagination, but it is not a stretch to say he would be concerned about where food came from and what the production of this food did to the lives of those producing it as well as the animals and the land. There is significant evidence that desiring plentiful and cheap meat is ruining creation. Animals kept in disgusting conditions are pumped with antibiotics which we then ingest making our immune systems less powerful. Even without antibiotics, why would any of us want to eat something raised in disgusting conditions?!
God created us and all living things. We exist in a precarious balance with the rest of creation. And the health of all living things is bound together. When we eat bad food or food that isn’t food at all, it hurts us and hurts the rest of creation. And Jesus cares a lot about this.
In my next post, I will share another reason eating fast food runs counter to Jesus’ way for our lives. Stay tuned.
About the Author: Rev. David Hollis is an elder in the Memphis Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church and serves at the Wesley Fellowship for Belmont University in Nashville, TN.