Liturgies of the Shared Meal

I’ve been intrigued over the last several years by the formative role of communal practices, particularly as these bear on human loves and cognitions. Perhaps the most prominent voice in evangelicals’ engagement with this discussion is Jamie Smith of Calvin College, who has argued that our affections and identities are shaped more by our habits than by our ideas. (For an introduction to some of Smith’s arguments, see this recent interview with Christianity Today.)

In an opinion piece for Al-Jazeera English this week, William Mosely of Macalester College explores how our communal practices around the table interrelate with our attitudes and affections towards each other. While maintaining that “collective eating is a learned practice, and not necessarily natural,” Mosely argues that the practices of a shared meal (decreasingly part of American life) promote sharing, hospitality, other-awareness, and moderation. While Mosely’s primary interest is the global food supply, the vision of flourishing implicit in the virtues of a shared meal resonates much further. Indeed, it evokes Jamie Smith’s conception of “shadow Eucharists” in Desiring the Kingdom, where food practices serve as the liturgies of rightly-oriented relationships. As my pastor puts it, a shared meal enacts friendship (see I Corinthians 11:17ff). You can read all of Mosely’s piece here.

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