According to an article in "VegNews," this year’s annual, week-long Parliament of World Religions conference, which begins tomorrow in Toronto, will feature a vegan buffet. This will be the first time a fully plant-based menu has been offered in the event’s one hundred year history.
I am not a vegan. I am not even a vegetarian. In fact, I probably eat more meat than is good for me and for the state of the planet. I am not going to make excuses for this, least of all theological ones, as I try to be honest with other people and myself and I know full well that my reason for eating meat is that I enjoy it and, although I believe I should stop my carnivorous behaviour, I do not have the willpower to do so permanently. I did stop eating meat for a while when I was much younger and at college living on very little money, but I found the diet incredibly bland and texturally unsatisfying to the extreme. Almost immediately after getting my first post-university wage packet I was back to the corpse-crunching.
However, despite this, I am firmly convinced that eating meat is a bad thing to the point of being a sin and that vegetarians and, even more so, vegans are living more righteous lives than I am because of their lifestyle choice. One of the main reasons I cannot proffer a sound theological reason for eating meat is that it seems obvious to me that the Bible, especially the Old Testament, regards meat-eating to be a human weakness, tolerated by God but not approved by God. The writers of the Pentateuch believed that humans started out as vegetarians and became carnivores as their species fell deeper into sin. What is more, the sin of human beings seems, somehow, to have influenced the animal kingdom, many members of which also took up the killing of other creatures for sustenance. The prophet, Isaiah, is convinced, that the "heavenly kingdom" (what Christians regard as the coming Kingdom of God) will be a killing-free zone with even the most ferocious of wild beasts opting for the vegetarian option at dinnertime.
Whilst I was at ordination college I wrote an essay on animal rights from a Christian perspective. I stated that I believed one of the biggest sins that Christ died for so that we might be forgiven was that of taking another creature's life for the sole purpose of feeding ourselves. The lecturer who marked my essay gave me a pitifully low mark and wrote on the bottom that I should consider reevaluating my call to the priesthood because of my "heretical" views. But he was a nasty, little (literally) fundamentalist and, although upset at the low grade, I paid no attention to his diagnosis of my immortal soul.
I believe in the Kingdom of God and the resurrection of the bodies of all the creatures that have ever lived. Like Isaiah, I believe that in that resurrected world the wolf will dwell with the lamb and the leopard will lie down with the young goat and that no creature, human or otherwise, will cause hurt or destruction on God's holy mountain because when that day comes we will all be living as God truly wants us to live, living without death.