Monday, April 19, 2010

Meatless Mondays: A Worthwhile Discipline

[One of three offerings from an April 2010 sermon, "Dime a Dip."]

I’m a vegetarian, a personal arc that began in the late 1970s when I stopped eating red meat, including pork, through the early 1990s when I went totally meatless, including seafood. My tipping point was a feminist book, The Sexual Politics of Meat, that argued that most of animal protein in our lives comes from the exploitation of the females of various species. (Since I’d preached on it, I felt compelled to live by the brilliant logic of my remarks.)

I haven’t spoken much from the pulpit about my personal ethics regarding vegetarianism , so as to not cross the thin line of counsel and self-righteusness, so as to not use the pulpit in a holier-than-thou, guilt tripping manner.

Several years ago I did a sermon on a new book by daughter of Lucille and Ted Teisler: Pamela Rice’s 101 Reasons I’m a Vegetarian. I wanted to promote vegetarianism, yes; but I also wanted to lift up a line of ethical reasoning that uses a compelling number of relatively unrelated reasons to build a crescendo of persuasion. 101 reasons is an avalanche.

This is somewhat the approach of a recently minted campaign: Meatless Monday.

“Meatless Monday is a non-profit initiative of The Monday Campaigns, in association with the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

“Our goal is to help reduce meat consumption 15% in order to improve personal health and the health of our planet.

“We provide the information and recipes you need to start each week with healthy, environmentally friendly meat-free alternatives.

“Presidents Wilson, Truman and Roosevelt galvanized the nation with voluntary meatless days during both world wars.

“By reviving this American tradition we can help address the challenges we face today. We can improve our health, reduce our carbon footprint and lead the world in the race to mitigate climate change.”

I’m particularly interested in the rationale behind the Monday choice;

For most Americans the week begins on Monday. On Monday we move from the freedom of the weekend back to the structure of work or school. We set our intentions for the next six days. We plan ahead and evaluate progress.

“From an early age we internalize this rhythm. And studies suggest we are more likely to maintain behaviors begun on Monday throughout the week. That makes Monday the perfect day to make a change for your health and the health of our planet.

“Monday is the call to action built in to every calendar each week. And if this Monday passes you by, next week is another chance to go meatless!”

Yes, vegetarianism has health benefits and it is a step toward greener green. I add, for the thoughtful and informed, it is also a discipline of compassion. For me the great issue of not eating meat (and other forms of animal protein) involves compassion, which edges into an even more controversial area: Animal Rights.

So, take a look at Meatless Mondays. For those of you who take the examined life seriously, it’s a campaign of several ethical dimensions tied to a spiritual notion of personal discipline.

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