Dr. Tony Campolo, sociologist, pastor, author, public speaker and former spiritual advisor to U.S. President Bill Clinton, speaks about Christianity and vegetarianism.
What drives many Christians to become vegetarians has to do with what they believe about God. They find that there are assertions in scripture that God empathizes with animals. Jesus said that not a sparrow falls to the ground without the Heavenly Father being emotionally involved.
I often have asked my students at Eastern University, “If, when a hunter shoots a deer, does God feels any of the pain that the deer feels? If the answer is ‘yes,’ then might it be that, eating deer meat, and for that matter, making a meal out of the flesh of any animal, is participating in a practice, that brings pain to God?” The follow up question was, “Shouldn’t people who love God want to avoid causing God pain?”
There is the good argument according to the Bible, that killing an animal to obtain food is permitted, but this was not the original will of God. Note that Adam and Eve were vegetarians, and so were their descendants up until after the great flood in Noah’s time. It also should be recognized that in “the peaceable kingdom,” which Christ will establish upon His second coming, vegetarianism will once again be the established order for all animals, including humans.
A second reason why many Christians shy away from being meat eaters is their commitment to those poor people in the world who are hungry. We know that if the protein in grain is processed and then eaten somewhat directly by humans, maximum health benefits are derived. On the other hand, when grain is eaten by animals, and then the flesh of animals is eaten by humans, more than 70% of the original protein is lost in the process. In a world wherein lack of protein causes suffering to millions of people, and especially children, isn’t it a lack of concern for the needy of God’s children to participate in the wasting of so much protein by eating meat?
Finally, the Bible teaches that we should treat our bodies as “Temples of God”. We, therefore, ought to do nothing that would hurt our bodies. Eating meat (especially red meat) does just that, as any dietician will tell you. In other words, we are commanded by scripture to maintain healthy bodies and vegetarianism is a major step in that direction. There’s little question that vegetarianism is a healthier way of life.
Becoming a vegetarian is a personal decision, and there ought not to be any condemnation of meat eaters who decide to do otherwise. I do think, nevertheless, that meat eaters at least should consider the reasons I have given as to why many Christians have chosen to do otherwise.
Tony Campolo is professor emeritus of sociology at Eastern University, a former faculty member at the University of Pennsylvania, and the founder and president of the Evangelical Association for the Promotion of Education. He has written more than 35 books. He is one of the founders of the Red Letter Christian movement and blogs regularly at his website, RedLetterChristians.org, and can also be found on both Facebook and Twitter. Dr. Campolo and his wife Peggy live near Philadelphia and have two children and four grandchildren.hope to youth workers and students everywhere.