Table Field Farm

Concerning Cultivated Creation and Culture

The Rural American and Politics

Best article I’ve read, post elections.

From the article:

“Is there something about the land itself that promotes conservatism? The answer is as old as Western civilization. For the classical Greeks, the asteios (“astute”; astu: city) was the sophisticated “city-like” man, while the agroikos (“agrarian”; agros: farm/field) was synonymous with roughness. And yet there was ambiguity as well in the Greek city/country dichotomy: city folk were also laughed at in the comedies of Aristophanes as too impractical and too clever for their own good, while the unpolished often displayed a more grounded sensibility. In the Roman world, the urbanus (“urbane”; urbs: city) was sometimes too sophisticated, while the rusticus (“rustic”; rus: countryside) was often balanced and pragmatic.

Country people in the Western tradition lived in a shame culture. Family reputation hinged on close-knit assessments of personal behavior only possible in small communities of the like-minded and tribal. The rural ethos could not afford radical changes in lifestyles when the narrow margins of farming safety rested on what had worked in the past. By contrast, self-reinvention and social experimentation were possible only in large cities of anonymous souls and varieties of income and enrichment. Rural people, that is, don’t honor tradition and habit because they’re somehow better human beings than their urban counterparts; a face-to-face, rooted society offers practical reinforcement for doing so.”

” In sum, Donald Trump captured the twenty-first-century malaise of a rural America left behind by globalized coastal elites and largely ignored by the establishments of both political parties. Central to Trump’s electoral success, too, were age-old rural habits and values that tend to make the interior broadly conservative. That a New York billionaire almost alone grasped how red-state America truly thought, talked, and acted, and adjusted his message and style accordingly, will remain one of the astonishing ironies of American political history.”


Caring and Killing in Gratitude

“At times we can overlook that eating animals requires that they die. Gratitude, it seems to me, requires that we not lose sight of the fact that the raising and killing of animals is part and parcel of our eating. There are proper ways for animals to be cared for, and to be killed–and these should be of a piece with one another. The care and the killing, when done well, are themselves an exercise in gratitude; and also something to be grateful for.” -John A. Cuddeback, “Eating Meat With Thanksgiving”, Bacon and Acorns

Over 40 million factory-raised turkeys are eaten each Thanksgiving. Their lives begin as as the result of artificial insemination, hatching in incubators, after which they are crammed into confined sheds where they are driven to such madness that they would peck each other to death- except that their beaks are cut off with a hot blade. Once debeaked they are pumped full of hormones, so that they can transform the would-be 17 lb Turkey of the 1970’s into the 28 lb Turkey of modern day. This radical transformation disables the Turkeys’ ability to walk, causing many to break their legs under their own weight, and ending in multiple organ failure for many of the short-lived birds. The process can be worse than this, but these attributes are standard to how modern America achieves it’s meal of “thanks” to God for blessing America.

Can Christians lift their hearts to the Lord to offer real words of thanksgiving when our hands steward the very creatures of God we use to celebrate with such villainous indifference? Surely we wouldn’t treat our household pets the way we treat the animals we consume? Or perhaps the reason we are ok with Turkeys and other livestock being handled this way is because someone else is treating them this way?… Surely if your child’s teacher told the parents that the kids would be participating in the raising of Turkeys for a school project, and that they would be doing it in a factory-farm style, that you would object, not wanting your child to witness the tortured-abuse that turns a Butterball turkey into the monster that finally dies in the name of “low-low prices”? Surely you would personally feel unwell if made to participate in cutting through the cartilage and nerves of thousands of Turkeys’ beaks in order to stop their ability to struggle against the pain of their miserably short lives? How is it that in a few short decades we can stare stoicly at these facts and shrug off the guilt with detached slogans like “that’s just how it is”? Have our ethics been bought by the hush money discounted meat? Are the cheap, quick, and easy supermarkets so much more attractive to us than seeking out a local, small farm that is raising true, good, and beautiful Turkeys?

John A. Cuddeback’s Thanksgiving meditation doesn’t spend any time going into detail on the horrors of modern farm practices. He assumes we know, or could know if we really wanted to. He implies nonetheless that we should know and will know if we wish to practice true gratitude. And he explicates that gratitude involves submitting to an inherint order in God’s creation, which ultimatley involves a greatful practice of both the caring for and killing of the animals we eat. Rather than argue against ill-treatment, Cuddeback argues for greatfullness, a practice America has institutionalized through many holidays- Thanksgiving being the most iconic. Gratitude marks the heart of this Christian nation, because gratitude is at the heart of the Christian life. “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Whether you have children, or simply can remember once being a child yourself, you’ve somehow been witness to the child who mistreats his or her toys, leaving them out where the rain can degrade them, throwing them down so that they break, and/or setting them down and forgetting about them while out somewhere so that they are lost. The parents are often frustrated and sometimes furious over their child’s apparent lack of appreciation. And we hear them say as much: “you’re gonna learn to appreciate the things your daddy work’s hard to buy for you”, “go clean that up, you need to learn to take care of your things.”… And in the same way a child cannot simply say to a parent “What? I told you ‘thanks’ when you bought me that toy, who cares that I carelessly broke it?” So too we cannot as stewards of God’s creation say “thanks” to God over our Thanksgiving meals, complete with savaged and deformed, 28lb turkeys, and expect the hypocrisy to go unnoticed. “Better is a dinner of herbs where love is than a fattened ox and hatred with it.” Proverbs 15:17

We take care of the things we care about. This is part of how we show gratitude, and this is something we will always do. The question is: who/what are we taking care of? When we can answer this question, we can see what we care about. In our gratitude, we see our hearts’ exposed. Furthermore, Christians know that part of what it means to “care” for a thing is to honor its nature. You don’t use a screwdriver as a hammer- it violates its nature, and we call that “abuse”. The subject of human nature is at the core of what we today label “humane” or “inhumane” in ethical disputes. And, it is in the nature of a turkey to have its beak, and to be able to walk around under the sky, in the sun, scratching and pecking at bugs in the earth. Conversely, when we exchange that which is natural for the unnatural, we suffer deep consequences. Indeed, the exchange of that which is natural for the unnatural is at the heart of idolatry itself, which wages war against our gratitude to God everyday, including Thanksgiving. “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools,” Romans 1:21-22

This Thanksgiving, let us seek to honor God, through the honoring of His Creation, according to its given nature. Let us give thanks through our acts of care for all creatures of our God and King.

Pasture Raised Turkeys

Factory Farmed Turkeys

(If you don’t want to look at this, are you ok with eating it, or paying somebody else to do this to an animal, and giving thanks to God for it?)

Good Soil

“And this is where soil cultivation proves its worth, not only as the central task of gardening, but also as a metaphor for teaching: it emphasizes the fruitfulness of the garden over its productivity. Modern agriculture focuses on crop production over soil cultivation. Exhausted soil is boosted with fertilizers, then sown with thousands of rows of a single plant type, producing high yields but sterilizing the land. In much the same way, results-driven education teaches to the test in order to yield students who rank high on standardization, but whose minds are worked to exhaustion, unable to grow anything of their own.” -Lindsey Brigham, “Good Soil”, Circe Institute


Healthy Solitude and the Challenge of Screen Presence


“Digital screens not only make the cultivation of solitude more difficult but also, by their very nature, are inimical to it. They continually remind us of their presence through vibrations, alerts, and various noises, and Cory Doctorow thus writes of the world we enter through digital screens as an “ecosystem of interruption technologies.” As users become accustomed to the perpetual presence of interruptions, attention spans are shortened and the brain becomes chemically addicted to constant stimuli. These physiological changes are at least part of the reason why those conditioned by their screens often report feeling lost, naked, or exposed without their devices, cut off from the constant digital feedback on which they have become dependent.

This constant digital feedback further militates against solitude in that the practice of solitude requires persistent effort. Digital screen technology, however, cultivates an expectation of instantaneity and immediacy that precludes such discipline. As educational psychologist Jane Healy observes, those “weaned on a media culture tend to have trouble taking responsibility and exercising persistence. If they can’t push something and make it happen, they don’t want any part of it.” By its very presence, digital screen technology thus not only prevents us from experiencing solitude but also cultivates in us an aversion to it. In a world where instant access, constant connectivity, and perpetual feedback are the norm, the cultivation of solitude becomes not only exponentially more difficult but also undesirable and even anathema…

…Again, the challenge is not merely that our screens make silence harder to obtain. While they do function as a perpetual obstacle to silence, they also, by their nature, condition us against it. They teach us that a life full of noise and devoid of silence is the norm. Contemplative silence thus becomes not only uncomfortable and difficult but also an abnormality that, in our aversion to it, we do not attempt to cultivate.”

-Dr.David Diener, “Digital Screen Technology and the Challenge of Spiritual Solitude” and “Digital Screen Technology and the Challenge of Contemplative Silence“, Classical Academic Press


Respecting the Old Rhythms, Traditions, and Mores

“The Southern Agrarians’ greatest fear was that progressives’ advocacy of farm industrialization would demand ever larger, more expansive changes to society, without stopping to consider the unintended consequences. In contrast, the authors of I’ll Take My Stand urged a respect for the old rhythms and ways of doing things, a careful mindfulness that didn’t expand or abandon before remembering old traditions and mores.

This does not mean that the Southern Agrarians were simply reactionary, anti-technology Luddites. In I’ll Take My Stand, psychologist and professor Lyle H. Lanier said that new machine and industrial technologies were not problematic for the agrarian, but that an attitude of industrialism—in which “the notion that the greater part of a nation’s energies should be directed toward an endless process of increasing the production and consumption of goods”—was extremely dangerous. “There is nothing inherently evil about a machine,” he said.”

-Gracy Olmstead, “Taking A Stand on the Farm”, Comment Magazine

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