Category Archives: Religion

Guest Post: Omnivore Goes Vegan For A Month

For Lent, my cousin and her husband did a vegan fast. I thought it’d be interesting to get her perspective on the fast – from an omnivore’s point of view. This is what she had to say about over a month of veganism (completely un-edited by me).

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by Christine Wilson

As part of the season of Lent, the senior pastor at my church proposed a Daniel Fast. A Daniel Fast, simply put, is being vegan (no animal products) as well as no caffeine, sugars (except those found naturally in food), leavened bread, refined grains, or artificial sweeteners. We did ten days of the Daniel Fast, had a two day break, and then continued the fast for about three weeks. By the end, honestly, I was going more vegetarian than vegan.

I thought it was a challenging diet to fulfill, but I think a lot of that had to do with the no sugar/caffeine/bread as much as (if not more than) the vegan aspect. It took a lot of planning and creative thinking and searching the internet for dinners to make for my husband and myself. It seemed like it would get easier once I built up a stock of vegan recipes that I knew my husband and I enjoyed. It’s about trying lots of recipes and maybe only coming away with a few.

But there were a few that we tried that we are going to keep eating on a regular basis! We really enjoyed pasta with peas, pesto, and potatoes. I fell in love with homemade pesto while doing this diet and I even went and bought some basil to grow on my back patio so that I can continue to make it this summer. Vegetarian chili is awesome and we did not miss the meat in that at all! The strong chili flavors overpower everything anyway, and it was still so hearty with all of those beans in there. And we’ll keep doing meatless burritos (refried beans, brown rice, tomatoes, avocado), although I think I’ll be adding cheese and sour cream to that when we make it in the future. Which brings me to my next point…

The dairy was hard to give up for me. Probably the most difficult. I’m accustomed to drinking multiple glasses of milk per day. My go-to snack is a granola bar, peanut butter, and a glass of milk. I did try other milks, like soy milk and almond milk, which would be great for smoothies and recipes. But just drinking them straight was not the same to me as cow’s milk.

I did not miss meat at all. Except when it came to eating out at a favorite restaurant and I had to figure out what to get instead of my regular order. And after the diet ended, I was sometimes turned off by meat. I remember eating meatballs after stopping the fast and thinking, “Ugh. So much meat. Didn’t I just have meat yesterday?!”

I don’t think I felt too different while on the diet. I think I lost weight, because I actually got a few comments from friends and family members. I don’t own a scale so I can’t say for sure. I did feel “cleaner”. I don’t know if it was a perceived thing or a real physical thing, but I just know it felt great to not be putting a bunch of thick, heavy foods (like meat and dairy and junk food) in my body and instead putting high-fiber, fresh foods like fruits and vegetables, and water. Water never tasted so great to me.

In terms of the spiritual aspect of the fast, I feel like God did impress upon me to move in a new direction in terms of food and consumption in general. One of the reasons our pastor called the fast was to go against the intense need to consume we seem to have in our society. We do many things in excess, and it’s unnecessary, in my opinion. And it also exploits the earth God gave us, as well as the animals in it, and even people in other countries who make our products. While on the fast, God gave me new resolve to change my ways. It really, really does sadden me the way animals in factories are treated, and I think it definitely goes against God’s design. I think there is a natural food chain that He put in place and that eating meat and animal products is okay, but I think we overuse and abuse it.

So, moving forward, here are my goals. I’m going to buy meat only from the farmers’ market. I’m going to learn about the establishments where my meat is coming from and even try to visit them. I’m going to eat less dairy. I’m going to cook less dishes with meat, which goes well with the fact that farmers’ market meat is more expensive. I’m shooting for cooking only 1-2 meat dishes per week, and the rest vegetarian or vegan. When eating out, I’m going to first look through the vegetarian options to see if there’s anything I’d like. If I really, really don’t want any of the options, then I’ll go with a meat dish.

In addition to all of this, I’m also going to give up spending money (except on food) until Christmas-time. No clothes, no home improvements, no meaningless knick-knacks, no craft supplies, etc. I just feel so bogged down by consumerism, and I think God is calling me to much more purposeful things than shopping and filling my house with things that I will one day grow tired of and then get rid of or throw away. And don’t even get me started on UNfair trade and the exploitation of the people making our goods…

One of the main reasons I am going back to eating a little meat here and there is because it just seems so tied to so many traditional recipes. And, it is an easy, straightforward source of protein. But, I would really, really like to see it as the exception rather than the rule. In so many other parts of the world, where people have less, meat is special. It is not eaten every day. Here, it’s easy to eat every day. We can afford it. But, I feel that just because we can do something, doesn’t mean we should.

Practice What You Preach This Lenten Season

The following article was written by Ashley Palmer for PETA.

With the Lenten season upon us, many choose to reflect on their actions and honor their faith through fasting. Some denominations, specifically Eastern Christians and Catholics, abstain from eating animal products during this time.

Going vegan in honor of Lent is the perfect way to “practice what you preach” by showing compassion to all of God’s creation. By eating only plant-based foods this Lenten season, you can show Christ’s mercy at every meal.

The following video depicts exactly how God’s creatures are treated in order to produce meat:

Is this really how we should treat God’s creatures? Is this the message of love and compassion that we should be living? When God gave us “dominion” over animals, it became our responsibility to be their protectors, not their tormentors.

In his article for the Huffington Post, Bruce Friedrich, PETA’s vice president for policy, said it best: “Jesus’ message is one of love and compassion, yet there is nothing loving or compassionate about the modern industries that produce almost all of the chickens, pigs and other farmed animals that are turned into meat in this country. Christians have a choice: When we sit down to eat, we can support misery and cruelty or we can make choices that support mercy and compassion. Shouldn’t that be an easy decision for us?”

Honor your faith at each and every meal this Lenten season, and remember: As we do to the least, so we do to Him.
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Breakfast: A Soy Joy bar
Lunch: Chipotle burrito bowl (no meat = free guac)
Dinner: Veggie burger from Hopdoddy – Definitely one of the best veggie burgers I’ve had! It rivals my favorite veggie burger in DC from BGR.

Quote Of The Day Friday #3

A prayer from Saint Basil, the bishop of Caesarea, circa 375 A.D.:

Oh, God, enlarge within us the sense of fellowship with all living things, our brothers the animals to whom Thou gavest the earth in common with us. We remember with shame that in the past we have exercised the high dominion of man with ruthless cruelty so that the voice of the earth, which should have gone up to thee in song, has been a groan of travail.

A writing from Saint Isaac the Syrian, from the seventh century:

What is a charitable heart? It is a heart which is burning with love for the whole creation, for men, for the birds, for the beasts… for all creatures. He who has such a heart cannot see or call to mind a creature without his eyes being filled with tears by reason of the immense compassion which seizes his heart; a heart which is softened and can no longer bear to see or learn from others of any suffering, even the smallest pain being inflicted upon a creature. That is why such a man never ceases to pray for the animals… moved by the infinite pity which reigns in the hearts of those who are becoming united with God.

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Breakfast: Smoothie with frozen mango, honey, a scoop of peanut butter, and almond milk – it tasted like ice cream!
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Lunch: Two small wraps with spinach, avocado, bell pepper, green onion, and Tofutti cream cheese
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Dinner: A salad and a large loaded baked potato with Earth Balance buttery spread, Tofutti sour cream, bacon flavored bits, and fresh chives from the balcony
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Christmas Confusion

Nearly half of the Christmas cards I received this year included pets in the family photo or had pets’ names listed alongside family members’ names. Statistics show that half of the dogs in America will receive Christmas presents. Yet how many people will pause to consider the life of the pig that becomes their Christmas ham?

What is the logic that allows us to embrace some animals as members of our family, then torture and abuse others?

(And just for the record: Pigs are easily as intelligent as dogs, with many studies indicating that they are not only smarter than dogs, but are as smart as primates. Pigs are social creatures that bond with each other and lead social lives of a complexity previously only observed in primates. And just like dogs, pigs learn their names and respond to them, they love to cuddle, and enjoy playing with toys and getting massages.)

During a holiday season that is about  joy, peace, generosity, and good will, we should be working to embody these aspects of Christmas. As Christians, especially during the most joyous of Christian holidays, we should ask ourselves how we can become more Christlike. Where in our lives can we become more merciful, more compassionate?

Most Christians agree that harming a dog or cat is wrong, but think nothing of harming pigs, turkeys, cows, chickens, or fish. Why is it that when we sit down to eat, we selectively forget that all animals are creatures of God and that God created them with a capacity for pain and suffering?

God loves and cherishes each of His creations, as we are explicitly told in Matthew 10:29: “Not even a sparrow, worth only half a penny, can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it.” He delights in all that He has made and all creatures sing their Creator’s praises.  Yet, we torture and kill millions of His creatures to celebrate His birthday.  It just doesn’t seem right.

In the story of Christmas, baby Jesus is surrounded by not only Mary & Joseph, shepherds & wisemen, but also there, are the lowly cattle, lamb, and donkey.  They watched the birth of the savior as if they had some stake in the events unfolding and provided “their breath to warm the infant.”  But of course when all the excitement was over, they had to return to their pens, and life as livestock.  Even witnessing the birth of Christ would not give them reprieve from serving man.  But they were there, they are part of the story, and without them, something important and beautiful would be missing.

baby-jesus-cartoon-surrounded-by-animals

Recalling this familiar story, it reminds us of what a radical departure mankind’s outlook on animals has taken. While, yes it is true that God told man to “subdue the earth” and “rule the animals,” it is obvious that fallen man is abusing his powers. And, while it is also true that meat was eaten in the Bible, there certainly were no factory farms in first century Palestine, and historians and theologians agree that meat was eaten sparingly (according to this article, “maybe once a month”).

This year, on the day we celebrate the love and compassion of our savior, choose love and compassion. Luke 6:36 tells us: “Be ye merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” And remember that every creature is one of His creations.

“Go into the largest livestock operation, search out the darkest and tiniest stall or pen, single out the filthiest, most forlorn little lamb or pig or calf, and that is one of God’s creatures you’re looking at.”– Matthew Scully

As we say our grace to invoke the blessings of Jesus, let us resolve to emulate His compassion in our own lives. There’s no better place to begin than the dinner table. As we break bread, let’s break ties with some of the most violent and ungodly places on Earth: slaughterhouses and factory farms.

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Breakfast: Tofu & spinach Evol burrito
Lunch: Mongolian tofu from Bamboo Bistro
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Dinner: Pasta with spinach, artichoke hearts, olive oil, and garlic
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Food & Faith Challenge

Fellow foodie blogger, Wendy at The Local Cook, is hosting a “Food & Faith Challenge.” From April 3 – June 19 (yes, I’m a little behind on announcing this), she will encourage us to think about our food in a deeper sense than just, “What should I eat for lunch?”

Each week throughout the challenge, Wendy will post a topic for consideration on her blog, accompanied by a Bible verse*, comments from a guest poster (it so happens that yours truly is guest posting about Farm Workers on May 1st), questions for reflection, and a homework assignment to work towards a more sustainable food system.

I encourage everyone to follow along through the weeks, try the homework assignments, and contribute to the discussion by commenting on The Local Cook blog. Plus, leaving comments enters you to win sweet prizes every single week

Let the challenge begin.

 

*Wendy indicates that the Food & Faith Challenge is not solely for Christians. From her site: “Even if you are not a Christian, I hope that some of these issues will be of interest to you. I’m Christian Reformed / Emerging, and the book is written by Mennonites, but these issues cut across denominations and religions.”

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Breakfast: Frozen evol burrito – tofu & spinach saute.  Mm mm good.
Lunch: Veggie wrap with spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, corn, black beans, and vinaigrette dressing
Dinner: Cheese enchiladas, rice & beans (I’m in San Antonio right now!)

Blessed Are The Merciful

Have compassion as God has compassion.  Matthew 5:48

As Christians celebrate Christ’s ultimate sacrifice and resurrection this Easter, let us resolve to emulate His compassion in our own lives. There’s no better place to begin than the dinner table. As we break bread, let’s break ties with some of the most violent and ungodly places on Earth: slaughterhouses and factory farms.

Before they become Sunday’s centerpiece, animals on factory farms are denied everything that God designed them to do. They never breathe fresh air, nurture their young, play with other animals, or do anything to live out the biblical concept that “God’s mercy is over all His creatures.”

For example, pigs spend their entire lives in filthy concrete pens, and cruelty is rampant, as witnessed by PETA’s investigation of Belcross Farm, a pig-breeding facility in North Carolina, which resulted in the first ever felony indictments for cruelty to animals by farm workers in the US. Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident. Pigs are abused at factory farms across the country.

Easter is also no celebration for hens on egg farms, who suffer constant confinement to tiny, filthy wire cages. Male chicks are killed, through suffocation or grinders, since they don’t produce eggs. And female chicks have their beaks painfully seared off to keep them from pecking one another.

Then, at the end of their short, miserable lives, these animals are roughly crammed into trucks and transported off to suffer the ultimate terror of the slaughterhouse, where workers hang them upside-down and slit their throats.

Christians whose eyes are fixed on the awfulness of crucifixion are in a special position to understand the awfulness of innocent suffering. The Cross of Christ is God’s absolute identification with the weak, the powerless and the vulnerable, but most of all with unprotected, undefended, innocent suffering.
– Rev. Dr. Andrew Linzey

This Easter, demonstrate compassion by trying some delicious vegetarian and vegan Easter recipes.

Also, visit the Christian Vegetarian Association’s website and read their “Would Jesus Eat Meat Today?” pamphlet.

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Breakfast: Oatmeal
Lunch: Medley of pasta salad, veggies, and grilled tofu from the salad bar at the deli across the street
Dinner: Tofurkey sandwich with chips and homemade guacamole

Compassionate Christmas

I will once again plead for compassion in your holiday meals.  Whether it’s ham, turkey, or roast beef that is usually at the center of your table, this year consider losing the dead carcass for something more merciful. During a holiday season that is about  love, hope, generosity, good will, peace, joy, sacrifice, and religion, we should work to embody the spirit of Christmas, including at our meals.

I confess, I wish religion was more explicit on this subject.  But there were no factory farms in first century Palestine on which to pass judgement.  So, we are left only with His simple and constant theme of mercy, gentleness, and compassion, which we are to emulate.

Be ye, therefore, merciful, as your Father also is merciful. (Luke 6:36)

The Bible may not include an explicit story of livestock fleeing their abusers and taking refuge by His side, but there are more than a few examples of compassion towards animals.

Moses, we are told, was chosen because he rescued a stray lamb: “You who have compassion for a lamb shall now be the shepherd of my people of Israel.”  When Jesus rebukes David for plotting to kill Uriah and steal his wife, he uses a story of a man slaying and eating the beloved ewe of a poor man.  To Balaam, the false teacher, God actually speaks through an animal, the mistreated mule who sees the angel of heaven even before his master, asking “What have I done unto thee that thou hast smitten me these three times?”

The Old Testament has very direct orders, such as, never to yoke an ox and ass together, since the latter would suffer, or never to muzzle an ox when it’s thrashing grain, since it will desire to eat but be unable to.  And how strange, in our age of factory farms, to hear the commandment that even cattle are to be given rest on the Sabbath for “a righteous man regardeth the life of his beast: but the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel.”

In the story of Christmas, baby Jesus is surrounded by not only Mary & Joseph, shepherds and wisemen, but also there, are the lowly cattle, lamb, and donkey.  They watched the birth of the savior as if they had some stake in the events unfolding and provided “their breath to warm the infant.”  But of course when all the excitement was over, they had to return to their pens, and life as livestock.  Even witnessing the birth of Christ would not give them reprieve from serving man.  But they were there, they are part of the story, and without them, something important and beautiful would be missing.

Recalling these familiar passages, it reminds us of what a radical departure mankind’s outlook on animals has taken. We celebrate a God who loves and cares not only for each person, but also for all creatures. He assures us in his own words that not even a sparrow falls without His knowing.  The God of Israel delights in all that He has made and all creatures sing their Creator’s praises.  Yet, we torture and kill millions of His creatures to celebrate His birthday.  It just doesn’t seem right.

This year, on the day we celebrate the love and compassion of our savior, choose love and compassion.

Here is a fantastic list of vegetarian holiday recipes.
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Breakfast: Bagel & cream cheese
Lunch: Vegetable soup
Dinner: Spaghetti

Religion (Yes, I’m Going There)

God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” Genesis 1:28

Why is it that we turn to religious teachings for moral guidance in so many aspects of our lives, yet so seldom in the matter of eating animals?  It is time we inspected this original sanction to “subdue the earth,” both in letter and spirit.

Humans have the unique ability, unparalleled in the natural world, to know God and to attain His transcendent purpose.  Because of this, most people regard animals as secondary beings, as morally incidental, soulless beings for whom no bell ever tolls, and to whom we have no moral duties.

However, we can not deny that under religious principle, we have a basic obligation of kindness.  Religion teaches us to spread our care as far and as wide as possible, to be His instrument in loving all creation.  

It is easy for us to condemn those who abuse dogs, poach elephants, or hunt dolphins.  But why do we not condemn ourselves for eating cows, chickens, or pigs?  (And more so, for fueling the torturous practices and massive slaughterings that lead them to our plate?) 

Because we like dogs, elephants, and dolphins.  We see them for what they are, for how God created them.  We allow them to be how they were meant to be and we appreciate their intelligence, beauty, wildness, or loyalty.  We respect them for their natural, God-given characteristics.

Livestock on the other hand, we dominate.  We strip away their natural rights, their natural habitats, their ability to be what they are meant to be.  We do not look at them as He created them, instead we look at them as our own design for them.  We strip away our ability to respect them as creatures of God, as equivalent to the dolphin, elephant, or dog.

How naive we are to assume that God cares more for a dog than for a cow!  Why do we think that He only cares for animals that meet with human kindness, but not for those that meet with human cruelty?  It is ignorant to believe that God cares more for certain creatures, just because we do. 

Every creature is one of His creations.  Every life has a meaning, whether or not that meaning is understood by us. 

“Go into the largest livestock operation, search out the darkest and tiniest stall or pen, single out the filthiest, most forlorn little lamb or pig or calf, and that is one of God’s creatures you’re looking at, morally indistinguishable from  your beloved Fluffy or Frisky.”– Matthew Scully

While, yes it is true that God told man to “subdue the earth” and “rule the animals,” it is obvious that fallen man is abusing his powers.  As we are taught in other contexts, His ways are not our ways.  As one old hymn tells us, there is a wideness in God’s mercy greater than the mind of men.  So, who among us has the divine wisdom to be certain that His mercy does not include the cows, pigs, or chickens? 

Here, more than anywhere, is a chance to learn a lesson in humility and demonstrate our efforts to mimic God’s compassion.  For, what are we to Him, but what they are to us?

Now, I’m no theologian and I definitely don’t claim to exemplify any pillars of any religion, but I am betting that in the Book of Life, “She had mercy on the creatures” is going to count for a lot more than, “She ate well.”

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Breakfast: A scone
Lunch: Leftover Mongolian BBQ (lots of veggies + tofu)
Dinner: Corn, asparagus & baby carrots (mixed together & steamed), and potaoes & onions (chopped up & cooked in some olive oil)