I realized, just the other day, that my commitment to being a vegetarian, becoming a Christian, and my Quaker convincement all took place over an eighteen month period following my 14th birthday. As I look back at this time, and at my life since, these three things have become so woven into my life that I can no longer separate them. I simply cannot imagine my Christianity taking root in any other tradition than the Quaker one, and I cannot imagine being anything other than a vegetarian Friend. Is this the same for you? How much is your religious commitment bound up with being a vegetarian? Is being a vegetarian an essential part of your religious make-up or just another choice in your life? I would be interested to hear of your experience.

P.S. My 14th birthday was a very long time ago!

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Yes, politics too (and Bob Dylan)! Is it uncommon for views to be built at this age that remain with us? I would be interested to hear from those that made these important decisions later in life.

Jeremy Voaden said:

Mmmm, well a different set on meshing but the linking of flux and change was there for me too and at the same age. I also became a vegetarian when I was 14 and, at the same time, experienced a profound social and political "prodding" - use that word as I wouldn't like to give the impression I was particularly enlightened or different, just that my world or rather the world as I understood it, turned upside down and pretty much remains that way to this day. So my commitment and my window on the world, my belief system and the principles by which I continue to live my life (rather than a religious commitment) flowered then and vegetarianism is part of that identity and "making sense of things". It is a spiritual rather than religious part, by which I mean it is part of mu sense of belonging and place, part of a sense of purpose and part of loving our world.

Oh yes, and my 14th birthday was also a long time ago! 50 next year.......and I still like The Clash and Dylan, just like I did then.     

Ray, my 14th birthday was also looooooooong ago. .  I know I once turned 14; don't remember it.  But I remember in 1st grade sitting at my little desk in school feeling the calling to sit in prayer, and knew that would be my life destiny. .  to always be in quiet prayerfulness before our amazing creater of one and all. 

To hear or read the term Quaker makes me happy in my heart. .  so I know that fits.  But I love to be in close proximity to any plain person, knowing they would more likely understand me or could relate to me in similar ways. 

I became vegan 30 years ago. . after being quite ill. .  and reversed all health issues by changing my diet. . imagine.   We are after all, nature. . and nature will heal us when we allow it to do so.

Like you, I could not imagine my life any other way. . . but I've lived the other way that is society and had to walk away from that as I did the standard american diet (SAD).   I've always been a person of faith. .  and believe that clarity led me to dietary clarity. . . which then led me to mental clarity - - and psychological clarity, because one builds upon the other it seems. 

These were largely separate events for me.

I was raised Lutheran. During my teenage years, there was a slow erosion of my Christianity, and a final rejection, or so I thought, of that faith as I entered my 20s.

I became a vegetarian during my teens. I can't remember my exact age. It was not a spiritual decision. It was political;  combination of Frances Moore Lappe and trying to imitate Gandhi. Again, as I entered my 20's, I gave up the ideal.

I discovered Quakerism. I was attracted to the concept of an immediate experience of the Divine as well a the misguided notion that it was a do-it-yourself religion. Hit my 20s and became a left wing radical extremist, which also included atheism.

In my late twenties, my marriage was falling apart. Although a spectacular failure as an atheist, I still wasn't all that comfortable with religion. I began attended meeting again. I still saw it as a group of individualists who didn't deal very directly with God. I also stopped eating meat. It was for health rather than spiritual reasons.

Then I ended up in working in El Salvador and Guatemala during the civil wars in the '80s. That was when radical left wing politics took me back to Christianity in the form of Liberation Theology. I also learned the concept of hospitality. No matter how poor the home I was visiting, I was always offered some form of refreshment. If offered meat, I ate it. Rejecting the gift would have been an insult.

In the two and a half decades since, my Quakerism has become rooted in Christianity and the writings of early Friends. I stopped eating meat, but it's a branch of my faith rather that a root.

This post has become longer than I had intended.

A joyous season to everyone.

Thank you Chris ~ I fully relate to your joy with Quakers and its extension to all plain people.

Chris Beauchamp said:

Ray, my 14th birthday was also looooooooong ago. .  I know I once turned 14; don't remember it.  But I remember in 1st grade sitting at my little desk in school feeling the calling to sit in prayer, and knew that would be my life destiny. .  to always be in quiet prayerfulness before our amazing creater of one and all. 

To hear or read the term Quaker makes me happy in my heart. .  so I know that fits.  But I love to be in close proximity to any plain person, knowing they would more likely understand me or could relate to me in similar ways. 

I became vegan 30 years ago. . after being quite ill. .  and reversed all health issues by changing my diet. . imagine.   We are after all, nature. . and nature will heal us when we allow it to do so.

Like you, I could not imagine my life any other way. . . but I've lived the other way that is society and had to walk away from that as I did the standard american diet (SAD).   I've always been a person of faith. .  and believe that clarity led me to dietary clarity. . . which then led me to mental clarity - - and psychological clarity, because one builds upon the other it seems. 

That's quiet some journey Stephanie ~ thank you!

Stephanie Stuckwisch said:

These were largely separate events for me.

I was raised Lutheran. During my teenage years, there was a slow erosion of my Christianity, and a final rejection, or so I thought, of that faith as I entered my 20s.

I became a vegetarian during my teens. I can't remember my exact age. It was not a spiritual decision. It was political;  combination of Frances Moore Lappe and trying to imitate Gandhi. Again, as I entered my 20's, I gave up the ideal.

I discovered Quakerism. I was attracted to the concept of an immediate experience of the Divine as well a the misguided notion that it was a do-it-yourself religion. Hit my 20s and became a left wing radical extremist, which also included atheism.

In my late twenties, my marriage was falling apart. Although a spectacular failure as an atheist, I still wasn't all that comfortable with religion. I began attended meeting again. I still saw it as a group of individualists who didn't deal very directly with God. I also stopped eating meat. It was for health rather than spiritual reasons.

Then I ended up in working in El Salvador and Guatemala during the civil wars in the '80s. That was when radical left wing politics took me back to Christianity in the form of Liberation Theology. I also learned the concept of hospitality. No matter how poor the home I was visiting, I was always offered some form of refreshment. If offered meat, I ate it. Rejecting the gift would have been an insult.

In the two and a half decades since, my Quakerism has become rooted in Christianity and the writings of early Friends. I stopped eating meat, but it's a branch of my faith rather that a root.

This post has become longer than I had intended.

A joyous season to everyone.

What an interesting question!

My vegetarianism is mostly environmentally motivated, as I feel like far too many resources are needed to produce meat. It does have a couple oblique faith components though.

 For me, being vegetarian (which predates my Quakerness) helps me live out simplicity, which has been important to me for much of my life. It is less specifically spiritual than merely a practical expression, but it does help.

I've also always been very drawn to St. Francis of Assisi, who was a vegetarian. I am terrible at emulating his kindness, faithfulness, and direct action, but I guess it's important to start somewhere. So in that sense, vegetarianism helps me be more like one of my faith role models.

Thanks for posting this topic, Ray, it's wonderful to read others' thought on it and to mull over!

Ray, I love your image of the "interweaving" of these life practices. I've experienced a similar interweaving, but much more recently.

A little over two years ago, I had a personal epiphany. I realized that my life-long patterns of "eat, drink, and be merry" had made me obese and knocking at the door of major health problems unless I changed my ways. I did not take a moderate approach. It was a complete 180! (Metanoia, repentance, turning - now I connect the dots.)  I left the SAD (Standard American Diet) behind and started following the Eat to Live book by Dr. Joel Fuhrman. He, along with the Forks Over Knives crew, advocates a whole foods, plant-based diet. I lost 60 pounds, regained my health (all metrics like BP and triglycerides, blood sugar etc. in the optimal ranges) and lost almost all taste for animal products. I am now that person who craves green leafies! LOL

I had been a vegetarian for about 5 years in the late 1990's. However, looking back on it, I was actually a pasta-tarian! No animals lost their lives to sustain mine, but I was not eating foods that would promote health.  OR the well-being of other sentient creatures, or the health of the planet, BTW. 

The way I look at it is: I eat according to the "measure of Light" that I am given. At first, I would occasionally indulge in small amounts of cheese or butter. If a really great soup had some chicken broth, it was not a deal-breaker. As I go along, and as I learn more about the lives of animals raised for food, I eliminate more and more animal products. I confess to an occasional craving for sushi, although, with regret, I now minimize my exposure to fish as well (mercury and possible radioactivity in wild or Pacific fish, antibiotics and filth in farm-raised). I eat the most organic produce that I can afford, fully aware that farm workers are exposed to pesticides, regardless of the other arguments of the difference between organic and inorganic foods. I'm also aware of the elitism and privilege I enjoy to be able to bop over to Whole Foods around the corner and pick up some organic kale at my leisure.  It's all trade-offs, and IMO, you can't cover all the bases and have a functional life. I am not a purist, opting for progress, not perfection. I will always choose vegetarian, and vegan if I can get it. 

The ETL and Forks Over Knives plans are based on research and actual health outcomes. I respect this. They acknowledge the many ethical and environmental reasons for being vegan. Yet, their approach is not bound to a rigid ideology. People who eat very small amounts of animal products (<5% of total intake) are just as healthy (measured by relative immunity to cancers, diabetes, and heart disease) as vegans. 

After I had been eating 95% vegan for a few months and had lost about 25 pounds, it was as if I suddenly woke up! I realized how bad I felt, physically and emotionally. I was seriously burnt out and beaten up by a number of personal and professional circumstances. It was time to totally take stock. Staying on that path to physical, emotional, and spiritual health ultimately led me, about nine months ago,  to the Quakers.

Your post reminded me, again, (continuing lesson - HELLO!) that our physical, intellectual, emotional, and spiritual lives are only separate in the words we use. Each element is occurring simultaneously as part of a complex system, where all the parts are interrelated and a change in one inevitably results in a change in the whole system. 

As spiritual beings, we can become increasingly ethical do-ers. As we seek to reduce the suffering of other sentient beings, it seems inevitable that one should eventually arrive at the position where they no longer eat animal products. To this end, it seems important to affirm any efforts that people attempt (Meatless Mondays, etc.) rather than condemning them for not adhering 100% to an unattainable construct. 

Bon appetit! I wish I could "LIKE" every response in this discussion. Thanks for the sharing.

Stephanie, thanks for sharing your experiences of hospitality in Central America.

A number of years ago, I went on a mission trip to a colonia outside of Monterrey, Mexico. The conditions were very poor. Yet, each day at noon, a different family would host our mission team for lunch. Clearly, several families had pooled significant resources to produce an opulent meal of chicken and rice, tamales, some kind of rich stew, and an dessert. The beverage was always Kool-Aid, made with the local tap water. We drank and ate everything, praying for protection from tourista, and so thankful and deeply moved by their sacrifice. Not one of us became ill during the trip!

That experience has stayed with me. Although I prefer to eat vegan when I can, I do not make an issue of my dietary preferences or beliefs when I am someone's guest. It is blessed to receive.

Stephanie Stuckwisch said:

These were largely separate events for me.

I was raised Lutheran. During my teenage years, there was a slow erosion of my Christianity, and a final rejection, or so I thought, of that faith as I entered my 20s.

I became a vegetarian during my teens. I can't remember my exact age. It was not a spiritual decision. It was political;  combination of Frances Moore Lappe and trying to imitate Gandhi. Again, as I entered my 20's, I gave up the ideal.

I discovered Quakerism. I was attracted to the concept of an immediate experience of the Divine as well a the misguided notion that it was a do-it-yourself religion. Hit my 20s and became a left wing radical extremist, which also included atheism.

In my late twenties, my marriage was falling apart. Although a spectacular failure as an atheist, I still wasn't all that comfortable with religion. I began attended meeting again. I still saw it as a group of individualists who didn't deal very directly with God. I also stopped eating meat. It was for health rather than spiritual reasons.

Then I ended up in working in El Salvador and Guatemala during the civil wars in the '80s. That was when radical left wing politics took me back to Christianity in the form of Liberation Theology. I also learned the concept of hospitality. No matter how poor the home I was visiting, I was always offered some form of refreshment. If offered meat, I ate it. Rejecting the gift would have been an insult.

In the two and a half decades since, my Quakerism has become rooted in Christianity and the writings of early Friends. I stopped eating meat, but it's a branch of my faith rather that a root.

This post has become longer than I had intended.

A joyous season to everyone.

I stopped eating mammals when I was finishing elementary school.  I found intellectual reasons later to justify my decision but it all had to do with looking into a cow's eyes and realizing that I felt that I was looking at another being with feelings that I was called to respect.  In the following years before I left high school, I gave up eating birds and seafood as well and then became a vegan by the time I was 18.  I was a Christian child (a preacher's kid) at the beginning of that transformation and a Pagan teenager at the end of it.  Regardless of what spiritual label I carried, I felt that my spirituality was at the heart of the decision to abstain from eating animal products.  Actually, that makes it sound more complicated than it was.  I wasn't making decisions based on any complicated theology.  I just didn't want to cause suffering or grief and I knew that animals can feel pain and they can feel sadness.  These feelings about animals were also tied to my pacifism (also from my childhood).  I felt that vegetarianism and pacifism were independent of my Christianity but that they were supported by it.  My Paganism which was/is very Earth and environment-centered, was just another way of expressing that belief in non-violence.  I became a Friend because it seemed to me that Quakers consciously and consistently express non-violence and compassion in a way that was often only implied in the religious perspectives of my Protestant childhood and my Neo-Pagan adolescence.  

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