Desiring Slow Community

While I’m not really desiring community in Chinatown, PA the heart of this message on the Desiring God Blog has it right.  One of the reasons we moved to the farm was in search of a slower paced life that allowed time for the “one another” commands found in the scripture.

Along the same lines, the idea of community came to mind as I was researching the “Slow Food” movement last week.  In checking out the Slow Food USA web site I found myself in substantial agreement with many of the ideas they put forward.  Check out the Slow Food Manifesto:

Our century, which began and has developed under the insignia of industrial civilization, first invented the machine and then took it as its life model.

We are enslaved by speed and have all succumbed to the same insidious virus: Fast Life, which disrupts our habits, pervades the privacy of our homes and forces us to eat Fast Foods.

To be worthy of the name, Homo Sapiens should rid himself of speed before it reduces him to a species in danger of extinction.

A firm defense of quiet material pleasure is the only way to oppose the universal folly of Fast Life.

May suitable doses of guaranteed sensual pleasure and slow, long-lasting enjoyment preserve us from the contagion of the multitude who mistake frenzy for efficiency.

Our defense should begin at the table with Slow Food.
Let us rediscover the flavors and savors of regional cooking and banish the degrading effects of Fast Food.

In the name of productivity, Fast Life has changed our way of being and threatens our environment and our landscapes. So Slow Food is now the only truly progressive answer.

That is what real culture is all about: developing taste rather than demeaning it. And what better way to set about this than an international exchange of experiences, knowledge, projects?

Slow Food guarantees a better future.

Slow Food is an idea that needs plenty of qualified supporters who can help turn this (slow) motion into an international movement, with the little snail as its symbol. 

That is a pretty fair statement of the conditions of the modern man both churched and un-churched as they say.  But in reading this I was faced with several questions.  Isn’t that what we lost when the South was conquered by the Union?  Isn’t fast food the crowing symbol of progress – the promised utopia the industrialist, forced upon a once contented slow paced Southern people?  Is the manifesto really “progressive” or is it merely recognizing some truth prophesied of long ago.  As I processed these thoughts I reached for my copy of “I’ll Take My Stand“.  I’ll give you a quote from the introduction by Louis D. Rubin, JR. which I think speaks to the heart of the fast food, fast life issue many are seeking to overcome today.  In 1962 he wrote his first introduction for the second edition:

…the Agrarians were not economist.  They were humanist…  And the real values they were asserting in 1930 were not those of “material well-being” or of neo-confederate nostalgia, but of thoughtful men who were very much concerned with the erosion of the quality of individual life by forces of industrialization and the uncritical worship of progress as an end in itself….

Humanism, properly speaking, is not an abstract system, but a culture, the whole way in which we live, act, think, and feel.  It is a kind of imaginatively balanced life lived out in a definite social tradition.  And, in the concrete, we believe that this, the genuine humanism, was rooted in the agrarian life of the older south and of other parts of the country that shared in such a tradition… We can not recover our native humanism by adopting some standard of taste that is critical enough to question the contemporary arts but not critical enough to question the social and economic life which is their ground.

This in a nut shell is where Slow Food will fail.  It wants us to pretend to slow down and attend our Slow Food meetings on Tuesday night, but the reality of our age is that all those who do will be at the drive through window for breakfast as they rush off to their city jobs on Wednesday morning.  We can’t be critical of our cuisine without recognizing the economy that drives it.  It is one thing to call for local food, organic food, or “humane” food; but it is another thing to live in an economy that allows one to pay the farmer for his labors.

I guess the short of it is this; we not only need sustainable farms, but in order to live in true Christian community we need a sustainable way of life.  This global economy consumes us until we are gone and then it sets it’s sights on our children.  The Twelve Southerners fromVanderbuilt detailed our departure from a sustainable life and foretold with alarming accuracy the challenges we face today when the work was originally published in 1930.  The Twelve Southerners were able to put forward a holistic work examining multiple facets of our culture and the challenges industrialization brought in the areas of art, education, economics, politics, family life and structure, and many more areas that are tied directly to the community we no longer enjoy. 

It is certain that our diet has changed, but what is less evident is the changes that take place within a man, his beliefs which make up his faith and practices.  To say it simply, the reason we have a hard time finding community today is our priorities have changed.  They are not based on our belief in God, but what brings us pleasure in this economy.  Or as R.C. Sproul Jr. has stated several times, it is based on what is good for our “personal peace and affluence”.  The real challenge lies ahead.  It is one thing to see the challenges, but it is another thing to swim upstream to attempt to make the changes needed to reclaim a sustainable life.  Many will fall pray to the allure of money and the wealth this economy can promise.  But the answer is not to have more money to invest in making changes.  I would bet that Fast Food USA has a good fund raising machine.  But yet the reality of their lives, even the structure of the organization, works against their stated goals.  The answer is to be a people who are not swayed by money, but driven by principles derived from the Word of God.  God places value on family and relationships long before wealth.  To finish the quote from Rubin:

It was not their (the agrarians) assumptions that one first achieved material well-being, then used it to further “the more spiritual side of a good, full and happy life”; on the contrary, they insisted that any attempt to divorce economics and labor from “the more spiritual side” of one’s life brutalized the labor and cheapened the humanity.

Let us not sell our soul to a faceless nameless corporate economy that is always promising morebetterfaster of what ever it is we think we need.  Rather let us seek Him who purchased our soul and hold in high regard our humanity as His creatures.  God gives us the principles we need to build a Christian community in His word.  This new economy, this idea of slow food or eating local produce, is really the old economy, of relationships, time redemption, and of being close to the land that God gave as a gift to sustain our very lives.  It’s agrarian at its core and it’s hard work.  But, it is worth every moment when you consider the community being developed as we order our lives in a simple honest and just manner.

1 Comment

  • tkonvalin says:

    Thanks for that post Paul. I think that puts into words one of the problem with a lack of community in the church and in life in general. We want drive through fellowship and pit stop friendships and that is not what God calls for. He calls for a community to run the race He sets before us and that is not done in a “Fat Food Life.”
    Now I guess I am going to have to get “I’ll Take My Stand.” While I enjoy many of the benefits of the Industrial Revolution I really wonder if they are truly benefits. Yes life would seem uncomfortable, initially, without those perceived benefits but that discomfort comes not from there being a lack in the way things have been but from being overly comfortable with the current life we live.
    So you have given me more to think about with regards a move, we will just have to see what God does.
    God Bless