I am old enough to remember the “Swinging 60s”, the Hippie Era. As a preteen, I heard the Beatles songs and observed the drug culture, the free love advocacy, the long hair and bell-bottoms, the distrust for authority, the anti-war sentiment. I chose not to be a part of it. As a compliant child, anxious to please those in authority, I saw all this so-called non-conformity as merely conforming to a new norm among peers. I considered myself as a counter-rebel, and at age thirteen I became a Christian. In high school I never drank or used drugs, became president of the church youth group and found musically- and academically-oriented friends. I was, as my husband says, a goody two-shoe.
I saw hypocrisy in the granola crowd’s interest in health food, while they used harmful substances that made them spacey and slow-witted. Their return-to-nature motives were also suspect as some of them rarely took baths. How sanitary is that?
Indeed, I was willing to take my chances eating food produced with pesticides, because at least it was cheap and pest-free, and must be safe if we’re all staying healthy, right?
As the years went by my health deteriorated significantly. For twenty-plus years I have tried to get at the cause of chronic fatigue and muscle pain, with only limited success. While raising five children, my husband and I have had to pinch pennies and eat what was cheap. But about five years ago, I had to acknowledge that perhaps part of my health problems were related to environment and alterations in the food supply. I discovered that I have lead toxicity, which is being treated currently. I started making what changes in my diet I could by buying organic, raising chickens and gardening.
I credit this attitude adjustment partly to family and friends, also conservative Christians, who have influenced me, and partly to documentaries like Food, Inc. This movie was to the first to open my eyes to the degree to which government subsidies have taken away free market forces in the food industry and led to many of our current problems.
There are other evidences that point to a climate change among conservative Christians. While many Christians of the liberal persuasion have been in agreement with the green movement over both their diagnoses of the problems and the governmental solutions they advocate, conservative Christians who traditionally side with the free-market system have been slow to share in or vocalize any such concerns. While they do not accept much of the religious/worldview presuppositions of the greens, especially regarding the role government should play, conservatives have been taking ground in their own way.
In the summer of 2012 Vision Forum, Inc. of San Antonio and its leader Doug Phillips hosted their first Reformation of Food and the Family Conference. The speakers included Joel Salatin, giving sessions entitled Food Emancipation, Local Food to the Rescue, and Redeeming the Earth. Doctors spoke on issues of genetics, diet, health, gluten, and toxicity, while homemakers discussed the centrality of food to the social life of the family. Farmers gave testimony to the value of the family-friendly agrarian lifestyle. I consider this evidence of an historic step toward changes we can all implement, one family at a time, and produce results we can live with–literally.
In contrast to that is the Siskiyou FilmFest, held in my small town in Southern Oregon. This is sponsored by a green organization that watchdogs the federal lands dotting our local landscape to ensure that no development or sale of resources such as timber, mining, etc. take place on these lands. The Friday night feature movie this year was Chasing Ice by James Balog, a photographer for National Geographic who has chronicled the allegedly-unprecedented shrinkage of northern-hemispheric glaciers. While beautifully done and compelling in the initial viewing, the documentary left me with more questions than answers, and ultimately I was not convinced that 1. the entire globe is currently warming (there was no mention of the fact that the southern polar ice cap has been growing), 2. that man has caused it, 3. that it is unprecedented in the historical global climate, which we know to be cyclical, with not one Ice Age but several, 4. that any cause-and-effect relationships have been established between various man-made and natural events (How do we know, for example, that rising temperatures are the cause of rising carbon dioxide levels, instead of the result?), and 5. that all these scenarios of rising ocean levels and greenhouse gases would be necessarily disastrous. For instance, there was a time when reptiles, which continue to grow throughout their lives, lived in a warmer climate where there was perhaps more atmospheric cover and less solar radiation, causing them to live longer and grow into dinosaur-size proportions. We know that crop yields increase in the presence of higher CO2. We use hyperbaric oxygen as treatment for many ailments because an increase in oxygen absorption hastens healing. Maybe the greenhouse effect would be good for us, decreasing solar radiation and increasing our life spans. Maybe we can’t predict the future as well as we think.
But I digress. It was just as enlightening to observe the reactions of the crowd at the festival as to watch the films themselves. Whenever conservatives such as former President GW Bush, Sean Hannity, or Glenn Beck were shown on the screen (with clips that unfairly represented their views), cat calls, hisses and shouts of “IDIOT” were prevalent. The producers were clearly willing to feed such attitudes with their biased reporting. Evidently this crowd is not seeking to find common ground with us, yet.
To be fair, one acknowledges that Vision Forum’s Doug Phillips, in his lively (sometimes shouting) conference sessions entitled Food Fight and Food Heresies, highlighted worldview differences between the two camps which remain irreconcilable. These differences do not have to stand in the way of seeking public policies and making lifestyle changes that will benefit us all.
Can we agree on ending food subsidies, to start with? How about outlawing special favors to big business lobbyists? Can we ensure private property rights to all, whether for the rancher concerned about an oil pipeline across his land, or a farmer who wants to clear and sell his trees? At least we ought to start there.