Archives For Food & Farming

Back in mid-August of 2016, I posted a blog entitled Food and the Whole Faith Church. In it I wrote the following:

“A defining feature of a whole faith church will be that this community of believers will be fully committed to demonstrating the proper and attentive relationship between humanity and Creation in its common meals, including communion.

This means that the food of the whole faith church will come as much as is practically possible from farms where the land, water, and animals of God’s earth are stewarded in ways that God would find fitting of a good, loving shepherd and from farm enterprises which support a good quality of life for the farmers and their communities.”

Then in late September, I wrote a follow-up piece that explored some of the practicalities of applying that principle with ten supplementary principles.

Because food is so central to culture and because forming a church with a new culture of food would be radically different from the life of churches most people know, I believe it’s necessary to wrestle with more of the practicalities and concerns this idea presents. Below you’ll find a series of questions that might reasonably be asked about the ideas I’ve proposed followed by my responses:


Isn’t a focus on choosing right foods to eat a new legalism that replaces the Gospel of grace with a gospel of deeds?

No. And an emphatic double no.

It is true that early Christians were concerned about food arguments dividing them and compromising their ability to evangelize diverse groups of people. And I’ve become convinced that church members should not be so focused on food purity that they refuse to eat, if there is no other choice, food they normally wouldn’t eat when it is offered to them in social situations with people who are not members of the church.

But you would have to twist what is in the Bible as a whole to believe that a Christian faith does not express itself in action and in daily decisions. This conviction is one of the pillars of a whole faith church.

Living out the faith and the loving spirit that comes with that faith will compel us to make every detail of our church’s life fit together. The common meals of a whole faith church are the home turf of that church. In those common meals we have the right to express our faith completely and holistically. Not doing so actually hollows out all of the meaning of the Christian faith. How Christian is a community that eats ham, for exactly, that has come from pigs raised in factory farms where thousands are kept inside their whole lives, where fecal particulates fill the air, where local waterways are defiled, where the lives of neighbors are made miserable, and where the pigs are fed a steady stream of antibiotics to promote growth which contributes to antibiotic resistant bacteria that kill people?

Our faith is an incarnational faith. It is not just an abstract assent to abstract doctrines and ideas. It calls for belief in God through Jesus that our actual lives rest on and are rooted in. Jesus showed us what that looks like. Jesus’ earthy parables, like that of the Good Samaritan, rooted ideas and values in paradigm-shifting stories.

Nevertheless, there is nuance in this conversation that must be respected and approached carefully. There is, for example, a whole spectrum of farming methods. And the question of how to balance ideals and practicality is one a thoughtful farmer must wrestle with everyday. I hope all of us are wise enough to know that there are things we don’t know that we don’t know. The whole faith church will need to avoid legalism and harsh judgment. Its members will need to humbly do their best they can to discern what kind of food is fitting for the common meals of the church. They will need to do so with a commitment to truth and also with God’s abiding love and in their hearts.


Won’t this turn away potential members?

Yes. The whole faith church will unapologetically have a tangible, distinctive culture that reveals itself in many aspects of the common life of the church and in how members live out their lives. As a result, there will be many aspects (and not just food choices) of the common life in the whole faith church that will be challenging and countercultural. The degree of commitment asked of members may be too much for people who want a casual commitment to God.

But this approach to food and other elements of a church’s common life together also has the potential to attract people who would otherwise not find church meaningful. Some of the people this approach to food might attract are justice-minded, loving people who would respond to a church’s message if the culture of the church was consistent with the Gospel message.

And we should not underestimate the attractiveness of any group of people who are loving, action-oriented, creative, diverse, and who stand for something in all aspects of their lives.


Isn’t this a case of a social fad or movement influencing the church rather than the other way around?

I don’t think so. What I am proposing is that the culture of the whole faith church to reflect a willingness to actually apply a transformed and remade heart that sees the world the way God sees it and translates those values into actions in everyday life.

But, hypothetically, if there is some truth to the idea that the larger good food movement is having influence on this conception of a whole faith church, then I believe it is a positive influence. The Church has been largely acquiescent in accepting “progress” that has actually been systematically injurious to people and to Creation in many fields. Technological advancement, the application of that technology, and the direction the free market takes our communities are not automatically good or in keeping with Christian principles. And, of course, neither are they automatically bad or not in keeping with Christian principles. The Church and local churches have simply not been paying attention or guiding Christians in moral, nuanced ways. This is because the Church has largely been spiritual in an abstract and has tried to avoid conflict with the powers that be. As a result, all too often the loudest voices of love and hunger for righteousness in our world are not Christian.


Won’t this be expensive?

It’s true that applying Christian values to food choices would mean that the cost of food purchased by the local whole faith church would be higher than it would be buying typical food from a typical grocery store.

But I would make a number of points. First, any church can, if motivated, find a way to afford something that is important to its values. Tradeoffs can be made in other areas.

Second, a whole faith church will think of food and eating choices as part of their community practice of faith, in essence a faith discipline. Food choices in our modern world are not just “food” choices but declarations of what one truly values.

Third, it is far more expensive in the larger context to eat food that has not been raised in ways compatible with a whole faith understanding of the Christian faith. If a faith community supports a food system that is contributing to the diminishment of God’s world, to health issues, and to an agriculture that is not as good as it should be for farmers and their communities, then the faith community is not truly loving its neighbors nor God.  It is not putting its money where its mouth is.

Finally, a church with a dynamic culture that gives purpose, community, and coherence to everything in its members’ lives will be tremendously inspirational and meaningful. People who are members will give generously, perhaps more generously than they would at church where there is more of a lukewarm sense of common commitment.


Would this mean whole faith churches would be vegetarian?

Not necessarily. Each whole faith church would have some latitude in what it deemed to be food choices compatible with the loving heart a Christian will have shaped by God. Respect should be given, within the general commitment to apply a whole faith church’s values to the common meals, to the community context of the church.

I must admit that I’ve come to see the consumption of animals in a more complex, nuanced way over the years. Through the research and teaching I’ve been exposed to through my work, it’s become clear to me that for farms to be truly sustainable, livestock are indispensable. It is very hard, for example, to find a natural ecosystem where there are not animals that eat vegetation and poop and help nutrients stay in the system. What’s more, I’ve now seen and read about a number of pasture-based livestock farms that are very humane and treat the animals with great respect. If we make the sacrificial commitment to treat the animals and the land with great respect and affection at the cost of some commercial success, then asking the livestock to also make a sacrifice as part of whole lives that are generally good and respectful of their natures seems to me the best that can be expected of in this fallen world. That’s a hard sentence for me to write as I was vegetarian for many years.

But I must be clear about one thing – I do believe that there is no place in a church’s common meals, for example, for meat from factory-raised, inhumanely treated animals.


Will the effort and resources needed to do this take away energy and time that would be better used to advance the core mission of the church?

There would certainly be an upfront investment of time and energy to figure out the guidelines for the church’s common meals and to find the new sources of food to implement those guidelines. But once a system and sources were figured out, this would, like other elements of church and family life, become relatively routine. Down the road, members will have a hard time remembering when and why they could have done it any other way.


Won’t this principle antagonize farmers and create an unnecessary divide in the Church?

This is a big, sensitive topic. For an established church in a rural area, it might be too hard to try to adopt this principle because of the controversy and rifts it would create. But I foresee whole faith churches primarily being new churches that spring up to serve people who want to worship and be in communion with other people who share a whole faith vision of what the Christian faith is all about. It will be easier for new churches to establish a new culture since they are starting from scratch.

Of course, ideally, whole faith churches would spring up in rural areas, too. If they do, will farmers whose farming methods wouldn’t meet the whole faith church’s threshold for how a good and loving shepherd would farm feel welcome or harshly judged? Sadly, I think some farmers would feel harshly judged even if that was not the intent.

In light of the sensitivity of this topic for the relationship with farmers, I also wrote Farmers and the Whole Faith Church. Some key points from that piece are: (1) it’s important to recognize what a difficult and challenging calling it is to be a farmer of any kind, (2) paying attention to farming and the impact that our mainstream farming system has on farmers and their communities is actually a pro-farmer orientation, and (3) Proverbs 27:23-27 is a reminder that it is all too easy for all of us to be obsessed with wealth and power and to forget that the foundation of a healthy, prosperous, resilient society and community is an agriculture that is rooted in careful stewardship care of each square foot of land and of each individual animal being raised.

Here’s a paragraph that I believe bears repeating:

We should empathize with farmers who have to live and work here at the tension point between a civilization’s riches and a farmer’s calling to treat God’s earth well and to produce good, healthy food. They are caught in a system. Doctors who cannot give their patients the time and care they need because of our current health care system are also stuck in a similar situation. That is a difficult, stressful place to be.

The whole faith church would in no way judge the character of any farmer but would in fact be warm and welcoming to all people. The whole faith church will have, in fact, special empathy for farmers. By living out its principles, the whole faith church will actually be more pro-farmer and more supportive of rural community life than churches that ignore the values that undergird our current agricultural system.


Will the whole faith church not care what members eat outside of the common meals of the church community?

That’s a good question. I’ve been grappling with that point for a while. The whole faith church will care. I’m convinced that one of the ways the whole faith church will be distinctive is that membership will truly mean something.  People who become members in a whole faith church will not only commit themselves to certain beliefs but also commit themselves to certain ways of living and be accountable in some way. A central tenet of this way of living couldn’t help but be attentiveness to how one’s life habits reflect the God-focused, God-shaped heart one now has.

Will the whole faith church expect members to eat every meal to the level of ethical discernment as the common meals of the church? Probably not, although that would be a good goal for any family. But I would be convinced that members would commit themselves to filtering their food buying and eating choices through their faith.

The whole faith church would need to support their member families in that commitment. What would that look like? I’m thinking of something like David Ramsey’s Financial Peace University. My wife and I have begun taking this class on money management through a local church. It’s a powerful, carefully thought-through curriculum that is having a big impact on how Christians and other people manage their money. It’s already impacting how we think about and manage our money.

Why isn’t there something like this to help Christians think carefully about how they steward God’s earth? Because eating is so important for health, for God’s Creation, and for the kind of agriculture that shapes the lives of farmers and rural communities, Christians should put as much thought into their eating as their use of money. The whole faith church should create a curriculum similar to Financial Peace University that would help Christians live out their values in their food choices. The curriculum would not only provide the thought foundation behind thinking carefully about food and guidance about how to determine whether food is compatible with whole Christian faith values, but also provide practical help. Meal plans. Cooking lessons. Visits to farms (or at least virtual visits through a video presentation). Perhaps even special buying relationships with local and sustainable food farmers that make good, healthy food available to members at a reduced cost?

Dave Ramsey asks in one of his video presentations what would happen to God’s Kingdom if millions of Christians applied good principles of money management (including generous giving) in their daily lives. That’s a powerful question.

An equally powerful question is this – “What would happen if millions of Christians applied good principles of shepherding God’s earth in their daily lives with a special focus on their eating and farming choices?”

We have more to learn from Robert Marchand than just about the power of will and the importance of exercise to a long life.

Frenchman Robert Marchand, as you can read in this article, recently set the a world record for his age class – 105-plus years – by riding 14.010 miles in one hour. Ironically, as the video below also relates, a coach had told him many decades ago that “he should give up cycling because he would never achieve anything on a bike.”


The story within the story that caught my attention is a quote from his physiologist, Veronique Billat. She said, according to the article, “He could have been faster but he made a big mistake. He has stopped eating meat over the past month after being shocked by recent reports on how animals are subjected to cruel treatment.”

For the physiologist, the mistake was that Marchand had forfeited the chance to achieve even better performance by listening to his conscience. Without intending to do so, Billat has provided us with a metaphor for the myopic way of thinking and living that characterizes many of us today.

What matters most, she is asserting, is our personal performance. Or, taken more broadly, our personal benefit. Performance. Profit. Convenience. Power. Information. Pleasure. What we want and desire is primary. The other beyond ourselves does not matter and has no ethical standing.

Billat is not some French aberration to humanity. She is actually just a mouthpiece for what the dominant values and culture of our world, even of too many Christian circles, have long been. The possibility, for example, that there might be a moral dimension to how animals are raised for our consumption clearly doesn’t enter her mind. What matters is whether our needs are being met and whether we are achieving glory.

By contrast, Robert Marchand is remarkable for the condition of his heart.

Of course, I don’t mean just his physical heart that enabled him to put on another inspiring bicycle performance at an advanced age. I also use “heart” in the way the Bible often does – the center from which our will, emotions, desires, and thoughts are generated.

As we grow older, layers of rationalizations and justifications tend to build up on our hearts like barnacles on a ship. In the process, we lose the ability to respond to people and life around us out of simple love and kindness that is, in God’s original framework, what life is all about.

At 105 years, Marchand is still able to respond with a pure heart to new information about the impact of his choices on life around him. We don’t know how he learned about how farm animals are being routinely treated. But we do know that once the information entered his mind, his heart would not let him ignore the ethical implications. He changed a habit of his long life to maintain the integrity of his values.

What is interesting, too, is how Marchand’s character is both strong in its matter-of-fact compassion and its matter-of-fact determination to do great things with fearless tenacity and pluck. We see that in his performance, which clearly came out of a commitment to daily habits of exercise, good diet, and sleep. We also hear it when he says, “I’m now waiting for a rival.”

We tend to assume that a good-hearted, whole-hearted person will be a gentle, never-hurt-a-fly wallflower. This isn’t necessarily so. Vigor, sense of purpose, and energy are part and parcel of hearts that are fully alive.

We are meant to have strength-filled love and love-filled strength.

Robert Marchand gives us a sense of what that looks like. May we, with God’s help, come to have hearts like that, too.


So you’re a farm family with corn and soybean fields stretching in all directions to the horizon away from your house on a rural road.

You’re farming the way everyone else in your community has farmed for decades. You work hard at it every day. You believe you are helping to feed the world.

Suddenly, you hear of a group of people who have begun gathering together in a nearby town for worship and for the restoration of their hearts, minds, and lives to what God offers through Jesus. They call themselves a whole faith church. They seem unusually kind, sincere, thoughtful, and good-natured. You hear, too, that the people of this church teach, among many other things, that there are certain principles for how God’s land and water should be treated. You hear that this group of people is mindful of what kind of food they choose to eat together as a church.

And when you dig further, you realize your farming methods don’t seem to jibe with their principles.

How will you react?

Quite possibly with defensiveness and resentment.

Putting ourselves in the shoes of a farm family is a reminder that the way the whole faith church communicates about farming should be thoughtfully done. Farmers are in a tough spot as they have one of the most difficult callings there is. The practical challenges of raising food and making a living in a technologically-intense, market-driven world that is now experiencing intensifying climate change are immense.

It’s critical to remember, too, that farmers and rural communities have often had little voice in how agricultural economies are shaped. In Empires of Food: Feast, Famine, and the Rise and Fall of Civilizations, authors Evan Fraser and Andrew Rimas highlight how civilizations tend to create agricultural systems that work well for the interests of the civilization and its urban elites. There is a recurring pattern of civilizations creating large-scale, nature-depleting farming systems in the hinterlands that are dependent on advanced technology, complex logistics, sophisticated trading systems, and stable, pleasant climate conditions.

Sound familiar?

The United States has built exactly this kind of system. And we are now part of an increasingly global farm system that individual farmers and their communities did not choose at a time when the climate is becoming less friendly.

I talked to a diversified farmer recently in central Illinois who remembers when Earl Butz, Secretary of Agriculture under Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, killed the supply management policies of the New Deal while promoting big new export deals for American commodity farm products (for a great overview, read this article from Grist). The New Deal policies, based on the lessons of the Depression and the Dust Bowl, had been designed to protect farmers from market swings in commodity prices while also protecting the land.

Under Butz, the new goal was for American farmers to produce as much as possible as cheaply as possible and to let the market sort out the winners and losers. Butz encouraged farmers to plant from fence row to fence row. He often said, “Get big or get out.”

That central Illinois farmer I talked to remembers how neighbors who used to be friends in his area began competing fiercely against each other to acquire the land they needed for their farms to survive. Fistfights broke out.

When this intense production fever led to lower prices even as interest rates on loans went up, there was an epidemic of farm failures in the 1980s. Fewer farmers remained. Natural areas were plowed up across the country. The social life that used to define small towns withered away. The interests of the local and small places in America’s countryside were sacrificed for the interests of the national economy and big companies.

It’s clear from the Bible that wealth and power are not what God called people to pursue.

In fact, it’s quite the opposite. People of the Christian faith should be instinctively allergic to any philosophy or policy that drives us to maximize wealth and power while simultaneously minimizing our commitment to other virtues and to the health of the commonwealth.

Proverbs 27: 23-27 provides some interesting food for thought:

Be sure you know the condition of your flocks,
give careful attention to your herds;
for riches do not endure forever,
and a crown is not secure for all generations.
When the hay is removed and new growth appears
and the grass from the hills is gathered in,
the lambs will provide you with clothing,
and the goats with the price of a field.
You will have plenty of goats’ milk to feed your family
and to nourish your female servants.

Riches and crowns, as I read it, are shorthand for economic wealth and political power. The writer is saying wealth and power can seem so important and pressing but are actually fleeting and can cause us to take our eyes away from what matters most. It also suggests that the foundation of stable family life, the basic building block of any community, is careful attention to the on-the-ground conditions of the land and animals we raise for food.

These ancient verses from Proverbs remind us that careful, attentive husbandry of land, water, and livestock is not some new fad. It is the old, old school of farming.

Really knowing the condition of your herds and paying careful attention to your flocks takes time and patience. It means creating the conditions for your animals to thrive in ways that are natural for them. When Proverbs was written, the audience would also have understood that you can’t have healthy flocks and herds without healthy pastures. Pastures also need attention and careful observation.

Insightful people like Wes Jackson say that for that kind of attention to be given to the land you need a high enough ratio of eyes per acre. In other words, you have to have enough people looking at any property’s acreage to know how the land is really responding to how it is being used.

Wendell Berry writes of this concept:

We can suppose that the eyes-to-acres ratio is approximately correct when a place is thriving in human use and care. The sign of its thriving would be the evident good health and diversity, not just of its crops and livestock but also of its population of native and noncommercial creatures, including the community of creatures living in the soil. Equally indicative and necessary would be the signs of a thriving local and locally adapted human economy.

On the other hand, the more land that is being farmed by the same number of people (the lower the ratio of eyes-to-acres) the less attention can be given to the health of the land and water of a particular farm field. The bottom line is that farming, like any enterprise, can grow beyond the limits of the natural capacities of people, nature, and community life. In many places, as a result of policies and national and industrial imperatives, our farms are too big for the kind of care that Proverbs speaks of. But farmers have felt pressured to move to that scale and to rely heavily on technology to do so.

We should empathize with farmers who have to live and work here at the tension point between a civilization’s riches and a farmer’s calling to treat God’s earth well and to produce good, healthy food. They are caught in a system. Doctors who cannot give their patients the time and care they need because of our current health care system are also stuck in a similar situation. That is a difficult, stressful place to be.

The whole faith church will recognize the challenging position farmers are in and show great love to them.

Conversely, farmers of all kinds will, I hope, eventually recognize why whole faith churches will choose food that has been raised in keeping with the fruits of the spirit. The why is that eating compassionately and with God’s love for people and all Creation is a natural expression of hearts that have been transformed by God.

Hopefully, farmers will see, too, that this counter-cultural approach to food is actually profoundly supportive of the long-term interests of farmers and their rural communities.

It’s relatively easy to create a vision for something new at the 30,000-foot level. Working out some of the practical details is a whole different matter.

For that reason, I want to follow up on my piece in mid-August – Food and the Whole Faith Church – with some thoughts about how a whole faith church would actually implement one of the essential characteristics of a whole faith church presented in that post:

A defining feature of a whole faith church will be that this community of believers will be fully committed to demonstrating the proper and attentive relationship between humanity and Creation in its common meals, including communion.

This means that the food of the whole faith church will come as much as is practically possible from farms where the land, water, and animals of God’s earth are stewarded in ways that God would find fitting of a good, loving shepherd and from farm enterprises which support a good quality of life for the farmers and their communities.

Here are 10 principles I would offer as a starting point.

1. Form a Food and Faith Committee: Because of the complexity of the world of food and farming, the church will need dedicated and concentrated attention to continually learn about the topic, tackle difficult dimensions of application, and help the church’s approach to food evolve and mature over time. The committee should, ideally, be made up of 10 people or less for effectiveness and cohesiveness. These people should be widely recognized as thoughtful, compassionate, and yet practical people. Ideally, there would be at least one person on the committee who had farming experience or who has easy access to farmers of all kinds. The committee should visit farms on a regular basis. It should also regularly share what it has learned with the congregation.

2. The holier and more communally important the meal, the more attention should be given to how the food was farmed and made: The first order of priority would be to delve deep into the sourcing of wine (or grape juice) as well as the bread for holy communion. Following shortly after would be attention to other church-wide communal meals that the church enjoys together and that the church is the lead organizer and purchaser of. Eventually, attention would move down to smaller group meals the church organized.

3. Guidelines and plans for the food the whole faith church will choose and provide will be made a year at a time (at least): Based on a recommendation from the Food and Faith Committee, the whole church should agree to the practical details to be implemented for a particular year period (or more) before that period begins. In other words, the guidelines and plans for how food matters will be managed will be set for decently long period of time. Stability and predictability help people adjust to new habits.

4. The reasons why the church is being careful and deliberate in its food choices should be frequently explained and remembered: This could come in the form of sermons, special events, and sometimes simply a few words spoken during a service.

5. Whether meat is served and from what kind of farm-to-slaughter-to-market supply chain any meat that is served came from should receive particularly close attention: The raising of animals is an area where the worship of mammon and efficiency have overwhelmed kind and thoughtful shepherding ethics in particularly awful ways. Meat that has come from animals that have been systematically treated in ways that are cruel and don’t allow the animals to exhibit their natural behaviors should simply not be served. But there are varying degrees of humane and Creation-friendly livestock raising practices to be looked into. Tasty vegetarian options should always be provided to accommodate people whose compassion for animals is so great that any taking of animal life is an ethical problem for them.

6. On a regular basis, the church should share information about the farmers and their practices of farming for foods the church has committed to using: It would be ideal to bring farmers, especially Christian farmers, to the church (or the church to the farmers) as part of this effort.

7. The primary filter for choosing food sources for food the church will eat together will be the fruits of the spirit listed in Galatians 5:22-23: A whole faith church will ask of food it is considering eating to what degree the farming methods reflect love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control applied to God’s soil, water, animals, wildlife, and local, rural communities. Yet, the whole faith church will also recognize the practicalities and struggles of applying God’s values in any sphere of life in this fallen world.

8. The whole faith church will make a special effort to treat all farmers with respect in words and deeds and to offer tangible help to local farmers who want to farm with the fruits of the spirit: How would you feel if your local church scrutinized the ethics and morality of every decision you made in your job as a teacher or accountant or salesperson or IT consultant? Not very comfortable. Probably defensive. That’s how many farmers feel who have been working within the conventional food system for decades and whose family’s livelihood and culture are based on that system. The whole faith church needs to be loving and respectful to all farmers even as the whole faith church seeks to live out Christian values as they relate to farming and food in truth and love. The whole faith church should also seek out ways to help any farmer who desires to move in a significant way toward farming with stewardship and affection for God’s earth as a prominent goal.

9. Within the general principles laid about above, each local whole faith church will naturally have some latitude and freedom: Perfection will not be possible, and the intention is not to create food Puritans.

10. The whole faith church will frequently celebrate food as a provision of God, God’s beautiful earth, and God’s creative, gifted people: The efforts the whole faith church invests in making the common food of the church more in keeping with the values of God should be complemented by warm and lively celebration of the blessing of food in prayer, music, storytelling, and other creative ways.

If I’ve learned anything in my life it’s that planning is important but being able to adjust one’s plans and ideas when they make contact with reality is just as critical. I hope you find these ten points thought-provoking and helpful. I’d welcome your comments and feedback. 

You need to know about Joel Salatin and his new book The Marvelous Pigness of PigsIf you aren’t already familiar with Joel, here’s how the book jacket describes him:

“Joel Salatin is a third generation farmer who works with his family on their farm in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley.  The Salatin Polyface Farm is internationally known for innovative pastured livestock and services more than 5,000 families, 10 retail outlets and 50 restaurants through on-farm sales and metropolitan buying clubs.”

That’s the farming side of Joel. Joel was, in fact, the featured sustainable farmer in Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma which has helped shape a new consciousness of what of our food system is and what it should be.

Here’s how the website of his new book’s publisher describes him and the message of his tenth book:

“Joel Salatin is perhaps the nation’s best known farmer, whose environmentally friendly, sustainable Polyface Farms has been featured in Food, Inc. and Time magazine. Now in his first book written for a faith audience, Salatin offers a deeply personal argument for earth stewardship, and calls for fellow Christians to join him in looking to the Bible for a foodscape in line with spiritual truth. Salatin urges Christians to rethink America’s allegiance to cheap corporate food that destroys creation in its production, impoverishes third world countries, and supports oligarchical interests. He wonders why Christians ignore and even revel in unhealthy eating habits and factory farming that runs counter to God’s design. With scripture and Biblical stories, Salatin presents an alternative and shows readers that in appreciating the pigness of pigs, we celebrate the Glory of God.”

The shortest and best way to think about Joel is in his own terms. He calls himself a Christian libertarian environmentalist capitalist lunatic farmer.

He’s someone you should know. He’s a Christian changing God’s world for the better.

Pigness-Cover jpg

The following are a sampling of his words from his book. You’ll be struck by his unique voice and earthy, faith-centered perspective on food and our food system.

When we’re more interested in dysfunctional Hollywood celebrity culture or the Little League program than we are about what is going to become flesh of our flesh and bone of our bone, we voluntarily place ourselves into the corporate food agenda. That agenda is decidedly nutrient deficient, price inappropriate, and anti-community based. It promotes centralization, customer ignorance, and a mechanical view of life.

Things that the religious right would abhor if they were promoted by churches are embraced warmly in the food system. While preachers rail against bringing junk into our homes via TV, the Internet, and pornographic literature, few bat an eye at a home stashed with high fructose corn syrup, potato chips, and Pop-Tarts, indeed, some even suggest that the cheaper we eat, the more money we’ll have to put in the offering plate. And to top it off, they denigrate anyone who would suggest part of caring for children is caring about what they eat. (pp. 80-81)


The problem is we Christians do not trust God’s plan. We don’t. Oh, we trust it when it comes to matters of spirituality. But we think God’s plan is broken – along with mainstream scientists of our day – when it comes to physical things. The result is that we Christians marching off to sanctity-of-life rallies send our kids off to college to get a good enough education to go work for a multinational corporation dedicated to adulterating God’s creation.

I would suggest that a God-honoring farm is one that shows strength rather than weakness. It’s one that has no veterinary bills. It’s one that has healthy plants and animals. It’s one that produces food that develops healthier people. This is not a health-and-wealth message.  It is ultimately a humility-and-dependence message. God’s designs work. (p. 68)


The whole idea of pornography, which of course the Christian community universally condemns, is instant and expedient gratification of a sacred act sanctified by marriage. Where is the Christian who dares to identify the pornographic food system that revels in death-inducing, sickness-encouraging, and creation-destroying orgies of self-indulgence? Strong language? Have you walked into a confinement factory chicken house lately? How about a confinement hog factory? Just like pornography disrespects and cheapens God-given and -sanctioned specialness in sex, factory-farmed hog houses disrespect and cheapen the God-sculpted specialness of pigs. (p. 133)