At the beginning of the year, I decided to stop eating meat and meat products. I have some experience with this from my days in graduate school (it was more of an economic decision then!), but I was still going into this new year / new eating pattern with the full understanding that it’s very hard to change patterns even if it is 1/1 on the calendar.
Yes, we are humans and we are organic animal beings that are meant to include meat and animals in our diet (and yes, I consider fish, shellfish, etc as part of the animal kingdom).
I want to explain why, as I’ve gotten a good number of questions about my decision. As an aside, the most contentious conversations I’ve had about my “theological eating” has been with more conservative Christians who, at first blush, deny the reality of concepts such as evolution, but are quick to point out that our species became who we are because of meat consumption…but that’s for another post).
I call this whole eating style “theological eating” for me. That’s corny and pretentious and a little ostentatious. But it reminds me of why I’m doing it. Merianna and I (and MH and Laura) are big “animal people” in that we are outnumbered by our animal co-habitators in our home (including a recently acquired tortoise that will outlive me and costs more to maintain than I do every month). I’ve always been very empathetic with animals going back to childhood.
I’ve also been very compelled to examine my own use of resources and materials. I’ve been terrible at the follow through, but I always had a huge amount of guilt when I ordered a Big Mac or a steak at Outback or bought a discounted slab of chicken breasts at Ingles or Bi-Lo. Part of that guilt was because of the animals themselves and my far-removed connection between their probably not-so-great life and death and my own plate. Part of that also has to do with the economic system that we perpetuate by exchanging our dollars for meat “grown” in such a manner. Part of this has to do with the realization of the advertising machine that corporations put into marketing their products to children, adults, and the elderly. Theologically, I can’t be honest with my own faith if I don’t address a very core issue of both the suffering of probably cognizant beings as well as my own participation in an economic system that I don’t support because of a story about a man who lived a long time ago.
I’m also using one small bowl (a bowl I “borrowed” from Wofford College in 2000… promise I’ll return) and one utensil (an awesome titanium spork… yep!) for most of my food intake at home.
This isn’t just about meat, either (but oh boy is it difficult to find good kosher vegan cheese…whew). I’ve also started heavily examining products such as cereals, grains, sugar, water…even beer that I put into my body and pay with my money. I’m extending this to areas such as how I buy tech gadgets (people that know me know that I spend a good deal of time, money, and attention on those), books, music, appliances etc. For the past year, I’ve pretty much worn the same “outfit” (as Merianna calls it) everyday of an awesome black shirt with a pair of slacks and brown shoes. When one cannot be mended anymore, I buy a new one (happened just this week and I had to get a replacement). Thoughtful and deliberate consumption, if you will. I’ll call it “theological eating.”
The unexamined life might not be worth living, but the examined life is not a walk in hippy park, either. I’m not making this lifestyle choice in order to make you feel bad about ordering a #2 at McDonald’s or plopping down $12 for a steak at Applebees, either. This isn’t out of disdain or judgement. We all walk our own path and mine is not for anyone else or better than yours (probably worse).
We live in an amazing period of our species’ existence. It probably won’t continue on some progressive curve upwards, and we should realize and enjoy our fortune of being born in such a time. That involves enjoying the resources around us.
Nevertheless, I feel like I need to be more deliberate about my choices, and that’s why I am hopeful this is the right path for me.