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
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
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
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
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
This story aired on The Osgood File on
the CBS Radio Network.
Toward a Vegetarian Christendom
by Aren Roukema at canadianchristian.com
Vegetarians put faith in Jesus
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
.christianveg.com) and describes himself as an "evangelical
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
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
- 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
- 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
"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
"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 (Beliefnet.com)
- 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.
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.