Agnosticism and Agriculture PDF Print E-mail
Written by James Arrick   
Wednesday, 22 December 2010 08:40

My wife calls you trend junkies. Yes, you who consider all forms of industrialized farming to be “raping the ground.” Sure (you concede) supporting “unsustainable” farming or eating a McDonald’s hamburger is not a sin. . . technically. You would never ever say that. But you flex all of your wee holinesses attacking it anyway.

Where does this fervor for righteous eating come from? The roots of these concerns (and other similar ones) may have come down from the New Age movement that crept its significant way into the church in the 60’s and 70’s.  But this essay isn’t about the New Age movement. That’s old news. This is about a newer pagan movement sneaking into the church.

Much in the same way that the New Age movement came into the church in the form of squishy liturgy, moral ambiguity, and young men and women making relativistic excuses for sin and corruption, the agnostic movement is starting to make the same kind of headway in the church. Only this time it is in the form of the most recent trend to hit Planet Earth (or at least the white and rich part of it). I am talking about sustainable agriculture, the green movement, and progressivist governmental control over the production and distribution of food.

At the outset, I should say that I grow/raise almost all of my own food (from beef to fruits and vegetables) and believe that keeping a healthy diet is a dandy thing to do. Also, somehow, my wife has never eaten a McDonald’s hamburger. I have worked in almost every type of farming and have done so on three different continents. But I’m not using my own experiences to draw methodological conclusions. I am, however, willing to maintain that my eye is calibrated to see the latest cultural trends for what they are as they creep into the church and systemically affect every part of its ministry.

The root of the problem comes from well-meaning agnostics like Michael Pollan. There are many other agnostics and non-committal religious folks that have spoken up on this subject, but I will focus on Pollan since he is the writer that has been brought up most frequently in my own church community.

And kicking the debate up one more inflammatory notch, I need to say that the root of Pollan’s problem flows from Karl Marx. Most of the issues being made about food and agriculture within the church are the result of Christians attempting to glean godly principles from writers like Pollan. However, their principles are based on Marx’s principles of a socialist society.

At the root of Marx is a distinction between needs and wants. Needs are things that are required to support and sustain life and wants are everything else. Marx uses a Hegelian dialectic to set up his universe, and, in my opinion, this distinction is at the root of Marx’s universe. But this is not a biblical distinction.

Now this is not to say that the Bible does not distinguish between needs and wants. The Bible just doesn’t use Marx’s definitions for them. In fact, the Bible usually refers to Christians needing to die as Christ did. Taking the life of Christ as an example we see that the goal is not to live but to continuously die so that life (for others) may persist. Take the life of the apostles as an example; Christ tells them to give up everything, emphasizing that things like food and shelter will be provided by God.

When Marx looks at the world through the glasses of needs and wants, in the background there is a nice and tidy Hegelian dialectic where one can determine the next step of action, which always leads to revolution. If you don’t need a thing then it is a want. If you want a thing, then someone must be profiting off of those desires and using those wants to create and maintain leverage and control over the people—the workers. This is how capitalism creates greedy pigs that profit from placing a desire or a fetish—a want—in a society. And if you doubt that this grandchild of Marxism is in play in the whole foodie discussion, ask yourself where all the language of exploitation is coming from. Why is growing ten thousand acres of wheat and thereby driving down the price of a loaf of bread in impoverished nations considered exploitation (of the land and the consumer)? Why are fast-food laws justified as a protection of the people from the exploitation of corporations (when dollar menus are about the only reason why it’s practically impossible to starve in this country). Needs and wants, needs and wants. And in Marx’s world, wants are always points of exploitation, points where government is needed as a protection. The only thing that could make the whole push more obvious is if the co-opy wise-men started talking about gastronomical justice.

In Pollan’s books on food, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, this is exactly the line of reasoning that he is using. He argues that big bad industrial farming is unclean and cruel, and is there in order to promote the fetishes created by capitalistic pigs, marketers, and shareholders. Why would anybody want a bag of Fritos otherwise? Wants equal manufactured desire and manipulation. (Help, I’m being exploited!) He may even be occasionally right (not that I care if some Fritos salesmen don’t actually want what’s best for me—I am not actually coerced into eating those tasty, curly corn fingernails). But the way Pollan arrives at his conclusion is straight out of the godless and mechanistic Marxist playbook.

Some might think Pollan is not an agnostic Marxist bent on leaving the world with more government regulation. To that I would say, wake up. Don’t be so naive. But I’m straying a bit from the point. This is not an essay on Pollan. Not entirely, at least.

There is a Christian response to greed and materialism within a capitalistic society and it is not Pollan’s response. Greed must be dealt with as a sin with every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. It is not being dealt with that way, however. The trend junkies and culture-mongers within the church end up using agnostic reasoning to deal with broad undefined “greed.” Because the church has bought into the agnostic principles from the beginning, there can be no useful Christian methods gleaned. This would be more obvious if we were attempting to apply agnostic beliefs to marriage, or child rearing (of course, many do). But, since we are talking about food and world-wide agricultural methods it is far less obvious to us. Doesn’t the sin lie in actual greed? How can sin lie in efficient agriculture? What’s biblically wrong with a farmer attempting to keep his checkbook in the black?

Instead of policing themselves for the rotten sin that lies festering within, and instead of spending their time in an effort to counsel thieves and adulterers in the community, the trend junkies have whole-heartedly attacked the idea of farming and food consumption. As long as he is eating the proper food, the Pharisee can make himself feel quite good warring against someone who does not implement the methods of proper eating. So the Pharisee stands and cries, “I thank you, God that I have the better understanding of how to eat!”

There are biblical principles to guide farmers and hold them accountable. Marx does (inconsistently) point out the sin of materialism in a capitalistic society. Pollan does wish the best for everyone’s health and for the cleanliness of this planet. However, Pollan and Marx do not start with the Bible and they definitely don’t finish with the Bible.

Christians attempting to use Marxist principles are going to end up arguing like agnostics. They define what is healthy and what is environmentally conscious without any use of the Bible, and then they hold the rest of the world to those emotional convictions, emotionally held. And because they don’t have a sure word from God, they will be passive aggressive in how they go about it. This is essentially how agnosticism has entered into the church through the guise of this “stewardship” movement.

Reject Pollan. He knows nothing of our Savior and what people actually need. Do not fall for agnostic principles shrouded in New Age relativism and propped up by a squishy Christianity (when not passive aggressive, it is simply squishy aggressive).

If you think a farmer is raping the earth by not using organic manure, and you go to that farmer and tell him so, then don’t be offended if that farmer replies that you’re full of enough manure for the both of you, manure provided by an agnostic alarmist who wants a lot more government control over everyone’s personal life because of a Marxist lie. Don’t give up godly dominion to the state in order to appease a false conviction placed in your heart by those who would swindle the world of eternal life—and all in order to eat their type of food.

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Pretty good, but...
neal500 (Registered) 2010-12-25 09:48:41

I liked the article and your point about the foodies not being Biblically based was good, but you didn't address the problem of what we who are trying to be more healthy should do. My wife is unable to detoxify and I have two special-needs kids and if our local grocery store can't supply the organic food we need then your reply would seem to be, "Suck it up, tough noogies and keep the government out of my private enterprise!"
Don't get me wrong, I'm not in favor of big government, but should corporations and factory farms still be allowed to get away with selling poison to people who have not other option just because it's Marxism to want reform?
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Last Updated on Wednesday, 22 December 2010 08:45