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Can Christians Be Vegan?

Written By Michael D. Giammarino, USA

You may be the type of person who hears the word “vegan” and turns away with a scoff and a roll of the eyes. That’s certainly how I used to respond before I began seriously considering the vegan* way of life.

I, like many others, thought that vegans were crazy hippies or yoga freaks or people that were just “out there” with no grounding in reality. I had certainly never met a Christian Vegan. To my surprise, I discovered that someone close to me was genuinely considering this lifestyle—my very own pastor! Having much respect for my pastor, I knew he wasn’t simply being foolish in overhauling his life and diet. And I wanted to know what those reasons were.

 

Food is Deep

As I spoke with him, I found that everything he was saying aligned accurately with Scripture and common sense. He showed me a simple yet profound truth—that food is deep. It is deep in the sense that it is much more than mere nourishment for our bodies, a necessary substance to keep us alive. For instance, why was food created in the first place? It couldn’t simply be to keep humans alive because there was food in the Garden of Eden before the fall. So would Adam and Eve have died if they had not eaten food? Logically no, since death had not entered into earthly existence.

Also, there are numerous references in the Bible about foods that are otherworldly such as Elijah’s angelic food in 1 Kings 19 and the heavenly manna during the Exodus. What’s more, the Bible even ascribes deep metaphorical meaning to food like when Christ refers to Himself as the “bread of life” or to His disciples as the “salt of the earth.” In short, I think that food deserves much more thought and respect than is often given to it.

When my pastor explained his transition to veganism, he did more than simply open my eyes to the spiritual, metaphorical, and philosophical depth of food. He showed me several points that directly tied veganism to God’s Word.

First, he pointed out that humans were not originally created to eat meat. A fully plant-based diet was the original fuel that God gave for our bodies to run on. It was not until after the Flood that people began eating meat (see Genesis 9:3). That’s roughly 1,600 years after the Fall! Clearly, humans were able to perform work and live life while being sustained on a meatless diet.

Now, if God originally created the human body to be fueled by a plant-based diet, one would expect plants to contain high levels of nutrients and low levels of toxic elements—and that is exactly what we see. The vegan diet has strong scientific support as a superior diet for health and wellness. Now, I will happily admit that there are studies and scientists and research articles that claim that meat is good for individuals to consume regularly, but that misses my point. The debate seems to be whether or not meat is healthy. To my knowledge, there are no credible claims that state vegetables are unhealthy.

And that is precisely what one would expect when reading the biblical narrative and the original human diet. Vegans simply take the good foods and choose to consume only those. There’s nothing unbiblical about that.

Further, since food is deeper than the physical, I began to realize that food affects my mood, mindset, ability to concentrate, etc. When I am in a mental rut or am feeling down or just don’t seem to care about challenging myself to be productive, I can often link it to a series of poor dietary choices. Conversely, when I eat good, healthy food, I usually find that I feel more upbeat and happier in my approach to life. God made us as holistic beings—mind, body, and spirit. When I’ve attempted to compartmentalize these parts in the past, God has shown me that it can’t be done. They each leak into the other. So when I treat my body right, my mind and spirit also benefit.

 

Bodies are temples of God

Aside from the practical reasons to treat one’s body appropriately, God mandates that His children place great importance on the treatment of their bodies. 1 Corinthians tells us that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit and that we are to honor it with worthy actions . . . and that means worthy food too.

I remember watching an episode of A&E’s Duck Dynasty. Some of the guys in the episode were making hamburgers and one of them made a burger that didn’t look too appetizing. When it was offered to Uncle Si, his response was remarkable. He said, “This body is my temple. I ain’t puttin’ that crap in this temple.” His bluntness encouraged me to always remember the importance of my body and to treat it with the high standards of a king’s palace. Veganism is just another way that one can treat his or her body in such a way.

 

Animal Welfare is a God-given duty

A last point that really piqued my interest was Christianity’s long history of caring for animals. The Bible tells us that “a righteous man regards the life of his animal . . . ” (Prov. 12:10a). Further, many accounts within Christian history reinforce this idea. There are claims that St. Francis of Assisi greatly loved animals and encouraged people to kindly care for them as well. The Christian politician William Wilberforce was an early pioneer in the animal welfare movement and was always concerned about legislation that dealt with the fair treatment of animals. Many believe that British theologian and apologist C.S. Lewis purposely ascribed significance to animals and speaking beasts in his beloved Narnia books in order to teach children to care for animals. In light of this, veganism further aligns with the principles of the Christian faith.

I must clarify one thing: I see no biblical justification for any claim that meat in and of itself is sinful under the New Covenant.

I do recall, however, that Paul had something to say about things being lawful but not beneficial (see 1 Cor. 10:23). I think meat is one of these things. It’s certainly not sinful but it may not be the best thing for us. And I’ll be honest, I sometimes find myself in phases where I eat enough meat-based products to not seriously consider myself a vegan. But I press on. I strive to live this way, not because of some weird hippie mentality or millennial trend, but because I think it is a better way to live. I think it honors my body, keeps me healthier, and prevents animal mistreatment.

So in the end, I trust my pastor is right. Veganism is biblical. It is certainly more biblical than I had anticipated it would be and I’ve come to see that Christians can undoubtedly be vegans. In fact, I actually think it makes more sense for a Christian to be a vegan than for anyone else to be one. This is my personal conviction, and I have no intention of forcing it on you or anyone else. I only ask that you ask yourself: is what I’m putting in my body good for me?

 

*“Veganism” traditionally refers to a lifestyle free of animal products. This includes animal free clothing, toiletries, and more. Today, many call themselves “vegan” when in reality, they merely adopted the vegan diet. I am referring to both groups here.