This is Day Five of my week-long devotional for the 7-Day Vegan Challenge. You can read about why I’ve undertaken this break from all animal products here. Each day I’m posting a short devotional because my decision to go vegan is informed by my faith, my interpretation of the Bible, and my ecotheological ethics. On this fifth day of the challenge, I consider that “the unexamined meal is not worth eating.” That may be true. But my 7-Day Vegan Challenge has uncovered the multitude of sins I commit in trying to eat a healthier, meat-free diet. Is it a no-win situation?
[What’s the 7-Day Vegan Challenge? Find out here.]
I made a beautiful, colorful pot of vegan chili. But the tomatoes, beans, onions, and spices were likely harvested by migrant and undocumented workers exploited, abused, and underpaid. Not to mention the sins of monoculture, GMOs, herbicides, pesticides, and fossil fuels for transport that all make for a meal that is less ethical than I had hoped.
If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9If we confess our sins, God who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:8-9)
As soon as I posted my first blog piece about my decision to undertake the 7-Day Vegan Challenge, I received a comment about how much plastic was displayed in my “Vegan Table” picture, so that my vegan choices were still hurting animals and the environment.
She was right. So I resolved to purchase items with little or no packaging next time I went to the grocery store. But the task was virtually impossible. The produce aisle is the only place where I can use my own bags and avoid any packaging. All other products except canned goods involve plastic of some kind. My sin of plastic consumption seems unavoidable.
When I posted that I use almond milk, someone pointed out to me the sin of this environmentally negative choice. Too water intensive, too many fossil fuels used to transport the product, too much pesticide use that kill bees.
Another friend pointed out the sin of my fruits and vegetables picked by slave-wage laborers means that I would need to cut out bananas, strawberries, blueberries, broccoli, asparagus, lettuce . . . the list goes on.
It seems I’ve fallen down the rabbit hole of ethical eating. Every choice reveals yet another problem with our food system. The more I learn, the more frustrated I become. It’s no wonder most people choose blissful ignorance by turning a bind eye to their menus.
So what’s the solution?
It seems that in order to avoid sin in my food choices, I would have to only eat local, organic foods available in season. I live in Kentucky, so we have robust farmers markets through the warm months. And I do plan to buy a share in my local CSA co-op farm (Community Supported Agriculture) next year. But the fact is that my family and I are dependent on a food system that is largely beyond our control. I already work more than full time to support my family, so there is simply no time to do canning. Or plant and maintain a garden in our small yard with enough vegetables to support a family of four. I’m beginning to feel like what I do will never be enough.
Yesterday was lament. Today is frustration and confession. So when I go to church this morning and speak these words that begin the Lutheran worship service, they will take on a new layer of meaning for me.
Most merciful God: we confess that we are in bondage to sin and cannot free ourselves. We have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done and by what we have left undone. We have not loved you with our whole heart: we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. For the sake of your Son, Jesus Christ, have mercy on us. Forgive us, renew us, and lead us, so that we may delight in your will and walk in your ways, to the glory of your holy name. Amen
Leah D. Schade is a professor of preaching and worship and author of the book Creation-Crisis Preaching: Ecology, Theology, and the Pulpit (Chalice Press, 2015). She is an ordained minister in the Lutheran Church (ELCA).