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.


Voices in the Wilderness–Mark 1:4-5

And so John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.  The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River. –Mark 1:4-5

“I can be anything I want to be if I want it badly enough.” I’ve heard a variety of people say that over the years, probably prompted by well-meaning but deluded counselors. The simple reality is that “want” won’t get the job done. It doesn’t matter how badly I want to own a house on Miami’s Star Island or fly around the world in a private jet or have to dodge the flash of the papparazzi as I stroll the red carpet in my custom tailored tuxedo. It doesn’t even matter how badly I want to be able to play a Beethoven piano sonata. The simple reality is that unless I take some action, all the wanting in the world is not going to bring anything good to reality.

At the risk of sounding even more depressing, I don’t believe that we can achieve anything we desire simply by wanting it badly enough and working at it sufficiently. For example, I’m fairly certain that no matter how hard I had worked at becoming an NBA power forward, I could not have managed it. I don’t think I have ever had the potential to be a Navy Seal. My body and my emotions simply didn’t give me the raw materials for these and other jobs.

Similarly, people do not simply become reconciled to God in the manner that mushrooms pop up on an old stump. Certainly, some people have a Road-to-Damascus style encounter with Christ, but for the most part, there’s work that needs to be done. Today’s verses explain that work fairly clearly.

Clearly, somebody has to do some form of preaching. Romans 10:4 asks us how people can hear the Gospel without a preacher. Perhaps John the Baptist understood that in order to make straight the way of the Lord, he had to go and preach. That preaching is the first step in the work that needs to be done to bring people into a saving knowledge of Christ.

Second, the people need to respond. They can’t simply listen to the message, nod blithely, and then pick up their certificate of redemption as they exit. Look at how John Mark describes the situation. The people went out to John. It wasn’t convenient to head from all over Judea and Jerusalem to the Jordan River. These people had to cover some miles to reach John. Then they had to confess their sins. Baptism alone didn’t get the work done. Confession came first, but the baptism followed.

And then what happened? The way for Jesus’ approach to these people had been cleared. They believed and trusted without precisely understanding the object of that trust. These people were natural first-generation Christians.

Now, years later, we want the church to continue. But if the church will continue, then the people must come. And if the people are to come, don’t we need to preach in one way or another? Whether in sermons or teaching or some other sort of ministry, be the “preacher” that the Spirit created you to be.