Jun 7 2011

Lessons in Ethics and Gardening

Soon into my first year in theology school, I realized that the kind of learning cultivated at Candler goes beyond the surface. Not every class provides a life-changing learning experience, but something is bound to catch each student at his or her core, to be transformative.

For me, it happened this spring. In Introduction to Christian Ethics, we were each tasked with pursuing a moral question that held some weight for us personally. We weren’t just learning about ethics, we were doing ethics. I chose to write about food and agriculture-related justice issues as they relate to both the environment and poverty.

Part I: Describing the Problem

Environment: I began with the premise that our earth faces an ecological crisis. Climate change/environmental degradation are real, measurable, and furthermore, human-induced. Which leads to the second premise… the choices you and I make about the food we eat each day can have a profound impact on the rest of the biosphere. The interconnected issues of agriculture, environment, and food provide an opportunity for our response: to promote justice for the environment.

I’ve been a vegetarian for about a year now, choosing not to eat meat because of the sustainability issues surrounding the industry’s practices. This decision has posed a problem for me, on occasion, in the form of cognitive dissonance. I am aware of the privilege of being able to ask “what will I eat?” rather than “will I eat?” each day, and so my choosy eating habits feel a bit elitist. Which leads to the part about…

Poverty: Persons of lower socio-economic statuses don’t get to choose the option of organic produce. Eating healthy and “green” is a class-based privilege in America. Making the choice to eat food that is produced in a way that is environmentally sustainable sounds good, but if it is only an option for an exclusive population, is it really a just choice?

So, I found at this intersection of ethical issues a dual-responsibility: to promote justice for the environment and justice for people by providing accessible nutritious food that is produced in ways that care for the environment. Unfortunately, these two forms of justice can seem mutually exclusive. Making healthy produce accessible often involves mass-agribusiness methods of production (which aren’t good for the environment).

Part II: Asking the Question

We reach a difficult point when choices that cultivate different aspects of the good life come into conflict with one another. It is at this intersection that I thought, read, wrote, and studied all semester: What is our Christian response to be in the tension produced by these competing goods – accessibility of healthy food for all and agricultural/environmental sustainability?

Part III: Constructing a Response

By the end of a lot of research, reading, and thinking, I returned to my personal engagement with this moral question with a renewed commitment to eating food produced in ethical ways. Personally contributing to the consumer demand for ethically produced food still seems like a constructive personal response, even if it is not one that everyone can afford to make.

In the process of thinking through the question, I also sought a way to transform my communal experience of food. Rather than just exercising my personal privilege to make decisions about what I eat, I knew I could work to extend that right to all people.

In my local congregation, I am part of the “Green Team” that is leading a theological response to the issue of land care and food justice. This May, we planted an organic community garden. We have been tending the earth and plan to share our harvest with a local food-pantry. The goal is to extend access to healthy, sustainably-produced food to those in our urban community.

The garden is a literal and theological common ground for the participating community members as we reconnect to the source of our food and the Source of all life. There is hope for a system that allows for environmentally and economically sustainable agricultural practices, and it can begin with Christian communities and individuals committed to justice for land and people.

The learning that started in class continues to disrupt my everyday life. (Indeed, I am in the garden almost every day.) My first year at Candler is marked by learning that has cost much time and commitment, learning that continues to form my ministry, learning that transforms.

-Meredith Shaw

Meredith is 2nd year M.Div student from Lexington, KY. She ministers to youth at Peachtree Baptist Church in Atlanta and is an Assistant for Missional Congregations at the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.


Jul 29 2010

“Till it and Tend it”: Judiasm and Sustainable Food

Artwork by Rev. Dr. Gina Rose Halpern

There are wonderful conversations happening at Candler and other Christian places about food, land, and sustainable practices by humans as we care for our earth. Here’s a great article by Ari Hart, a Jewish seminarian, part of a series on Jewish calls for justice and responsibility in the way we support food, farming, and care for creation.


Nov 26 2008

Student Feature: Karl Kroger

Reflections from Karl Kroger, Third Year MDiv student from North Dakota.

As a Candler student one of my hopes has been that we would seek social justice together as a community. What would it look like for Candler to live out Micah 6:8, not just in our individual ministries, but as a community? What kind of impact could we have in Atlanta if we collectively worked on issues like sex trafficking, homelessness, or the death penalty?

During the past two months I have had the pleasure of being able to see my hope and dream become a reality. The Candler community has been actively working to stop the execution of Troy Davis. Troy Davis was convicted of killing a police officer, however he has a strong case of innocence. Despite poor evidence and the recanted testimonies of the majority of witnesses, as well as opposition from pro-death penalty advocates, the state of Georgia has attempted to execute Troy Davis three times. Each time, growing numbers of the Candler community have been fighting to save Troy’s life. Staff and faculty have signed letters to the governor. Students have organized vigils, attended rallies, and marched in the streets. Students have also collected petitions, hung banners, and strategized other non-violent tactics. Working together with lawyers, faith leaders, college students, other seminaries, Amnesty International, and Georgians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, Candler students have been actively seeking justice.

As I write, Troy’s fate on death row remains uncertain. Because of Troy’s faith in God, his ultimate destiny is known. Shortly before his execution in September, Troy wrote, “I can’t wait to stand with you, no matter if that is in physical or spiritual form. I will one day be announcing, ‘I AM TROY DAVIS, and I AM FREE!’” I give thanks to God for Troy’s life and the inspiration he has been to the Candler community. Troy has helped us be more faithful to God.

For more information about Troy and the status of his case visit www.gfadp.org.


Karl Kroger (
pictured top) is a third year MDiv student at Candler School of Theology. He is currently the chair of the Social Concerns Network and is a member of the Candler Singers,one of Candler’s choirs. His blog, krogermix.com, features social justice news, video resources, and advocacy opportunities. Karl was recently selected as the Student Leader of the Month by Emory’s Office of Student Leadership and Service.