Saturday, 1 p.m. in Hall 8a at the trade fair premises. Culinary is not offered here at lunchtime, but a topic that is as exciting as it is controversial.
Dr. Kai Funkschmidt, speaker at the Protestant Center for World Viewing Questions (EZW) in Berlin, shows how modern food rules run the risk of becoming a substitute religion. "The question that intrigues me is where people find firm ground. And we can observe that modern eating rules sometimes take on a religious character". explains Funkschmidt. "The problem is not the religious, but the extremism that can lie within it. One can become merciless and intolerant due to eating rules." In conversation with Bishop Peter Johanning, the expert warns that he is no longer willing to talk and compromise on food issues. "As Christians, we live by the grace of God. That's why we have to have mercy on others", said Funkschmidt.
Eating defines who we are
Swabian Maultaschen, Frankfurt Green Sauce, Berlin Currywurst - food has an identity-forming function. "Food is a central part of every culture. Where you come from determines what you eat". says Kai Funkschmidt at the beginning of his presentation. In addition, belonging to a religion or denomination influences what one eats or consciously does not eat. For example, orthodox Christians are vegan, traditional Catholics live Lent and abstain from meat on Fridays, Muslims eat Halal and Jews kosher, Mormons abstain from tea, coffee and alcohol. Protestants and the New Apostolic Church, which have no food bills, are rather the exception, said the expert.
Religious food offerings have different functions, Funkschmidt explains:
- Visibility - When one eats different from the rest of the population, the religious or confessional affiliation becomes recognizable; you can not hide your faith. This is on the one hand obligation, but also an opportunity for mission.
-Togetherness - food as an expression of lived community. Who eats together belongs together.
- Self-assurance - By eating differently, one is reminded of which community one belongs to, for example, when one purposely excludes certain foods while shopping.
- Delimitation - Lent is, for example, a form of demarcation to prepare for a church solemnity. At the same time, however, eating requirements also meant a differentiation from other people. The one with whom I may not or cannot eat is excluded from the community.
Food rules as secular promises of salvation
In the present day, where many people have enough to eat, the question of good food comes to the fore, says Funkschmidt. Through the chosen food you express your personal world view and lifestyle. In addition, some modern food schools are characterized by secular promises of salvation: food can be healthy, beautiful and intelligent, make it successful and make it more efficient, food can cure illnesses and the soul. Everything is promised with food. "Modernity has created something new. The food is no longer an outflow of religion, but has itself become a substitute for religion", says Kai Funkschmidt.
Food rules have become meaningful and address ethical questions: where does my food come from? Is it grown regionally? Is it fair-trade? "Once you start asking yourself that question, you realize how much food is about ethics. That's why asking what I eat or how I eat is so important to who I am. "Accordingly, various modern food schools arise - organic movement, paleo food, vegetarianism, slow food, macrobiotics, regio-food, fair-trade, veganism - sometimes heated discussions about which values are the right ones. Things get exciting when the concepts come into competition: for example, one can not simultaneously support fair-trade in the Third World and buy food regionally in order to reduce ecological transport costs. Which value weighs heavier?
Vegans as Elite?
Some food schools are at risk of adopting radical forms, according to the expert. In his lecture, Funkschmidt illustrates this with the example of ethical veganism: "Hardly any doctrine promises so much and has grown as fast as veganism - a social movement that has become as life-determining for many of its followers as a religion", he argues. Ethical veganism focuses on the negative effects of consumption: How does my food affect the environment, the climate, hunger in the world, but also wars and animal welfare? The ethical vegan claims to create individual salvation (veganism is supposed to make happy and content), but also universal salvation (veganism is to eliminate hunger and create peace). In addition to this promise of salvation, further parallels to religion can be seen: conversion stories, an elite consciousness of the followers, a universal claim to validity, a mission claim, an identity-forming minority consciousness as well as a kind of denominational dispute between health vegans and ethic vegans.
Although ethical veganism identifies real problems associated with the consumption of certain foods, such as the environmental and climate impact of meat production. Nevertheless, Funkschmidt advocates that they question themselves from time to time whether they run the risk of becoming intolerant of other diets.
The Christian Scale: Tolerance and Grace
Are we, as Christians, required to occupy ourselves with our diet? What is right and what is wrong? In answering questions from the audience, Kai Funkschmidt builds a bridge to the self-understanding of Christians: food in any case touches ethical issues, and everyone must decide for themselves what values are important to them in terms of nutrition. A simple right and wrong would not exist on this topic, because goals and values could come into conflict, as shown by the example of fair-trade and regionalism. In terms of respecting certain values, Funkschmidt also warns against becoming elitist: "If only vegan or fair-trade or only organic ethics would be acceptable, then only wealthy people could afford an ethically irreproachable life. I could not agree with that."
The Christian - whether vegan or not - is always aware that he is not perfect and lives by the grace of God. And so he remains gracious with others. "It's not about dissuading someone from their lifestyle. It becomes problematic when I become dogmatic and no longer accept other forms of living and eating. That's why I'm campaigning for compromises" concludes Kai Funkschmidt." As Christians we should be a light in the world. And that means that we do not dazzle the people around us with our bright light, but to carry the light friendly into the world. "This image can also be applied to the handling of one's own eating philosophy, so the words of the expert.
About Kai Funkschmidt:
Dr. Kai Funkschmidt is a lecturer at the Protestant Center for World Views (EZW) in Berlin. He deals with the topics of esotericism, occultism, Mormons and apostolic communities in a European context. Funkschmidt has published several publications on food, nutrition and (alternative) religion in recent years.
website the Evangelical Central Office for Weltanschauungsfragen
Funkschmidt, Kai. 2016: Die Essensjünger. Der Veganismus wird mitunter zur Ersatzreligion, in: Zeitzeichen 17 (2016) p.18-20
11. June 2019
Text: R. K.
Images: Thomas Brunschede