"Cooking is a declaration of love ... food is God’s love made delicious." Theologian Norman Wirzba reflects on the threats of our faulty logic of food and our disordered and disconnected relationship to eating and nourishment, and imagines a theology of food grounded in membership, gift, and hospitality. Interview with Matt Croasmun.
About Norman Wirzba
Norman Wirzba is the Gilbert T. Rowe Distinguished Professor of Theology at Duke University. His teaching, research, and writing happens at the intersections of theology and philosophy, and agrarian and environmental studies. He is the author of several books, including Food and Faith: A Theology of Eating (2nd Edition), From Nature to Creation, and The Paradise of God: Renewing Religion in an Ecological Age, and his most recent book, This Sacred Life: The Place of Humanity in a Wounded World, will be published in 2021. In his spare time he likes to bake, play guitar, and make things with wood. For more information visit his website at normanwirzba.com.
- Food and Faith: A Theology of Eating—a picture of what eating can be, connecting us to the world, to each other, to God.
- When it comes to eating in America these days, how are we doing?
- Anonymity and ignorance. We are disconnected from food, we’re not encouraged to know where food comes from or how it came to be.
- "Eat food, not too much, mostly vegetables."
- Good eating is not solely a matter of personal virtue or vice. It’s part of a complicated system, agricultural strategy, and political process we’re involved in.
- Food is central to human flourishing, but if it’s only a market commodity, we end up with a faulty logic that drives a sinister food industry.
- You can only sell so much: therefore, preservatives
- If food is primarily to be digested, we have foods that are, in principle, indigestible. It tastes good, and never makes you full. It’s the perfect food commodity. The food system is developed to take advantage of you as a unit of consumption.
- What is eating for?
- Membership as a eucharistic mode for changing the way we conceive of food and the good.
- Eating is a daily reminder of our need.
- Fruits of the spirit that ought to animate our relation to membership.
- Mutual belonging (Willie Jennings, The Christian Imagination)
- How disconnection from the land leads to alienation and loneliness.
- Attention to geography and sources of life; how do we cultivate awareness and proper attention?
- Robin Kimmerer, Braiding Sweetgrass—the White American presence has always been “this is not home.” Therefore, “The land we live on and are blessed by does not love us.” Think about what kind of compensation must follow to this kind of alienation.
- Racial components of agriculture and food. "You cannot tell the story of agriculture apart from the story of slavery.” Agricultural labor and the objection to embodiment.
- Embodiment and food.
- Essential work, abstraction from bodies, and disembodied labor.
- "We don’t want to know, because to have to know these things implicates us in how we shop for food."
- God creates a world in which creatures eat.
- What’s communicated through a meal prepared for you? You matter.
- God invites us into hospitality, and food and eating can teach us that nurturing welcoming presence.
- Food as gift. Submitting oneself to "the grace of the world.”
- "Food is God’s love made delicious."
- "Life has always proceeded by hospitality."
- “Eating and cooking … cause us to stop and say, ‘It’s not all vicious. Maybe our living together can also be a celebration.’"
- "All eating involves death.” How do you square the gift of food with the death it entails?
- The first virtue of humility—because I don’t know, and because I understand vulnerability, I must live in a more humble, patient way.
- What does policy look like when it comes through the lens of humility, dependence, gift, and vulnerability?
- The story of a meal—its cultivating, growing, cooking, gathering, eating, enjoying, and nourishing.
- You can’t homogenize people’s experience of food.
- Sabbath, time, place: Slowing down to notice the goodness of the world God has given us. Thoughtfulness, intention, attention, presence, honoring each other
- Who is invited to the table? Communal living, kinship, and community in a welcoming world. Abraham Heschel’s “an opening for eternity in time."
- How can we honor the life that feeds us? Start simple. Soup and bread to celebrate the goodness of the world.