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Faithandfood Fact Files - Christianity

“I have given every green plant for food”.
Genesis 1.29

“Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you; as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything”.
Genesis 9.4

Forbidden ingredients
Main food beliefs
Vegetarianism
Eating in restaurants
Feasting and fasting
Links
Contact
About the writer

The Faithandfood Fact File bookmarks are the same for each religion. Compare this religion with the dietary beliefs of another faith by clicking on the name of the religion on the toolbar on the left.

Which ingredients are forbidden?
Most Christians are omnivores and have no moral or religious objection to eating meat of any kind, though some fast on Fridays or during Lent mainly for spiritual reasons.

Some Christians are demi-vegetarians and refuse animal products that have been intensively reared and eat only free-range meat and fish.

Some Christians are vegetarian, and exclude fish, flesh and fowl, but not necessarily all dairy produce and eggs.

Some Christians are vegan, and exclude fish, flesh and fowl and all dairy produce, including eggs, and honey.

What are the main laws or beliefs relating to food?
Two main biblical insights influence Christian dietary practices.

Genesis 9.1-4 allows meat eating under certain conditions, and in practice most Christians are omnivores and have no ethical or spiritual objection to eating meat of any kind. They believe that God had granted humans permission to eat flesh as part of the Noahic covenant.

Some Catholic and Orthodox Christians fast on Fridays or during Lent or other penitential seasons of the Church’s year but this is usually for spiritual – rather than ethical - reasons (see Feasting and Feasting).

Some Christians are demi-vegetarian, vegetarian or vegan – for ethical or religious reasons (see Vegetarianism). Most base their practice on the other main biblical insight derived from Genesis 1.29 that depicts vegetarianism as God’s original will.

Is there a link with vegetarianism?
There has always been a minority of Christians who have adopted vegetarian practices, including John Wesley, Leo Tolstoy, and William and Catherine Booth. The inspiration for the modern vegetarian movement came from the Bible Christian Church in the nineteenth century - which, in obedience to Genesis 1.29-30, made vegetarianism compulsory among its members. The Genesis text reveals that God’s original will was for a peaceful, vegetarian world. Meat eating was only allowed in the Hebrew Bible after the fall and the flood, i.e. the human descent into violence. Post-modern Christian vegetarians argue that humans should seek to approximate God’s will by living as free as possible from violence to sentient creatures.

Christian vegetarians believe meat eating is unjustifiable because we now know that we can live healthy lives without recourse to flesh foods. Some Christians also adopt vegetarianism, or demi-vegetarianism, as a protest against the suffering inflicted on animals in intensive farming, especially veal crates, sow stalls and battery cages. Christianity has generally opposed animal cruelty, but the recent upsurge in Christian vegetarianism is testimony to a renewed sense that respect for animal life is a duty in itself, and especially that inflicting suffering cannot be reconciled with a Christ-like life.

In general, will people of this faith eat in a food outlet that serves food or drink that does not conform to their beliefs?
Christian omnivores will eat anywhere, but vegetarian Christians usually seek out vegetarian eateries and restaurants. In conventional restaurants, vegetarian Christians object to food that has been in contact with meat products – for example, vegetables fried in meat or fish oil, or soup with extracts of chicken or beef broth.

When and why do people of this faith feast and fast?
Catholics may observe several feast and fast days during the year. Feast days include Christmas, Easter, the Annunciation (March 25th), Palm Sunday (the Sunday before Easter), the Ascension (40 days after Easter), and Pentecost Sunday (50 days after Easter). The only feast days common to most Protestant and Reformed traditions are Christmas and Easter.

Some Catholics fast during Lent, on the Fridays of Advent, Ember Days (at the beginning of the seasons). Some fast or abstain only on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. Fasting is usually for spiritual reasons, such as teaching control of fleshly desires, as a penance for sin, or to express solidarity with the poor. Some Christians now advocate vegetarianism during Lent for specifically ethical reasons (see http://www.veg4lent.org/). The Good Friday fast commemorates the day Christ died on the cross. Fasting in not a major part of the Protestant or Reformed tradition.

Links to websites with further information:
www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/christianity/
http://www.godandanimals.com (animals and theology)
http://www.christianveg.com/ (Christian Vegetarian Association)
http://www.veg4lent.org/ (Vegetarian Diet for Lent)

If you have any question about the dietary practises or beliefs in this faith, you may contact

Contact: The Revd Professor Andrew Linzey
Position: Theologian and writer
E mail: Andrewlinzey@aol.com

Written by Reverend Professor Andrew Linzey, PhD, DD
The Revd Professor Andrew Linzey, PhD, DD, is an internationally known theologian and writer. He is a member of the Faculty of Theology in the University of Oxford, and holds the world's first post in Theology, Ethics and Animal Welfare - the Bede Jarret Senior Research Fellowship at Blackfriars Hall, Oxford. He has written or edited 20 books including pioneering works on animals. In 2001, he was awarded the DD (Doctor of Divinity) degree by the Archbishop of Canterbury for his "unique and massive pioneering contribution at a scholarly level in the area of the theology of creation, with particular reference to the rights and welfare of God's sentient creatures".

Note: Some people who are Christians do not observe the dietary laws stated above. Prohibitions and restrictions even within a particular faith may change between denominations or branches. Please do not take this as an authoritative list. This page is meant as a guide only and reflect the beliefs of the writer.

The Faithandfood Fact File bookmarks are the same for each religion. Compare this religion with the dietary beliefs of another faith by clicking on the name of the religion on the toolbar on the left.

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