Dateline: 20 March 2015
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After a winter of colder than usual temperatures and heavy snow cover, a bit of spring thaw has opened up some patches of bare ground in the field across from my house. The deer in the picture, are hungry.
The soil they are browsing was a field of soybeans last year. The farmer who works that land routinely uses herbicides on his crops. So there is little to nothing of any good for the deer to eat in that field. But they are desperate for food.
Wild deer don’t normally come out in the daytime in such large numbers to feed as they are now. But their need for food is such that they will do what they normally would not do; they will risk exposure and potential harm for the chance to satisfy their hunger.
It is the same for people. When a population of people is hungry, and food is scarce, they will agree to do or accept things they would not otherwise do or accept.
The following quote, from Conquest of the Land Through 7,000 Years, by W.C. Lowdermilk, written around 1946, presents a historical and fundamental understanding about food and civilization that all thinking people need to understand, and always keep in mind…
My experience with famines in China taught me that in the last reckoning all things are purchased with food. This is a hard saying; but the recent world-wide war shows up the terrific reach of this fateful and awful truth. Aggressor nations used the rationing of food to subjugate rebellious peoples of occupied countries. For even you and I will sell our liberty and more for food, when driven to this tragic choice. There is no substitute for food.
Seeing what we will give up for food, let us look at what food will buy—for money is merely a symbol, a convenience in the exchange of the goods and services that we need and want. Food buys our division of labor that begets our civilization.
Not until tillers of soil grew more food than they themselves required were their fellows released to do other tasks than the growing of food—that is, to take part in a division of labor that became more complex with the advance of civilization.
True, we have need of clothing, of shelter, and of other goods and services made possible by a complex division of labor, founded on this food production, when suitable raw materials are at hand. And of these the genius of the American people has given us more than any other nation ever possessed. They comprise our American standard of living. But these other good things matter little to hungry people as I have seen in the terrible scourges of famine.
Food comes from the earth. The land with its waters gives us nourishment. The earth rewards richly the knowing and diligent but punishes inexorably the ignorant and slothful. This partnership of land and farmer is the rock foundation of our complex social structure.
Food is fundamental to life. Food is fundamental to all economies. Food is fundamental to freedom. Any person who does not grow their own food—who depends on other people to do it for them—does not have the individual capacity for sustaining their life and freedom.
Can a civilization consisting of such people, who are totally dependent on a centralized, and increasingly complex system of food production and distribution, survive a serious national or sectional crisis that would inevitably lead to a partial or total breakdown in the supply of food?
The answer should be obvious.
America is a land of relatively rich soils. No man, no family, need be dependent on the centralized food oligopoly to provide every morsel of the food that sustains their life. Yet, the overwhelming majority of Americans want nothing to do with the hard work of growing a significant portion of their own food.
This sad state of affairs is, amazingly, even the case with most people who call themselves Christians. I say amazingly because gardening and the growing of food is clearly fundamental to biblical Christianity.
I don’t know how it is with other religions of the world, but as a Christian, I can tell you that, according to the biblical mandate provided in Genesis, the work of growing food should be a fundamental part of the Christian life.
It was God himself who planted the first garden in Genesis 2:8: “And the LORD God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed.”
Then, in Genesis 2:15 : “And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden.”
Later on, after the flood, in Genesis 9:20 we find Noah reestablishing the fundamental calling of all people: “And Noah began to be an husbandman, and he planted a vineyard.”
Please note that Noah did not go and establish a city. His rebellious progeny did that later on. Noah, who we are told in Genesis 6:9 “walked faithfully with God” did not aspire to anything beyond the fundamental calling of a husbandman. Also, Adam and Noah were not large-scale farmers. gardening and husbandry are both pursuits that imply small-scale, hands-on work.
Here is where I need to make it clear that I’m not asserting in any way that the growing of one’s food is central to Christianity. Not hardly. Jesus Christ and His death and resurrection are the central focus of the entire Bible (starting in Genesis), and of true Christianity. Jesus is the wellspring of the faith.
The point I'm making is that God created a proper order for his creation. Every part of His created order has an appointed role. Mankind’s role is to husband the earth, which means to be involved in the work of responsible agriculture, and the Christian’s role is to glorify God in this work.
The work of agriculture is certainly not central to Christianity, but I’m persuaded that it is fundamental to a proper expression of the faith.
What I’ve just attempted to elucidate (once again) is the Biblical-agrarian worldview. It is alien to the modernized Christian mindset. But when properly understood, I think it brings a clarity to the Christian life that is otherwise lacking in the midst of our techno-industrial era.
America faces a very uncertain future because, in part, Americans have distanced themselves from their place in God’s created order. They have distanced themselves from the work of providing their own food. And a great many Christians, who are called to be separate from the ungodly culture about them, have adopted the same way of life.
All actions have consequences. Galatians 6:7 comes to mind:
"Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap."
From a different point of view, I would add that those who do not, as a way of life, sow for themselves, may one day go hungry.