Monday, April 16, 2012

Food, Faith and Freedom

On January 18, 1999 I was release from the Montana State Prison after completing a 2 year stint for bad checks and forgery. The first thing I did upon my release was to find some non-prison food and thoroughly enjoy it. 

It wasn't lobster. 

It wasn't filet mignon. 

It was McDonald's - a Big Mac, Diet Coke and french fries to be exact. 

To this day, it is one of the most memorable meals I have EVER eaten. I remember the saltiness of the fries, the smell of the hamburger as I opened the bag, the sheen of the table as I slid into the booth, the coldness of the soda as it passed from the straw to my tongue. It remains as visceral and stark as if it happened this morning.

Until recently, no food has ever had such an impact upon me...

I found freedom in food.

Whenever I meet someone who has been in prison for a substantial length of time, I ask them "What was the first thing you did after you were released?" Almost 100% of the time and without a moment's hesitation they will reply "I went to get something to eat."

They find freedom in food

Now I don't have any quantifiable data to back up my observations and I am not a psychologist in any stretch of the word, but this seems to align perfectly with food being a central part of the base level of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

Fast forward to late summer 2011.

After my latest sad attempt to find acceptance through deceit and dishonesty, I found myself drawn to a church in Denver called House for All Sinners and Saints, hilariously abbreviated HFASS. Now I don't call myself a Lutheran. Depending on who you ask, I may not be a Christian. What I do count myself is a Child of G-d and that is how I approach my involvement in this community that has embraced and accepted me.

As an Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) affiliated congregation, HFASS practices open communion - that the invitation to Lord's Table is between Christ and the individual and no human may interfere in that sacred exchange. This  idea - that even clergy presiding over the Eucharist doesn't have the authority to deny the children of G-d an invitation from Heaven - was quite revolutionary for me.

I am no theologian and I don't have a fancy seminary degree. 

I study rocks, possibly the farthest thing from theology.  

In my experience, the Eucharist boils down to this: eat and be free.  

At roughly the same time this concept began to intellectually take hold, Occupy Denver sprang up. Because I am a whore for a cause, I went down to Lincoln Park to see how I could become involved. Almost from the first day I found myself assisting with preparing, cooking and serving food to the Occupiers. What grew out of this came to be known as The Thunderdome - a free kitchen serving mostly organic, lovingly made food.

We served free food to free people.

Our unofficial slogan was "This Is What Democracy Cooks Like."

The Thunderdome was open 24/7/365. Anyone, regardless of race, class, orientation, gender, appearance, affiliation, religion could come eat at anytime. We treated people with dignity and respect. Our little food stand became the heart and soul of Occupy Denver.

Then one night, when the air was crisp and the moon was high, they came for us.

This is a theme. It is a thing

Across the US, wherever people are giving away food to others, those in power seem to have a problem with it.

This is nothing new

One of the main reasons Jesus Christ was put to death was because of his disruptive influence to the Roman Empire. He was called many of the same names as Caesar - King of Kings, Son of God, Prince of Peace. He did many of the same things as the Emperor - looking after the population, healing, providing comfort, performed exorcisms. 

Jesus Christ also fed people.

The night before His Crucifixion, Jesus told his disciples ‘This is my body, which is for you: this do in remembrance of me.’ This links directly with His teaching in John 6:35 where Jesus teaches "I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry."

For what it is worth, that is my totally non-official non-treatise on my faith, my food and my freedom. 

Be well, do good work and keep in touch.