Eat With Joy: Redeeming God’s Gift of Food – Review
Eat With Joy: Redeeming God’s Gift of Food, by Rachel Marie Stone, February 2013. IVP Books, 207 pages, ISBN 978-0-83083-658-1. £11.99 (paperback)
If you’ve never considered how food and eating relates to Christian life then this book will be a great starting point. If you have never thought much about what you eat, how it’s produced, or what it means to eat together, this book will begin the process of understanding. Ultimatley I suspect it will lead readers to tread more gently on the earth as they learn more about how the way they eat has consequences to all Creation.
Overall, Stone is both concerned to care for the planet and to relate this to what it means to eat as a Christian. Her distinctive approach to such caring is rooted in Scripture’s teachings, especially about creation and redemption. This exploration is ordered through looking at biblical perspectives in conversation with modern insights including farmers, nutritionists and counselors. Important to Stone in her dialogue with the Bible are contemporary Western questions such as: What food to buy? Why do I worry my body isn’t like those so-called bodies on TV while others are starving or dying from malaria?
Stone’s bringing to mind that food and eating are simple everday activities is important in a climate where compassion fatigue can emotionally weigh us down. In focusing on food we may actually be able make changes that are consistent with caring for Creation and being Christian. Stone will not make her readers feel guilty but empowered. In line with this there are lots of helpful and tested suggestions for action, with recipes, prayers before eating, questions for group discussion, and a bibliography for further study.
On a more negative note, Stone in emphasizing the aspect of joyful eating does appear at times to play down the fact that so many eat too much. For example she makes the statement: “Not everyone who is obese is unhealthy…” (p.99). I can’t imagine a medical doctor agreeing with her in the UK (Stone writes from a North American context). We eat too much in Western society and we could do well with thinking about the fact that Jesus assumes we will fast. The Bible is very strong on self-restraint and living within boundaries and limitations.
However, Stone’s emphasis on “eating joyfully” is a very important point. One could almost attribute to Stone “I am because I eat joyfully”. God made us to be joyful and to be joyful is to live in the awareness that Creation is God’s free gift to us, and through food we are most intimate with non-human Creation. If we eat mindfully in terms of the story behind our food, and in a sharing way, then we eat joyfully. If we eat unmindfully of the suffering our eating habits cause, then we insult God’s gift by causing suffering to it, i.e. the environment, the sick, the starving, the oppressed.
By Mark Bredin