“All that a Christian does, even in eating and sleeping, is prayer, when it is done in simplicity, according to the order of God.” – John Wesley, A Plain Account of Christian Perfection, 1738
I have taken a long hiatus from blogging and have an ample stack of books waiting for review that I genuinely intend to feature here on the site. One of the most recent books to cross my path, ‘Organic Wesley‘, comes from a dear friend and long-time Sustainable Traditions supporter – Bill Guerrant. Bill was one of the original people to join our online forum back in the day before we launched the main website here and from those virtual interactions we met in the real world and have been friends ever since. Bill is one of those friends who always has a good book to lend or recommend. I find it delightfully ironic that I get to review a book that he has penned himself.
Bill is a passionate chemical-free farmer, a deep thinker, community cultivator, man of faith and a great inspiration to me regarding contemporary food and agriculture issues that are impacting all of us who are immersed in the American/Western industrial food system. Being both a man of theology and a cultivator of the earth, he is of that rare breed who not only can speak to contemporary food issues and how it relates to Christian faith but is walking the talk – modeling a way forward as he and his wife Cherie grow food for themselves and their community on a farm that has been in Bill’s family for generations.
Bill’s new book ‘Organic Wesley: A Christian Perspective on Food, Farming and Faith‘, is a unique exploration of John Wesley, one of the most influential theologian/preachers from the 1700’s to today. Initially on the hunt for Wesley’s environmental ethic, he instead stumbled onto a treasure trove of Wesley’s thoughts, scattered throughout his sermons and writings, regarding ethical eating and health as they relate to practical Christian living.
You don’t need to be a Methodist or Wesleyan to appreciate this book – Christians of many different shades and stripes will find the juxtaposition of John Wesley with the contemporary food movement, to be a heartening reminder that our daily food choices are of great importance to a life of faith. At the beginning of the book Bill presents his case:
“This book examines the intersection of the teachings of John Wesley with the ethics of the contemporary food movement, an intersection whose existence is generally unknown both to Wesley’s spiritual and ecclesiological descendants and to the advocates of the contemporary food movement. What might an eighteenth-century English evangelist have to contribute to a twenty-first-century conversation about food? And why should anything he might have to say matter?”
He goes on to say:
“If John Wesley were alive today, he would no doubt be a passionate and energetic ally of the food movement. And from his teachings, writings and example, it is possible to discern and articulate a Wesleyan food ethic that can inform and benefit his spiritual descendants in today’s food movement.”
With chapter titles such as: The Rise of Industrial Agriculture and the Emergence of the Food Movement, Eating in Moderation, Farm Animals, Globalization and Local Economies, Recovering a Wesleyan Food Ethic and other provocative titles – this is an insightful book that holds a mirror up to our modern American food system, and through the lens of John Wesley’s recorded writings, encourages us to see our food and health as an integral part of our Christian faith.
Akin to the agrarian perspectives of Wendell Berry, Norman Wirzba and others, Organic Wesley offers us a reminder that food and agriculture, the earth and our bodies, are all subject to the Kingdom of God – and that we are stewards of these gifts – whether wise or foolish remains our choice.
Near the end of the book, Bill connects the practical realities of eating healthy and ethically with hints of our future hope in a restored Creation. And though we do not know “the day or hour” when Jesus will fully enact the restoration of our world – there is no reason we cannot provide a glimpse of the Age to Come by living out restoration and righteousness in our everyday lives – today:
“For most of us it will be easy to imagine the benefits that will come from eating better. We may imagine losing weight and feeling better, becoming healthy enough to no longer need as many medications, and living longer, more fulfilling lives. Of course these are all excellent reasons for choosing to eat a healthier diet. But the Wesleyan vision is grander than that.
Imagine a world in which all of humanity eats only ethically produced nutritious food, in moderation. In such a world there would be less sickness, less disease, no gluttony, and a population living long, healthy lives. Farm animals would be raised naturally and compassionately, being afforded the respect they deserve as beloved creatures of God. There would be no exploitation of farm workers and farmers. The land would be treated gently and respectfully, with farming practices that ensure a sustainable, resilient, regenerative future. There would be robust and vibrant community-based food economies.
In such a world, the food system would be a part of God’s renewal and restoration of creation, rather than an impediment to it. May it be so. Let our next meal, and all those that follow it, be a part of bringing that vision to reality”
Indeed, this vision is not merely a Wesleyan vision – but truly a Christian vision.
This book also has some great, related study resources for small groups – including a video/DVD study guide series that corresponds to the chapters in the book along with the questions at the end of each chapter. Whether you are new to these concepts or have some understanding of contemporary food issues – this is a great way to get a conversation started on the intersection of food and Christian faith. Check a sample video below and read the first chapter free:
(Editor’s Note- Disclosure: Sustainable Traditions receives free review books including the book reviewed above. SustainableTraditions.com is an independent website free to express opinions and reviews unhindered by any contractual requirements to any publishers or organizations.)
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