Search This Blog

The New Kosher

Back in our Lord’s day, Israel was under the Law, which included strict dietary laws handed down by the Designer of the human digestive system. Then the Designer Himself came down to correct how folks were interpreting those laws and their importance. He made a point of saying that “it isn’t what goes into a mouth that causes real problems, it is the state of the person’s heart and what that causes folks to spew out of their mouths.” (paraphrase) Matthew shares the event in full in chapter 15:

Then some Pharisees and teachers of the law came to Jesus from Jerusalem and asked, “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? They don’t wash their hands before they eat!”
Jesus replied, “And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition? For God said, ‘Honor your father and mother’ and ‘Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.’ But you say that if anyone declares that what might have been used to help their father or mother is ‘devoted to God,’ they are not to ‘honor their father or mother’ with it. Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition. You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you:
“‘These people honor me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.
They worship me in vain;
their teachings are merely human rules.’”
Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen and understand. What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.”
Then the disciples came to him and asked, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this?”
He replied, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be pulled up by the roots. Leave them; they are blind guides. If the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.”
Peter said, “Explain the parable to us.”
“Are you still so dull?” Jesus asked them. “Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what defile a person; but eating with unwashed hands does not defile them.”

Fast forward about 1750 years. Some wise men sat around arguing over the laws of a new nation, and decided that giving everyone the right to verbally express their ignorance or intelligence without governmental reprisal was a good thing. Given that the “what you should eat” thing had largely been a settled issue for going on two millennia, they overlooked that part.

Fast forward about 225 years. The whole ‘free speech’ thing really took off, and has largely been ranked right up there with “Thou shalt not murder” on the list of amazingly good ideas. Unfortunately, the “free eating” idea has waned in popularity. Somehow, government officials have determined that individuals aren’t qualified to determine what goes into their mouths any more.

First the medical doctors start reporting research that correlates certain foods with certain ailments. This panics some folks into declaring that people shouldn’t eat these things, only until new research came along and said the first research overreacted and those foods weren’t as bad as they thought and seemed to have previously undiscovered benefits that countered or outweighed the negative factors.

Then we noticed our chairs and clothes were getting smaller, and somehow that shrinkage was correlated with still more desultory health conditions, resulting in a war on obesity, that has ravaged brown bags and menu choices across the country. The interesting thing here is that it wasn’t just the eaters that started changing their choices that caused the ravaging. Folks in the government decided that not enough people were changing their lifestyles, so they started banning ingredients in the laudable spirit of public health.

The logic here is important. Increasing numbers of people were not paying for their own medical expenses due to employer benefits packages and government health plans for the poor and elderly. Thus, those that were paying for the medical expenses began to have a vested interest in minimizing those expenses, especially when the expenses were due to “lifestyle disorders”—eating poorly and not exercising. This is all fair and good, as far as it goes.

But it went a step further. The idea that “being healthy is good” was mutated into “being our version of healthy is mandatory.” Similarly, those empowered with the authority of making sure there weren’t pathogens and foreign toxins in the food supply, began to search out and ban things in the food they perceived to be ‘disease-causing,’ such as trans-fats. They went further still, using the logic, “if it could contain bad stuff or there have been some cases of bad stuff in that food, then that food must be banned.”

This is where our story picks up. When I was growing up, we used to get our milk from a local dairy farmer. We drove to the farm, went to a tank in the barn, put our jugs under the spigot and got milk, leaving the money on the window sill. Through the window we could see the cows in their stalls with the tubes on the udders delivering milk right then from the cow to the tank to our jug. We even went at milking time to get the freshest we could. We’d put the milk in the fridge at home and a day or two later, skim the cream off the top and drink the milk, saving the cream for goodies.

Then I noticed one day that we’d stopped going to the dairy and that we were buying from the store. When I asked why, my mother said that the government had decided that it was unsafe for us to buy raw milk from the farmer. He had to sell it to a milk company who would pasteurize it and then sell it to us at a higher price. I thought it was strange because this farmer had a clean barn. They were always hosing it down, so our feet were guaranteed to get wet. I was a kid, so I figured the government was protecting all of the other people who might have been buying milk from dirty dairies or something. I just wished they had known how clean our farmer was and made an exception for us, as I was unimpressed with the ‘store milk.’

The silver lining was that the farmer and his family at least could have their own milk. Until now. A judge in Wisconsin (that’s the heart of milk country folks) has declared that people can no longer get milk from their own cow. Judge Patrick Fiedler further declared that
"Plaintiffs argue that they have a fundamental right to possess, use and enjoy their property and therefore have a fundamental right to own a cow, or a heard (sic) of cows, and to use their cow(s) in a manner that does not cause harm to third parties. They argue that they have a fundamental right to privacy to consume the food of their choice for themselves and their families and therefore have a fundamental right to consume unpasteurized milk from their cows…They do not simply own a cow that they board at a farm. Instead, plaintiffs operate a dairy farm. If plaintiffs want to continue to operate their dairy farm then they must do so in a way that complies with the laws of Wisconsin.”
"The court denied plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment, which means the following:
"(1) no, plaintiffs do not have a fundamental right to own and use a dairy cow or a diary (sic) herd;
"(2) no, plaintiffs do not have a fundamental right to consume the milk from their own cow;
"(3) no, plaintiffs do not have a fundamental right to board their cow at the farm of a farmer;
"(4) no, the Zinniker plaintiffs' private contract does not fall outside the scope of the state's police power;
"(5) no, plaintiffs do not have a fundamental right to produce and consume the foods of their choice; and
"(6) no, the DATCP did not act in an ultra vires manner because it had jurisdiction to regulate the Zinniker plaintiffs' conduct."
"It is clear from their motion to clarify that the plaintiffs still fail to recognize that they are not merely attempting to enforce their 'right' to own a cow and board it at a farm. Instead, plaintiffs operate a dairy farm."
{RJW note: I attempted to use the Wisconsin Court webpage to get the original copy of the judgment, but while general info about the case was easily found, the stenographer’s notes and judge’s writings were not, so this was copied from the above link.}

Part of the judge’s logic included the fact that apparently, one of the boarding farm locations had once been accused of being the source of a "Campylobachter jejuni infection." According to the story, there is no indication the farm actually was the source or, if so, that it still was a problem.

Once again, I need to ask, “why address this in this venue?” It is because there appear to be a number of failures here against which we as educators have a professional responsibility to fight, and I am using this case as reported to illustrate the kinds of errors in thought that can be made and why it is important for educators to see their impact in the real world as inspiration to keep fighting against them. It would be a stronger illustration if I had access to the full judgment and the evidence presented by the state against the citizens. So please take it in that spirit.

A judge of all people seems to believe that the importance of the appearance and uniformity of public safety trumps the individual freedoms and “inalienable rights” of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” You don’t get much more into the issue of life than in choosing your food. There was no sale of food here like in my childhood dairy farm. The citizens were paying the farmer rent to house and care for their privately owned cows. If they felt the farmer was not doing his job in any way, they were free to move their cows to a better farm.

The civics point here is that the purpose of having a judge is to interpret the laws of the state. We expect them to have the training, wisdom and common sense to understand the wording and purpose of the law and how those things appeal to specific cases. It appears here that this judge is incapable or unwilling to see the difference between milk commerce and private milk consumption.

Furthermore, he very carefully and explicitly expanded his ruling to embrace all food that may be eaten, to private property rights and the applicability of private contracts.

Educationally speaking, this is also a failure in knowledge of history, as the judge has ignored nearly 800 years of common law precedent that addresses such rights.

It also demonstrates a failure in critical thinking. By his using the accusation of a prior infection as justification for banning the milk, it can be extrapolated that if your child ever has a fever, s/he can never go to school because the bug might still be present.

It must also be acknowledged that the judge could be operating under an agenda, however the purpose here is to show how important in daily life it is for educators to be vigilant in accurately conveying information and training students in civics, true logic, critical thinking and risk assessment.

If the judge’s ruling really is an indication of the attitude of those in governance over us, then it appears that Christ’s words have been reversed in this country. “It is not what comes out of your body that defiles you, but what you put in that could make you sick and bankrupt the nation in treating you. So speak whatever you will and only eat whatever we tell you.”

Welcome to the new kosher.


1 comment:

  1. Hmmm... I also grew up on whole unhomogenized milk; and when they passed the law to stop selling it to individuals, dad decided to buy some cows for the farm - and another result is that I can milk a cow by hand. :-) That being said, I totally agree with you that this is ridiculous - and I work in public health. I'm all for public health and "helping" people to be more healthy - but this is a little too Orwellian for me.