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|THE OMNIVORE’S DILEMMA AND GROWTH FOR GROWTH’S SAKE|
|September 9th, 2007, 11:11 AM||#1|
Join Date: Jan 2007
Location: Eaton, OH
USDA Zone: 6a
THE OMNIVORE’S DILEMMA AND GROWTH FOR GROWTH’S SAKE
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THE OMNIVORE’S DILEMMA AND GROWTH FOR GROWTH’S SAKE
by Sam Candler
7 September 2007
I must admit that I like large churches. I like the suggestion that their
sheer size represents something of the grandeur of God. I like all the
programs and mission opportunities they provide. I like the enormously
talented staffs that they are usually able to afford. Many people have deep
needs met in large churches, and the better large churches really do
proclaim the gospel in effective ways.
I grew up, however, in a small church. There I learned much about the
idiosyncrasies of community. I learned the values of diversity (when folks
got upset, no one could up and leave for another church; we were the only
Episcopal church around!) For many years, however, that church remained
quite small. Our parish and mission life developed a cycle of boom and bust,
up to various renewal movements then down to depressed clergy, then back up
to mission trips, then back down to tedious music and dry liturgy. Lately,
that parish has flourished with fine and healthy leadership among both its
clergy and its people.
By “flourished,” I mean that the parish has grown in numbers of people and
in numbers of dollars. I realize, of course, that growth can occur in other
ways; but, again, I like physical flourishing and growth. My own parish is
quite large, and I know that unless we are growing in people and in dollars,
we might just be standing still.
But what if there are limits to growth? Several books on natural economy
proclaim that very reality in the natural worlds of farming and energy
production. I have eagerly enjoyed those books in the interest of earth
stewardship and sustainability. Some scientists claim that the world’s
production of oil has actually reached its peak, and we do not realize it
Michel Pollan makes the same sort of point regarding the commoditization of
agriculture in his book, “The Omnivore’s Dilemma.” Once we determine
everything’s value primarily in terms of its financial cost and reward, in
dollar figures, and in “yield per acre,” we actually begin to cultivate
crops that are less nutritious and less healthy for us. Finding it cheaper
to grow huge supplies of beef and corn with synthetic fertilizers,
antibiotics, and hormones (mostly made with petroleum products), we feed
ourselves with items that are missing key ingredients.
At one point, Pollan contrasts industrial production with artisanal
production. “Industrial farmers are in the business of selling commodities,”
he says, ever more cheaply so that the enterprise can grow profits (page
250). On the other hand, artisanal production, “is based on selling
something special rather than being the least-cost producer of a commodity”
(age 250). Having read that, I considered our own communities of growth and
health. Is there a size-limit to the community where Christians can know
authentic community and be challenged to mission?
If we get too large, do we lose the sense of “something special?” I believe
that point occurs when we begin to relate to religion as a commodity, as if
church is only a delivery system for something sterile and industrial. Some
of the biggest mega churches today realize the principle of “artisanal
production.” They arrange members in smaller cell groups of study and
accountability. These churches are successful both because some larger
structure and larger set of resources has enabled them, but also because
they remember the uniqueness of small communities of diverse faith.
Small groups, like small parishes, are where different seeds meet with
different soils and wonderful fruits sprout. Small communities are where we
learn to be fascinated with individual searches and discoveries, those
journeys of people who become our true friends. A church, of any size,
becomes sterile and lifeless when it begins to speak simplistically and to
make faith into a “commodity,” like any big industrial producer.
A church which can change the world, however, knows the values of natural
systems; “the efficiencies of natural systems flow from complexity and
interdependence—by definition the very opposite of simplification” (page
214) is how Michael Pollan puts it. What he writes about eating, a necessary
and natural element of human life, is also true about praying, an equally
necessary and natural element of life. Healthier prayer occurs in those
communities which are not afraid of complexity. Relatively speaking, those
spiritual communities can be large or small. But they need complexity no
matter what their size. Healthy churches need complexity and interdependence
in order to realize the grand and graceful mystery of life itself.
* * * * * * * * *
Sam Candler is Dean of the
Cathedral of St. Philip in
To read other of Dean Candler’s reflections on Good Faith and the Common
Boulder Belt Eco-Farm
"Although insecticide use in the U.S. increased more than tenfold since 1945 to date,
crop losses to insects have nearly doubled during this period."
- David Pimintell, Ph.D., Cornell University
|September 10th, 2007, 11:14 AM||#2|
Join Date: May 2007
Location: Iowa! Zone 4
USDA Zone: 4a
Re: THE OMNIVORE’S DILEMMA AND GROWTH FOR GROWTH’S SAKE
Ohio, that post reminds me again why I enjoy your discussions. I have read that book, and never thought to relate the concepts to religion. Thank you for the insightful post.
This movement is often called "voluntary simplicity," but we should distinguish between technological simplicity and mental simplicity. ... In so-called "civilization," we've been using more and more complex technologies for simple-minded reasons -- they give us brute power and shallow pleasures. But as we learn to be more sophisticated in our thinking about technology, we will be able to use complex tools for complex reasons -- or simple tools for complex reasons.
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