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Food, Glorious Food (for those who have it)


Food, Glorious Food (for those who have it)

by Paul Chaffee

The wonders of ethnic cuisines from around the world and their connections to a community’s religious life make ‘food and faith’ a ripe topic for extended interfaith reflection. But reflecting on food can be troubling. Watching institutionalized orphans sing “food glorious food” in the 1968 musical Oliver! entails seeing where they live and how hungry they are; may entail remembering how very hungry are the hundreds of millions whose lives court starvation every day.

I live in a town with more than 7,000 restaurants, more per capita than anywhere in America. But finishing a local feast at one of San Francisco’s fine establishments often means confronting the hungry on the way back to your car, the hungry, it turns out, who are delighted and grateful to share the half plate of food you were going to take home. Our culture is caught between abundance and scarcity and making a mess of things.

TIO’s series on food this month begins with Ruth Broyde Sharone’s beautiful reflection on Jewish food and practice, focusing in particular on the Passover Seder and what it means. Her piece is followed by Vicki Garlock’s stern summary of a world where more than a billion suffer obesity, while nearly as many are close to starving. All this in a world producing enough food to feed us all comfortably. Vicki shares ways we can be part of the solution to humankind’s terrible relationship with sustenance, as do the articles which follow. The series concludes with a copy of the World Council of Churches’ “10 Commandments of Food” poster, which you can publish and post – ten ‘commandments’ we each can follow every day.

These few articles hardly graze the tip of the iceberg if you want to explore the many splendors involved in physical sustenance and its religious, spiritual implications. They simply open up the discussion and propose ways we can start to be part of the solution to the world’s food crises.

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TIO is about more than food this month.

  • A 13-year-old shares the story of experiencing a storm at sea with her grandfather in a small boat and what she learned years later.
  • Marcus Braybrooke offers a moving defense of persecuted minorities in the UK.
  • Then an historian unpacks the tale of a 13th century pioneer of interfaith dialogue!
  • Finally, a new kind of higher religious education, focused particularly on interfaith, is profiled in the story about the Chaplaincy Institute in Berkeley, California.

This month’s “Interfaith News Roundup” attends mostly to the interreligious response to the beginning of the Donald Trump administration. A single Twitter account seems to have upended the influence and contributions of science, ethical principles, the arts and humanities, U.S. allies and foreign powers, the media, political pundits, and the Congress of the United States. This amazing shift, which TIO has followed in recent months, severely threatens the interfaith genius of the United States Constitution and the rich diversity it has engendered, so we’re paying attention. The resistance to the shift, globally, locally, and in our hearts, is as amazing as the shift itself.