In his engaging and well-crafted book, Jesus Bread and Chocolate, John Thompson weaves into a memoir of his interesting life a look at the surging appeal of “artisanal movements,” evidenced by increasing appreciation of such things as locally-grown food, hand-crafted specialty breads, chocolates and beer. He sees in these movements a cultural yearning for high-quality, ethically-produced alternatives to the industrialized mass-produced products that are predominant in our culture (and that he sees reflected in many expressions of contemporary Christianity), and he calls upon the Church to reflect the values and ethics of these artisanal movements, rather than those of the industrialized economy. In a society that increasingly finds church irrelevant, this is a message that should resonate with many these days.
The author doesn’t presume to map out specifically what artisanal church (my words, not his) would look like. Rather, he shares his own fascinating journey from an impoverished and often terrifying childhood into the world of indie music, then eventually into an appreciation of good coffee, food, beer, and bread, and ultimately into an awareness that the evangelical world is largely imitating the industrial model, which many are finding to be unsatisfying, rather than gravitating toward the artisanal model, which he finds more compelling. I learned a lot about coffee, beer and bread, and the author’s life story makes this book a page-turner.
Full disclosure: the chapter on local food features our farm and quotes me a lot. I met John Thompson at the Wild Goose Festival a few years ago, when he was just beginning to work on the book. When he asked if I would allow him to use my thoughts on the local food movement (and our motives) I was happy to agree. My comments in the book will be recognizable, of course, to readers of this blog.
I’d never given much (if any) thought to how our society’s desire for high-quality locally-grown food might be related to other rising artisanal movements. Connecting them, as John has in this book, makes good sense to me now. The yearning for authenticity in our society goes much deeper than just a desire for good vegetables.