February 17, 2011

Does It Matter What Christians Eat?

Today the refounding of the world after the Flood and the covenant with Noah come around in the lectionary. I didn't preach the first reading at Mass this morning, but nonetheless it's a passage I think about sometimes, mainly from the perspective of nutrition.

It is with God's covenant with Noah that human beings receive divine permission to eat animals (excepting the blood.) Our antediluvian counterparts, in the generations from Adam to Noah, were only given the seed-bearing plants and fruits to be their food.

Christianity, then, seems to be beg a dietary question: if our redemption in Christ is the work of restoring the original justice prior to the fall of our first parents, is not the antediluvian diet more appropriate to us than the post-Noachic? In other words, shouldn't Christians be vegans?

Of course, on the other hand, God declared animal food clean in Peter's vision and then commanded Peter to "slaughter and eat" (Acts 10.) Jesus himself is said to have declared all food clean. (Mark 7:19, et al.) St. Paul teaches strongly that food is not a constitutive, but only relative, concern in the Kingdom of God (Romans 14.)

For me, at least on purely theological grounds, by which I mean scripture, it's a question I've never been able to resolve.


Ad Abolendam said...

Monastic diets (going back to the 4th c.) were almost entirely vegetarian. I've often wondered if the reason why is that it's an attempt to "get back to the garden" - There's a Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young earworm for you.

I've tried to cut out some meat as a part of my own ascesis, and also for health and environmental reasons, but I have not been very successful. I blame part of this on the Mrs. ;-)

for narnia said...

i can see why this is a difficult question to resolve, Fr. C. but, for me, personally, i would say that it's a good thing for Christians to be vegans. i'm not a strict vegan, although i think i'm headed toward being one. (i eat swiss cheese and egg whites) but i don't eat any meat, poultry or fish and i do not drink milk (don't like it) and am not crazy about most dairy products, so i pretty much stay away from most dairy stuff.
isn't there a Scripture passage where someone (David or Daniel, i think) was given a diet of pretty much vegetables and another feasted on rich foods and in the end the vegetarian was the one who was stronger and healthier? i remember hearing a story like this somewhere, but don't remember if it was from Sacred Scripture or not. PAX! ~tara t~

Brother Charles said...

We have finally had the conversation about spirituality and nutrition that we had said we would have!

ben in denver said...

If you are interested in a serious Christian's lived experience with food and nutrition, you may want to take a look at my wife's blog. She posts a good deal about food. Though we are not vegans nor vegitarians, we do try to eat naturally. Some modern industrial farming techniques are truly violations of the dignity of the animals that make up so much of our diet.

Her blog is dyno-mom.blogspot.com

The most recent post is not about food, but rather about a terrible tragedy some friends of ours endured this past week(please keep the Little family in your prayers), but there is a lot on food as you look through the history. But again, her approach is not theological one but rather one of the sort of realtionship to food that a lived catholic traditionalism leads to.

ben in denver said...

This entry moved me to do some google searches to see just what it was that you were talking about.

Other than the footnote in the NAB that the antediluvians were strictly vegitarian, even all of the animals, is this interpretation found elswhere in the tradition? I must admit that it is new to me.

It begs the question of what Abel was tending flocks for if no one was going to eat them, and how he would have known that a fat lamb would make a better sacrifice than the skinny one if he himself did not know that the fatter lambs tasted better?

Brother Charles said...

Abel is indeed a funny monkey wrench in my exegesis.

Viator Catholicus said...

Perhaps another aspect for our American society is the great waste of meat. Per capita we probably eat more meat than any other people, yet we don't need to. Moreover, we throw so much away. This means that many beasts die uselessly. (I'm not animal rights supporter for philosophical and theological reasons, but I am against cruelty and causing animals to die in vain.)
On the other hand, I think the NT verses you cite show that the redeemed - yet still imperfect state of humanity - makes carnally eating flesh something good and useful. Perhaps it reminds us to crave spiritually the Flesh of our Lord and keep the connection with the death and shedding of blood as nourishing us and sustaining us.