I wrote Vegangelical: How Caring for Animals Can Shape Your Faith with my dad in mind. That is, I wanted the book to speak to thoughtful, conservative, and compassionate Christians who really took seriously the call to be good stewards of God’s creation. Maybe you’ve got a “Sarah’s dad” in your life: someone who is a committed Christian but who hasn’t quite connected the dots when it comes to animals. Here are 10 takeaways from the book that just might help him or her take the next compassionate step:
1. Not only does our industrialized food system breed and kill billions of animals each year, it also pollutes the ground, air, and water; robs the soil of nutrients; fosters chronic and deadly diseases; and causes the humans who work within the system both physical and psychological harm. Divorcing ourselves from it is a must.
2. Creation in the Bible is about shalom: new life flourishing in abundance and absolute harmony among humans, animals, and the land. It is peace. Eating animals requires conquering, committing violence, and separating ourselves from the rest of creation.
3. The writers of Genesis paint God’s plan for creation as one that provides for all life, where the role of humans is to cultivate plants to feed every living being and to tend our earthen home in such a way as to ensure the flourishing of all life and the freedom of every being to praise his or her Creator. Modern animal agriculture fails this vision at every level.
4. Human dominion over animals should reflect God’s dominion over humans: full of mercy, grace, healing, and more grace. But instead, we exercise dominion like tyrants and add to the world’s suffering.
5. Animals ought to be cared for because they are God’s. Not ours, God’s.
6. Christians are called to generosity beyond the letter of the law, beyond what is easy or within one’s means. Giving up meat or dairy foods may seem hard, but doing so reduces the suffering of humans and animals and contributes to a more sustainable future for our children and our children’s children.
7. Christians are called over and over again to resist conforming to the habits of a broken world, in order to be set free (Galatians 5:1) to discern what is good and acceptable and perfect (Romans 12:2). Killing animals is far from perfect, and in the vast majority of cases, it’s also entirely unnecessary.
8. If we are taking steps to live in anticipation of a world “on earth as it is in heaven,” shouldn’t we also take steps to ensure that animals are cared for and don’t live in filth, misery, or fear?
9. Would Jesus call us to exploit each other for our own gain? This is what we do when we use animals as food or clothing. We justify our use of animals because they are supposedly “less than” us.
10. We are called to abide in God’s love (1 John 4:7–21), to continue to be present in our love of God and each other. The two are deeply connected. To love God is to love others. To love others is to love God.
Vegangelical includes questions at the end of every chapter that small groups can use for discussion and that prompt some deeper thinking about how Christian values can (and should) influence our everyday decisions. And hey, want a bit of good news? My dad is vegan now.
Order your copy of Vegangelical: How Caring for Animals Can Shape Your Faith from the PETA catalog.
Written by Sarah Withrow King