Vegetarian option

Better a meal of vegetables where there is love
     than a fattened calf with hatred.
(Proverbs 15:17)

Somehow I’d failed to read this properly back in June – though that didn’t stop me commenting on it at the time (*blushes*) – but Chris Atwood had an excellent post over at HWS on early Christian vegetarianism.

Vegetarianism among Christians had its roots (no pun intended) in a number of factors: the example of Daniel and his companions, concerns about meat sacrificed to idols, as well as a general emphasis on a frugal and abstemious lifestyle which also featured teetotalism and abstention from sexual relations.

I particularly enjoyed the quote from the fourth century Spanish Christian poet Prudentius, who describes all the foods given by God (“birds ensnared in cunning traps, fish caught in nets and on rods, the rich crop in grains, the vine, the olive, milk, honey, and the fruits of the orchard”) before going on to say:

All this abundance is in the service of Christ’s followers and supplies their every need. Far from us be the appetite that would chose to slay cattle and hack their flesh to make a bloody feast. Let tribes uncivilized have their savage meals from the slaughter of four-footed beasts: as for us, the leaves of greens, the pod that swells with beans of diverse sorts, will feed us with an innocent banquet.

While I personally have some sympathy with the bumper sticker described by Dave H which said, “If God didn’t intend for us to eat animals then why did he make them out of meat?” :-), my wife is a vegetarian, and I won’t hear a word said against vegetarianism. (Nor have I any patience with those who claim to be vegetarian, but then happily eat fish, chicken, bacon, sausages, steak, etc.)

My wife is also a superb cook, who proves that Prudentius is right on the money with his assertion that “the leaves of greens, the pod that swells with beans of diverse sorts, will feed us with an innocent banquet”, though frankly it sounds like Prudentius could have done with a slightly more imaginative range of vegetarian recipes if that’s all he was getting to eat. Perhaps I’ll be able to get my wife to cook for him in the new heavens and the new earth.

Anyway, when you combine this with my recent series of posts about Christian anarchy (1 | 2 | 3 | 4), it’s interesting to be reminded of this important strain in early Christianity that is often airbrushed out of church history: one characterised by vegetarianism, anarchism and pacifism. (Plus all the men wore sandals and had beards – aargh! They were Guardian readers! It brings a whole new meaning to the phrase, “liberal Christian”…)

Even if we decide that those early Christians were mistaken to think that the faith required them to take these positions, it still does us good to have our conceptions of the early church widened in this way. And it’s a useful counterbalance against those Christians who try to argue that vegetarianism is some kind of New Age/neopagan innovation that is forbidden to us as Christians (such as the former Conservative minister John Gummer, who, when he wasn’t force-feeding burgers to his daughter in a doomed attempt to allay fears about BSE, argued that vegetarianism was “wholly unnatural”).

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28 Responses to Vegetarian option

  1. Craig says:

    Are you a vegetarian as well? I guess if your wife does all the cooking you are by default…
    Please continue to promote vegetarianism – more meat for me…

  2. Craig says:

    Are you a vegetarian as well? I guess if your wife does all the cooking you are by default…
    Please continue to promote vegetarianism – more meat for me…

  3. Craig says:

    Are you a vegetarian as well? I guess if your wife does all the cooking you are by default…
    Please continue to promote vegetarianism – more meat for me…

  4. Craig says:

    Are you a vegetarian as well? I guess if your wife does all the cooking you are by default…
    Please continue to promote vegetarianism – more meat for me…

  5. Thomas says:

    Yes, we remember the ‘all things are lawful’ and forget ‘but not all are expedient/helpful/good’. It may also be a neurotic tick – ‘See, I really *can* do whatever I want! I’m earthy, I’m incarnational, I’m justified by grace!’ Oh well, the pizza’s here, gotta run…
    Peace.

  6. Thomas says:

    Yes, we remember the ‘all things are lawful’ and forget ‘but not all are expedient/helpful/good’. It may also be a neurotic tick – ‘See, I really *can* do whatever I want! I’m earthy, I’m incarnational, I’m justified by grace!’ Oh well, the pizza’s here, gotta run…
    Peace.

  7. Thomas says:

    Yes, we remember the ‘all things are lawful’ and forget ‘but not all are expedient/helpful/good’. It may also be a neurotic tick – ‘See, I really *can* do whatever I want! I’m earthy, I’m incarnational, I’m justified by grace!’ Oh well, the pizza’s here, gotta run…
    Peace.

  8. Thomas says:

    Yes, we remember the ‘all things are lawful’ and forget ‘but not all are expedient/helpful/good’. It may also be a neurotic tick – ‘See, I really *can* do whatever I want! I’m earthy, I’m incarnational, I’m justified by grace!’ Oh well, the pizza’s here, gotta run…
    Peace.

  9. And I was starting to wonder if I was the only conservative Christian who considers vegetarianism a good and Biblical thing. Regardless of your take on the early chapters of Genesis, it’s still in the text that in the early chapters people weren’t permitted to eat meat, and it wasn’t til after the flood that meat was permitted as food.

  10. And I was starting to wonder if I was the only conservative Christian who considers vegetarianism a good and Biblical thing. Regardless of your take on the early chapters of Genesis, it’s still in the text that in the early chapters people weren’t permitted to eat meat, and it wasn’t til after the flood that meat was permitted as food.

  11. And I was starting to wonder if I was the only conservative Christian who considers vegetarianism a good and Biblical thing. Regardless of your take on the early chapters of Genesis, it’s still in the text that in the early chapters people weren’t permitted to eat meat, and it wasn’t til after the flood that meat was permitted as food.

  12. And I was starting to wonder if I was the only conservative Christian who considers vegetarianism a good and Biblical thing. Regardless of your take on the early chapters of Genesis, it’s still in the text that in the early chapters people weren’t permitted to eat meat, and it wasn’t til after the flood that meat was permitted as food.

  13. John H says:

    Are you a vegetarian as well? I guess if your wife does all the cooking you are by default…
    No, but I do get to eat meat about once or twice a week at home – eg if we have a barbecue – and in my sandwiches for lunch each day, and I always head straight for the dead stuff on the menu when we eat out. And my wife cooks meat for our sons – it’s not like she won’t touch the stuff, or won’t have it in the house.
    But the fact is that we eat such a wealth and range of wonderful vegetarian food that I don’t miss meat at all on a regular basis.
    WeekendFisher: thank you for the reminder about the order of events in Genesis. Another aspect is that eating meat is temporary. We won’t do it in the new heavens and the new earth, when the lion is lying down with the lamb.
    Of course, we won’t be doing a lot of other things that are good and proper at this time – marrying and giving in marriage, for example. But it’s still true that eating meat is in the nature of a temporary expedient (albeit a pretty delicious expedient ;-)), and indeed contemporary western levels of meat consumption are pretty unusual by historical standards.

  14. John H says:

    Are you a vegetarian as well? I guess if your wife does all the cooking you are by default…
    No, but I do get to eat meat about once or twice a week at home – eg if we have a barbecue – and in my sandwiches for lunch each day, and I always head straight for the dead stuff on the menu when we eat out. And my wife cooks meat for our sons – it’s not like she won’t touch the stuff, or won’t have it in the house.
    But the fact is that we eat such a wealth and range of wonderful vegetarian food that I don’t miss meat at all on a regular basis.
    WeekendFisher: thank you for the reminder about the order of events in Genesis. Another aspect is that eating meat is temporary. We won’t do it in the new heavens and the new earth, when the lion is lying down with the lamb.
    Of course, we won’t be doing a lot of other things that are good and proper at this time – marrying and giving in marriage, for example. But it’s still true that eating meat is in the nature of a temporary expedient (albeit a pretty delicious expedient ;-)), and indeed contemporary western levels of meat consumption are pretty unusual by historical standards.

  15. John H says:

    Are you a vegetarian as well? I guess if your wife does all the cooking you are by default…
    No, but I do get to eat meat about once or twice a week at home – eg if we have a barbecue – and in my sandwiches for lunch each day, and I always head straight for the dead stuff on the menu when we eat out. And my wife cooks meat for our sons – it’s not like she won’t touch the stuff, or won’t have it in the house.
    But the fact is that we eat such a wealth and range of wonderful vegetarian food that I don’t miss meat at all on a regular basis.
    WeekendFisher: thank you for the reminder about the order of events in Genesis. Another aspect is that eating meat is temporary. We won’t do it in the new heavens and the new earth, when the lion is lying down with the lamb.
    Of course, we won’t be doing a lot of other things that are good and proper at this time – marrying and giving in marriage, for example. But it’s still true that eating meat is in the nature of a temporary expedient (albeit a pretty delicious expedient ;-)), and indeed contemporary western levels of meat consumption are pretty unusual by historical standards.

  16. John H says:

    Are you a vegetarian as well? I guess if your wife does all the cooking you are by default…
    No, but I do get to eat meat about once or twice a week at home – eg if we have a barbecue – and in my sandwiches for lunch each day, and I always head straight for the dead stuff on the menu when we eat out. And my wife cooks meat for our sons – it’s not like she won’t touch the stuff, or won’t have it in the house.
    But the fact is that we eat such a wealth and range of wonderful vegetarian food that I don’t miss meat at all on a regular basis.
    WeekendFisher: thank you for the reminder about the order of events in Genesis. Another aspect is that eating meat is temporary. We won’t do it in the new heavens and the new earth, when the lion is lying down with the lamb.
    Of course, we won’t be doing a lot of other things that are good and proper at this time – marrying and giving in marriage, for example. But it’s still true that eating meat is in the nature of a temporary expedient (albeit a pretty delicious expedient ;-)), and indeed contemporary western levels of meat consumption are pretty unusual by historical standards.

  17. Thomas says:

    It’s our Barbarian Ancenstry, you know – why them tribes what swept through the Roman Empire East And West were horrified to find a culture that subsisted MOSTLY on wine and grain (grain that hadn’t been fermented into beer). Of course, you have to admit that the Romans never smeared butter through their hair…

  18. Thomas says:

    It’s our Barbarian Ancenstry, you know – why them tribes what swept through the Roman Empire East And West were horrified to find a culture that subsisted MOSTLY on wine and grain (grain that hadn’t been fermented into beer). Of course, you have to admit that the Romans never smeared butter through their hair…

  19. Thomas says:

    It’s our Barbarian Ancenstry, you know – why them tribes what swept through the Roman Empire East And West were horrified to find a culture that subsisted MOSTLY on wine and grain (grain that hadn’t been fermented into beer). Of course, you have to admit that the Romans never smeared butter through their hair…

  20. Thomas says:

    It’s our Barbarian Ancenstry, you know – why them tribes what swept through the Roman Empire East And West were horrified to find a culture that subsisted MOSTLY on wine and grain (grain that hadn’t been fermented into beer). Of course, you have to admit that the Romans never smeared butter through their hair…

  21. Rick Ritchie says:

    Do you think the Proverbs quote is somewhere in the background of the Prodigal Son story? The second half seems to suggest what he has with the older brother around. The question then, would be, when does the first line occur?

  22. Rick Ritchie says:

    Do you think the Proverbs quote is somewhere in the background of the Prodigal Son story? The second half seems to suggest what he has with the older brother around. The question then, would be, when does the first line occur?

  23. Rick Ritchie says:

    Do you think the Proverbs quote is somewhere in the background of the Prodigal Son story? The second half seems to suggest what he has with the older brother around. The question then, would be, when does the first line occur?

  24. Rick Ritchie says:

    Do you think the Proverbs quote is somewhere in the background of the Prodigal Son story? The second half seems to suggest what he has with the older brother around. The question then, would be, when does the first line occur?

  25. John H says:

    Rick – don’t know the answers to your questions, but while we’re on the subject of the Parable of the Lost Son, Kenneth E. Bailey (whom our pastor admires greatly) argues that it is a retelling of the story of Jacob and Esau, only with the Jewish religious establishment put uncomfortably in the position of Esau, while repentant sinners take the Jacob role, in reversal to how people at the time would have been inclined to apply the original account.

  26. John H says:

    Rick – don’t know the answers to your questions, but while we’re on the subject of the Parable of the Lost Son, Kenneth E. Bailey (whom our pastor admires greatly) argues that it is a retelling of the story of Jacob and Esau, only with the Jewish religious establishment put uncomfortably in the position of Esau, while repentant sinners take the Jacob role, in reversal to how people at the time would have been inclined to apply the original account.

  27. John H says:

    Rick – don’t know the answers to your questions, but while we’re on the subject of the Parable of the Lost Son, Kenneth E. Bailey (whom our pastor admires greatly) argues that it is a retelling of the story of Jacob and Esau, only with the Jewish religious establishment put uncomfortably in the position of Esau, while repentant sinners take the Jacob role, in reversal to how people at the time would have been inclined to apply the original account.

  28. John H says:

    Rick – don’t know the answers to your questions, but while we’re on the subject of the Parable of the Lost Son, Kenneth E. Bailey (whom our pastor admires greatly) argues that it is a retelling of the story of Jacob and Esau, only with the Jewish religious establishment put uncomfortably in the position of Esau, while repentant sinners take the Jacob role, in reversal to how people at the time would have been inclined to apply the original account.

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