Boycott Emeril

Saturday, November 5, 2005

On this blog I have written repeatedly about the disappointing lack of Christian witness at the Superdome and Convention Center in New Orleans during the worst days following Hurricane Katrina. No doubt there were many Christians among the dispossessed and desperate people gathered in these now-infamous places, but I am referring especially to the apparent scarcity of people who could have gotten out and chose not to, sharing instead the horrific conditions in the centers. That would have indeed been a Christlike action. Sometimes it seemed that only the journalists, Brian Williams and Anderson Cooper especially (and their reputations have skyrocketed), shared in the misery.

To this day, two months later, I have not heard of anyone who voluntarily spent time in the two hellish “holding camps” –except for three Roman Catholic priests. Perhaps this illustrates the value of a celibate order of ministry, at least for those who are called to it. One assumes that the married Protestant clergy evacuated because they were understandably preoccupied with getting their own families out of danger. The unencumbered Catholic priests had no such conflicts to dilute their call to be present with those who are downtrodden and left behind.

This issue of presence is surfacing among the restaurateurs of New Orleans, described in a typically knowledgeable article by R. W. Apple (The New York Times, 11/2/05). At the annual Southern Foodways Conference in Oxford, Mississippi, last week, the owners of the venerable Galatoire’s were assailed as traitors for opening a branch in Baton Rouge. The son of the founder of Ruth’s Chris Steak House was cheered when he distanced himself from the decision of the new owners of the chain who have removed to Orlando, saying, “My mother would never have done that.” And the most famous (though, as I know from my many trips to New Orleans, far from the most beloved) chef in the city, Emeril Lagasse, is no hero among the chefs and owners. From his position of enormous celebrity he has said and done virtually nothing to help out in the dire situation, returning to the city only very briefly since Katrina. On the Food Channel he has finally started asking in a less-than-wholehearted way for contributions to the Red Cross (even that is unimaginative and half-hearted, especially since it has recently become known that donations are not flowing through at the Red Cross as they should be).

These matters are related to the incarnational Christian ethic. Solidarity with those who are suffering is at the very heart of who God is.

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