Thursday, January 5, 2017

Christian Ethic for Vegetarianism

Vegetarianism as a Christian value has been an evolving ethic for me. It has been inspired by many books, experiences, and conversations over the years. I began my vegetarian journey in 2010 and have been refusing meat for almost seven years. Really the root of my decision to pursue a vegetarian lifestyle is based in my belief in Christian non-violence.
Jesus Christ is the Prince of Peace and came to overturn imperialistic oppression, set us free from violence and sin, and show us a third way of living in the world. Jesus taught the love of enemies and the intentional, relational care of the "least of these." Jesus proclaims Good News for the poor and release for the captives and I believe this extends to all of the created world.

Non-violence towards the land. 
In Genesis 2, humanity is born of dust. We are creatures OF the land--creatures created to till and serve the land. Our current agricultural system makes use of the land in an extremely unsustainable way. A way that is destructive, violent and not sustainable for all life on Earth, let alone all human life on Earth. The amount of land, water, and grain to feed to produce meat is astronomical compared to a vegan or even vegetarian based diet.
Water. 
Around 2,500 gallons of water is consumed in the production of a single pound of beef. If I had a single pound of beef each week 130,000 gallons of water would have been used. In relation to showers and water usage, if I took a 10 minute shower at 5 gallons a minute every single day of the year I would have consumed 18,250. While limiting showers and water usage in our home is important that's a small, small amount compared to the impact that our meat consumption has on creation. Not to mention the pollution of water-ways and ocean dead zones as a result of concentrated agriculture.
Land. 
A vegan diet uses 1/18th of the land that a meat-eater does in the course of a year. Over 45% of the Earth's landmass is being used for animal agriculture, which is a threat to the rainforest (and their indigenous populations-humans, animals, and plants). We argue about the ability to feed Earth's burgeoning population -- and yet, we possess more than enough land to feed and sustain humanity on a healthy vegan or vegetarian diet.

Non-violence towards other creatures. 
Jesus calls us to care for the least of these. He continually draws attention to societies minorities in the form of women, children, the sick, lonely, imprisoned, and so on. Jesus' Kingdom is radical and upside down from the world around us.
Humans. 
I could not kill an animal myself--how could I ask that of someone else? The act of killing another animals is brutal. The mass production, industrialization of animals means that humans involved in slaughterhouses are killing many, many animals each day. One person's job may be the slit a cows throat over and over again (after a metal bolt has been smashed into it's head). It's a difficult, ugly job to kill something in this way.
I see a connection between the killing of animals and the killing of humans. Often a murder or rape or killing occurs because someone has degraded, or dehumanized another. We can make others into animals justifying a killing because of a belief that they are less than human. A vegetarian ethic could, by extension, hold all human life with a higher value because of a value of other creatures.
Non-Human creatures. 
Our Christian origin story in Genesis 1 and 2 suggests that God's idyllic plan for creation is vegetarianism.
"God said, “See, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food. 30 And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so." - Genesis 1:29-30, NRSV
While we don't live at the beginning of Creation or in the Garden of Eden, our Christian call is to live as if we are in the Kingdom of God for it is surely among us (Luke 17:21). Not only does God prescribe a vegan lifestyle in the book of Genesis, but God proclaims that all of creation is good. We give reasons for not eating our cats and dogs, but the same reasons could apply to pigs, who are much smarter than dogs! Mountains and oceans, birds of the air and the fish of the sea, the flowering plants and creepy crawling land animals are all inherently good in the sight of God. Independent of our reliance on creation for sustenance and our very livelihood--creation has it's own worth independent of us. Who are we to abuse and to kill? 


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Do you practice a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle as a Christian? Why or why not?  

Thursday, October 27, 2016

So great a cloud of witnessess...

This October has been one of the most beautiful that I can remember. Brisk, cool mornings--the dew soaking my shoes through before 9 am. October: month of reflection, preparation, cool mornings and hot, sunny afternoons. Last October was an emotional roller coaster of a time: a dear woman passed away, Tim and I learned of the job we now hold, our wedding was two months away, and we were two months into our year-long internship.

October 15, 2015 | A gorgeous day spent outside with fellow seminarians making apple cider. It was in the midst of this community that I learned of Tracy's passing. In the midst of the most perfect fall day of flannel, organic apples, and fresh-pressed cider, we learned of the worst news imaginable. They don't go together--the joy and perfection of a fall day and the death of a beautiful, kind, joyful woman.


October 15, 2016 | Was the same kind of day. The quintessential fall day of cool mornings, vibrant leaves, and warm afternoons. Most of this day was spent in a classroom for a weekend intensive. I had been asked to craft a worship center on the theme "A Great Cloud of Witnesses." A year removed from her death, I reflected on the woman whom I consider to be one of my witnesses. As I moved heavy bricks, wound tulle, and lit candles, I remembered Tracy. I remembered her excited phone call upon receiving my Bethany application. I remembered Tracy tearfully, purposefully, mightily standing up for young women ministers. I remembered Tracy's beautiful worship style and invitational leadership. I remembered our walk to enjoy Harvey's in Bridgewater--talking about call and the happiness in our lives. I remembered her talking about her future husband and meeting him online, and how it's okay to date outside the Brethren pool. I remembered meeting her after she had raced through the airport to make our international flight to Burma. I remembered joy, belly laughs, intentional conversation, journeys, bible studies, ice cream, and real talk.


I was in the chapel of Bethany Seminary--in a place to which Tracy had helped call me, had journeyed with me. The perfect fall light illuminating the otherwise dim, dormant sanctuary. Her rays of light continue to shine upon me like the hot afternoon October sun--adding warmth to a cool day.



Thursday, January 21, 2016

Dishes


It was a natural choice—using the beloved, collected dishes from my mother and grandmother’s curio cabinets. Dishes so loved they live behind glass windows—like a piece of fine art in a museum. It was a natural choice to use the collections of Mamaw’s and Mama’s plates and tea cups—thrifted from Goodwill or yard sales, found in auction boxes and on wooden shelves. The church plates were a light green, plastic, and simply obscene for a navy and gold wedding. The beloved dishes of my loved ones weren’t plastic or styrafoam—they were washed and re-used, to be loved again and again. It was a natural choice to honor those I love and what they love. 

Months before the wedding while visiting my mother, she tenderly takes the first set of dishes she ever owned from a box that lives in the attic. Holding one, silver rimmed, Winter Set plate from American Royalty, she smiles and talks about saving money to buy a whole set of nice dishes. Not plastic divided plates, not thick dinner plates, not a ceramic set from Target—a set of nice dishes. Her own set of dishes for hosting, for entertaining, for the sheer delight of eating from something nice. She laughs that she paid full price for them—she’s never done that for a set of dishes since.

The stories that came from the dishes on that special day were many. “I ate from a set of dishes I collected plate by plate from my local bank” or “the dishes you had are like a set of my great grandmother’s.” They were stories of love and memories of shoo-fly pie, green beans, and corn on the cob. Stories of homemade meals and slow food cooked by loving hands. 

By using them, we honor them. By delighting in their form and function, we honor the something before our eyes. We honor the craftsmanship. We honor the artistry and the intricate design of the pattern. We honor the lives they’ve lived before gracing our tables. We honor my grandmother and mother who love dishes so dearly that they hunt for them, collect them, and display them behind glass doors in their homes.

    

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Embracing 2016

I have never been a year-long resolution keeper--like the other 92% of people who don't keep their new years resolutions. My friend, Marian, and I share our new years resolutions each year--although I know I will forget about mine in a couple of months. It's a nice idea, it's just never worked for me. 

The idea of naming my year or living into a word for the year has really spoken to me this season. People have written all sorts about choosing a word and or picking one little word. It's a way to frame your year, to live into your values, and to grow into a vision of who we want to be at the end of the year. The word I have chosen for 2016 is...

embrace

1. to hold someone in your arms as a way of expressing love and friendship 
2. to accept (someone or something) readily and gladly
3. to use (an opportunity) greatly 

There is so much change happening in my life--that has happened, is happening, and will happen! That I can see! That's not even the things outside of my longitudinal vision that are yet to be seen! Tim and I were married in December, are moving in February, starting a new job in March, and transitioning to becoming "connections" students. My first tendency is to project myself into the future and not be present for the "now"--for what God is doing right before my eyes. 

I fling my arms open to the newness that is unfolding and the journey that lies before my feet.