May 18, 2008

where's the beef!

This weekend, we are hosting students from Bluffton University in Ohio. Our resident health expert and amazing cook, Brooke (my lovely bride) has been preparing meals for the group. Yesterday, we had vegetarian, pita bread sandwiches (w/ hummus, carrots, cucumber, sprouts, pepper and garlic) for lunch. Last night, we had vegetarian burritos (beans, rice, corn, squash, peppers, salsa and fresh guacamole). Today, we will have spinach lasagna for lunch. These midwestern folks, with many of the boys built like semi-trucks, have not been so pleased with the vegetarian diet. They crave beef!

The food has been delicious and I think most have enjoyed it after they stopped wrinkling their noses. But it exposes a trend in American diets that simply has to change. Last night, we were able to begin leading the students towards understanding why we must change how we eat. Our house is not strictly vegetarian. Most of us eat some meat. But because of cost, environmental impact and even spiritual/theological conviction, we eat as little as possible. We typically don't buy it but will eat some when served it. The video below sums it up in ways I won't come close, so just watch this. It will be a very worthwhile 20 minutes.

12 comments :

Randzig said...

I'm interested in a Christians reasoning for being a vegetarian...ever posted about that before?

Jason said...

Randzig,

The Christian Vegetarian Association (http://www.all-creatures.org/cva/) has some good information. I am not proposing total vegetarianism, although I do applaud those that choose this. As far as "Christian reasoning" for this goes, here's a few things to consider that come to my mind:

1) We are told in Scripture that our bodies are a temple of the Holy Spirit. Most Christian Americans eat WAY more meat, meat products, preservatives, etc. than their body really needs–or knows what to do with. Because of our diet, we see in the U.S. HIGH numbers of obesity, diabetes and various forms of cancer. Way more than in other parts of the world. All of those diagnoses can be attributed to diet. So, if our bodies are gifts from our Creator and temples of the Holy Spirit, shouldn't we take better care of them?

2) We serve the Creator of ALL creation, and the way we eat in America is destroying creation. Scriptures show an immense reverence (not worship) of the natural world. Why don't we? If Americans cut down down on their meat intake alone it would greatly impact environmental degradation, therefore more wholly honoring God and gift of the natural world to us.

3) Some of Jesus last words are to go into the world and make disciples of all nations. Are eating habits in the West actually insure that people in the southern hemisphere starve... you can't accomplish the Jesus' commission if they all die before you get to tell them about Jesus first can you?! If Christians in the West would change their eating habits and by this effect the way the rest of the West eats, we could curb starvation in other parts of the world.

Bottom line, the Bible does not make it clear that we can't eat meat. Some may disagree. But with the state of the world today, I think there is certainly a Christian ethic that we should respond with that effects, for one thing, how we eat in the West.

Does that help?

Randzig said...

Yeah that makes sense. My opinion is a little different but I can see why you would think what you are thinking. I quickly glanced over the website...

In point #1 to a large extent it sounds like eating in moderation is what your going for...which is good obviously.

I had never heard #3 before. It kinda makes me feel bad for...eating. Not sure I'm to a point where I can be that committed to justice. I'll have to pray about that. I think awareness is beneficial and after having read your point I'll be more sensitive to how "the west" eating habits causes starving for others. Realistically I can see how the common American would say that is ridiculous.

I actually thought you might explain why Christians shouldn't eat scavengers or something like that(you know shrimp,pork...) Ever heard of that?

While I respect and will contemplate your points further I can't help but think of native people and how they ate meat(not nearly as often as we do but they did eat it). They only took what they needed and harvested in a way that they could keep coming back year after year. So I'm not arguing your points but just stating that it might be a little different posture than what you briefly stated.

Its funny I even asked because this weekend I will be smoking a brisket! hahaha

Joel Shenk said...

Hey Jason - I've been busy but Emiley told me you posted about the Bluffton group so I wanted to make a quick response.

It's crazy, but both this year and last year it seems like the issue of not eating meat at every meal (let alone complete vegetarianism) is one of the biggest "cross cultural" barriers for the students to overcome. Perhaps this is a topic we can incorporate more into future trips.

Joel

Jason said...

Joel,
Yes, you are probably right than we need include that.

Randzig,
As far as your struggles with point number three goes, it doesn't really matter whether most Americans think this is ridiculous or not. It's factual. We use tons of grain to feed livestock consumed in the West that could be fed to starving humans. Most Americans consume way more protein than their bodies need. So, this is an easy one. Just eat less meat.

Yes, I've heard of the "shrimp and pork" thing. Not sure what you're getting at.

Your point about Native Americans is a great one. I don't disagree with this. As I've said in this post and comments, I'm not arguing for total vegetarianism. I'm simply saying that we need to consume LESS. Native Americans were much more resourceful with the animals they killed for sustenance. The current factory farming industry is far from the resourcefulness of the indigenous people. Only the best cuts are kept and the rest tossed.

joel said...

"It's factual. We use tons of grain to feed livestock consumed in the West that could be fed to starving humans. Most Americans consume way more protein than their bodies need. So, this is an easy one. Just eat less meat."

It's factual? Really? We use tons of grain, therefore, people in other countries are starving, thus, by eating meat we are 'ensuring' that others starve to death -- thereby creating a provender barrier of the great commission. There are no other Governmental issues that are worth considering? Starvation isn't a confluence of various geopolitical and local political policies, in addition to climate issues, and so on? While there may in fact be subtle nuances that lead from one conclusion to the next, for that statement -- or collection of statements -- to prove some sort of eating meat/poor country starvation causality, i'm going to need actual literature that backs this up; some sort of linear argument, because that reads like hyperbole in order to prove your point.

If we are to take #3 seriously, by the logic in that paragraph, it's vital that you delineate every single eatery that need be avoided, as well as the foods that could be considered genocidal, followed with a new kind of christian dietary plan. Because it's these types of pinpoint quantifiable statements with a vague back door that weaken the very thing you're suggesting.

All this to say, i'm growing wary of the seemingly constant barrage of heavy laden verbiage regarding the Christian lifestyle with nothing substantive to back it up. Saying it's factual as your point of argument isn't enough, this point was a big one with far reaching ramifications that, if true, needed to be backed up with some facts and figures, or it just seems like trite liberal embellishments. Because if we assume that everything suggested as true is simply by the tenor of the post, we'd believe quite a bit. You are someone who has an extensive knowledge about a great many things so if this is near and dear to your heart, back it up.

Jason said...

Man, Joel. You are just so better at arguing than I am. I want to be like you. Really.

joel said...

thank you?

Randzig said...

I'm not interested in this argument. I feel like I brought up a valid point and it was basically neglected which caused a backlash by Joel.
So in all honestly with no intention of caring to argue I really do think that it is an inaccurate assumption that if we all started eating less meat the corn used to feed cattle would be redirected to starving people. I see no reason to assume that a corporation would put money into grain farmers to feed starving people as opposed to feeding cattle to be slaughtered for profit. As noble as the idea is, it is ridiculous. Now, I'm not trying to come down on your point other than just to say I don't think its likely going to happen.

All I was getting at about the "shrimp and pork" thing was that I thought maybe you didn't eat those for spiritual/theological reasons. I should have explained that better. Thought maybe there was something in there I could have learned.

I love the justice meals idea. I'd like to hear more. Remember when you go to do this some might be thinking a little more along these lines.
http://www.texasobserver.org/article.php?aid=2564

Randzig said...

FInaly got to watch the video...screw the arguing...the video is great!

Jason said...

Didn't mean to shut you down, R. Just trying to post a fairly quick comment and make my point. Sorry it came off that way. Debate is good. I was giving Joel a hard time. Joel is honestly much better at it than I. Gotta run.

brad brisco said...

Excellent video. I decided that I was going to try to go one month without eating any beef or pork, just to see if I could do it. After a month I found it was as difficult as I thought it would be, I had lost a few pounds, and overall felt better. So I decided to give it another month, then I decided to shoot for a whole year . . . well that was 25 years ago and I have never felt better.

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