Saturday, November 29, 2008

Christianity and Vegetarianism

I'm surprised I haven't written about this topic yet. A few weeks ago, a friend of mine (also a veg) asked me why I am a vegetarian. Health reasons aside (every male in my family has died of heart disease!), religious thought does come into play. This intrigues many people, because they've never seen vegetarianism espoused from a spiritual -- certainly not Christian -- point of view.

This is just a brief "article" I wrote, and is by no means comprehensive. It's peppered with Bible references because he's an evangelical, and they roll like that. I may or may not write more in the future. For some reason (that is absolutely baffling to me) this seems to be a controversial topic.

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Ethics of eating meat aside, modern carnivorous diets have far-reaching negative effects on the environment and world hunger. Back in Jesus' time, animals weren't fed disproportionate amounts of grain (not to mention hormones), mass-slaughtered in warehouses, then transported thousands of miles by petrol-guzzling planes, trains and automobiles. If we stopped consuming red meat alone, there would be enough excess grain to feed many, many who are suffering and in need. Christian vegetarianism is primarily an attempt to follow Jesus' injunction to care for "the least of these." (Matt. 25: 31-46)

That being said, of course the slaughtered animals are not treated with the appropriate care, respect and compassion described by Jesus in his parable of the lost sheep. If God discerns the fate of a tiny sparrow (Matt. 10:29-30) how he must shudder at the agony of these creatures!

Lastly (certainly not least) vegetarianism is found in every spiritual practice around the world. It is a form of abstinence, of fasting, of exercising our self-control.

Before the Fall, Adam and Eve lived in harmony with God and Creation, eating only "herbs of the field" (Genesis 1:29-30). A fallen world that has been redeemed by God is a reversion to paradise, to Eden. This was foretold by the prophets, who said that the "wolf and the lamb will lay down together." (Isaiah 11:6, 62:25) As Christians, we believe that the Resurrection affects everything about our world. The Lord declares that he is "making all things new." We are trying to live into this radically compassionate, new vision of the world.

I'm really not saying anything that hasn't already been said before. However, I am saddened by the impassioned, often angry, responses from non-vegetarians who act as if threatened by our way of life. Perhaps they have been confronted by aggressive, militant vegetarians in the past. I don't know. However, we must respond with only love, understanding that that is simply not where they are at on their journey. Vegetarianism isn't something to force or coerce someone into. Rather, it's simply another way to "do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God." (Micah 6:8)

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(For more info, check out this website.)


tamie said...

man, you're so cool.

Thom Curnutte said...

I'm considering going Veg myself, so it was very encouraging to read this. Thanks.

Davis said...

Oh, Thom, it must have been the thought of eels and seals at Thanksgiving that did it ;-)

Sue said...

I just accidentally found this page. I do hope you will write more on the topic.

Are you familiar with the Anglican Society for the Welfare of Animals or the Episcopal Network for Animal Welfare?

eric said...

Thanks everyone!

And thanks, Sue, for the links. I've never seen those organisations before. Much appreciated!

Thom Curnutte said...

Davis, I wish I could say that that were true! :-)