Friday, January 29, 2010

Consistent Living In A World Gone Mad

One of our young gents, I’ll call him Bill, wrote a post in response to Pastor Douglas Wilson’s posts regarding the issue of food. Food? You say. Yes, food. They are both arguing that food has something to do with spreading the Gospel. Pastor Wilson says that we can eat anything we want, as long as we are grateful to the Lord for providing it. He adds that there is nothing sinful about food unless one attempts to bind the consciences of those brothers and sisters around us who think differently than we do.

Bill agrees with Pastor Wilson, but doesn’t think Pastor Wilson goes far enough with his train of thought. He agrees with Pastor Wilson that we live in an ugly world, which is growing uglier every day. Abortion, murder, rape, and any number of other sinful practices are growing in leaps and bounds all around us. Bill says that food, or rather, where we get the food, impacts this discussion because many of our food sources come from people who mistreat their animals, mistreat the earth, mistreat just about everything around them, and therefore we should not partake of their wares. In fact, if we do, we are sinning.

Pastor Wilson counters that the Bible expressly says that even if the food was offered to an idol in full blown cult worship, by evil and grotesque men, we should not ask questions about where the food came from and eat with gusto and thanks giving (1 Cor. 10:25, 27, 30, 31).

There are things about Bill’s approach that I think he ought to be commended for; he is at least thinking and thinking hard, but his overall thesis is flawed. There are three areas where I think he has gone astray: first, he thinks that his boycotting food sold by Safeway is somehow connected to spreading the Gospel of the Lord Jesus. He says:

My argument is that if we get to work fixing our food system and our economics – or, more simply, if we get to work helping the poor – our currently intractable abortion situation may become tractable. Put another way, only the Gospel will ultimately win this bloody war, but there are many types of soil in the famous parable, and our economics have much to do with how rocky, thorny, or rich and loamy our society is.

How does fixing our food systems, etc. translate into preaching the Gospel to the poor and oppressed? There is an assumption here that is a little reminiscent of the Social Gospel of the sixties. The teaching was that the central focus of the church was to help the poor. Consequently, they moved into the inner cities and set up rescue missions and soup kitchens and “helped” the poor. The problem is that the central function of the church is not to help the poor, it is to worship God rightly. When a church rightly worships God, they will help the poor, that’s true. But if they begin by trying to help the poor is first, they will soon forget the Gospel and end up not helping anyone at all.

The second area of concern for me is the lack of consistency in what Bill is telling us to do and why to do it. He doesn’t want us to eat food produced by people who mistreat their animals. The principle, then, is not to participate in the deeds of evil no matter where in the chain the evil is found. If Safeway buys food from farmers who mistreat their animals, we shouldn’t buy food from Safeway. Bill never tells us what mistreating an animal means, or how we know if someone on the other side of the world is doing it, but I can take his word for it for the sake of discussion. Instead, even though it costs twice as much, Bill suggests we should purchase our food from the COOP. The COOP is right across the street from my office. These folks sell food that has been raised in what they call a “natural” and “organic” way. Bill would advocate getting our food there.

I could be wrong, but it appears that Bill is saying we shouldn’t buy things from corporations that condone, maybe even encourage, the plundering of nature. If Wal-Mart buys good provided by companies in China that pay their workers only enough to live, but not enough to get a better job. This is clearly evil and so, if Wal-Mart is for it, they are evil too, and we are being evil if we participate in this by shopping at Wal-Mart. I’m with you so far. But how far down the line do we go with this? Suppose Wal-Mart were to see their way clear to stop buying things from companies in China that pay their workers slum wages. Suppose those companies were to shape up. So, now we can buy stuff from Wal-Mart again. Then we find out that the producer is still doing well, but the people who do the shipping pay their dockyard and shipping workers slave wages. I guess, if we are being consistent, we are back to boycotting Wal-Mart.

Now suppose, the shippers get the point and clean up their act and we can shop at Wal-Mart again. But then we find out that Wal-Mart is cheating their workers out of a living wage. We’re back to not shopping at Wal-Mart.

I’ve gone a long way round to get here, but now we are where I believe we are with regard to where Bill wants us to shop. What are we left with? We can only shop at places where the workers, all along the line, are taken care of, where no one sins, and everyone is doing well financially. Now are back to where Bill think it legitimate to shop—the COOP. What do we know about the folks who run the COOP and those they purchase their food from? Well I know they have been attacking our church for the past seven or eight years or so. I know that they are, generally, they are as pagan as anyone I’ve ever lived near, and I was on a submarine for four years. They are the first to stand up for sodomite rights, feminist rights, abortion rights, and on and on. If sinfulness is the standard about where to purchase our food, buying food from a guy who treats his animals like animals, is not worse than someone who treats people like animals.

God has a better way. Go back and read Pastor Wilson’s blog again.

My last observation is that Bill’s whole approach leaves him with nothing to do but be inconsistent in the way he lives his life. He cannot practice what he preaches. If he can’t purchase food from anyone who is involved in deep sin, then he can’t purchase anything from anyone who is involved in deep sin. Where does he think that natural farmer gets that plow he uses? Does he dig up the materials necessary to make steel himself? Does he fashion it into the plow himself? I’ll bet the one who does dig it up works for a company that isn’t much better than that company that produces the food Bill won’t buy. So, how can Bill buy food from a natural farmer who uses tools created by pagan sinners, but not from McDonalds? There is a deep inconsistency here.

It is an inconsistency that should show that the philosophy behind it is flawed. It is not Biblical. The Bible does not lead us to starving to death or sitting alone on a mountain top because we cannot ride on the roads, or in cars, or wear clothing, or eat food. When living consistently with your convictions leads you to starving to death, cold and homeless, it is time to rethink what you believe.

I say do as Paul tells the Corinthians: give thanks for everything without doubting. Don’t go checking into every little thing and make yourself nuts about it. Walk with God, love your neighbor, fight sin when you know it is sin and do it with the Gospel. Be consistent in your walk with God and with your neighbor.

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