The big news today all over the internet is about bread. Subway; the worldwide sandwich franchise is agreeing to pull azodicarbonamide, a chemical used to create foamed plastics such as yoga mats and rubber soled shoes, from its bread. After an online petition signed by 70,000 people through the initiation of the food blog foodbabe.com; this controversial chemical will now be removed from American restaurants nationwide. The curious thing is that this particular chemical has been banned from food products in the United Kingdom, Australia, and the European Union for a long while. However, azodicarbonamide has been declared by the USDA and FDA as safe for consumption. I am not a conspiracy theory kind of gal but this revelation does bring to surface some unnerving data about the way our government has shaped our ideas of what is considered food. My question is, what does this scandal tell us about our understanding and practice of Christianity?
As a pastor and I will say reservedly, a theologian, what does this mean for the people I work with? How do I help the teens and families I work with see a connection and apply this little bit of news to their spiritual lives?
The first thing that stands out to me is the idea that the experts in this instance turned a blind eye to a potentially dangerous situation in order to keep the peace and not stir up too much trouble with companies and consumers. While our temptation may be to put another notch in our measuring stick of untrust there is some theological reflection this can foster. Scripture talks about the importance of discernment. Discernment is not just a habit important in “spiritual” matters. Hebrews 5:11-14 references discerning spiritual concepts but the writers of Hebrews, most likely Jews, did not have a concept of the separation of sacred and secular. Good Christians are discerners; testing and trying with reason, scripture, experience, and tradition. While we should not blindly accept what experts have to say, neither should we scoff at authority. In our lives we must discern what is good for our spirits, but also our bodies and our relationships.
A second thing that stands out to me is the idea that it only took 70,000 people to convince a company as big as Subway to change the way they do business. I also have a suspicion that other companies will be forced to make changes as well because of this one petition. In effect, the fast food industry is being changed by one person who thought it was important that our food be safe for consumption. Her initiation of this petition is a small thing that was allowed to grow picking up momentum as it was passed along. 70,000 may seem like alot of people but considering the millions of people making Youtube famous with cat videos I think there is something important here about this “small” number. Last week I went to the Barna Frames presentation. Various topics were covered including Christians and violence, foster-care and adoption, and local church participation in public schools. The data they presented was articulated through a lens that said Christians have the power to create change in the world. The statistics showed that Christians are concerned about these topics and the conference encouraged us to act on these convictions. According to the Pew Forum 73% of American adults associate religiously with Christianity. In California alone there are an estimated 28,000,000 adults according to kidscount.org. This means that in California there are 20,000,000 Christian adults. If it only took 70,000 adults nation-wide to change the fast food industry what are we as Christians waiting for?
The last thing that stands out in this story for me is that it is an article centering around bread. Bread has anciently been associated with Christ Jesus for thousands of years. According to John chapter six Jesus is the bread of life. Are you willing to eat The Bread of Life? This isn’t some plug for the sinners prayer and I won’t pull out my Evangecube. What I am asking is that you consider the things you are willing to eat on a daily basis? I am guilty of buying sandwiches at Subway, they are delicious, but what I am doing in buying that sandwich is exchanging nutrition for convenience. Often times I am guilty of doing this in my spiritual life as well. I am content to read a blog or receive a daily Bible verse on my phone over spending time with Jesus.
I am guilty at times of having a shallow faith, of exchanging spiritual nutrition for convenience. It is not convenient to spend hours a week in prayer and study. It less convenient to wait for an answer to those prayers over and against making things happen myself. This news article reminds me to ask the question, am I willing to eat of The Bread of Life? Am I willing to eat solid food and not simply to be satisfied with spiritual milk? Hebrews chapter five speaks about constantly discerning between good and evil but I believe the harder thing is distinguishing between good and best. So my encouragement today is to be unsatisfied with a chemical substitution for bread. Be willing to set aside the easy for the best. Convenience is deceiving because in the long run nutrition pays bigger dividends.