We Are How We Eat?

Brad M. Griffin | Nov 18, 2010

Are there any donuts left?

This question marks the end of the 30-second dash toward the pink bakery boxes most Sunday mornings in our student ministry. As teenagers (and lets be real here, adults too) clabber for a sugar rush, inevitably someone ends up a few seconds too late to snag that last culinary treat. And even when Im in the dash (full confession: I adore high-sugar food products) I sometimes wonder whether were doing anyone any favors. To push a bit more, as someone who thinks too much about just about everything, I wonder if our food consumption patterns do much to bring glory to God.

Following Codys post about pizza and a thoughtful conversation with my undergrad students this week on food and prayer, I read Leslie Leyland Fields latest article in Christianity Today entitled A Feast Fit for the King: Returning our growing fields and kitchen table to God and wanted to suggest some ideas for youth ministry conversation.

Fields recounts the all-too-familiar plight of the church potluck table, complete with buckets of fast-food chicken, orange cheese puffs, and jell-o posing as real food. She observes, We pray our thanks over this smorgasbord of chemical wizardry and marketing genius, ask that it would strengthen our bodies (something I believe will take divine intervention), and invite Jesus to be among us as we eat. And thats eating a step up from typical youth ministry fare.

Alongside a healthy critique of the new food movement, its self-absorption, and its misguided quest for salvation outside of Christ, Fields prompts the Church to ask new questions about food. Food clearly matters in scripture, and big-industry food and farming raise a lot of ethical questions Churches tend to skirt. Namely, Beyond a quick word of thanks before meals, have we seriously considered how our eating and drinking either reveals of suppresses the glory of God [referencing 1 Corinthians 10:31]?

So at the risk of stirring the pot (pun intended), here are some perhaps well-timed questions for us to consider in youth ministry:

  • Whats our theology of foodits role, growth, production, consumption, and function in the life of the church?
  • Whats our theology of eating? Throughout history and across cultures, eating together has always had relational and spiritual implications. Have we de-spirited our meals, or do we eat and drink together in ways that honor one another and God and that foster reconciliation (the core imagery of the shared table)?
  • How are we responding to concerns being raised about local and global food patterns (some would say injustices or crises), and the questions our more thoughtful students and families are asking?
  • What practical ideas has your church had about eating (and sharing) food to the glory of God?

This Saturday Ill pick up my familys local organic CSA (community-supported agriculture) farm box, and Ill probably also nab one of the remaining highly-processed and non-fair-trade-chocolate Halloween candy treats in my house. I dont pretend to have my own contradictions worked out on this. But I think its worth some conversation.

Brad M. Griffin

Brad M. Griffin is the Senior Director of Content for the Fuller Youth Institute, where he develops research-based training for youth workers and parents. A speaker, writer, and volunteer youth pastor, Brad is the coauthor of over a dozen books, including 3 Big Questions That Change Every Teenager, Faith in an Anxious World, Growing Young, several Sticky Faith books, Every Parent’s Guide to Navigating Our Digital World, and Can I Ask That? Brad and his family live in Southern California, where he serves as Pastor of Youth and Family Ministries at Mountainside Communion.

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