Going vegan for Lent

Pastor Heather Harding, City Road United Methodist Church
Feb. 28, 2014 @ 08:03 PM

Last year, in keeping with age-old traditions of fasting, I made the decision to eat a vegan diet, which means abstaining from any animal products, for the season of Lent. The practice of giving up something for Lent comes from identifying with the time that Jesus spent fasting in the desert for 40 days. Giving up meat and other animal products for the period of Lent presents this as a time set apart to make this offering to God.

Fasting and praying are time-honored means of spiritual growth, where we put aside our worldly desires to grow closer to God. I also found new reasons for reviving this practice. First, I read several books and watched documentaries about the way our meat is produced in factory farms and was horrified at the abuses of God’s beautiful creation that occurs in the way this is done now. While many small farms are ethical in their treatment and slaughtering of the animals, most of the animal products that we consume, including beef, poultry, pork and milk products, are produced in a way that causes extreme cruelty to the animals through the high volume business of corporate agriculture. Along the way, I also found that there are many health benefits to eating a plant-based diet.

I continued this vegan diet beyond the season of Lent and no longer have any desire to add animal products back into my diet. This has led me to a practice of caring for creation in a more compassionate way.

While I believe that the Bible gives us permission to eat meat and everything that God has provided for food, I also find that God gives very specific procedures for us to do this in a humane and ethical way and to respect the life of the animal. In the Garden of Eden, God commands a vegan diet for all humans and all animals. It is only after the flood that God allows the people to eat meat. This concession is made with the understanding that we will be accountable for the lives of the animals. My understanding is that God’s ideal is a vegan diet, but we have permission to eat meat, if we can do so ethically. Much like God’s concession to divorce. It was not the ideal, but he made a concession to it if certain conditions were followed.

So, how does a person make such a drastic change in their eating? To find ways to get enough protein and iron, a simple Internet search will turn up lots of plans for eating this type of diet. There are many vegan friendly products available here in Henderson. The easiest way to start is with substitutions. Try almond or soymilk instead of cow’s milk, plant based meat substitutions in the freezer section for sausage and soy crumbles to replace ground beef. Try veggie burgers to replace hamburgers, Tofurkey to replace lunchmeat, and have it on a sandwich with some fresh tomatoes, onions, and lettuce. Eventually this should lead to a healthier diet and a greater appreciation of the array of fruits and vegetables that are available and the sensation of new tastes and flavors that make cooking and eating exciting.

Some people think that God doesn’t care what we eat. I believe that God cares about everything in our lives, and wants all of creation — humans, animals and the environment — to be whole, happy and healthy. Think about a meatless Lent this year and give thanks to God for this beautiful world.