Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Give us this day our daily bread: a just theology of food? part 2

Last week I began to sketch a just theology of food. I offered a short quiz:

  1. True or false: Wealthy suburbs are more likely to have fast-food outlets than poor ones.
  2. True or false: Healthy food is more expensive than fast food.
  3. True or false: 77% of Australians eat together as a family five times a week
  4. True or false: In Australia, more women are head chefs that men
  5. True or false: On a daily basis, women spend more than twice as long as men on food preparation and clean up.
  6. True or false: The biggest global killer is a disease called New World syndrome

(Answers, for those interested are at the bottom of this post).

My contention is this – that when Christians pray Give us this day our daily bread, we must pay attention to think about who cooks, who cleans, who eats what, and with who.

In the class I offered two resources. First, a story from Rebecca Huntley’s (Eating Between the Lines, of a community centre in Melbourne, which holds lunches that aim to bring postwar migrants together with newly arrived refugees. They share food, swap recipes and pass on tips about where to find spices. They also share stories, experiences of the joy and dislocation of migration. So simple – eating together.

The second is the book by John Koenig, Soul Banquets: How Meals Become Mission in the Local Congregation I keep mentioning this book, simply because people whom I mention it to keep coming back telling me how helpful it has been in their growth in mission. Koenig argues that

“we have seriously undervalued our church meals, both ritual and informal, as opportunities for mission … to realize this potential, we, like the disciples on the road to Emmaus, must have our eyes opened by the transforming presence of Christ at our tables.”

He provides a checklist on what it means for meals to become mission:

  • This is serving graciously with human contact. Koenig cites the example of one the busiest church food kitchen in New York, in which each volunteer is expected to find ways to encourage eye contact and genuine conversation.
  • This is setting tables, serving food, eating in patterns and places that speak of God’s abundance and creativity.
  • This is encouraging role reversals by finding ways for all, helper and hungry, to contribute through a diversity of gifts.
  • This is committing to a long-term, intentional project, a willingness to eat together a lot, because in that eating good things will happen.

Give us this day our daily bread is an invitation for all those who pray that prayer to consider what and how they eat. And it opens to door to a whole new way of being in mission – around tables, among strangers, with justice, generosity and humanity. Such is a just theology of food in the Kingdom of God.


Posted by steve at 11:23 AM

Friday, March 25, 2011

Give us this day our daily bread: a just theology of food?

(Click here for the food and equality quiz)

Last night the Reading cultures/Sociology for ministry class I teach talked about food. And the fact that, to quote Rebecca Huntley, “food is rich in meaning … eating habits can be a useful means of describing social distinctions.” (Eating Between the Lines, page 175). In other words, the very ordinary things of what we eat and what we cook – reflect “the various strains of inequality in Australia – between men and women, rich and poor, host and migrant, indigenous and non-indigenous, country and city.” (Eating Between the Lines, page 175-6)

We started with a quiz, some statements about food and eating habits in Australia, drawn from her book, Eating Between the Lines.

What’s this got to do with being Christian? Well it this a faith that in the Eucharist, places the eating of bread and wine at the centre of life. And a faith that prays “Give us this day our daily bread.”

Not “my” daily bread, but “our” daily bread.

In other words, it should want to act when being on a low income makes it harder to pray “Give us this day our daily bread”; when being time poor makes it hard to pray “Give us this day our daily bread – healthily”; when living in remote indigenous communities makes it almost impossible to pray “Give us this day our daily bread.”

In my next post I’ll post the research data that lies behind the quiz and point to the resources we then discussed in class. In the meantime, take the food and equality quiz (click here for the food and equality quiz)

Posted by steve at 10:09 AM