by Vince Tucker, VLCE, MVE

posted Dec 15, 2020

I was raised as a fundamentalist Christian. I was also raised to eat animals. Our family typically celebrated Christmas with either a turkey or a ham as the centerpiece of our meal. It was a happy way to end the Christmas season, a time to promote good will and to celebrate the birth of our proclaimed Prince of Peace. As a dedicated vegan, however, I can no longer reconcile celebrating the birth of Jesus by dining on exploited animals. Isn’t this truly a contradiction in values?

Woody. Photo credit: Vince Tucker

In the Genesis creation accounts, Adam is surrounded by animals. They were his companions. He named his animals in the same way that we name our pets. God created humans and non-humans to live in peace.

Just like Adam, Jesus was also surrounded by animals during his birth. This beautiful parallel gets almost no attention from Christian apologists, authors, and pulpits across America and around the world. If the savior of the world spent his first days surrounded by animals, and the first human was also surrounded by animals, then perhaps God is trying to tell us something.

Photo credit: Vince Tucker

In the Genesis creation accounts, God created seed-bearing plants and saw that they were good (Genesis 1:11-12). With scientific enlightenment, we have discovered many comprehensive benefits to eating a plant-based diet, especially one made up of primarily whole plant foods with minimal processing. This is the essence of eating from the Garden of Eden. This Edenic diet provides optimal nutrition to fuel our bodies, prevent disease, and promote healthy body weight. By contrast, while we can receive some nutrients from animal-based foods, consuming meat, eggs, and dairy products present myriad obstacles to maintaining health. God designed our bodies to extract maximum health benefits from plant-based foods. Science provides strong evidence validating the Genesis account of the original Divine blueprint for eating. 

Helen. Photo credit: Vince Tucker

I was taught to be a disciple of Christ by giving up my life for others. I was also taught the doctrine of the Trinity, proclaiming that Jesus was the Incarnate Deity. If Jesus lived a life of self-sacrifice, and God the Father is the Giver of Life, then why do most Christians fail to examine our cultural acceptance of taking the lives of animals for food?

The short answer to this question is because we eat almost subconsciously. We were introduced to solid food before we were able to speak or reason. Our choices were made for us before we had significant cognitive ability to make a conscious choice. By the time we were able to understand where our food came from (and who our food was), our style of eating had already been normalized in our minds and hearts. At that point, our ability to objectively comprehend our food choices from a spiritual perspective had been severely hindered.

Photo credit: Vince Tucker

There are other aspects of Jesus’ life that are worthy of examination within the context of food and animals. For example, there is strong evidence that Jesus was an Essene, a branch of Judaism that ate a plant-based diet and opposed animal sacrifices in the Temple. Would this add an animal rights component to the story of Jesus driving the money changers out of the Temple for selling animals for sacrifice? 

Few expressions of faith bring me greater intimacy with God than my vegan lifestyle. Eating whole plant foods brings me to my Edenic roots. Volunteering at my local animal sanctuary resonates with the Gospel accounts of the birth of Jesus.

Photo credit: Vince Tucker

Animal agriculture promotes unconscionable violence, environmental degradation, and chronic disease. Plant agriculture provides healthy food that is better for the earth and does not promote systemic animal violence. Jesus stated that many will find the wide path of destruction and few will find the narrow path to life (Matthew 7: 13-14). We cannot find that narrow path without first examining our choices for food. This Christmas, may we celebrate the Prince of Peace by leaving animals off our plates. And for the new year, may we resolve to take the narrow path that leads us back to the Garden. 

 

Photo credit: Vince Tucker

Vince Tucker is a Main Street Vegan Academy Master Vegan Lifestyle Coach and Educator and holds a Certificate in Plant-Based Nutrition from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies at eCornell. He works for the Educated Choices Program, teaching middle and high school students in Kansas City and surrounding area counties about how their food choices impact personal health, the environment, food scarcity, and animal welfare. Vince earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Broadcasting and a Minor in Speech Communication from Northwest Missouri State University and is currently studying Lifestyle Medicine for Coaches through the American College of Lifestyle Medicine and Health and Wellness Coaching through the Mayo Clinic. He is also studying for his personal trainer certification through the American Council on Exercise. Vince enjoys volunteering at Shy 38 Inc. animal sanctuary near Kansas City. He is also an on-call writer and editor for the Agricultural Fairness Alliance, the lobbying arm of the Vegan Justice League.

Vince is a member of the Interfaith Vegan Coalition. As a member of the IVC, Vince supports the producer and director of the interfaith vegan documentary, A Prayer for Compassion, in the development of the Compassionate Living Circles (CLCs). The CLCs are structured to support faith communities in adopting a vegan lifestyle. Vince coordinated the first ever screening of A Prayer for Compassion in Kansas City. (Email for more information about the Compassionate Living Circles.)

8 thoughts on “Food and the Narrow Path: A Vegan Perspective on Celebrating Christmas”

  1. For Vince Tucker:
    I too was brought up a fundamentalist Christian. Your article could have been written by me. I had ham or turkey on the dining table in my youth. It took a lifetime for me to become a vegan.I am a senior citizen and will be celebrating 4 years as a vegan in March 2021. I want to thank you for your article. Keep up the good work!!!!!

    1. Willis, it is so inspiring to hear that you made the connection in your later years. It is never too late. You are challenging me to find ways to “vegangelize” people of ALL ages. I was already considering a secondary career in healthy aging based on six pillars of healthy living, which include moderate exercise and a plant-based diet. Your comment has deepened that resolve, so I want to thank you. I have no doubt that you are reaping both physical and spiritual benefits from your lifestyle change.

    1. Diana, may I recommend the book The Lost Religion of Jesus by Keith Akers. He examines modern Christianity broadly, within the context of ethics rather than theology. Akers asserts that which Jesus’ taught pacifism, simple living, and a vegan lifestyle, which is consistent with his Essene origins.

  2. Hi Vince – well written and researched article. Violence is never good and violence against living creatures cannot equate spirituality that in any way resonates with what I believe is of the truth. People argue with me about animals in the Bible, giving examples of all the huge numbers of herds, animal sacrifices, the sacrificial lamb…who ultimately was Jesus. I think that people try to justify their position so they can keep eating animals without feeling any sense of wrong-ness. You talk of the narrow path being into the garden…and I think, yes, it’s narrow – but then it’s the widest, most spectacular place in which to thrive. Merry Christmas!

  3. Hi, Suzette. Fundamentalism teaches us to examine life through a Biblical filter. What many Christians do not realize is that we all read the Bible through our own filter. I love your final metaphor. Yes, the garden is wide. And to be certain, the Narrow Path can be made wider as well. There are many like us who are willing to do that work needed to make that path accessible for all.

    Merry Christmas to you, too!

  4. JUST READING THIS BLOG NOW, 210221. THANK YOU. I’M DEFINITELY GOING TO CHECK OUT AKERS’S BOOK. JULY WILL BE 6 YEARS EATING VEGAN. WAS VEGETARIAN FOR AGES, BUT I ALWAYS FELT THIS DEEP, SUBCONSCIOUS SENSE OF COGNITIVE DISSONANCE WITH MY DEEPLY HELD VALUES. WHEN I MADE THE COMMITMENT TO EAT VEGAN, I FINALLY FELT AUTHENTIC. SO, I’M AN “ETHICAL VEGAN” THAT HAS REAPED UNTOLD HEALTH BENEFITS & MADE A HUGE POSITIVE IMPACT ON MY ADULT SON & ON SEVERAL CLOSE FRIENDS. ALTHOUGH I AM NOT ‘RELIGIOUS’ IN THE USUAL SENSE, I’M DEEPLY SPIRITUAL & TRULY APPRECIATE YOUR ARTICLE & ITS RESEARCH & CONTENT. THANK YOU SO VERY MUCH, VINCE. MANY BLESSINGS, ROBERTA IN SOFL

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