Earlier this year, Celeste over at Honk if you’re vegan asked a perfectly reasonable question: Was Noah really vegan? and, by implication, Should we be vegan too? Surely, if we’re designed to be vegan, it would be healthy for everyone, wouldn’t it?
The movie, Noah, had something to do with her question, so let’s get one thing out of the way: there are no rock monsters in the Bible.
Noah, the one in the Bible, not the one in Aronofsky’s imagination, might well have been vegan until after the flood. We don’t really know for sure, but there is a big hint:
Everything that lives and moves about will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything. [Genesis 9:3 ]
Are we designed to be vegan?
If evolution is more your thing, then there’s a pretty strong argument for a paleo-style of diet.
If you’re more religious (Judeo-Christian since we started with Noah), then you could argue that Adam and Eve ate only fruit and veggies in the garden of Eden, but it’s not definitive. Theologically it’s neat if they were vegan, but it might not be essential.
Should we be vegan?
The short answer is that the Bible tells us we can eat anything, including ‘all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles and birds’, because we should not ‘call anything impure that God has made clean’ [Acts 10:11].
Paul (who wrote most of the New Testament) instructed people not to judge others for what they did or didn’t eat, but not to do anything that would upset someone else or, especially, cause them to stumble in their faith.
But food does not bring us near to God; we are no worse if we do not eat [particular foods], and no better if we do. [1 Corinthians 8:8 ]
The issue was more about what was in a person’s heart rather than any ideological stance. Just imagine if everyone followed this: say only nice things to each other and be overly considerate.
So no direct instruction: but should we be vegan anyway?
If you believe Adam and Eve were vegan, then it’s easy to argue that it would be the ideal. God called His creation good, therefore vegan is good. Daniel, of the lions’ den, chose a vegan or vegetarian diet for religious reasons, and thrived, became a prophet and a senior Babylonian official, and inadvertently triggered the Daniel diet.
If you take Peter’s vision and Paul’s instructions literally, you’ll eat anything but be very nice to everyone. You’ll do things out of love for others, because you know that otherwise everything you do is worthless. You’ll also be kind to animals. It’s a pity we don’t see more of that behaviour, regardless of beliefs.
If you believe we evolved, then paleo would be your ideological diet of choice. You might also take on an alternative, selective-adaptation view that allows for modern humans to have adapted in the past 10,000 years or so to the dietary changes that came with agriculture.
If you believe something else again, then you could have entirely different views.
But what’s healthy?
We live in what theologians call a ‘fallen world’. In practical terms: this is no Garden of Eden. Even if veganism were ideal, it might no longer be for everyone. Just ask someone with a soy allergy.
So now there’s no shortage of science and pseudo science about what constitutes a healthy diet. As well as vegan, paleo and vegetarian diets, we also have the CSIRO Wellbeing Diet (backed up by research), the Atkins, Dukkan, blood type, and macrobiotic diets, the 5:2 diet, the Fit for Life diet, the plant-based diet, the no carbs after 3pm diet, various food combing diets, the bikini body diet, and probably many more.
They disagree on the amount and type of protein, carbs and starches. The one thing they all seem to have in common is to avoid processed foods to some extent.
Indeed, regardless of beliefs about origins, there’s increasing agreement that natural foods are better for you than artificial foods. Honey vs sugar; wholemeal flour vs white flour; cold-pressed olive oil vs chemical canola oil (as we call it here); butter vs transfats; processed bacon vs naturally smoked meats; homecooked vs freezer meals. And lots of fresh fruit and veggies vs cakes and takeaway.
So what’s healthy? One of us seems to need some meat, another thrives on lentils. One of us loves coffee, another thinks it’s poison.
Healthy for us is a lifestyle of whole foods; most of it cooked at home and most of it based on fruit and veggies.