Christian Vegetarian News

There has been growing media coverage of the vegetarianism among Christians. Many articles have been inspired by the Christian Vegetarian Association's popular "Honoring God's Creation" brochures. Below are some recent articles of interest to CVA members, and other vegetarian Christians.

The Unforbidden Fruit
Cleveland Plain Dealer, October 2005

Interview with board member Stephen Webb, Ph.D.

Doctor Says Obesity Can Be Won By Asking `What Would Jesus Eat'

By Alexandra Alter
Religion News Service 8/12/03

If doctors had to identify the deadliest sin affecting Americans today, they would probably name gluttony as the No. 1 killer. As obesity in the United States reaches epidemic proportions, with more than 60 percent of adults weighing in as overweight or obese, public policy makers and health officials are scrambling over ways to improve the American diet.

But Dr. Don Colbert, physician and nutritionist, thinks the obesity crisis could be solved if Americans would pause before inhaling a super-sized fast food meal and ask themselves a simple question: "Would Jesus eat this?"

If it's loaded with saturated fats, sugar or artificial ingredients, the answer is no, says Colbert, whose recent book "What Would Jesus Eat?," combines biblical scholarship with conventional dietary wisdom. "The gluttonous spirit is deadly," he said. "I've seen so many diseases related to dietary excess, so why not go back to the owner's manual, the Bible,to see what Jesus ate?"

Jesus essentially ate a Mediterranean diet rich in whole grains, fish, fruit and vegetables and modest amounts of olive oil, meat and wine, Colbert says. Anything the Old Testament blacklists in its dietary prescriptions is out, including shellfish, pork products, horses, camels, birds of prey and other carnivores.

Colbert, a Mississippi native who studied for a year at a Bible college as well as training at medical school, said he wrote the book and its companion, "The What Would Jesus Eat Cook Book," both published by Thomas Nelson, after realizing that many of the fattest Americans are dedicated fundamentalist Christians. "Most people say, `Hey, it's important that I live a Christian life, but my body's not that important,"' he said. "They'll go to heaven, the only problem is, if they neglect their bodies, they'll go to heaven a lot faster."

With six new books in his Bible Cure series set to come out this fall, including books on combating cholesterol, diabetes and thyroid problems through diet and prayer, Colbert's Bible-based diet empire has expanded far beyond his private practice at the Divine Wellness Center in Longwood, Fla.

And Colbert's not the only Christian diet guru urging people to ask what Jesus would eat. Christian advocates of vegetarianism say if Jesus were alive today, he would maintain a plant-based diet out of compassion for animals. Others say Jesus would probably approve of genetically modified food, given his propensity for transforming and multiplying food. "He was clearly not against the need to alter and change food," said Arthur Caplan, chair of the department of medical ethics at the University of Pennsylvania, referring to Jesus' tranformation of water into wine and his multiplying the loaves and fishes.

Although there may be disagreement over what Jesus would choose given the option of a veggie burger, broiled lamb with garbanzo beans, or genetically modified corn on the cob, growing numbers of Christians are looking to the Bible for dietary guidance, hoping that Scripture might succeed where science has failed in inspiring healthy eating habits.

Dr. Stephen Kaufman, co-chair of the Christian Vegetarian Association, said he hopes more Christians will start making faith-based choices about what they eat. "There are a lot of people out there for whom diet is a reflection of their faith," he said. "We're taught to take care of our bodies, the temple of God's spirit, as Paul said."

Kaufman disagrees with Colbert's claim that Jesus would eat meat, arguing that although lamb and red meat may have been acceptable fare in Jesus' time, modern agricultural practices make meat an unhealthy dietary choice, as well as an immoral one. "Before factory farming, the Mediterranean diet that Jesus consumed was probably quite healthy," Kaufman said. "But we live in a different world, and few people get meat and other animal products from healthy, free-roaming, contented animals."

In coining the phrase, "What Would Jesus Eat Today?" in 1999, the Christian Vegetarian Association put forth a Christian argument for abstaining from meat, urging compassion for animals and citing Adam and Eve's vegetarian diet in Eden as the proof that God intended humans to be vegetarian. "We consider a plant-based diet to be a legitimate expression of Christ's witness," Kaufman said, adding that animal welfare is strongly emphasized in the Bible.

Other groups that evoke Jesus to promote vegetarianism go even further. "The biblical evidence that Jesus was a vegetarian is very strong," said Bruce Friedrich, vegan campaign director for the People for the Ethical Treament of Animals, which started holding up Jesus as a dietary role model in 1998 with its controversial slogan "Jesus Was a Vegetarian."

Some, however, say it's impossible to extract a dietary ethic from the New Testament, citing a lack of scriptural evidence. "No diet should invoke Jesus," says Russell Moore, assistant professor of theology at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky. "He nowhere universalizes his diet any more than he advocates wearing robes and sandals."

Calling the Christian vegetarian movement an "attempt to co-opt Jesus for left-wing animal rights propaganda," Moore cited Paul's letter to the Romans, which calls vegetarians weak, as proof that the Bible sanctions meat eating. Pushing a Mediterranean diet in Jesus' name is no good either, said Moore, who says serious Christians should avoid alchohol, even modest amounts of wine.

But although Jesus' eating habits may not offer up an obvious set of guidelines, any philosophy that will help Americans lose weight should be counted as a blessing, said Caplan, who also directs the Center for Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania. "Putting aside theology, if you can motivate people to eat better by saying Jesus ate a moderate diet, that's not a bad thing, even if the textual support isn't there," he said. "Getting someone to drop 20 pounds in the name of Jesus is not the worst heresy."


The Osgood File
July 2002

Some Christians say their vegetarian diet is an act of faith.

A growing number of Christian scholars and groups say their vegetarian lifestyle is biblically based and divinely inspired. They are writing books, forming organizations and publishing Web sites, saying that God never intended people to eat meat. They say one important piece of evidence is Genesis 1:29-30, which says that God provided Adam, Eve and all the animals every plant-yielding seed for food. This is a mighty break with some conservative Christian traditions, which put man in a position to dominate all other creatures.

Dr. Steve Kaufman, an ophthalmologist in Ohio, is one of a growing number of Christians who have chosen vegetarian lifestyles for religious reasons. But faith for Christians like Kaufman also means being concerned with the health, ethical, political and environmental issues that inform their vegetarianism. The Canton, Ohio-resident belongs to the Christian Vegetarian Association (CVA), a group that uses vegetarianism as a tool of ministry to reach out to non-vegetarian Christians. The CVA is actively spreading its message to Christians through their Web site and by attending Christian denominational conventions. CVA representatives actively engage denominational leaders about the importance of their vegetarianism message, which can be a tough-sell for Christians who traditionally celebrate religious holidays like Christmas and Easter with turkey and ham.

Kaufman says many Christians have never really thought about eating meat as a religious issue, which he says is rife with ethical and moral complications. While many people are familiar with the idea of Christian stewardship over the earth and its environmental overtones, he says fewer people connect Christian compassion with worldwide hunger. "In order to produce meat products for human consumption, we have to use an inordinate amount of precious resources to grow and fatten up our animals. Raising animals for consumption is much more resource intensive than growing crops, and the decision to use our limited resources to produce meat products instead of on those humans in need is a serious lack of Christian compassion. A lot of Christians seem to think that animals are outside the realm of concern. Even if you don't care about animals, there's still a very good reason to be a vegetarian: a concern for your fellow man," says Kaufman.

According to Stephen Webb, professor of religion and philosophy at Wabash College in Crawfordsville, Indiana, the link between Christianity and vegetarianism is nothing new. Before vegetarianism was "hijacked by leftists, who became dogmatic and absolutist" in the 1970s, the movement was closely linked to Christians and their principles as far back as the mid to late 19th Century. But during the late 1960s and early 1970s, vegetarianism and the animal rights movement borrowed the language of the civil rights and feminist rights movement. Because of vegetarianism's association with left-of-center animal rights activists, who were very anti-Christian, it was not warmly received by many Christians, says Webb. Vegetarianism's anti-establishment rhetoric, he says, "alienated Christians and the issue fell from the Christian radar." But now that the hangover of the 1960s has faded, Webb says Christians are rediscovering the connection between their faith and vegetarianism.

This story aired on The Osgood File on the CBS Radio Network.


Toward a Vegetarian Christendom
by Aren Roukema at


Vegetarians put faith in Jesus
The Observer

Americans seeking divine inspiration in the latest step of their quest for health, fitness and beauty are fuelling a growing demand for faith-based food - recipes based on what Jesus might eat if he were alive today.

The Washington Post
"God has rights over all his creatures." CVA founder Nathan Braun summarizes the scholarship on theos-rights, as developed by Andrew Linzey, an Oxford theologian who serves on the CVA Board of Directors.

Was Jesus Christ A Vegetarian?
New York Newsday
April 13, 2002

WHEN JESUS found himself surrounded by 5,000 hungry followers, the Bible says he turned five little loaves and two scrawny fish into a banquet for the masses. If he were alive today, would he rethink the menu?

In books, on Web sites and in scholarly research, some Christian scholars are using a new term: WWJE, or What Would Jesus Eat? It's a spinoff of WWJD, or What Would Jesus Do? Christian vegetarians believe Jesus would be a vegetarian today, citing a range of Scripture passages, from a Genesis account of the diet of Eden to the apostle Paul's admonition to treat the body as a temple.

"Jesus taught a ministry of love and compassion," said Stephen H. Webb, the author of "Good Eating: The Bible, Food and the Proper Love of Animals," who added, "It was love and compassion for all of God's creation." Webb, an associate professor of religion at Wabash College in Crawfordsville, Ind., heads the international Christian Vegetarian Association (www and describes himself as an "evangelical theologian."

Unlike members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, whose theology specifically prescribes vegetarianism, the leaders of the Christian Vegetarian Association come from a variety of Protestant and Catholic denominations with no doctrine on diet.

Webb's work is among a wave of recent books that explore the theology of a meatless diet. Among them are Keith Akers' "The Lost Religion of Jesus," J.R. Hyland's "God's Covenant With Animals," "What Would Jesus Eat?" by Dr. Don Colbert and Richard Alan Young's "Is God a Vegetarian?" Another is "Why Christians Get Sick" by George H. Malkmus, a former Baptist preacher who created the Hallelujah Diet, a kind of evangelical Christian weight-watchers program.

All the books launch their arguments with Genesis 1:29 when God presents Adam and Eve with the menu of Paradise: "I give you all plants that bear seed everywhere on earth . . . they shall be yours for food." God also gives Adam "dominion" over the animals, but Christian vegetarians would argue that God created them as Adam's companions and helpers, not as his supper.

What Jesus actually ate 2,000 years ago is a subject of debate among Christian vegetarians. Some argue that biblical passages describing Jesus eating and multiplying fish have been incorrectly translated through the centuries, with fish substituted for fruit.

Jesus likely ate fish as described in Luke 24:43, Webb believes, but in the context of factory-farming, environmental pollution from animal waste and rampant cancer and heart disease, Jesus would turn to a vegetarian diet.

"In some parts of the world, humans need to eat meat to survive," he said, "but not in America. We eat meat to satisfy our taste." To abstain from meat, Webb said, is an act of Christian self-sacrifice, part of a long tradition of abstinence and fasting in the name of faith.


The Chruch and the Animal Movement: The Beginning of a Revolution?
by Marianne Arbogast. This article from The Witness magazine explores the rapidly growing interest in vegetarianism among Christians.
Christians spread word about vegetarian diet
by Mary Maraghy, Times-Union [Jacksonville] "If Jesus were alive today, he'd be a vegetarian." So say members of the Christian Vegetarian Association who are trying to persuade their fellow believers to give up meat and show compassion for God's creatures.
Veggie Vows
by Allison Kennedy, Columbas [GA] Ledger-Enquirer "It's definitely a stewardship issue, or having respect for and being connected to all life," said Chris Lancaster, a member of the Unitarian-Universalist Fellowship. He and his wife, Ericka Hofmeyer-Lancaster, are devout vegetarians, and are teaching their two children about the benefits of foregoing meat.
Dinner with Jesus: Pass the Tofu? (Evansville Courier Press*)
(SCRIPPS HOWARD) "According to the Bible, Jesus turned five little loaves and two scrawny fish into a banquet for the masses. But some Christian scholars think if he were alive today, he might rethink the menu." Features an interview with Dr. Stephen H. Webb, CVA's distinguished chairperson. *(This article has appeared, under slightly different titles, in over 30 newspapers nationwide.)


Bible scholar encourages meatless faith (The Register Guard)
(AP) "Thanksgiving serves as a national myth about the salvific power of meat," says evangelical Christian theologian Stephen Webb...
"It's more about our gratitude for the stuffed turkey than for the variety and abundance of food options God has given us."
Vegetarians Say Be Christlike, Don't Eat Meat (Salt Lake City Tribune)
John Dear, a Jesuit priest,... argues that people who support killing animals and fish for food aren't living up to the compassionate or merciful qualities that Christians are asked to embrace.
"The question we Christians have to ask ourselves is how can we become more Christlike and more faithful to the nonviolent Jesus? ... We need to understand that if we're eating meat, we are paying people to be cruel to animals."


The lion shall dwell with the lamb (Seattle Post-Intelligence)
[A] biblical standard for leadership is that a leader shall make the world safe, or at least safer, for the vulnerable, for the lambs, calves and children.... [D]oes the rule of the jungle, might-makes-right, prevail? Or do justice and righteousness prevail and make for a peaceable kingdom? ...
Today the vulnerable include not only human beings but animals, plants and the Earth itself. Orcas and elephants, streams and salmon, require leaders to speak for them and laws to protect them.... [C]onsider Isaiah's criteria for leaders: protection of the vulnerable, making the world safer for the least powerful, taming the lions so that the lambs also have a chance to live.
On Letting Chickens Strut Their Stuff (
by Richard Mouw, president, Fuller Theological Seminary
Chickens aren't people, but neither are they nothing but hunks of meat.... God tells human beings to exercise "dominion" over the rest of creation (Gen. 1: 28). But that does not give us a right to do anything we want with non-human life. The New Testament teaches that "all things were created" both "through" Jesus Christ and "for" Jesus Christ (Colossians 1: 15-17). It is important, then, that we honor the divine purposes in our dealings with the non-human creation. Dominion is not the same as domination. The old fashioned term is that we have been made "stewards" of the world that God made. We are care-takers. This means we must take care in the way we treat the animals. *Dr. Mouw was recently interviewed by The Atlantic Monthly for his important role in the opening of the evangelical mind, within which the CVA hopes to participate.
Evangelicals Embrace Vegetarian Diet (Christianity Today)
Features Hallelujah Acres, a "health ministry" founded by CVA Board Member, Rev. George Malkmus, author of Why Christians Get Sick and God's Way to Ultimate Health.
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