oyaAc9mSometime after the beginning of Lent 2016 — it was precisely February 21, 2016 — a banner ad caught my attention with this invitation:

Go Vegan For Lent

That word “vegan” scared me. “Vegan” sounded extreme — strict — restrictive. I clicked through anyway. The pastor in me wondered what vegan had to do with Lent.

Go Vegan for Lent is sponsored by the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. Does that bring to mind a scene of an angry PETA activist hurling fake blood onto someone wearing a fur coat? If they were opposed to eating animals, how might they express their outrage toward plates full of meatloaf and fried chicken at a family reunion or church dinner? My violent caricature of the organization was mistaken.

(About the links below: None of those pages reveal disturbing images of animal agriculture’s violence against animals. If you click through from there, you have been warned.)

“Go Vegan for Lent” would be an exercise in embracing limitations, a practice that appeals to me. Compelling were the claims that, by “going vegan for Lent,” I could make a real difference in the world:
Saving Water — lots and lots of water!
Ending world hunger
Saving the Environment

I decided to go vegan for Lent that day 14 months ago. If we haven’t shared a meal or a snack together, you would have no reason to know that I am a plant-based eater. The social part has been the most challenging thing. But that’s another blog post . . .

There were some not-vegan decisions. The desire to try something new — and to join in the fun — enticed me to eat a bite of octopus at the last RevGals Big Event. I have gone for non-vegan coffee creamer a few times. To celebrate a birthday, I fully enjoyed our family’s sacramental meal. I have since found satisfying plant-pure alternatives for each of those. Bonus: Both my cholesterol and my food expenses are way down.

The United Nations identified animal agriculture’s role in greenhouse gases a decade ago, and I began learning about this in 2016. Like many tree-hugging aging Baby Boomers, I have spent decades recycling, using water-saving shower heads, joining congregations in Earth Day activities and raging at the fossil fuel industry. Turns out, what’s on our plate has a far greater impact on the environment than these. Did you know? I didn’t.

“We love to eat in this church!” said every church I’ve ever served. Imagine all the food-enjoying faith communities all over this country, all over this world. What a rich opportunity for making intentional, informed choices about our shared meals. When we have energy-audited our building, will we do an energy audit on our congregational dinners or coffee hours?

What resources does your denomination’s earth justice ministry offer to address the environmental impact of what’s served from the church kitchen? Take a look. A long look.

April 22 is Earth Day and The March for Science. Our planet groans.
What’s animal agriculture got to do with that?

Rev. Sharon M. Temple is a United Church of Christ pastor serving in Nashville TN.  She is a contributor to the RevGals book, “There’s a Woman in the Pulpit” and blogs erratically at Tidings of Comfort and Joy.

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One thought on “The Pastoral Is Political: Putting Earth Day on Our Plate

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