Wrestling With Ethical Food Choices

Wrestling With Ethical Food Choices October 12, 2011

I’ve always been a fan of the philosophy that if God had meant for humans not to eat meat, it wouldn’t taste so delicious. Mostly I like that perspective because I’ve grown up eating some kind of meat my entire life. But lately I’ve started to wonder if there’s a Biblical basis for vegetarianism.

In my more conservative Christian days, I hard all kinds of justification for the exploitation of the world’s resources as we see fit based on the idea that God granted us “dominion” over all of creation. Since then I’ve heard this interpreted less as free rein to utilize animals, vegetation and mineral resources for our own gain, and more as a charge to be responsible stewards, or caretakers.

Given the latter point of view, one could see how the case could be made that eating animals is not proper stewardship. One also can argue that being a carnivore goes against the commandment not to kill, as it is not specific only to human beings. I’ve joked before that perhaps this also applied to plants, and that a good Christian is safe as long as they eat dairy products, but otherwise they’re screwed.

This is taking it a little far of course, but where is the line? Some suggest that it’s acceptable to kill another living thing as long as it’s for food. So what about cannibalism? And if that’s not okay, but eating other animals is, why? Is it because we have souls and they don’t? How are we so sure?

I think the best argument against vegetarianism among Abrahamic faiths come from the kosher laws of Judaism and the halal laws of Islam. While both promote guidelines for ethical and hygienic treatment of animals, neither promotes a meat-free diet.

I’m not exactly ready to give up my turkey meatballs or chicken burrito bowls just yet, but it raises a lot of questions for me about the morality of food in general. This includes not just what we eat, but how we grow it, harvest it, ship it, and who goes without enough while we have surpluses rotting in silos and on store shelves.

And is junk food a sin? How about excess, and when do we cross that line? How about excess sodium? Saturated fat? Refined sugar? The answers to these questions will vary as widely as the people offering them, but it’s worth a conversation. And as a culture principally built on an economy of consumption, our conclusions could be not only life-changing, but world-changing as well.

"Thanks for a fun romp. As a Presbyterian minister, I would have welcomed you gladly ..."

Leaving A-Holiness Behind
"Dear Sarah and Christian,I'm sorry for what has happened to you and your mother and ..."

Letter From a “Demon Possessed” Woman

Browse Our Archives