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The Rev. Dr. Peter Samuelson The Rev. Dr. Peter L. Samuelson

The Rev. Dr. Peter Samuelson is a pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

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You are what you eat!

August 12, 2009


Watching the news this week, especially the coverage of the health care reform debate that is taking place in town hall forums in congressional districts across the country, and seeing the vitriol and anger that has seemed to dominate at least the news coverage, I began to wonder:  what is eating these people?  

Or maybe I should be asking: "what are they eating?"

I worked a for short time for a local public television station while I was in graduate school, and the metaphor of "food" is shot through the jargon of television.  There is the network feed, live feed, the news feed, the audio feed, feedback and any other number of "feeds" basically anything that came into the television station via a cable was "feed."  Even the content is conceived as food, as in, for example, "sound bites." 

If we extend this metaphor to our living rooms, anything that comes over the television is also "feed" -  or at least food for thought.  We "chew on it" - "digest" the information and sometimes we internalize it - that is, it becomes a part of our thoughts and ideas about the world, and other times it spews out of our mouths undigested - which is what seems to be happening at these health care forums.  Both sides seem guilty of this, as they face each other and angrily throw their undigested slogans at each other.  It resembles a verbal food fight.

The problem, it seems to me, is the same problem we have with food in America - we eat too much processed and pre-packaged food - and we do not eat a very diverse diet.  In the realm of news and ideas, we tend to "feed" from only one source, the source we "like" - the one that goes down easy.   Like intellectual comfort food, it may be easy to swallow, but it doesn't mean we should have a steady diet of it.  Better that we get our information from a variety of sources, with differing points of view, and let our minds "digest" what is consumed, so that we actually nourish ourselves with the best ideas, which are formed after healthy, civil and earnest debate.

It also seems to me we could use a dose of Jesus, who has told us for three Sundays now that he is the "bread of life."   A spoonful of the forgiveness, tolerance, acceptance and hospitality that Jesus both models and teaches would be a good tonic, not just for those participating in the debate but for the whole country.  If we were full of tolerance and civility instead of hatred and anger, we might actually have half a chance at reforming a health care system and, in-so-doing, bring a measure of healing into the world.


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