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    Environmentalism v. Taking Dominion {Part IV}

    June 16, 2008 by Brandy Vencel

    Yesterday in the class Si is teaching at our church, he said, “We must be Christians first.” It’s a simple concept, really, but it is one that a lot of us miss. Many of us can get really caught up in being, for example, a conservative. Or, to speak more in the vein of my current topic, an environmentalist or conservationist or whatever we wish to call it.

    If we are Christians first, then we make sure that our other interests and passions {like the environment, perhaps} are in submission to the Lord. Among other things, this means that our beliefs about something must match up with reality as it is explained in the Bible.

    The environmental issue I want to discuss today is the concept of eating locally. This is a big portion of today’s environmental movement, and part of the popular appeal is definitely financial. As the cost of gas is rising, there is now a monetary incentive for keeping the produce close to home. If you live near farms, this is most likely beneficial to you. If you live in the city, you can expect your food bill to rise, I think.

    There are also folks out there promoting the 100 Foot Diet. The concept is loosely based on the old World War II Victory Gardens, but today’s “enemies” are global warming and deforestation.

    As an aside I thought I’d mention that many say one of the reasons the Soviets didn’t starve to death during the reign of Communism is because they knew how to grow some of their own food. Supplementing their rations was necessary for survival. How many people in our country today would know how to do that if needed?

    Another great reason for growing your own food is that, from what I have read, it really is the healthiest option. Homegrown foods are much less likely to be contaminated {as long as you don’t botch your compost or use it before it is ripe}. Homegrown foods can also be picked at their peak, which maximizes vitamin and mineral content. And, of course, there are the transcendant benefits like character development that come from working the soil.

    So as you can see, I am far from being against eating local.

    However, comma…

    Some folks within the Eat Local movement have taken it to an extreme. Instead of suggesting it as a helpful and practical option, there is a corresponding condemnation of people who choose to go to the grocery store and buy their food. In order to make grocery store patrons feel guilty, the Eat Local folks will wax eloquent about how much bigger is the carbon footprint of the grocery store folks. They will talk about food miles until they are blue in the face.

    So let me ask you Christian, is this another instance of allowing the environmentalists to redefine sin?

    In regard to the virtuous woman {the kind of woman every son should seek out and marry}, the Bible says this:

    She is like merchant ships;
    She brings her food from afar.
    Proverbs 31:14

    Now, this doesn’t mean that this wonderful lady is merely a consumer. Throughout the passage, we see her producing in many ways, from making thread and fabric and clothes, to weaving belts, to planting a vineyard {also known as “Eating Local”}. However, she doesn’t just go to the grocery store. She imports her food on ships.

    Talk about food miles.

    As much as I like the idea of gardening, and as much as we are going to try to make some significant strides toward production in our home in the coming year, I actually import a fair amount of our family’s food. As you know, my children have severe food allergies. Eating local doesn’t cut it when your children do better eating teff grain from Ethiopia and buckwheat from Montana. I belong to a co-op where I purchase our grains {in whole form} in gigantic 25 pound bags. We have had grain come from all over the world, and we feel very grateful that modern-day merchant ships are available to folks like us with special dietary needs.

    I understand that many families are only interested in consumption. Frankly, I am concerned for them not because of their perceived “eco-crimes,” but because of the lack of character that such things often {but not always} reveal.

    However, comma…

    Part of what it means to become conformed to the likeness of Christ is to approve the things the Father approves while also disapproving of the things of which He disapproves. It is having our definitions of transgression and virtue align with Scripture.

    In many ways, I think that environmentalism has become a red herring, a way of distracting ourselves from the real problems of our day. A way of overlooking real sins while still maintaining an appearance of morality. Let us not be distracted.

    Let us govern the garden while serving the Lord.

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    6 Comments

  • Reply Brandy June 19, 2008 at 4:20 am

    Rahime,

    I was considering your comment and thinking that I really could have worded this post a little better. When I said the Soviets didn’t starve to death, I meant they didn’t all starve to death. But I don’t want to treat lightly the fact that many, many did starve. And even those with gardens were hungry.

    So I think I’ll watch my words better from now on. 🙂

  • Reply Rahime June 17, 2008 at 7:05 pm

    Si, if you’re thinking about the US aiding Russia through the Lend-Lease Act of the 1940s or during the famine of the 1920s, I don’t think they were sworn enemies yet. The US and Russia (along with Britain and France) were allies.

    On the other hand, if you’re thinking of the aid in 90s, they technically weren’t enemies any more….the “iron curtain” had fallen. Maybe there are other times in between when the US supplied food to the USSR’s people, that I’m forgetting about.

    That said, many, many soviets did starve under Soviet Communism particularly during the collectivization experiment and the many famines that struck the region. During the famine the 30s they starved much of the population of the Ukrainian people sending the food they’d grown to Russia and feeding the soldiers well.

    Brandy, I’m enjoying this series. The local food movement does have some appeal for me…probably because there are an abundance of farms close to where I live. If I lived in another area I might not be as inclined to try it. I agree, though, that raising it to an issue of right and wrong (sin) is a huge stretch and distracts us from issues we should be concerned about.

  • Reply Brandy June 17, 2008 at 4:36 am

    JLH,

    I liked what you said when you said, “it’s not a spiritual issue as to where you purchase your food.” I agree with you completely, which is part of what frightens me about the current environmental movement. It’s this redefinition of sin–making neutral things sin while ignoring actual, real sin.

    I’m glad to hear the Eat Local pressure (the moral pressure…sometimes there is also pressure from the pocketbook to grow your own food) hasn’t made it’s way to TN. But I can only warn you that my state has the unfortunate habit of spilling itself over into other states. :/

    Thanks for your comment. It’s always a pleasure to hear from you! 🙂

  • Reply Brandy June 17, 2008 at 4:32 am

    Thank you for the history lesson, Dear. I don’t think I realized we helped feed the Russian poor, though I suppose that shouldn’t surprise me.

  • Reply JLHesse June 17, 2008 at 4:19 am

    Thanks for your post. I especially liked the section after the last “However, comma.” I never thought of the verse from Proverbs that you pointed out in relation to this issue, but that puts an interesting twist on the “local/slow food” movement. Not that there aren’t positive things about local food, as you pointed out, but it’s not a spiritual issue as to where you purchase your food.

    I am fortunate to have a husband who enjoys growing vegetables, and this is our 2nd year at it. I really enjoy the fruits of his labors! 🙂 I, too, have special dietary needs (I am on a gluten-free diet due to celiac), but I never felt any pressure from an environmental standpoint to eat local. I try to buy from local farmers when I can, but I also have no problems buying special grains or food products from the grocery store or online. It’s all about balance!

    I liked what you said about assigning honor or dishonor according to God’s standards, not the world’s. Thanks for your afterthoughts – I always enjoy your posts. Blessings! (Your loyal TN reader)

  • Reply Si June 16, 2008 at 5:16 pm

    I realize it was only just a minor illustration in your post today, but it’s a great historical irony that Communist Russia actually had to request help from the USA to feed its starving population. The hyper-regulation and thievery on peasant farms resulted in a lot of hungry folks. And who could the Soviets depend on for help? The democratic, God-believing Americans, their sworn enemy!

    As I like to say, the proof of an idea is in the pudding of reality. If Communist principles do not work in real life, there is something fundamentally flawed about them.

    Anyhow, I hope you enjoyed this installment of Great Historical Ironies.

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