We must be clear that the wages of sin is always death; but everything that kills isn't always immediately lethal. And even the harm sometimes isn't visibly apparent until it's too late. Our animal-based diet is the perfect example of how our desire for instant gratification in money and stuff trumps reason and human decency.
Our "food" is killing us. And the food industry knew that a long time ago. Books like The Omnivore's Dilemma or farmer/activists like Will Allen and Joel Salatin like spoke out a long time ago. The WHO's report is another volley to the front pages of websites and newspapers that will soon be wiped away with sleek ad campaigns and well-compensated health professionals that will say in too many syllables "keep eating what you want, we can't really prove that there are consequences". The chief problem is that massive food companies like Kraft, Cargill, Nestle and McDonalds make more money than they ever have so they will never tell us the truth. The truth doesn't earn compound interest, lead to better quarterly earnings, and certainly wouldn't raise consumer confidence. So, unfortunately, much like the disposable clothing and electronics industry that exploits millions of workers around the world and commercial sexual exploitation that commoditizes vulnerable women, men, and children, we will choose profits and pleasure over people and the planet to fill our insatiable need for more.
When my father-in-law was diagnosed with cancer, my family researched every form of treatment possible. Doctors and documentaries agreed on a few things but not many, so certainty on treatment was hard to find. And when my mother was diagnosed with cancer a year later, the search for options other than chemo was even more frenetic. Ultimately, my mother and father-in-law passed away from the cancers that overtook their bodies. But something that my mom said to me after she read Forks Over Knives, The China Study and began to eat differently was, "why would people do this if they know it makes people sick. It's just cruel." And it is cruel, isn't it?
Isn't it cruel that ranchers had Dorothy Stang, a nun who defended the poor and indigenous people of Brazil, killed so that they could burn down millions of acres of forest per year to make more room for cattle ranches unchallenged?
Isn't it cruel that farmers, scientists and activists willing to ask hard questions of the massive food industry are stripped of their livelihoods and threatened with violence and lawsuits? All of this in an attempt to protect the profits of rich and powerful people who intend to use their power to become richer still.
It boggles my mind how much money goes into lobbying senators and representatives, crafting custom legislation, and prime time advertisements to keep us hooked on sugar, salt and fat at the cost of billions of lives around the world and the planet we all inhabit.
It is a lie that we need to drink cow's milk to have healthy bones. It is a lie that we need meat and dairy are necessary to have a complete diet. Aaron Simpson, Sammy Ray Foxworth and Serena Williams seem to be doing just fine.
It is a lie that men must eat tons of meat to be more masculine. Sammy Ray does CrossFit professionally and Sammy Ray is a pro-MMA fighter so I don't think any of us would question their manhood.
l believed all of these lies and more but as I began to lose weight, sleep through the night, not have gas after eating, have regular bowel movements, get clearer skin, and more I realized that eating meat and diary wasn't helping me, it was harming me. I am now in better physical health than I was in high school. And can own the sins I committed and those done on my behalf that have detrimental effects on people and the environment. And it is confession and repentance that presses me to pursue stewardship and push hard against the tide of consumption because I believe we were made for much more than this.
Romans 1 says that we will create new ways to sin against God and one another and isn't that exactly what we have done? Where we don't care who or what is hurt down start of our actions as long as we are protected, profitable and don't have to "see" the person, animal or environment that is destroyed because we couldn't say "no" to a sirloin, porterhouse or pork chop. Lord have mercy.
Praise God that His commission to us in Genesis is still our commission today. To flourish, work, rule and create to seek shalom, peace between all relationships. Not to dominate, deplete, degrade and destroy creation to suit our own gains. Actions and reactions that go against the purposes for which we were created are sin; so we will pursue that which is fixed on God's original intentions and His redemptive ends. That includes the food we buy, prep, cook and eat!
We must take stock of the clear difference between the offers of God and all other propositions. Jenny Craig may give you practical steps to change your diet but God is giving you an invitation to transform your life and the lives vulnerable plants, animals and people. Instead of organizing our lives around ourselves, orient ourselves around Christ, His love and His sacrifice to love and sacrifice likewise that all people and the planet around us may flourish. Romans 14, where we help one another not to stumble is more gracious than Weight Watchers; and stewarding Local*, Green*, Organic*, Fair* and Free* food and resources is not just sustainable, it's the participation in the shalom that God intended in the first place.
Now if you just read this and you're like, I love burgers though Jonathan! Please know, I love burgers too! Especially burgers with cheese.
I just have to ask myself, "am I willing to live with the consequences of my continued exploitation of the planet and people for my immediate benefit but to the detriment of my physical health?" And sometimes the answer is yes. That is where I believe we must be gracious with ourselves and those around us and grateful that we even have the choice to eat what we want when we want it. And then, start again to do the sanctifying work of stewardship that God has called us to. In 2011, things began to change and today, almost 4 years later, meat and dairy are almost completely gone from my diet. Here are some resources that helped me along this journey. I hope that you will take the invitation to personal, relational and systemic transformation seriously and slowly eliminate animal products from your diet because you actually don't need it.