Following Christ as a Lunatic Grass Farmer: An Interview with Joel Salatin

Joel Salatin is a grass-farmer in Swoope, Virginia, where he and his family own and operate Polyface Farms, a multi-generational, pasture-based, beyond organic, local-market farm. Joel is the author of nine books and has been featured in Michael Pollan’s award-winning book Ominvore’s Dilemma as well as the movie Food, Inc. Often cited in conversations about and with Joel is that he describes himself as a “Christian-conservative-libertarian-environmentalist-lunatic-farmer.” He’s here with us today to talk about how his work as a “lunatic grass farmer” embodies the teachings of Christ.

So, Joel, how does your work as a lunatic grass farmer embody the red letters?

Christ as Creator established numerous principles for how this grand scheme would work. He established herbivores, for example, as pruners to make sure biomass did not go into senescence, but rather stay fresh and growthy, aggressively metabolizing solar energy into decomposable plant material that breathes in carbon dioxide and exhales oxygen. The whole earth’s ecosystem runs on sunbeams converted to tangible biomass through the magnificent process of photosynthesis. As a farmer, I have the distinct privilege of participating in this grand scheme, and as a human, I can either humbly encourage it or arrogantly fight against it.

The point is that all of creation is an object lesson of spiritual truth. So what does a farm that illustrates compassion, holiness, forgiveness, abundance, faith, and order look like? Does a farm that requires more and more chemicals reflect these Biblical principles more than one that has such a great immunological function it doesn’t need veterinarian care or pesticides? I would suggest that a farm that builds soil, heightens immunological function, produces more nutrient density, and runs on real time sunshine more consistently illustrates divine attributes than one that destroys soil, produces deficient food, runs on petroleum, and reduces immunological function.

Just like a local group of believers functions better when many different gifts and talents can be exercised, a farm functions better with synergistic and symbiotic multi-speciated relationships. Mono-speciation is a direct assault on God’s relational ethics, and yet simple crop or animal farms are encouraged in the industrial paradigm.

Life is fundamentally biological, not mechanical. Appreciating the pigness of pigs creates the moral and ethical framework in how we preserve the Tomness of Tom or the Maryness of Mary. Our industrial food system views food and life as fundamentally mechanical, to be manipulated however cleverly hubris can imagine to manipulate it. So in our human cleverness, we can innovate things we can’t spiritually, physically, mentally or emotionally metabolize, like feeding dead cows to cows to create bovine spongiform encephalopathy. This kind of assault on Christ’s ecological patterns stems directly from a disrespect toward life.

If life is sacred at all, then we should be farming in such a way as to honor the distinctiveness, the created uniqueness, of the plants and animals under our care. That extends to the eaters who partake of our fare. In other words, growing it faster, fatter, bigger, and cheaper must take a second seat to honoring the pigness of the pig.

You can read the rest of Joel’s interview here.

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Mythbusting for Foster Parents

As a community committed to caring for those in need, Christian families looking for ways to reach out and serve often think about foster parenting. Barna Group reports that 31 percent of Christians have seriously considered foster parenting (compared to 11 percent of non-Christians). Strikingly, only 3 percent have actually become foster parents.

Why the discrepancy between those who are interested in the opportunity and those who have actually gone on to serve in this way?

While there are many practical reasons that could prevent people from taking on foster children, negative perceptions of the foster care system—such as front-page stories of social worker neglect and the belief that most foster parents are only in it for the money—loom large in America, including among Christians.

Whether from movies, media, or word-of-mouth, people worry that they will be unable to take on the responsibility of welcoming a child into their home for foster care or will become frustrated with the demands of the system itself. The Dave Thomas Foundation, which advocates for orphan-care in the U.S., cites this negative view as the most common reason people choose not to foster.

As with most things, it helps to know the facts. We are more comfortable and more willing to commit when we are well-educated about a cause. As an attorney and advocate who has spent 14 years working for and volunteering with foster children and their families, I’d like to offer the nearly one-in-three Christians considering becoming foster parents a realistic look at the demands and benefits.

To have the top truths and myths explained and debunked, click here to read the rest of the article on Christianity Today’s Her.meneutics.

Tattoos and Cardigans

Once upon a time, I was young.

I thought all the admonishments, advice, and wisdom of my elders would not apply to my life, and I shook off their words.

I believed but didn’t always live prayerfully.

I thought through things as wisely as I could, often better than most, but youth does have its shortcomings.

I got my first tattoo when I was fifteen. A friend performed the task, in my living room, using a hollowed Bic pen, thread, India ink and a guitar string. I was in a band then (Christian punk), and each member got the same x-eyed smiley face to commemorate our commitment to one another.

Click here to read the rest of today’s post over at my friend Bronwyn’s site. I know she’d love to have you.

 

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Interview with Aleah Marsden: Empowering “Ordinary” Women for Extraordinary Lives

Aleah Marsden is a writer, speaker, Bible study leader, wife, and mother of four. You will hear her refer to herself as “just average,” unequipped to teach or lead. And yet, that’s exactly what she does: she brings the word of God to others in ways they can understand and apply to their daily lives. She speaks directly to those who feel they are too “ordinary” for God, equipping and empowering them to serve in extraordinary ways.

The primary goal of your work is to draw women deeper into God’s word to plumb the depths of the riches they will find there. What specific message do you hope women will find?

That we are valued and loved beyond what we can imagine. That each of us has been given an individualized calling and specific gifts to steward, living empowered by His strength and guided by His Spirit. That we have access to all we need to fully utilize our gifts and walk into our callings to bless others.

Read the rest of today’s interview here.

 

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Book Review: A Minor, by Margaret Philbrick

Margaret Philbrick’s recently-released book, A Minor, provides an intimate view into the life of a prodigious classical musician in love with an older, married woman (his piano teacher) who is suffering from early-onset dementia. Margaret’s knowledge of music and her ability to authentically voice the emotions of an angst-ridden teenaged boy are impressive, as is the way she has knit the viewpoint of a variety of players into her novel. Her character-types are wide ranging, and she handles each masterfully.

The protagonist of A Minor is the young Clive Serkin, a soon-to-be world renown pianist of the highest magnitude. Clive, however, is not just a musician: he is a teenaged boy in love with his piano teacher, Clare Cardiff, who just so happens to be old enough to be his mother, married, and falling victim to dementia. If that weren’t complicated enough, there are also issues such as faith, coming of age, familial relationships, an abusive marriage, and mental health to contend with. The complexities are many, and the reader may find herself wondering just how Margaret will manage to tie it all together at the end.

I won’t spoil the ending for anyone, but I will say that I was pleased that Margaret did not fall into the trap of a tidy ending. The reader will be satisfied by A Minor’s conclusion, that’s true, but she will also be left contemplating the questions Margaret raises throughout the book.

Some of these questions will pertain to faith as Margaret weaves both Judaism and Christianity into what I expected to be a “Christian only” novel. Each religion is handled with love, respect, and understanding, and adds depth to each character and causes the reader to reflect on how our faith is, should be, or could be applied to our daily lives and decision-making processes.

Also adding depth is the way Margaret has used a work of fiction to bring such an important topic to light: music therapy.

I am a proponent of medication where medication is needed, but also an advocate for exploring complimentary or alternative modes of therapeutic intervention. I have seldom seen this subject be so integral to a book’s plot (treating dementia), and the through line of music’s importance to our emotional well-being is, I think, unique.

That said, one does not need to be a classical musician, or even a lover of music, to appreciate this book; a reader can find other means by which to buy into the young protagonist. But, if you are a lover of classical music, then you’re in luck—the novel comes with a soundtrack! It’s well worth a listen, and will help you appreciate Margaret’s fine work all the more.

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As the World Turns

It’s 5pm and I’m standing in my kitchen, one hand on top of the baby’s head, the other flipping fish. My daughter is talking nonstop about something—whether purple Tylenol is better than red, I think—and through the kitchen window I can see my oldest son taking out the trash.

It is normal. It is dinnertime.

Over the mosquito-drone of children’s ceaseless chatter, I hear the story on the radio and the room begins to spin. I cannot hold back tears, and I barely keep from retching. I’m unsure how the world continues to turn in the face of such news.

On Tuesday, twenty-five-year-old Farzana Iqbal was bludgeoned to death by twenty members of her family outside of a Pakistani courthouse while bystanders and police looked on. Farzana was three months pregnant.

Her killing and ritual humiliation were done for family honor, they said: Her husband had paid for her, but the family wanted more money and the husband refused to pay. Some stories say she was killed for marrying a man she loved.

Yesterday her husband acknowledged that he had strangled his first wife so that he could marry Farzana. For that crime he spent one day in jail.

The fish begins to burn. My daughter becomes frustrated by my lack of “oh, reallys?” and smiling nods. But with this news I am unsure how to continue functioning. Surely we must stop everything and change this? How can I shred lettuce, mix salad dressing, talk about my daughter’s new T-ball glove? Surely it is wrong to keep moving.

Farzana is but one of about 1000 honor killings that take place each year in Pakistan. When I went online to read more about her life and death, I saw a related news story reporting that two teenaged girls—ages 14 and 15—were added to that number yesterday, but not before they were gang raped and strung up on a tree to die.

The articles—deeply-buried under stories of Kate Middleton’s bare bottom and the Reading Rainbow Kickstarter—say that Farzana’s family felt they had to kill her—she had dishonored the family by giving herself to a man of her choosing.

Last week, Elliot Rogers went on his own honor-killing spree, claiming girls should have chosen him.

Some die for choosing, others for not choosing. But they all die because they are women. Rogers was mentally ill, and there is debate about whether it was his illness or a misogynistic culture that caused his rampage. For Farzana’s family, and for the 1000 Pakistani girls and women who die each year in the name of honor, there is no question.

This morning I perused Forbe’s recently-released list of the top 100 most powerful women in the world. I am struck by their high-powered jobs, their massive earnings and earning-potential. I’m curious where Mother Theresa would have fit on that list. Where Farzana would have been. #12? 27? What about the 13-year-old girl whose double-take of a young man on a motorcycle caused her parents to kill her with acid? Their deaths, the message behind their deaths, have shaken me to my very core with the power that they wield. I am breathless and overcome with the enormity of their weight.

Do you feel it too? Power in surges and waves that crash over us in our kitchens, our cars, in the snippets of news we catch between Dora episodes. The strength is there, inviting us to the harvest until our stores become so full we simply can’t hold any more and we must share what we’ve gathered with the world.

For now, the day is about to begin; the children are sleeping late but will soon be awake, and I must remove one hat and don another. Because as hard as it is, I know I must keep moving, keep cooking dinner, keep smiling and nodding at endless chatter. Keep finding my balance on a spinning world.

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Credit: http://shariaunveiled.wordpress.com/tag/punjab/

Honoring the Dead: A Prayer for Peace

Today we are much like any other American family. We have cold watermelon, sweet tea, and .10 cent corn to go along with our burgers. I spent some time sprucing up the lawn, and guests will be over later to enjoy the sunshine with us. My mom’s was a military family, and I was raised to remember.

I want my kids to remember, too. So this morning, we did things a little differently than in years past. When my daughter asked when Grandma would arrive and we could eat yummy food and cupcakes, I took the time to explain that today is more than a “party” or time off of school: Today is a day to honor the dead.

“How?” she asked.

In answer, she and I spent time in prayer, not just celebrating the dead, but honoring them. Honoring them by praying for peace. Praying for an end to policies and wars and “conflicts” that steal our often painfully young men and women from us. Praying for the taken lives of soldiers who leave behind moms and dads, sons and daughters, men and women who love them.

We prayed for those with 8 x 10 photos on their mantles, showing sharply-dressed soldiers with closely cropped hair or neatly tied buns, a stern hat upon a still-youthful, trying-not-to-grin face. We prayed for the Sermon on the Mount to be remembered today of all days.

My daughter is young. She didn’t really get most of what I said, or know the full meaning of the things that we prayed for. But I think she got the point: today is not a party, or a barbecue, or a day to glorify war.

Today is a day for peace.

Related post: Celebrating the Fourth of July

 

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