Illusions in America Today #4

I am fortunate to have a little earth mother friend in California who I love dearly. We are kindred spirits in vital ways, particularly regarding our passion for youth ministry. But, one issue separates us. She is vegan and I am an unrepentant carnivore.

I kid her about her diet, mainly because I am a wise guy and I tend to poke fun at people I care about. But to be honest, I respect her immensely. I also know that many of my dietary choices are not choices at all, but simply 50+ years of conditioning and bad habits. Discussing disillusions of America today, we must address our increasingly non-sustainable lifestyle and our hypocritical reverence for life.

The vegan issue recently arose in my church, followed by the strident and intemperate voices that always seem to surround the discourse. Like many other topics we Unitarian Universalists discuss, we often fail to allow people time to process the information, express their own points of view, and perhaps in time, come to agreement. Many people know far more about diet and nutrition than I do. But even the most ardent meat-eater must experience a twinge of angst at the industry surrounding the production of beef, chicken, pork, etc.

The cruelty of slaughterhouses and industrial farms does weigh heavy on my mind. I also recognize that the food I learned to eat as a child and to prepare as an adult is not the best diet for human health and well being. But, to me, to essential issue for Unitarian Universalists is life. If we affirm and promote respect for the interdependent web of all existence, then we must respect all life. That commitment calls on us to stop extinguishing billions of lives each year to sustain a diet that is not healthy or sustainable.

The answer is at least vegetarianism, and eventually a vegan lifestyle. I will be the first to admit, this choice will be hard for me. But, my little earth mother makes a mean vegan brownie and delicious cookies. So, maybe she can help me learn to like tofu and edamame beans on my pizza, too.

P.S. Right on the ball, my friend sent me this article from the January 27, 2008 New York Times, titled “Rethinking the Meat Guzzler.” I’m not moved by some of the arguments, but there are enough different approaches to the subject that I imagine any carnivore will experience some discomfort.