Do we (Episcopalians and other moderate to liberal Christian denominations) care about the ethics of food? And if not, why not? I have been musing about this since I posted the link to Wednesday's Times story.
On the one hand most of our congregations have or participate in some sort of program to get food to the food insecure. An emergency food pantry, a community meal, a weekly food handout, or in some parishes a large scale effort. On the other hand, my observation remains - that few want to go beyond that - to look at the ethics of our food system. Example: a few years ago when I did a program on Measure M (our local initiative to ban GMOs) I had half as many people attend as worked handing out food on a weekday afternoon when it's Episcopalians' month to do it.
It's not that there is better food at the Eucharist, either. Two weeks ago an appeal was made for folks to bake bread for the Eucharist. "How many of you have a bread machine at home?" was the opening question. I just sat there. I have taught folks in more than one congregation how to make good uncrumby bread for the Eucharist - but I don't have a bread machine and don't much like the product.
In the Los Angeles diocese in the 90s my experience was that if you wanted anything to eat after the liturgy, you should go to a congregation where English was not the primary language or get two hours away from central Los Angeles. There are congregations in some places which do not even have kitchens where you can prepare a meal - and I am not talking about old and tiny small town churches, or buildingless congregations. We have fewer and fewer communal meals at our congregations, it seems to me. And we feed our youth a steady diet of take away pizza. Why don't we teach them to cook?
And when is the last time I have heard anyone talk about fasting? I've noticed that those who have been to seminary or something like it and those who have been among the more Catholic Episcopalians for decades do exercise some form of fasting, at least on the two required fast days. But it's been years since I ever heard it mentioned in a sermon, or even an announcement.
I think most people's piety around food is strictly secular - whether the South Beach/Weight Watchers kind or Mickey D's/Costco or Slow Food. We don't want to bring back dietary laws, by any means - but surely our eating practices ought to be begin with the many meanings of our Sunday meal together, and flow from them?
There are also the time pressures of too many people's lives which cause eating to be hurried and food prep to be minimal. And I think we also have some class issues, wedded to a strange asceticism, that cause us to not want to make too much of food, not to pay it too much attention (except for individuals who are labeled "foodies"). And our disregard then gets mapped onto our thinking about food system issues.