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In "Amazing Grace," a Tapestry of Faith program
Invite your youth to "have a taste of ethics" and then to discuss the ethics of eating.
Distribute to each participant two samples of ice cream in the same flavor. Without explaining in advance, use organic ice cream for one and non-organic ice cream for the other. Mark the dishes in some way that tells you which is which. You might tape numbers to the bottom of each dish, using 1 for organic and 2 for non-organic.
Ask the group to decide which sample tastes more virtuous than the other. If you get puzzled looks, explain that some people say some foods are produced using no chemicals while others are made with extra chemicals that may harm the environment and us. Some people would say that one of these ice creams is ethically better. "Which one is it? Can you taste the difference?" Record youth responses on newsprint, keeping count of how many chose which ice cream.
Explain that one sample is organic and one is not. Identify which is which.
Then ask whether choosing organic foods is an act of virtue because those foods are all natural, without artificial substances. Without trying to answer the question by consensus, enlarge the question to ask about the ethics of eating in general. Are some foods more ethically correct than others? Why or why not? Can we eat in ways that express our "Faith in Action"?
Say that good people disagree about the ethics of eating. Some people feel strongly about organic foods and/or about banning meat from their diets. Other people say that not everyone has the financial resources to buy organic food. Point out that our position in the food chain dictates that we must kill something—whether animal or plant—to eat or we will die. Unitarian Universalist congregations have members and friends with many different beliefs about food.
Ask youth if they can name certain dietary restrictions set by religions. They might name:
What we sometimes do not acknowledge is that many of these laws were established because of concerns about health and safety.
Invite the group to brainstorm some considerations that come into play when making decisions about the food we eat. The list should include:
Tell your youth that you are not telling them how to eat, nor are you asking them to change their eating habits. (These points are important. Parents may not be pleased to have youth coming home and demanding immediate changes in the family diet.) However, you do hope they will think about the choices they make. As the brainstorm list demonstrates, there are many factors to take into account when making dietary decisions.
As Unitarian Universalists, we believe everyone has to make these decisions for themselves. Our religion does not have dietary restrictions. Your congregation, though, might have a "food culture" with implicit guidelines around what is acceptable and what is not. If so, include a conversation about what dishes you generally find at potlucks or what snacks you get in the religious education program. Do your congregation's eating habits reflect any Faith in Action?
For more information contact web @ uua.org.
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Last updated on Wednesday, October 26, 2011.
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