Friday, July 24, 2009

Vegetarian Manifesto

I felt compelled to write about my vegetarianism in the middle of reading the book Irresistible Revolution, which is a fantastic book every Christian should read, but it brought up some things that I want to speak to in this blog, because it's about oppression and ridicule and I think that it is the job of this blog to speak to those things.

Since becoming a vegetarian, I have been persecuted for THIS choice MUCH more than for my choice to shave my head.

I started this blog to discuss the whole - shaving head thing and how I believe doing that was a step God wanted me to take, a step necessary to my development as a Christian woman, and what I am learning through that experience. I realize now that while I feel a lot of pain due to my choice to shave my head, a lot more ridicule has come through my choice to stop eating things with faces.

I've been accused, directly or indirectly, of choosing vegetarianism because it is trendy. I've been told I'm going through a phase. I've been told I'm greedy because of my choice - that I'm elevating myself above others. I've been made fun of for not eating meat a lot. Much of it is in fun, and I don't mind that kind, but there is a lot underneath that is said spitefully, as though I am a "bad Christian" because of my vegetarian choice.

First of all, for me, and this does not in any way speak for any other vegetarian, so please don't take it that way, vegetarianism is a calling. It is not a choice. Did I CHOOSE to do it? Certainly. And consciously - but so does the called pastor choose to pursue his or her calling, and the called doctor, and so on.

I feel compelled to write on this subject now, because lately I have felt more "picked on", so to speak, than usual, and because the book I'm currently reading contributes to that, and I feel like it's a mess.

In the book, the writer talks of his life living with those in poverty, of joining them where they are, and how he feels that we are all called to this form of social justice. I am excited by this. I agree with him. In the book he also takes a stab at buying organic, veganism and vegetarianism saying that he eats what's given to him. He'll eat whatever is free. There is no organic market where he lives, in one of the most poverty stricken areas of Philadelphia. I understand this. I think it is necessary where he is. How bigoted to tell the person who has made you a free meal when you cannot afford to buy one that you don't eat meat and they should take it back. If I were in his position, I would eat whatever was free as well. But the fact is. I am not.

I live in the suburban wasteland. Whether right or wrong or whatever, I am here RIGHT NOW. We don't buy organic. We can't afford it. But something we CAN afford, and something that even saves us money, is eating vegetarian.

Our friends, when they bring us meals, are more than able to bring us vegetarian food. We don't live in the ghetto right now. We live in a townhouse in a VERY wealthy area of Southern Maryland. Especially in terms of the world.

Are there poor here. Yes. There are. Many. As there are where wealth is in general. Do I believe our wealth steals from others. Yes. I do. I believe in everything in the damn book, but I also believe that where I am right now - this is the right thing for me to do. This is the GOOD thing for me to do.

I don't understand how people who live in nice homes in nice little neighborhoods who recycle and talk about doing all they can to save the environment are also not vegetarians. It's really hard for me to wrap my head around. People who talk about social justice...have they not seen the film Fast Food Nation? Which while a fictional account is so wrapped in truth it's hard for me to describe. Who works in the slaughterhouses? It's certainly not the nice lady who shares a townhouse on my row. She'll buy the meat made there, but God forbid she should have to think about what actually goes on to put that meat on her table.

Would we who say that I am selfish for giving up meat, one of the SMALL things I feel like I am actually doing right at the moment, works side by side with the illegal immigrant who is yanking the intenstine from the dead cow? Can we, as Christians, really say, that in my situation it is okay for me to buy meat made at factory farms?

Don't get me wrong. You got your meat from a local farmer who treats his or her produce well, that's a different thing altogether. Could we still save money and lives eating vegetables? Yes. Especially buying local. I think buying local is awesome. I don't do it right now. There are a lot of reasons for that, but I wish I did. I wish there were a lot of things I did, but my life only allows for so much right at this second. I understand why Paul and Jesus say it is better to be single. Having a family adds a whole new dimension to living out the Christian Way, and I don't think there are many books out there about that. Lots of single people. Not many families. I'd like to change that. I am working on it, but right now this is my contribution, and I am scorned for it.

When I quit my job and our income was literally cut in half, I thought I might have to give up my vegetarian lifestyle. Come to find out, it was MUCH cheaper to stay veg than to switch to meat. Meat costs about twice as much as the vegetable subsitute for it. And with the grain we feed to all of the factory cattle, how many mouths we could feed!

I have nothing against farming in general. My mother grew up on a farm. I have a healthy respect for the industry, as long as it is not treated as a factory. As long as animals are not kept in a stall their entire lives and then slaughter with no respect and dumped onto a cutting room floor.

One of my best friends lives on a farm and works one. This isn't some sort of rant against him or his family or what they are doing. I think that farming is super important.

I also understand that Jesus ate meat.

Of course he did! He took what was given to him. And factory farms didn't exist. I don't think that in today's world we can look at that part of Jesus's life and say that because Jesus ate meat it's okay for me, in my financial state, in my house, with my husband's job, to say that I should then eat meat.

Is this some call for everyone to go veg? No. But it is a plea that when someone decides they are no longer a vegetarian that everyone not come to me and proudly proclaim it like it is some higher calling to which I should aspire. It is not. I can do nothing in such cases but look back at you. I don't know what to say.

When I told my parents I was veg, they told me, literally, to please not tell anyone else in the family, because they didn't want to offend them. They told me to be discreet at Thanksgiving, so no one would notice that I didn't take turkey. I'm still not sure why it's such a big deal. Why it matters. To me it feels like guilt.

I told my dad if he went out to the woods and shot a turkey that I would eat it, but he hasn't managed to do that yet (he's a hunter), and so I don't eat the turkey at Thanksgiving.

I have nothing against anyone who is not a vegetarian. I am not sure the truth on the matter, but I don't feel right now everyone in suburbia, with plenty of everything, is called to vegetarianism. I don't look down on those who eat meat. I have no problem with it or with them or seeing it or smelling it or any of it. I prepare meat for my own children, which is a completely other blog. I do, however, have issue with those who talk passionately about buying fair trade, which I honestly can't afford. Or those who talk passionately about not buying clothing made in sweatshots, or not shopping at Walmart, and yet look down on me for my choice to stop eating meat.

I buy my groceries at Walmart because I cannot afford to buy them elsewhere. Period. My family gets most of their clothing from there for the same reason. I know, I should go to the Thrift Store, but I'm not putting this out here to be judged more. I'm not trying to judge anyone else. But I do want to say, that I'm not veg because it's fun. I'm not veg because it's "cool" or trendy, or whatever. I'm vegetarian because I am called to it. By God. In my current life situation, nothing else makes sense.

Maybe all this oppression for what I choose not to put on my plate should make me happy. You know what, it sort of does. It upsets people. It makes them uncomfortable. It gets them thinking. Maybe I shouldn't have put this blog out at all. As it says in the book, he's hoping to get some angry letters, because if people just take it in and say nothing back, then he's on the wrong track. Christianity is supposed to stir people up. Piss people off. It got Jesus crucified. My little rant about vegetarianism is truly nothing. But I feel it is an important nothing at least as far as the value of a statement goes. And I felt compelled this morning to explain myself. If you're angry about it all, then that is good for me. And makes me happy. Jesus told us people would be pissed off when we chose the right way. So rant away.


Pete said...

Great post!

I'm surprised you've had so much flak about it. Vegetarianism isn't anything new, and everyone who picks the lifestyle seems to have a different reason for it. Your reasons are sound, so why all the crap? People don't make sense sometimes.

For myself, I find it incredibly difficult to imagine a diet completely without meat. I do eat vegetarian a few dinners a week (thank God for Asian spices). And as much as possible we shop for local meat at nearby farm markets.

By the way, I thought I'd add a few links to farm market searches:

- USDA search
- Local Harvest
- Search for "farmers markets" with your state or metro region included in the search terms.

Thanks for posting, veggie head! :D Please do keep writing and sharing.

Carrie said...

Interesting post. Some things you say definately resonate with me. I have made serious changes to the food that comes into my house over the past 4-5 years. I love to buy local, and it is accessible here, and sometimes affordable if I am creative and willing to eat what is in season. (local meat is still out of our budget though!)

I have heard many interviews from the makers of Food Inc, and would like to see it. Im sure you would ben interested as well.

I cannot believe you have experienced negative reactions to being vegetarian! How obsurd. I would say maybe 1/5 of my students are vegetarian, and I have never seen any of them ridiculed or attacked for the choices (whether its their personal choice or religious) Now, growing up in the same area, I can imagine getting a similar reaction from my family. Perhaps the next time someone gives you a hard time, it will be an opportunity for you to educate someone :)


Missy said...

Thanks much for your comments, friends!

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