Every day in Nairobi, at the Deliverance Church where 1,000 Kenyan pastors were participating in the SIM Pastors' Bookset Project, I would wander out on the grass between session to see "what's for lunch?" The caterers arrived early and stoked up charcoal burners and cooked amzing (read intriguing) meals for 1,000 pastors. These were some substantial, rib-sticking meals of some meat, vegetable, rice, potatoes (often both together) a fruit and soda. The cooks liked to see me coming to show off what was in their pot for that day.
What we did not do was snack. There were no munchies or bowls of little candies, lifesavers, or mini-candy bars. Cookies were not available mid-morning to dip into non-existent coffee (did I mention they ONLY drink tea?!?!). We met and studied and worked together until we had a Chai break and then lunch later, and then back to work. No snacking.
What I first noticed when I arrived home, at the LAX airport, was all the food and snacking. We like to have some little bit of food always nearby. Then, when I began to go through my mail I came to my favorite theological journal "Wired". The theme for this month's Wired is "Snack Culture". It is a withering expose on the way our culture keeps reducing everything to smaller and smaller bits for easier consmption. On the botom of the page, they have a time-line describing a tongue-in-cheek history of "snacking", including the 10 commandments as Biblical powerpoint, potatoe chips (1853), Gettysburg Address (272 words) 1863, vending machines (1888), comic strips (1895) automats (1902), Reader's Digest (1922),Cliff Notes (1958) etc. It tells the story of a Radio SASS (Short Attention Span System) founded by George Gimaric who takes classical tunes of all types and redces them to 2 minutes or less (wired.com/extras). It lists the latest web-sites for short bits of wisdom/info. In short, everything is compressible, redcible, distillible.....including as I read into it, church and faith.
I recognize this trend in me even as I browse the blog sites each day, sampling, grazing, skimming over the surface for a nugget, a spiritual sound-bite and snack for the soul. I see it in worship where we do not like songs and hymns that go on too long, scripture passages that we have to read out loud together, or prayers that go deep and last. We hate silence, of sitting and being still together in worship.
The difference between snacking and realy eating is time. When I really sit down to eat, I am satisfied, filled, nourished and sustained for long periods of work and concentration. But when I rummage through the office cupboards for another Oreo with my coffee, it tastes so good for a moment, and I'm hungry again in a few minutes.