Just a couple years ago, I reviewed the book Ending Hunger Now, co-written by Bob Dole, George McGovern, and Donald Messer. In it, they argued that we could end world hunger now and—if done in a thoughtful way—thereby also substantially improve world health, reduce poverty and disease, and inhibit political instability. Any problem that could actually garner collaboration between Bob Dole and George McGovern felt not only important but fairly soluble.
How things changed. Maybe the red state/blue state divide has shrunk, but the crisis in global nutrition has become much worse. Rising global food prices, famines in Africa, political instability, skyrocketing petroleum prices, drought in Australia, and changes in economic systems that make states more efficient and less prone to corruption but also more vulnerable to disruptions in the global food system, can all lead—as we saw last summer—to catastrophic changes in the production, distribution, and consumption of food around the world.
And into the middle of all this, Christians in the United States are being asked to think far more about their own eating practices than they were even ten years ago: to buy local or not; to eat organic or not; to treat genetically modified food like any other food or not; to pay more for fair-trade goods or not; to cook at home more often or not; to grow our own food or not; to go on South Beach, Atkins, Jenny Craig, NutriSystem, Weight Watchers, or any other of the countless diet plans out there or not: we could spend all of our time looking for the right way to eat morally, economically, healthfully, and in appropriate quantities. But how often have we been asked to think about how we eat theologically?
Shannon Jung’s lead essay for this edition of @ this point does just that. Building on the long tradition within the church of thinking about what and how we desire, Jung reminds us both of the kinds of complicity that our misshapen desires lead us into and of the practices—including our eating practices—that help better train our desires in order to enjoy our food and to love others better.
Responses by Walter Brueggemann, Kimberly Bracken Long, and Charlie Raynal connect Jung’s work to (respectively) the wisdom of the Bible, the sacraments, and charitable organizations like Bread for the World. Provocative lesson plans by CTS graduate Jill Tolbert and a helpful annotated bibliography by current student Kevin Weber round out the offerings of this edition of the journal.
Each of them, in their own ways, enrich Jung’s guiding insights and contribute to all of us better understanding why and how we do something that is as fundamental as eating and drinking—and in the process of better understanding those things, perhaps we can rediscover our connections with and obligations to others as well. And along the way, we may discover something larger about ourselves as we live in a world of feasts and famines.
On behalf of my co-editor, Kathy Dawson, and the rest of the editorial board of @ this point, we hope you find this an enjoyable and useful edition of the journal.