Upon closer inspection, however, the conference's fundamentalist Christian overtones become clear. According to the conference description, America's health problems are supposedly the result of Americans abandoning their "biblical bearings" and succumbing to self-indulgence.
"Our nation is obsessed with health and with fads about health and diet. One reason for this obsession is that we have lost our biblical bearings.The conference description laments that mealtime is rarely an opportunity for families -- defined as "individuals serving the Lord in a unified household bound by a common faith and purpose" -- to come together anymore.
We are awash in a culture that de-prioritizes the values of Christian family life, and we have forgotten many of the basics which result in blessing because we have ignored the Scripture as the all-sufficient foundation for faith and practice.
Consider that the Bible warns against gluttony and urges moderation and self-control, but our generation is the most overweight, the most self-indulgent, and (not surprisingly) the most cancer-prone generation in the recorded history of our nation."
Vision Forum points to several alleged culprits for the decline of food and mealtime, including "growing statist control over the food supply," "fragmentation of the family," and of course, "the mass exodus of mothers from the household to the external workforce." In other words, if the goshdern government would get off our backs and women stayed in the kitchen, our food culture would be better!
The workshop schedule is very revealing. While the workshops on nutrition, illness, and local food look innocuous enough, other workshops have a distinctly fundamentalist flavor. (See www[dot]visionforumministries[dot]org/events/food/001/speech_topics.aspx)
- "Christian Manhood and the Seven Pillars of Exceptional Health: A Primer on How Fathers Can Demonstrate True Leadership In Shepherding Their Families To Wisely Steward Their Bodies for Maximum Kingdom Impact"
- "Watching What You Eat? You’re Not the Only One...” A Legal Perspective on the Federal, State and Local Government’s Intrusion Into What We Eat, How Much and What We Feed Our Children"
- "Can We Feed The World: A Biblical and Scientific Response to Statist, Environmentalist and Evolutionist Pessimism"
Thus, Vision Forum has managed to weave patriarchy, fear of so-called "statism", and distrust of environmentalism into a conference on food. Their distrust of environmentalism does not surprise me, given Doug Philips' hostility toward environmentalists and Earth Day. Still, it disappoints me because environmentalism, sustainability, and food are closely connected issues. A conference on food issues could have been a perfect opportunity to discuss the relevance of environmentalism on health and food.
The above workshop on "Christian manhood" was not the only patriarchal message among the workshops. Many of the workshops on hospitality, budgeting, and food preparation, were labeled "Ladies Workshops," as if only women performed these tasks. Given the Christian Patriarchy Movement's glorification of traditional gender roles, this is not surprising. (I wonder if I should tell them that I learned cooking from my father...)
To celebrate hospitality, "The Reformation of Food & the Family" will hold a ladies' tea hosted by Michelle Duggar and Beall Philips at the Menger Hotel. The ladies' tea will have an early 1900s theme, not unlike the Vision Forum's Titatic anniversary celebration, suggesting a longing for an earlier, more conservative era.
In short, "The Reformation of Food & the Family" discusses food issues in a decidedly right-wing, Christian Patriarchy context. To be fair, some of the concerns of the conference are valid. For instance, the conference description is critical of processed food and steroid-laden meat, which should be of serious concern to all people who take their health seriously. "The domination of pre-processed, steroid-rich, genetically manipulated food in our diet is a reflection of the priorities of modernity — live, eat, and die fast, and don’t think too much about what you are doing," the Vision Forum website says. Additionally, mealtime does offer an opportunity for families to bond, which we should remember. Unfortunately, the positive messages of "The Reformation of Food & the Family" are entwined with negative messages that encourage patriarchy, distrust of government, and neglect of environmentalism's contributions to food issues.