Is Veganism Biblical?

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Hi friends! I have something that has been sitting on my heart for months. Literally paragraphs at time of what I wanted to say on this topic would pour into my mind in the shower, in the car, as I was falling asleep, but I wouldn't write them down. I have avoided writing this for a very long time for the sake of avoiding controversy, arguments, close-minded people, hurting someone's feelings, etc. I'm an extreme empath and highly affected by other's emotions and responses. I often question why God has called me to be so actively involved in something that creates so much controversy. I once heard that God reveals our callings through our contradictions and I truly believe that's what He is doing here. I have vowed to spend my life speaking up for what is right. I will never stay silent so others can stay comfortable. We are not called to live a life of comfort. I pray that you can hear me out on the strong ties between veganism and the Bible and the connections that I see. I pray that if you have been feeling a tug about veganism, that this encourages you to look into it even further. I pray that even if this is a new topic for you, you have the courage to open your mind and your heart to what the Lord desires to speak to you about the topic.

"When it's uncomfortable,
when it's unpopular,
even when it's dangerous to speak the truth,
is the precise time when the truth should be spoken"
-Unknown

A few months ago I was visiting a new church and the pastor made fun of vegans and veganism in front of the entire church during his sermon. I mean I was thankful for the loud and frank sign from God that that wasn't the church for me...but really? Church isn't even a safe place for vegans? The body of CHRIST where ALL differences should be accepted and welcomed? I'm pretty sure I was sitting there with flames coming out of my ears when this happened because I have never been so appalled in my life. I mean nothing personal against that pastor or church but that was just firsthand proof to me that there is something very wrong with the way that Christians and conservatives repel anything to do with veganism and the environment. The stigma needs to change.

Can you imagine what you would feel like if a Christian tried to use a Bible verse about rape, incest, or murder to justify one of those things? That is how I feel every single time someone feels the need to message me a Bible verse that contains the word "meat" or "food" in it without even taking a moment to look into the context or background of the verse. To act like meat in biblical times is anything like the meat of today is selfish and cruel and quite frankly needs to stop.

There were no factory farms in biblical times.

There were no grocery stores with every single fruit, vegetable, nut, seed, legume, and grain you could ever need to survive available to you year round.

There weren't 56 billion farmed animals slaughtered each year.

There weren't workers being exploited, abused, and traumatized by having to inflict violence onto living creatures in the farming industry.

There weren't entire forests cut down for the sake of greed.

There weren't entire nations starving and without water because we use up all their food and water for animals that we don't need to eat in order to survive.

This sounds like pure greed to me. And my friends, greed is a sin.

And of course there is always the response that everything in the Bible is still relevant, that the Word of God is unchanging. And of course it is. I would never deny that. But that doesn't mean that times don't change. That the world doesn't change. There weren't any cell phones or computers or wifi in the Bible but I don't see any Christians questioning the use of those things. We've adapted quite well to those changes but we will grasp for any excuse to ignore the changes in our food system and environment. Why is this? Why is it so hard for us to see?

I don't say this from a place of all knowingness or because I think I'm better than anyone else. I say this as someone who used to be that person. I was the Christian that threw those verses at vegans. I was the Christian who used those verses out of context to justify eating animals. I was the Christian that had a verse about food in my Bible literally highlighted with the word "vegans" next to it. I was just so sure that I. Was. Right. And everyone else trying to live a more compassionate and respectful lifestyle was wrong because there's no verse in the Bible that says "thou shall be vegan" so why even care?

"For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Sprit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. 
Romans 8:18-24

"But Kaetlyn, there are more important things to worry about as Christians." But is there? Is there something out there more important and more aligned with the goal of the gospel to love others as Christ loved you? Something more important than to adopt an all encompassing lifestyle of compassion and mercy just as Christ showed us? Something more important than a lifestyle that would set vulnerable victims free from abuse, from corruption, from hunger, from poverty? It is selfish to think that us as humans are the only ones suffering from sin and pain and corruption. All of creation groans. 

By no means am I saying that everyone's calling will be in the same area. Some may feel called to helping the environment. Some may feel called to helping people without food and water. Some, like me, feel called to helping animals. But being vegan connects these things simultaneously. Being vegan doesn't mean you have to be an activist. It just means finally aligning your actions with what you believe in through every area of your life. We all have different gifts and callings that in combination, work to further the body of Christ. And I see veganism doing the exact same thing with every corner of the different issues that it reaches. By being vegan you are treating your body well, you're treating the earth well, you're treating the animals well, you're refusing to participate in something that steals resources from those that need them, and you're refusing to participate or support an industry that profits off of violence, greed, and corruption. It is all completely connected and it all supports a better world for nature, animals, and humans. Imagine for a moment how freeing it would feel to completely align your actions with your beliefs? I see being a vegan as playing your part in creating an earth as it is in heaven. From Isaiah 11:6-9 we know that Heaven and God's future plans for His creation redeemed is peace and nonviolence— a vegan kingdom to put it in modern terms.

"The wolf shall dwell with the lamb,
and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat,
and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together;
and a little child shall lead them.
The cow and the bear shall graze;
their young shall lie down together;
and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
The nursing child shall play over the hole of the cobra,
and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder's den.
They shall not hurt or destroy
in all my holy mountain;
for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord
as the waters cover the sea."
Isaiah 11:6-9

As Christians we should not hold the mindset of "well God's going to destroy the earth anyways so might as well do what we want with it." We should actively be trying our best to respect and show compassion to all of God's creation. Do we not pray "your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven"? (Matthew 6:10) 

The verses I most often hear used to justify the use of animals today come from Romans and 1 Corinthians, two books where Paul discusses food sacrificed to idols, which was a huge issue in this time.  

Romans 14:1-3 is a verse that often comes up. "As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person only eats vegetables." I can definitely see how by itself, this can cause some questions. It's important to note that here Paul is talking about food sacrificed to idols. He is trying to explain that we are no longer under Kosher law. 1 Corinthians 10:25 says "eat whatever is sold in the meat market without raising any question on the ground of conscience." This verse, like the others, is simply about food sacrificed to idols, nothing more. It's not about animal ethics or factory farms or telling us that if someone offers us meat we should eat it without question. 

Take one look at footage from inside a slaughterhouse and there's no way you would ever think again that God isn't asking us to question that on the grounds of conscience. Paul himself admitted in 1 Corinthians 10:23 "all things are lawful, but not all things are helpful. All things are lawful, but not all things build up." We have free will. We can eat meat. But is it beneficial? Science says no. The environment says no. The visible fear in the eyes of farmed animals says no. Our hearts said no before society forced us to bury our guilt and grief. 

When we continue down further in Romans chapter 14 to verse 15, we find Paul continuing to speak about this issue of food sacrificed to idols. "For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died." But I do think this makes a good point that we should consider. We are to love our neighbor as ourself (Mark 12:31). Veganism is a huge movement today, and there are many people, Christian and non-Christian that live this lifestyle, and are affected everyday by those that don't. If veganism is a lifestyle and diet that we can adopt and not only survive on, but THRIVE on, why wouldn't we? Why would we not be jumping for joy over the opportunity to live with more compassion and love for the ones Christ died for?! 

Verses 20-23 say, "Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for anyone to make another stumble by what he eats." Again, speaking about food sacrificed to idols. They were no longer under Kosher law, and eating sacrificed was no longer a sin in itself, which is what Paul meant by "everything is indeed clean", but should be avoided if it was going to cause oneself or another believer to sin. Take a look at the amount of man-made, synthetic, and toxic antibiotics, pesticides, and GMOs that are in animal products. The DNA of farmed animals is even altered in order to produce more milk, more eggs, and more meat in less amount of time. Literally altering the DNA that God so thoughtfully created and made perfect in His image. To take this verse and try to justify that "everything is indeed clean" in today's animal agriculture is a very far reach. 

I could continue to go on, but I would never finish. My point here being that we often times take verses out of context. I'm not perfect, I do it too. I'm not a theologian or an expert on the Bible but it's clear enough that Paul's mere mention of food and meat in these books is not about animal ethics, health, or environmentalism. I think we can all agree that something is up when we use these verses to justify our food choices but can't even watch a video of footage from a factory farm or slaughterhouse— the exact place that our food comes from. Violence, greed, cruelty, and taking the lives of innocent beings can never be from faith. 

The books of Romans and the Corinthians and Galatians and Ephesians and Colossians— these are the books that explain the gospel. These are the books that talk about love and peace and compassion and turning from corruption and worldly ways and what we can do to bring God's kingdom here on earth right now, right this second. Let's not become so weighed down by finding certain verses to pick out that can sort-of-kind-of justify our actions, instead of remembering the gospel as a whole and asking ourselves if we are coming from a place of love and compassion in all areas of our lives. If I'm not applying that to every area of my life, if I'm not trying my hardest to do everything I can to be a merciful and compassionate caretaker like Jesus was, then what am I here for? 

"but God put animals on this earth for us to eat..." —but that's not even Biblically correct. God created animals and "saw that it was good." That was simply it in the beginning. It was only after 1,000+ years of a "vegan" world that God allowed us to eat animals for survival purposes only after Noah and his family got off of their boat with absolutely no vegetation in sight.


"but Jesus fed people with fish and taught people how to fish..." but Jesus didn't have access to a local Whole Foods. Entire species of marine life weren't being wiped out just for the sake of money and a meal. Fishing back then was nothing like it is today. 

"but all the animal sacrifices in the old testament..." but Jesus already came and died as the final and perfect sacrifice. We no longer live under Old Testament law.

"but Genesis 9:3..." but this was after the fall, after the world was no longer in God's perfect will. Noah and his family just got off of the boat after the flood with nothing to eat in sight. Everything is lawful but not everything is beneficial. We no longer live in a time period where taking the lives of innocent beings is necessary for survival. 

"but I only eat humanely raised meat..." but what was their death like? Was that humane? Can taking a life from someone who wants to live ever be humane? The animals you eat may have lived their lives in okay conditions but the fear in their eyes when that knife is to their throat tells a different story. Humane meat, eggs, and dairy will always be a paradox. Just as humans, animals have a very real desire to live. Taking an animal's life for the sake of a meal that very well could be eaten without, cannot and never will be humane. 

"but bacon..." but nonviolence. But compassion. But mercy. But love. 

Please consider the message of compassion, kindness, and love of the gospel. Please consider looking at God's original intentions for the earth before sin, and His future intentions for the earth redeemed from sin. Animal agriculture and animal sacrifice are no longer necessary and I pray for freedom from the idea that they are.

I don't know how to change the minds of Christians and the stigma held around veganism other than to continue speaking about it and praying about it. Of course Jesus is love, and grace, and at the end of the day it's not about our works or the law. But something to consider is if Jesus were here in the flesh today, in the midst of all of our cruelty and pollution of this earth and our bodies, do you truly think he would partake in that? I just can't imagine that, I can't see that. All I can see is his mercy for the hurting, and I want to have the same. I want to be the same. In every area of my life. To fully experience grace and freedom in our lives we must change our earthly mindset to a kingdom mindset. Will you join me? 

Sincerely,

8 comments

  1. Wow. I’ve been contemplating this a lot. My best friends and I have had numerous discussions around this; what is the context of this verse, etc. I love your take on this and will be doing more digging and reading. I think more than anything, NOT being vegan is simply out of pure convenience for a lot of people. My goal this year is to not do things out of convenience, but out of purpose and growth. I love this post and will be sharing it with friends and family.

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    1. Thank you so much for taking the time to read, Jolee! I love that you are doing things "not out of convenience, but out of purpose and growth". That is beautifully said and something I am striving for also!

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  2. I couldn't agree more, Kaetlyn, and I just want to say thank you for having the courage to stand up and speak out about this. I really appreciate this post and how clearly you put everything and answered objections - I'll be referring back to it! May God bless you as you continue reflecting Him. xx

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    1. Jessica, thank you so much for taking the time to read! Much love to you 💛

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  3. This is one of my favorite blog posts of all time! I'm a vegan and also a Christian and no one is talking about this intersection. Everything you say is completely true and I love your attention to direct it back to specific verses of the bible

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    1. Thank you so much Taneisha! So glad to find another Christian vegan! 💛

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  4. Hi! This is a very thoughtful post. I appreciate how non aggressively you make your points and how you don't try to sound like the be all end all on the information. I, like you, am not a bible scholar. But I would like to point out that animals are not "created in Gods image". That is an honor given only to man. Animals do not have souls. I agree that they feel fear, and could they articulate the choice between life and death I can only assume they would choose life. But I would find this article much more amenable were that fallacy corrected. I wouldn't want it to lead naive seekers astray. I know it seems like a small matter of verbage, but the consequences of misrepresenting the Bible and its meaning are serious (James 3:1- I'm not saying you shouldn't ever endeavor to teach, I'm just saying when you want to preach or teach the Word you need to be very very careful).
    With love,
    Jess

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  5. Dear Kaetlyn, as I stumbled apon a few posts I love how compact you have made this one, so I could basically copy/paste this link to all my Christian friends bashing me for being vegan, while God said animals are food. I am not a believer myself, but I believe in what you have written here. If there is a God (and there probably will be one), he would not want this world to be such a cruelty place for any living being. I love how you have been putting this in words so good and I am just astonished by it. Well done.

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