American spirituality is discovering itself anew as people of faith reconnect with the land. As I’ve traveled the country I’ve met fellow Christians who are falling in love with their faith all over again, and in every instance this love affair is tied to a place. Not a lofty cathedral directing the worshipper’s thoughts heavenward; these places draw the eyes—and the hands—down to earth, back to the soil from which Genesis tells us we were formed, and which we’re called to “tend and keep.” Our first and most basic human task, I’ve come to learn, is to care for the garden.
So begins Fred Bahnson’s recent op-ed article in the Washington Post. If you don’t know Fred already, you should. He’s a gifted speaker and writer, a thinker and theologian, but most importantly, he’s a gardener. After working for years with Anathoth Community Garden in Cedar Grove, NC, he now directs the new Food, Faith, and Religious Leadership Initiative at Wake Forest University School of Divinity. He continues his article by saying:
I have come to learn that our desire for real food is bound up in our spiritual desire to be fed. Our American diet and insatiable energy needs have masked a deeper hunger that drives us to consume even as our consumption fails to satisfy. But by learning how to live in the garden, we learn to embrace limits. We learn what it means to have enough, but not too much. We learn not only how to care for plants, but for our own bodies and one another, and ultimately, our planet.
Make no mistake: we won’t end climate change or obesity or hunger by growing a few tomatoes at the neighborhood community garden. We need activists and congregations pushing our leaders for sweeping change on multiple fronts. But our passions and convictions need to first be formed in a place where we can glimpse that unbroken wholeness for which we all yearn.
Here is Fred back in 2011, giving the keynote address at the Come to the Table conference in western North Carolina: