Welcome to Part 4 of God & GMOs, a series I’m writing in consultation with my molecular biologist husband, Aaron. If you’re new around here, you might want to check out the Introduction, Part 1: The Gospel, Part 2: What is a GMO?, or Part 3: “Do Your Research” and say “hi” in the comments. I know most readers probably haven’t heard much in favor of GMO crops online or in your church, so let me know if you have any questions or need clarification as we go!
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We talked last time about the scientific method and a little bit about how peer-reviewed research works in the scientific community today. I think there are some important ways we need to approach cultural topics like this one as Christians, too.
One of my biggest concerns about the trend of Christian suspicion towards agriculture and biotech is how quickly people let cultural stigmas drive their opinions instead of taking their thoughts captive and pursuing truth. In the Bible we read that everyone is fallen (Romans 3:23) and no one can perfectly know everything (1 Corinthians 13:12). We also see that “knowledge puffs up, but love builds up” (1 Corinthians 8:1), which is (hopefully) the theme of my discussion here – I love people who disagree with me, and I want to host this discussion with charity and honor towards all. But we also read that scripture continually upholds wisdom, understanding, and knowledge, in direct contrast to admonishing foolishness, ignorance, and the “simple man.” There is no way to read Proverbs, for example, and assume that pursuing truth is “optional” for a Christian. There is no way to look at Jesus, who reveals himself as Truth (John 14:6), and take a casual attitude about falsehood.
There are definitely Christians who write online about natural living and specifically condemn GMO crops, but there is also a larger group of people (many of whom are likely in the numbers listed by that Pew Study I referenced in my Introduction) that say they think GMOs are dangerous simply because they have heard other people say it. Maybe they have seen labels in the grocery store that made them consider a non-GMO food item to be a safer or superior choice. Maybe they’ve seen confusing posts on social media, watched a misleading documentary, or read something negative in a magazine.
I think the Bible offers us a better way to filter information than just immediately believing what we see or hear, and I think this compels us to responsibly pursue truth even when the answers are hard. I absolutely understand how confusing it is to know what’s reliable with all the information floating around, but that doesn’t give us a free pass on figuring out what’s right. It’s popular right now to discuss “nuanced” views of some topic or another, but the Bible calls it “discernment.” Let’s be careful, discerning people. If you care enough about science and the food industry to be concerned about GMOs, consider that the validity of your information (especially if you are promoting your views to others!) really does have significance to the God who made all things, sustains all things, and abhors all falsehood so much that he made “Do Not Lie” one of the Ten Commandments.
So before you spend extra money on groceries to “avoid GMOs” (or feel uneasy about “not feeding your family the best”), before you post something against GMO crops or agricultural developers (like Monsanto) on social media, before you pipe up in group settings or discuss this with your friends, consider if your lifestyle information has been filtered through some of the counsel of scripture:
Proverbs 6:16-19 “There are six things that the Lord hates: …a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.” Are you watching for lies in your reading, just as much as looking for truth? Remember that lies are smooth, subtle, and appealing. Does what you’re reading lines up with the principles of the gospel, or does it subtly idealize nature, or tell you that certain food choices are holier, or make you think that Eden (Creation) or Mount Zion (Heaven) are basically attainable right now? And does this information bring freedom, or does it bring shame to others who “just don’t see it the same way”? Does it give you a sense of superiority to “feed your family better” than someone who hasn’t read the same things as you? Would someone who shops differently feel insecure or shamed because of your attitude about food? Are you hesitant to eat food others offer because it might not be up to your standards? Are you hesitant to host meals because you can’t afford to feed company with your more expensively sourced groceries?
Proverbs 18:17 “The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him.” As you read or hear about GMOs, science, and farming practices, are you listening to the same kinds of negative voices (like podcasts or magazine articles from lay people), or are you looking for what positive scientists and farmers have to say, too? If you’re watching documentaries, are you willing to take a few moments to check the facts and sources presented there?
Proverbs 23:12 “Apply your heart to instruction and your ear to words of knowledge.” Are you willing to work hard to understand answers about your questions, looking to people who are credible teachers? (Sadly, being a published author or an internet personality does not mean someone is a credible teacher these days.) Or are you listening to voices that validate your ignorance? (Like, “If you can’t pronounce it, don’t eat it!”)
Proverbs 25:18 “A man who bears false witness against his neighbor is like a war club, or a sword, or a sharp arrow.” We’ve met fellow Christians in every laboratory and department Aaron’s been a part of during the past 14 years. We know believers working in all roles of many different agricultural companies. We know Christians who are proud to farm genetically modified crops. Have you considered how negative words about GMOs, scientists, industry developers, and farmers, might be bearing false witness against others, especially those in the household of God?
When we have concerns about scientific advances (and as I’ll tell you later, the Hummels do have them) scripture compels us to use faithful, reliable sources for our information because we serve the God who defines Truth. Of course, eating GMOs or not isn’t a test of our faith… not. at. all. But I want to encourage everyone to consider that our attitude about sources (and the way we act on them) matters, especially for Christians, because Jesus is the source of all things. The influence of our personal opinion matters because we want to leave people with a more beautiful understanding of Jesus than of our food choices. As we stake our lives together on the Truth that God reveals in his word and his Son, we can celebrate by pursuing truth and wisdom in the rest of our lives, too.