If you read the news, it’s easy to get cynical about organized religion: Incidents of stone-casting and money-grubbing seem to vastly outnumber those of comfort-offering or peacemaking. In a refreshing challenge to the trend, the New York Times has published the engaging story “Of Church and Steak: Farming for the Soul” (registration required), focusing on how religious groups are beginning to embrace organic methods of food production, and decent treatment of both the workers and the animals involved in the process.

There is, in fact, more than just talk taking place:

Christians, Jews and Muslims who see food through a moral lens are increasingly organized and focused on showing their strength. The Religious Working Group on the Farm Bill, a national coalition of more than a dozen religious organizations, is lobbying Congress for legislation to help small farms. The National Catholic Rural Life Conference is helping congregations and universities in the Midwest buy local produce from family farmers.

Environment-minded Jews are asking the leaders of Conservative Judaism to rewrite their kosher certification rules to incorporate ethical concerns about workers, animals and the land. Hazon, the Jewish environmental organization, has set up community-supported agriculture programs, or C.S.A.’s, in which customers purchase shares of a farm’s harvest.

The sweeping story also looks at everything from kosher or halal slaughter practices to environmentally sensitive farming by nuns.

Terry Mattingly, writing over at GetReligion.org, puts the piece in perspective by reflecting on how the trend may represent truly common ground for various faiths:

[F]or many people, the word ‘ecumenical’ seems to boil down to someone saying, ‘I don’t believe very much and you don’t believe very much, so we must have a lot in common.’

The same attitude often shapes the world of interfaith dialogues.

The New York Times ran a story this week that isn’t like that at all. This is one of those cases where very different religious believers follow doctrines and traditions so specific that they were pulled together. Instead of having no beef with one another, they are … Well, read the story.

Yeah—what he said.

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