Here's a seasonal entry that addresses questions about the division of general farm organizations in Ontario. It's penned by John Clement, a fine journalist in his own right who combines his journalistic talents with administrative duties as the general manager of the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario. Radio commentaries by John and others from the federation can be heard weekly on CFCO Chatham, CKNX Wingham and CHOK Sarnia, Ontario. They're also archived on the federation's website, www.christianfarmers.org
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I remember hearing a TV interviewer ask one of our staff members several years ago about the role of the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario. He wondered aloud why Christians felt the need for a separate organization and why they couldn’t just be part of a more general farm organization. I thought it was a good question at the time and still do.
The answer is both simple and complex. The simple answer is that faith is central to many members of the CFFO and they see it as the foundation for all of life’s activities. It’s not just a Sunday kind of faith, but one that takes all of our activities in this world seriously.
The complex answer is that many agricultural Christians believe that God has called them to participate in the biological cycle of food production. In fact, some believers even call it the Cultural Mandate, based on verses in Genesis that instruct mankind to subdue the earth. Building upon that teaching, other teachings are added about extending the love of God into the world through our actions towards other people, animals and the greater Creation. It’s a cumulative collection of teachings that gives groups like the CFFO both a foundation and a mission.
The CFFO’s role has changed a bit over its 50-plus-year history, but I think an argument could be made that its current mission should be to bear the office of a prophet. The prophetic call should be heard when producers of beef and pork suffer from wide-scale changes in processing capacities and dollar values. And it should be heard when food is treated like any other commodity and produced around the world with inadequate thought for the impact on communities and the environment. Finally, it should be heard when farmers seek some kind of confidence to pursue their vocations and simply find it hard to find an encouraging word anywhere.
All these thoughts float through my head from time-to-time like so many sugar plums in the story about the night before Christmas. And to be fair, it’s probably right that Christians should struggle with giving their faith practical expression in the world. After all, Christians confess that the Creator of the universe loved this world so much that he took on human flesh, dwelt among us for a time, died a criminal’s death and then rose from the dead to provide salvation to all. If God showed that kind of commitment to this world, can we show any less?
At this Christmas season, my prayer is that the grace of God would touch your heart, whether your farm is struggling or thriving. And I pray that you would extend that grace, as a blessing, to the world around you.