Vegetarians in the churches

Jesus in the temple (Greco)

Many times vegetarians and vegans ask the question, “is there a Christian church, group, or denomination, which it makes sense for me to join?” For most of us, the answer to this question is “no.”

Vegetarians in the churches are not numerous.  The few existing Christian vegetarians are mostly interested in health.  Most Christians (even most Seventh-Day Adventists), if they think about it, would say that Jesus ate meat or at least fish. To say that it’s wrong to eat meat would condemn the founder of the religion. So what’s an ethical vegetarian or vegan to do?

We care about this issue for several reasons.  Christianity is the dominant religion in our culture.  Most people answer questions about basic values through recourse to religion, and in our culture this means Christianity. Most committed vegetarians think of their diet as a reflection of their beliefs about the sacredness of life. Christians constitute about 3/4 of population of the U. S. and Canada.  If we are to have a vegetarian world, we will need to deal with the churches at some point, even if it is only to oppose Christianity.

We care, also, because we need to do what the churches should be doing, and aren’t.  We have a huge environmental crisis which literally could wipe out all life on earth through a runaway greenhouse effect.  With peak oil and resource depletion, we have hit the “limits to growth.”  Yes, we need to go vegan, but we need even more than that.  We need to limit population, stop consumerism, drastically reduce use of fossil fuels.  We need something really big; our society, our culture, and our way of life need to change.  Where are the churches in all of this?

How can we promote such a consciousness revolution?  Forget, for the moment, about creeds, organizations, and church politics.  How would we do this?

We could join a Christian church, and then persuade everyone else in that church to go vegetarian.  However, on purely practical grounds this is not likely to work.  If you are a committed, ethical vegetarian you will be in a small minority, and most of the people in any church will reject your fundamental values.  The church is likely to support “charities” like Heifer International, which are actually engaged in work to promote livestock agriculture.  You will be expected to tithe and give a substantial portion of your income to support an organization that rejects your basic values.  Even if this church tolerates your vegetarianism, every meal at the church is going to be a problem.  Church dinners will typically give you a close-up look at animal corpses and secretions.

There is no logical contradiction here, as long as you can find a church that tolerates your food practices.  But there is an existential contradiction.  Sure, you can play the martyr and stay in a church that doesn’t support your basic values, but why?

The rejection of vegetarianism by the churches has nothing to do with the religion of Jesus, by the way.  It is an outcome of the struggles in the early church.  Jesus disrupted the animal sacrifice business in the temple, an act of animal liberation (Matthew 21:12-13 and parallels).  Jesus, James his brother, and all the disciples, were vegetarian and taught vegetarianism. These early Christians also believed in simple living and nonviolence. But I don’t see a practical way to promote these ideals within the church.  If we are going to promote such a consciousness revolution, we need to go outside of institutional Christianity.

How do we get to this consciousness revolution? I would welcome anyone’s ideas on this point.  We can speak about it, talk about, and manifest it in our lives.  At some point institutional Christianity will likely come to its senses, sit up, and take notice.  But for most of us, joining a Christian church is not the best way to further this process.

18 thoughts on “Vegetarians in the churches

  1. Larry Manchel

    Sadly you are correct. Church events incorporate animal foods. Unhealthy practices contribute to cloudy and corrupt thinking. You are correct, holding to our Christian principles and maintaining our vegan ethics leaves us lonely and without friends.
    Thank you for your comments.
    God bless,

    1. Keith Akers

      I have plenty of friends, and even some in churches. But I find them through vegetarian / vegan groups. I probably could find vegetarian friends in churches, but it’s more trouble than it’s worth, based on my personal experience and that of others.

  2. Michelle Montminy

    I always said that I am vegetarian because I am christian. Even more after having read The Lost Religion of Jesus. And truly I feel very much alone in my Church. Nobody I know understand my feelings, and nobody has ever heard about a vegetarian Jesus. Those I talked to find me very “exotic”, and even foolish. I have come to stop explaining my point of view. It’s no use.

    1. michael v

      i think jesus or as i call him YAHUSHUAH(his real name).iesus means “hailzeus”.google it if u dont believe me.HE didnt come here to start a religion(christianity).that is saul or pauls idea.the messiah came to renovate the minds of the lost and replant his fathers doctrine back in to the world. religion divides,kills and anialhites truth.who else duz that?O YEAH SATAN…WAKE UP PEOPLE..REPENT….

  3. Steve Bastasch

    I suppose the only real solution would be to start forming “Ebionite” home churches where vegetarianism is assumed. This is, of course, not very pragmatic, as we know so little about how the Ebionites ran their liturgy and exactly what were all the scriptures they rejected as issuing from the lying pens of the scribes. There is also the issue whether or not non-Jews could even be Ebionites without some prior, at least minimum, conversion to Judaism – albeit an extremely sectarian Judaism whose features are defined within Ebionite boundaries. As far as I’m aware, the Noahide Covenant that James – at least according to Acts – recommended for Gentile converts permitted the eating of animal flesh, while avoiding food offered to idols. So although the idea of a modern Ebionite “church” would be one way to settle in comfortably with fellow vegetarians, creation of such a group seems nearly impossible.

  4. Jason Lundy

    This is a good topic. The truth is that we should seek out the truth. That is the answer for all problems.

    If the leader of the church is preaching incorrect doctrine, then he is not speaking Gods word, which is unlimited, but from his own limited understanding. Therefore, we should seek out one who is knowledgable in practice (devotion) and philosophy. Such was Jesus, and those who follow him. Just because people label themselves Christians doesn’t make them Christians. And just because someone stands at a pulpit, doesn’t make him chosen, or sent.

    If a person preaches killing animals unnecessarily, they are preaching lust, not love. Because it is the lust of the tongue, which they cannot give up. Truly Jesus taught thou shalt not kill. He taught non violence, even in the face of violence. There is no interpretation necessary, except when something is not clear. The new texts have changed it to thou shalt not murder. Because that fits what they think is right.

    The correct way to know what is right is to hear from God’s chosen / sent. To hear from scripture. And to hear from God in your heart. There are many scriptures to support that one needs Gods messenger. You shall not see Jesus until you proclaim blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Likewise the Saint Elihu speaks of 1 in a thousand who finds a ransom. And Saint Paul speaks of this also, referring to himself.

    Because people today reject the first, they are left to their own limited ability and therefore their philosophy and devotion is not complete. Full of confusion yet despairing, they go through the motions of accepting the man at the pulpit, but in most cases he is not entering, nor permitting others to enter the kingdom of God.

    The solution is to sincerely pray for God for help, and then recognize when he gives it. Ask and ye shall receive. To find the true church of Jesus Christ, one must find a perfect follower (disciple) and learn from him. It is a great start to avoid animal eating, and I praise you who do so.

    Further I recommend meditating on the name of the Lord, Christ – Christos – Jehovah, day and night that you may become perfect and happy. God bless. Aloha.

  5. Kristina D

    I don’t know. As a Christian and a vegetarian, I feel that vegetarianism is a reflection of my values whereas Christianity is a reflection of my spirituality. I also feel that these are two different things that intersect in some areas.

    Jesus was the first social activist, after all…

    It reminds me of this video I recently came across– it’s a cute little song about how Jesus and his followers actually Occupy Jerusalem.

    Anyways, here it is:

    Which, it has a point.

    1. Keith Akers Post author

      Interesting music video! And, yes, I agree — Jesus didn’t die for our sins. My thought is that what provoked “Occupy Jerusalem” in 30 CE wasn’t just that some people were buying and selling, but that some were buying and selling animals to be sacrificed. “In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers at their business . . . he drove them all, with the sheep and oxen, out of the temple . . .”

      A few questions for you, are you currently in a church? May I ask which one, and how the other church members handle your vegetarianism (and you, their nonvegetarianism)?

      Also, how do you separate your values from your spirituality? Isn’t the one the source of the other, or are these basically different realms?

  6. gordon carr

    I am of like mind with what Keith Akers thinks but with a caveat, namely how are we to change the thinking of carnivorous Christians if we do not mix with them. There are often opportunities as in meetings or services when one may publicly put the vegan case, decline to partake or give to unethical causes. Is it difficult? Of course, in ten years at the Salvation Army Corps where I attend one person has become a vegan, is that worth it? Yes emphatically yes.

  7. The Church Of Vegan Religion

    Veganism has branched of into a religion with the first church located somewhere in New Orleans.

    Its members subscribe to only two fundamental beliefs: 1) There is a God and 2) God is vegan. Furthermore, the belief system is also referenced to modern academic studies that aiming to prove that humans are not natural carnivores.

    That alone, qualifies its members for vaccination exemptions.

  8. Laura

    I’m a new vegan and do not understand why churches do not promote compassion over killing or question is pain and suffering for pleasure acceptable. One day, I pray that the churches do what Jesus did and become activists against cruelty to animals.
    Animals are not ours to eat, wear, experiment on, use
    for entertainment, or abuse in any other way.
    People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals
    Read more:

    1. Monika

      I get so depressed thinking of the torture on these innocent animals..which are GODS creation.. We are also Gods creation..but who are we do say that another creation doesnt deserve to live.. How can people preach compassion but support the torturing of animals???? Yes the slaughter houses would close down if there was no demand..I am so happy I found this blog.. I thought I was the only person who believes that being a vegan is my beliefs and I believe that as Christians we are to be vegan..

      1. Monika

        Can anyone with a heart who calls themselves a christian walk through a slaughter house..slip on the blood..hear the screams or terror and see the suffering . . . and say this is Gods will???????? How is it that people will not face the reality that eating meat is murder.

  9. David Martin

    There is a very nice organization called Christian Vegetarian Association. While it is no substitute for a church community, it does supplement what a congregation does by providing support to those of us who practice vegetarianism as part of spiritual journey. Here’s the URL:
    We can’t really exclude meat-eaters from our work/social lives, and we can’t (and really shouldn’t either) exclude them from our spiritual lives, but we can find at least a little support from other like-minded Christians online if not always in person.

    1. Keith Akers Post author

      The CVA is an excellent organization and I am a member. I might also add that since I wrote this post (over two years ago), I’ve come in contact with some more local Christian vegetarians and I’m hopeful that perhaps some small “house churches” will someday soon spring up that will emphasize Christian vegetarianism. Of course Christian vegetarians tend to be of varying denominations and outlooks (evangelical, liberal / progressive etc.) so it’s still a challenge even when everyone’s a vegetarian, but it’s a start.

  10. Seth Brooker

    If only we had a church of truth. I’ve been reading over the Hebrew version of Genesis and feel that God or the holy spirit has opened my eyes to the truth. From birth we are raised to believe it’s OK to eat meat and fooled. Satan or Hades or devil what ever that fallen one’s names is has done a good job in deceiving us. King James twisted his translations and the basic command thou shall not kill has also been twisted as well. I just hope that God has seen that I have realized I opened my eyes and forgives me for my earlier years of meat eating. Even Jesus his teachings have been twisted I reconnect last week with the holy ghost asked for direction and I felt a great sadness and heard my feelings say your OK keep doing what your doing. I keep asking for direction how to show others what I see but I also keep hearing the same reply why bother it’s far too much to change the way someone thinks if there set in their ways. Especially if it’s the masses. I just hope that something happens soon to wake man’s eyes up.

  11. Seth Brooker

    My story. I was diagnosed with diverticulitis about 3 years ago. Not a nice desease to have at 37 years old. I was told they don’t know for sure what causes it but they believe it’s to do with western diet. I resources and resources and finally looked to my faith for awnsers and came across contedictiins in the English bible and old and new testiments. And then a thought came over stop eating meat and find your health again I even found out that in science it was found what we had humans are engineered as vegetarians not carnivaws. Since I have decided to just eat veg I have not been in as much pain I can feel my health rebuilding its self. I feel that I been touched by the Devine and shown a path. Not an easy path as I will find that most shops and supermarkets just caiter for the meat eaters only. But no one said life was going to be easy. Again please correct any bad spelling before publishing my statements thanks

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