A Review of Joel Salatin’s “The Marvelous Pigness of Pigs”
I am learning about using Permaculture to restore the soil and create sustainable food sources on our new homestead. I find the entire permaculture movement very exciting. The idea of providing our own food while restoring abundance to the earth is an amazing one. Joel Salatin’s name comes up a lot; he’s a leading proponent of regenerative agriculture and has been called the “world’s greatest farmer.” He’s also an author. I decided to read a few of his books, and was caught by the whimsy of this title. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but was surprised to find it was a Christian apologetic on stewardship of the earth. An extremely well written, and compelling apologetic, that asks the question “why have conservative Christians abandoned stewardship of the earth, leaving it to ‘liberal tree-huggers instead?’ ” He can ask this because he is both a tree-hugger and a Christian.
Farming to Honor God’s Creation
One of the most compelling call to action in the book is for Christians to reconnect with the earth, as God’s creation. He rightly points out that most of our current agricultural practices work from the assumption that God’s plan is broken; that his creation is flawed and requires human intervention to be productive. In reality, we have deviated from the grand design to our detriment. Our dependence upon toxins and chemicals to grow food is because we fail to care for the earth in our custody. We demand much from it, and give it nothing in return. We fail utterly in our stewardship of the earth.
The regenerative method of farming and growing food works within God’s design. Regenerative farming methods, such as permaculture, uses poly-cropping and animals to help produce abundance while living in harmony with nature. Who wouldn’t want that? He provides several examples of how these principles can provide social and economic benefits, as well as an abundance of nutritious, pesticide-free food.
The Biblical Importance of Stewardship
Salatin provides myriad biblical examples of how food and growing food was an intimate part of God’s design. Jesus symbolized himself as bread and wine, he fed the masses with a boy’s sack lunch. He intended food and nourishment, and stewardship of the earth as part and parcel of Christian living. Somehow, modern Christians have overlooked this. Salatin points out that raping the earth for profit while sending missionaries to spread the Word is inconsistent to say the least.
Eating processed “food-like substances” further separates us from a connection to God’s creation, and at the same time harms us physically. It also supports businesses and farming practices that have no care for the earth. Salatin states that it’s no wonder the “commie-pinko tree-huggers” feel that Christians are hypocrites. It’s a difficult point to argue.
Enjoy God’s Design
I have always enjoyed being outside; gardening, hiking, exploring. In a lot of ways, one can feel closer to God while interacting with his creation. A garden is a miraculous thing; from seed to food with nothing but dirt, water and sunshine. How amazing that God provides that for us in a way that allows us to connect with his creation so intimately. There is something deeply satisfying and spiritual about digging in the dirt, and caring for plants and animals. When we do these things in a way that is congruent with God’s design, we accept his dominion and his provision.
Salatin’s book serves as a wake-up call and reminder of how God’s design is more than sufficient. He calls Christians to recognize that stewardship of the earth is part of God’s intent. He asks us to reclaim the care of the earth as an important aspect of a Christian life. We can do this by growing our own food, or supporting farmers and businesses that produce food in a sustainable way. Salatin suggests cooking with real food, and eating together to enjoy God’s gifts, instead of eating “food-like substances” in front of the TV. We can show our commitment to God by caring for his creation.
A Very Readable Book
The most amazing thing about the book is that it never feels “preachy.” He delivers the message with stories and humor. The example that inspires the book’s title explains what Salatin means: when huge corporate farms confine pigs in cramped and dark pens, inject them with antibiotics and feed them herbicide-saturated food simply to increase profits, they are not respecting them as a creation of God or allowing them to express even their most rudimentary uniqueness – that special role that is part of His design.
Every living creature has a God-given uniqueness to its life that must be honored and respected. This does not happen in our current food system. Salatin shows us the forgotten ethics and instructions in the Bible for how to eat and how to feed the world. He makes a compelling case for Christian reclamation of the stewardship of the earth.
Salatin also reveals a common misconception many Christians may have about environmentalism; it’s not a bad thing, and definitely not just the province of secular liberals. It’s really a very good thing, part of heeding God’s Word. With warmth and with humor, but with no less piercing criticism of Big Ag, Salatin brings readers on a eye-opening journey of farming, food and faith. Readers will not say grace over their plates the same way ever again.