Some of the things for which the liberal left blames the religious right, really are true. Christians can be very inconsistent, especially in the realm of the natural environment—and others notice. Speaking at Patrick Henry College, Joel Salatin of Polyface Farms begins a speech on this subject with a clarion call for consistency in the lives of Christian believers. I will be reviewing the themes in this speech, in four parts here.
Listen to Joel Salatin's speech at Patrick Henry College on "Food: The Cornerstone of Christian Credibility"[audio:http://truefoodsolutions.com/Joel-Salatin-Food-and-Christian-credibility.mp3]
Too often, Christians say that we love God’s world—then we go get a Happy Meal, the pinnacle of industrial exploitation. Christians say that we want to glorify God—then we compartmentalize our obedience, and pay no attention to the source of the food that we eat. Christians try to be moral by being upright citizens and church-going, but we often think farming and food are amoral. Christians love to read the Bible passage about being “fearfully and wonderfully made”—then care naught for messing with our intricate bodies by eating toxic food or poisonous medications. Christians say that we want God to be honored in the beauty of our households, and we do strive for that—right before supporting a farm system which scars the landscape and injures the people working in it.
Christians say we are pro-life (and we are, for little babies), yet in our actions we abuse living animals and pollute the living earth. Certainly, mankind is the crown of creation, and is eternal, unlike anything else in creation. Yet Joel Salatin points out that how we respect “the least of these”, animals, forms the foundation for how we respect “the greatest of these”, humankind. Unbelievers who respect animals but don’t respect unborn babies might not think it much different when Christians respect babies but don’t see anything wrong with factory feedlots. (While it is different, animals should still be viewed noble creatures that God made.)
Taking confidence in the truth that we were created by God rather than evolved from slurry, is not a license to pride ourselves in our power to exploit creation. While there is a fine line between taking dominion over the world versus exploiting it, the main distinction could be described by respect and stewardship. Joel Salatin said that unless Christians steward the earth—by giving heed to it and seeking to please God in our use of it—we have “squandered our credibility” to non-Christians. How can we as people command respect and act nobly when we don’t even remotely respect the God-created nobility of the animal kingdom? Harm to the world—and to Christian credibility—comes when we exercise dualism: removing the material world from its moral dimension. 1 Corinthians 10:31, however, tells us that God is glorified even by mundane, common things such as food and drink.
The main thrust of Joel Salatin’s message given to the students of Patrick Henry College was the following: View farming and food as an area to exercise consistency, such that in this—the only area in which some non-Christians will see our faith manifested—we are in harmony with our profession of serving God and believing He created the earth. If Christians, of all people, don’t value the world that was made by a Divine and Sovereign hand, what testimony at all do we have toward people who believe the world emerged out of a mat of bacteria? If Christians, who know the source of all the good gifts in nature, relinquish the use of those gifts entirely to unbelievers, we have no argument against unbelievers who appreciate the gifts without appreciating the God who gave them.
To help unbelievers to appreciate our God, we must appreciate all of His gifts, including those in the natural, material world. Having an answer for non-Christians that value the earth—and living by it ourselves—is the best way to witness to unbelievers who think the earth is worth stewarding. It is also the best way to bring the truth of God’s Word into every area of life—since farming and food are a major, significant area of our lives.
Joel Salatin shared a lot of wisdom in this message, and I look forward to reporting on more of it in coming installments of this short series. Your feedback is valued.