Being Bold About Veganism At Church–Compassionately

I was inspired to write this post because I mentioned on the Pro-life Christian Facebook page that I shared my veganism boldly but lovingly in our little church. Someone asked me how I do this.

In a few sentences, this is how I do it: I genuinely love people and don’t judge them for their meat-eating. I take every chance I get to state that I am a vegan and to inspire conversations about veganism where I can listen empathically to other people’s views and inspire them to ask me questions.

This was a journey for me. I had made a commitment when I was around some pretty hardcore animal rights activists not to even sit at a table where people were eating meat so people so I could make a statement and hopefully inspire people to think deeply about the issue. I didn’t want to be around meat-eating, and almost didn’t attend some very meaningful events which would have only estranged me from my friends and family.

But I came to the realization that if I am going to talk to Christians about veganism, the best time is to do it when everyone is hanging around eating animal products.

First, I will say that I have come to the conclusion that if every person who is vegan chose to share their lifestyle with others in a way that we as Christians are called to share our faith, I think that veganism really could spread to a critical mass point. At that point, non-vegans will be the ones who are in the minority and will thus need to defend their diets.

Since I have studied Nonviolent Communication as taught by Marshall Rosenberg for three decades, I have a fair amount of experience and knowledge about how to effectively communicate. I am also taking a course from the Equal Rights Institute about how to have great conversations about abortion–probably the most difficult conversation to have in a peaceable manner.

Yet Josh Brahm and his cohorts are so effective in helping people to see how their views on abortion are not logical. I am going to adapt their techniques so that vegans can talk to non-vegan Christian pro-lifers as well as anyone else who they want to talk to in order to help them make a decision for veganism. (That sounds kind of funny–but I think that helping people convert to veganism is in many ways like helping people make a decision to follow Jesus.)

I want to learn from every source possible–how do we most effectively communicate with people who even admit to having cognitive dissonance about their meat-eating.  Having this skill will help us as vegans learn to communicate more effectively with each other as well. We need unity!

So how do I speak boldly about veganism at my church and in Christian circles in a way that has inspired people to be more compassionate towards me and even move more towards being vegan?

First off,  I started a community which has a name which shows people immediately what I am about. Jesus Vegans was a name that my former husband, and member of our community, came up with. I believe this name was Holy Spirit inspired because the name itself inspires conversation about Jesus and veganism.

So the people in the rural neighborhood I live in, many of whom attend Resurrection Church where I also attend, know that I am passionate about veganism. Some of them even came to a photo shoot so we could have pictures of what we envision for our community, and their images are on our website–even though they are not vegan!

We are fortunate to have a testimonial time where anyone can share for a brief time. I almost always find something to do with veganism to share about. For example, recently I went to a Christian Vegan Retreat and so I talked about that. I also shared about how I miraculously met the husband of a Christian vegan woman in the Dallas-Fort Worth Airport.

I rarely try to inspire people to be vegan–I just talk about it effortlessly whenever I get a chance. I don’t put anyone down or act like I’m disgusted by the meat dishes at the potluck, where many of the conversations transpire.

I very lovingly ask people if there is some animal product in the dishes that are not obviously meat dishes, and, usually, they will practically apologize if there is because they know I won’t partake.

Often I will wear some kind of low key vegan Tshirt.

I will ask people about their diet sometimes and just be curious. I haven’t done this yet, but I think I will ask new people before they eat–“are you a vegan by any chance?”  If they say no, I will say, “Oh, that’s fine–I just wanted to know because I am a vegan, and I try to scout out what foods I can eat and I wanted to help you out if you were a vegan.”

I am finding more and more that people are actually trying to tell me things like:

“I am 99% vegan.”

“Can you eat cheese? No? Okay, I won’t sprinkle this parmesan on the tomatoes. I’ll put it on the side.”

“I love animals. I felt really bad when I accidentally killed a lizard. Do you think I am going to hell because I eat meat?”

“Look, I brought something you can eat for the Thanksgiving meal–cranberry relish.”

“I was thinking of you when I put out the fruits and veggies for the Thanksgiving meal.”

“Oh, I am so sorry–I didn’t think about how you can’t eat gelatin when I made that dish. What can I substitute next time?”

“Here are the mashed potatoes without the butter I made especially for you, Mom. Josh (her husband) reminded me to leave some out cause I almost forgot.”

Whenever I talk about veganism, I don’t trot out Bible verses. Most people in my church know the Bible much better than I do. All that will happen is a battle of the scriptures. I do talk about how much I love Jesus and what He is doing in my life. People respect me, I think, because they know how committed I am to sharing Jesus with others.

I post vegan things on my Facebook page quite often (I want to do so more) and many of the people at my church are on Facebook.

At a support group that I attend, they have a potluck meal at the end of the 12-week session. I boldly requested via our chat group on messenger–that we make the meal all vegan so that I could partake of everything. I shared how so often I feel left out because so many things contain things I could not eat. I made it clear–this is a request, not a demand.

The facilitator quickly said, “Well, let’s maintain unity,” or something like that. But then one man, who was getting a bit defensive, immediately asked me what he could bring. I suggested guacamole and he was so proud that he was able to bring something that I could eat–and most of the food was vegan!

Because veganism is so important to me–it is easy to bring up the topic during small group discussions. This lead to a young woman saying, “You are an older version of myself–a tree hugger and an animal lover.” She was not vegan, but she really identified with me.

I find that by being bold, then people who want to be vegan, are vegan, or have questions about veganism–will approach me and share where they are at in their diet and their treatment of animals.

This really gives me an opportunity to listen to them empathically and draw them out. I never criticize anyone on their dietary journey. Often they admit they are addicted to meat or have cognitive dissonance about the topic. Also, I can offer resources to help them.

When I share my vegan path with Christians, I do so with great confidence and love–never apologetically.  And I am genuinely curious about how they eat and how they justify their eating.  I never point out how illogical they are.

I know so many facts about how, for example, egg production and chicken production leads to rooster chicks getting ground up alive. I mentioned this to someone rather casually in a text–and she said she never knew that and might need to rethink her diet.

It is true that I am a very outgoing person and I have spent my entire life learning to be free of fear of what people will think. I find that the more I am my authentic self, the more true friends I have. And even people who don’t agree with me respect me.

When I identify as a vegan Christian with non-Christian vegans–I have the perfect opportunity to share my faith, and tell people the hopeful news of how a growing number of Christians are embracing veganism.

Being willing to listen empathically to someone after I share my views is essential. I am astonished at how many people are changing their views, and actually seem to please me with the steps they are taking towards veganism.

I want to write another article about how I boldly share my Jesus walk with atheist and agnostic vegans.

Thanks for reading this! I hope you will share your thoughts about what you read and suggestions for boldly sharing your veganism.

 

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