2012-03-14

Hard Questions

What do we – we of liberal religious persuasion – in fact value, in word and in deed? What can we articulate about ourselves and our values that could help us live with greater integrity?

We value respect for interdependence, awareness of the miracle of life, protecting the environment, a fair and livable wage for agriculture workers. We value greater equality, both in enjoying the bounty of our earth and in bearing the burdens of pollutants. We value food, and healthy food, and consumer product safety for food. We value reducing unnecessary pain.

Can we live with a greater integrity with those values? How would our lives be if we relied less on those skills for handling cognitive dissonance when it comes to those values?

Each of us must work out with diligence our own integrity. The first step is to simply notice – and notice as nonjudgmentally as possible: Where does cognitive dissonance arise for you? Where do you notice that yourself not living by your values? Maybe it’s not possible to live by them, or maybe the values need to be adjusted. Before you get to those questions, just neutrally observe the experience of dissonance.

The Statement of Conscience on Ethical Eating (click here) opens some issues, but does not give us all the answers. Thus, the statement says:
“Some of us believe that it is ethical only to eat plants while others of us believe that it is ethical to eat both plants and animals. We do not call here for a single dietary approach. We encourage a knowledgeable choice of food based on understanding the demands of feeding a growing world population, the health effects of particular foods, and the consequences of production, worker treatment, and transportation methods.”
Each of us must work out our own integrity, but that doesn’t mean that it must be a lonely and solitary task. You don’t have to go it alone. We can help each other think about issues whether or not we begin – or end – agreeing with each other. This is the call of conscience – the call of this Statement of Conscience: to engage each other in conversations to encourage us each toward our own integrity.

I believe, moreover, that there is such a thing as “our” integrity. There’s your integrity, my integrity, her integrity, and his integrity – and there’s also our integrity. There is a community integrity that is more than the sum of its individual members’ integrities.

The Statement of Conscience has a section on congregational actions. It asks us to consider the sort of food we have at congregational events – whether catered or potluck. Radical hospitality (see blog series on “Radical Hospitality”: starts here) calls on us to welcome whatever you bring to a potluck. Yet we can rightfully take pride in locally produced food, fair trade foods, organic foods, and in more plant-based dishes. We can engage in direct action in solidarity with workers and labor advocacy groups to support agricultural and food workers – and the other actions the Statement suggests for congregations.

Would that represent a greater community integrity for this Fellowship? What is your path of integrity? What is mine? What is ours?

Those are hard questions – questions worthy of our reflection and engagement.

When the questions get hard, here’s one thing I do:

I ask my wife.

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By Rev. Meredith Garmon
Part 4 of "Consuming Passions"
Next: Part 5: LoraKim: "And Vice Versa"
Previous: Part 3: Meredith: "Integrity"
Beginning: Part 1: Meredith & LoraKim: "The Eating Conscience"