Dr. Christopher Carter reflects on the critical role of soul food
February 2022 – Drew Theological School welcomed Dr. Christopher Carter, assistant professor of theology and religious studies at the University of San Diego, and a pastor within the United Methodist Church, for a community conversation on The Spirit of Soul Food: Race, Faith, and Food Justice. The virtual event was sponsored by the Theological School’s Ecology Student Group TERRA.
Carter, who authored a book of the same title, suggests African American Christians should reflect upon the past and build on the culinary wisdom of their ancestors by practicing soulful eating—which he argues is agent-specific or context-specific Black veganism. Soul food is about the preservation and promotion of the Black community.
“All of us have the capacities and opportunities to make small changes every day that ultimately can lead to systems change—and these changes should be theologically informed,” said Carter.
Black foodways are at the crossroads of food justice and Christian practice. Carter argues that the food production and distribution system in the U.S. is structurally racist, and we need to understand how this shaped Black foodways and soul food, in addition to enslavement and white supremacy. “As a result, we should not be surprised that soul food would be met with criticism as it pushes against the colonial worldview of white dominance,” said Carter.
“Black cooking has been projected as simple, unhealthy, worldly, and barbaric,” said Carter. “We need to reclaim our soul with respect to food. Soul is faith, hope, and solidarity.” Carter extends that solidarity to being mindful of the mistreatment of animals and workers in the mass production of meat by infusing soul food with soulful veganism.
Carter fielded a robust Q&A session with attendees from the Theological School community and beyond.