Accepting Ours (and Others) Imperfections

As many people know, I try hard to avoid supporting the industrial agriculture system. I do most of my food shopping in our local co-op, opting for local and non-processed products. We have a CSA farm share (summer and winter). When we buy meat it is directly from local farmers.

Yesterday morning I found myself purchasing a jar of Hellmann’s mayonnaise in a grocery store. (My co-op, not surprisingly, doesn’t carry that brand). I’ve tried several brands sold in my co-op of canola based or otherwise more virtuous brands than Hellmann’s. But I don’t like any of them. (A mild way of phrasing my reaction to them.) I have tried making my own, but wasn’t happy with the result. I grew up on Hellmann’s and, on those occasions when I want an egg salad or tuna salad, nothing but Hellmann’s satisfies.

One response is to criticize my hypocrisy, saying that if I were true to my beliefs about industrial agriculture I’d avoid Hellmann’s. But in this, and occasionally other ways, I find it too difficult to live perfectly in accordance with those beliefs. So what is the alternative? Giving up the effort to support local farmers, saying if I can’t do it 100% it is not worth doing at all?

It seems to me the far better approach is to do as much as I can to support local farms and accept that there will be some occasions when I act inconsistently with that.

What kind of mayonnaise I eat is obviously not a matter of great importance (especially given the infrequency with which I actually use it). But as I was driving home from the store the incident reminded me of a series of comments I just read on a Facebook post. One person had indicated a view on an issue that another person believed to be inconsistent with Catholic teaching. That second person then posted a comment suggesting if the first person could not act consistent with this position, he should be honest and leave the Catholic Church rather than continue to label himself Catholic.

I hear that sort of thing far too much – the suggestion that if someone disagrees with this or that teaching they should go find another religion and stop calling themselves Catholic.

The question my mayonnaise experience this morning raised for me is this: Should those who believe Catholicism contains the “entire deposit of faith” be so quick to encourage people to leave the Catholic tent? If one believes Catholicism is the way to salvation, isn’t it better for someone to stay in even if they have a disagreement on an issue, rather than encouraging them to leave? Even if someone doesn’t think Catholic is the only or the best, but thinks it is a good and virtuous path, shouldn’t they want others to benefit from all that Catholicism has to offer?

The truth is that, by virtue of our being human, NONE of us are living fully in accordance with Jesus’ teaching. So maybe we ought to focus on doing what we can to encourage each other to live out our faith as best we can, rather than suggesting that others go find another religion.