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.