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Ethics of Eating > Articles on the Ethics of Eating

Articles on the Ethics of Eating

"Eating is a Moral Act: Revisiting the Ethics of Eating" - by Jim Ennis

While participating in a conference entitled Faith, Food and Farming in the San Joaquin Valley of California last fall, I was asked by a local reporter what the Church had to say about agriculture and food production. The tone of his question betrayed his skepticism that the Church had anything to say about secular matters such as food, food production, or the economic plight of many in the San Joaquin Valley (the San Joaquin Valley has some of the highest unemployment rates in the country). 
 
A few minutes later I spoke with a pastor who said he had invited several large-scale farmers to the conference, and they asked him a similar question to the one the reporter asked. The pastor then asked me to boil down my answer to a sound byte. He needed simple, concrete reasons why Catholics should be concerned about food production in the United States.
 
My short answer was  “eating is a moral act because it is a human act and there is so much at stake.” Food sustains life and therefore the production of food is essential to our human existence. Food and agriculture are inextricably linked.  The world of agriculture is extremely complex and there are many moral dimensions to it including: the treatment of farm workers, feeding a hungry world, responsible stewardship of creation including the animals, and sustaining local family farms and rural communities just to name a few.
 
 
"Live Your Faith, and Eat it Too" - by Scott McLarty
 
Our culture encourages us to compartmentalize everything, divide life up into neat bits of time, color-coded and meticulously organized, even our date-nights and play-time with our kids.   But no part of human existence and activity exists outside the bounds of divine concern, including what we put in our mouths.  Eating is a moral act, so dioceses and Catholic institutions must pay attention to food.  It must become as essential as catechesis, actually a part of catechesis. There are many reasons why, but here is the most fundamental: faith shapes life, the whole of life.  
 
We must not fall into the trap of compartmentalizing our faith, scheduling it and hermetically sealing certain parts of our lives from its influence.  A million excuses exist for this, but there’s a problem: not one is a good excuse.  The first thing a diocese or a Catholic institution can do to improve the moral quality of our food is proclaim this fact: faith shapes life, the whole of life.
 
The best Biblical source (and least read) that helps us reject the prevailing compartmentalized view that eating is just something we do, not a moral act that God cares about, is Leviticus.  Full of laws related to just about every human activity, Leviticus talks of family life, economic exchange, marital relations, right worship and dietary practice: not just what we eat, but how we cultivate and care, harvest and slaughter, buy and sell at market, and prepare our food (and ourselves) for eating. The whole of human life and activity is seen in the light of God, including food.  We don’t need a new book of Levitical dietary laws, but we do need to foster a Levitical outlook that says: God cares about what we eat; so should we.
 
 
"The Ethics of Eating: Why Eating is a Moral Act" - by Jim Ennis
 
My interactions with rural pastors and lay leaders around the country often spur me to write about the ethics of eating and to explain why eating is a moral act. Two recent events compel me to do so.
 
During a recent rural ministry course taught in partnership with a diocesan seminary, I faced a question by one of the seminarians who skeptically asked why the Church had “bought into the fad of the food movement.” His assumption was that the Church had little to say about the ethics of food, and the insinuation is that the Church should stick to its primary mission, the salvation of souls (or at least a course on rural ministry should stick to spiritual concerns). There were several students nodding their heads in agreement. 
 
Then there was the time I came across an article in the respected journal National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly entitled, Christians and the New Food Movement. In this article (Fall 2011 issue), the author made a questionable argument about why Christians should be on their guard against the infiltrators of the new food movement who are seeking to co-opt the Christian faith. The author even accused National Catholic Rural Life Conference of abandoning its roots of evangelism and religious education by getting involved in agricultural and environmental concerns as if the two—the spiritual and secular—should not intertwine.

 

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