In Response to “Having Faith in a Farming Community”

After posting about living in a community that thrives off agriculture, whether that agriculture be destructive or not, I feel the need to respond to what I call the “moral separation between farmer and consumer.”

Judging by the comments on my previous post, there are some who believe, in regards to tobacco, that the farmer has no moral responsibility to the people who abuse their product. In this train of thought, metal makers are not responsible for someone who kills another with a gun, nor is the grower of potatoes responsible for the obesity of American french fry eaters. But this assumption of those who produce steel and tobacco being on the same grounds falls short in a hefty way.

Steel and potatoes have several uses, and, when used in the right way, guns and french fries are not always detrimental. Rifles allow the bearer to hunt for food and to protect themselves (granted, non-violence is a completely different topic), just as fried foods are not completely harmful if eaten in modesty. However, Tobacco is a different case.

The entire production of tobacco thrives off the addiction of the ones who consume it. As much as the farmer wants to deny this, or is simply ignorant of this reality, the truth is that they are actively participating in producing a crop that they know will be chemically altered to make it addicting.

Now this is not to say that there are farmers out there who do not allow their tobacco to be filled with these harmful products. I am sure there are those rebellious few. But this remnant of the tobacco-growing community is far from the majority, and their attempts may even be futile in the larger framework of the system.

So to separate the moral implications of tobacco from the farmer is not a healthy practice, nor a responsible one. We can say that people should work on their willpower to overcome addiction, but this is but a symptom of the greater structure. We can attempt to cure the symptoms, while the virus itself continues to thrive.

What do you think. Feel free to comment. The conversation would be greatly appreciated.

Peter Rollins and J.R. Daniel Kirk: “Deconstruction, not Destruction”

I have posted several thoughts on Peter Rollins and his engulfing “pyro-theology,” a theology that attempts to burn down the structures of faith around us, in the hopes that we may find the true meaning in the flames and ashes. After starting J.R. Daniels new book, Jesus I Have I Loved, but Paul? I see a similarity that I thought may be helpful for interpreting Rollins’ flaming faith.

Pyro-theology attempts to embrace doubt, anxiety, and the realities that come along with everyday bustle of life, and even more so, that are neglected by the modern church. In a sense, pyro-theology is merely a deconstruction of the Christian faith, with the hope that the vital elements of Christian life under the floorboards may be uncovered by burning down the house.

But several critics have accused Rollins of a detrimental deconstruction, that is, a deconstruction for destruction’s sake. However, J.R. Daniel Kirk reminds us that deconstruction is not destruction by any means.

Deconstruction is an attempt to break through hardened structures and traditions for the purpose of reengaging the stimulating, life-giving substance that gave rise to the now encrusted traditions . . . a punching through the rocks in order to open up a well from which to draw life-giving waters. . .

Whether it be a wall that needs to be crumbled, or a building that needs to be set ablaze, we should all keep a fuse and a gallon of gasoline handy when it comes to our faith; not for destruction’s sake, but to see if it is worthy of resurrection.

Having Faith in a Farming Community

I have been struggling with the issue of harmful agricultural practices as they relate to faith and Christian life. Primarily, the role of tobacco in the church has become and issue that needs attention. Growing up in North Carolina, one of the biggest producers of tobacco in the world, I have participated in the production of tobacco, and I know hundreds of people involved in the industry. I have friends that are tobacco farmers, I preach at churches that were probably built by tobacco money, and am part of an organization that is heavily involved in the political aspects of tobacco production and land preservation.

But I have also witnessed the other side of tobacco production. I have a parent who has had three heart attacks that tobacco no doubt contributed to. I have close friends under the age of 25 that cannot stop smoking because of the addictive nature of cigarettes. I see people leave the dinner table during an intimate meal with their family to puff on something that is slowly killing them.

Now, I am aware of the money, jobs, and benefits that come from tobacco production. But let’s be real: to quote a friend, “Tobacco is detrimental to your health even when used properly.” Nothing good comes from smoking, nothing productive comes from the a product that kills tens of thousands of people.

Honestly, I am not sure I could sleep at night knowing that I produce a product that I make thousands of dollars off, at the cost of the health and addiction of others.

More to come on the theological side of this discussion later.