Eating Meat by Jonathan Safran Foer has been on my to-read list for over a year now, but I haven’t brought myself to actually borrow it from the library knowing that I’d probably be hesitant to touch a steak again if I did. But then a friend wrote an article called Serving the Lord at Supper, and I recently clicked on the link and read it because that’s what friends do, little supposing that it would be the thing that made me hesitant to touch a steak again. I emailed it to my husband with the subject line “Become a vegetarian or people will DIE,” which sparked a fearful but decisive conversation between us about our family’s need to eat far less if not zero meat in future, and from then on we... Well, we went along on our merry ways pretending that we’d never seen the article or decided to move towards becoming vegetarian-ish. We’re both extremely skilled at denial and pretending to forget things that bother us, which is perhaps one reason we‘re still in the process of marriage counselling.
But a move to a new place seems like the perfect opportunity for a move to new ways, and it’s somewhat reassuring to know that we’re in a better position to start our eat-less-meat project than other vegetarians we know of, seeing as we actually like eating vegetables and legumes. I can salivate just as easily over a well-described vegetarian meal as a meaty one. My son is bananas for kidney beans and I have to stop him from taking bites out of the raw broccoli in the trolley at the shops. My husband was raised with tofu and has been obsessed with Red Lentil Loaf since we tried out the recipe last year. We’ll have options. And we’re not planning to go cold tofurkey, for adjustment and health reasons (though I used to have iron levels “like a boy’s” (as a nurse at the blood bank once described them), in recent years they’ve slipped closer to the anaemic end of the iron-level spectrum. I’d prefer to keep them as manly as possible, so I plan to find out more about good beef).
Back to the article I mentioned: I’ve had conversations with other Christians in which we’ve both/all agreed that it’s soooo hard for us to look different from the world these days, and my emphatic nods and “Hear, hear”s have been sincere. But even then I knew, as I know it now, that I can spend far less time and money on myself than I do, and I know that I can give far more to those in need. (As a long aside, it seems that even those pressed for time seem to make it to a Bible study group each week; perhaps Christian guilt-trips would be better aimed at how we’re doing at loving our neighbours rather than how many churchy gatherings we’ve attended – after all, “Religion that God our father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world” (James 1:27). If our Bible studies aren’t one of the key things driving us to get out and live more like Jesus amongst the needy, what’s the point of them?)
Looking different isn’t hard because I can’t think of things to do to look different, it’s hard because I lean towards being self-centred and unwilling to make sacrifices for other people, particularly those who can be easily avoided and therefore ignored as I gad about, enjoying my wealthy and privileged life. I take God’s gifts and treat them like they’re wages, like I deserved to be born into this land of plenty and therefore should be allowed to use the good things I’m blessed with for my own pleasure and entertainment (giving a little here and there to Compassion and CMS, of course, like a good Christian). I hold on too tightly and am slow to let go of things I should be sharing around, and I hate this about myself. So I’m trading some of my beef for beans and some of my chicken for chick peas as a starting point in my effort to better marry my faith with my daily life, in part because Rachel’s article revealed yet more ugliness in me that needs to be starved, and in part because Jesus’ story in Matthew 25 (verses 31-45) scares me:
When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.Then the King will say to those on his right, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?”The King will reply, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”Then he will say to those on his left, “Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.”They also will answer, “Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?”He will reply, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.”