Embrace the Pigness of the Pig

This summer, Penny and I visited Polyface Farms, the home base of Joel Salatin, beyond-organic farmer to the stars. Alright, while Salatin might not do much hobnobbing with Hollywood A-listers, he has been in a good selection of movies. I’m convinced that there’s a law prohibiting anyone from producing a food- or agriculture-related documentary without inserting at least one snippet of Joel.

After leaving the farm that day, I grieved for part of my drive back into Staunton, Virginia, the city where we were staying. You see, the farm’s shop did not have any t-shirts reading “The marvelous pigness of pigs” in my size. The shopkeeper assured us that they’d be getting those in eventually, but we were heading home before that.

Only on the way home, as we made a fourteen-hour expedition from Staunton to our house, did I realize–thanks to Penny’s handy use of Google and decent cell reception in West Virginia–that my coveted t-shirt actually reflected the title of Joel’s latest book: The Marvelous Pigness of Pigs: Respecting and Caring for All God’s Creation.

Before reaching home, I had ordered a copy of the tome. Penny followed suit, requesting it from our library. We’ve been reading through it over the past several weeks.

After writing and speaking for decades as a voice for sustainable agriculture and clean foods, Salatin with this book has “come out” as a Christian. Honestly, I don’t think many people who had encountered him were terribly surprised, but in that book’s pages, he lays out the theological underpinnings for his agricultural practices.

Although I plan to take up some, if not all, of the individual chapters in days to come, I thought it would make sense to consider my own “pigness” or the pigness of my students. Do you have “theological underpinnings” for your profession? I ask, because I’m not entirely sure that I have them for my primary work as a college English teacher. Certainly I have not worked out that theology and its implications on day-to-day, semester-to-semester life as thoroughly as Salatin has in this book.

So your homework assignment, as you wait for the book to arrive, is to consider what it means to be a Christian car mechanic, HVAC technician, lawyer, financial planner, gym employee, banker, or whatever it is that you do with your time. Whether you enjoy the pigness of some bacon at the same time is entirely your own affair.

 

A Leper’s Kind of Risk

I have to admit that when my pastor used the lepers from 2 Kings 7:3-4 as examples of those who didn’t lose out on opportunities from playing it safe, I found myself skeptical. These guys were living just outside the city gate of Samaria, unable to go inside because of their illness and unable to leave because a Syrian army had the city throttled in a tight siege. Rather than slowly succumbing to the siege, they elected to try their luck with the enemy camp. “If they kill us, then we were going to die anyway,” they essentially say as they make their way to the Syrian camp.

These guys really weren’t taking a risk, were they? I’m sure they had been depending on gifts of food from the people inside the city. With the siege in full force, nobody inside would be sharing food with them now. They were most likely starving a little more quickly than the people inside. So what did they have to lose by heading to the enemy camp? That was my thought as I listened to the pastor’s sermon and checked my memory for some better examples of those who truly risked themselves rather than playing it safe.

Matthew left a lucrative tax-collecting franchise to follow Jesus. So did Zacchaeus. Peter, Andrew, James, and John all left the family fishing business to traipse about the Galilee with a homeless guy. And Paul was on the fast track to Pharisee superstar status when he ditched it all to follow Jesus. All of these seemed like better examples than those lepers.

As admirable as the risk-taking of the disciples mentioned above proves, as bold as the steps taken by Abraham and Noah and Daniel appear, there’s something to be said for the action of the lepers. Those guys recognized that they had nothing. They not only had nothing but they had nothing to lose. Unlike most people, these men saw reality. They were as good as dead already.

Look at Thomas in John 11:16: “Let’s go so we may die with Him.” It seemed foolish to the disciples to head back to the environs of Jerusalem where the powers wanted to kill Jesus. Still, Thomas couldn’t do anything but follow. He seemed to have understood on that day that if following Jesus was a risk, then it was a risk too good not to take.

Like most people, I like safety. I keep good insurance on my house and car. I’ve saved money for emergencies and for retirement. Somehow I don’t think these are moves that God would mark off as foolish, but I also hope that when the opportunity to take a risk comes along, I won’t be encumbered by my safety and security. Instead, I’d like to think that I would behave like these men with rotting flesh, stepping out with nothing to lose. Because in reality, I have nothing of value to lose.