Saturday, July 14, 2007

Why I Became a Vegetarian

The stewing chicken pushed me over the edge.

I was deboning it for Chicken Tetrazzini, one of my all-time favorite meals. But as I stood at my kitchen counter pulling chicken legs apart, stripping the greasy meat off the bones, and stretching arteries until they snapped, I thought, "I can't do this anymore." The reality of this chicken's creatureliness overwhelmed me.

It's not like I somehow failed to realize that all the chickens before this one were, well, chickens. It's just that, up until this chicken, I had never thought of them as creatures. They were meat, packaged antiseptically in foam containers with plastic stretched over them. They didn't look like the real chickens you see on TV--with feathers and beaks and general all-around quirky cluckiness. No, what I was buying in the store, I had deluded myself, was meat, not a being.

But on this particular day three summers ago, the illusion was shattered. What I was shredding with my fleshly fingers had itself been flesh and bone, a living thing that was now dead. The thing lying before me was a corpse and I a cannibal.

From there, I began to do what I do best: research. I got on the Internet and began discovering other reasons for being a vegetarian. I visited the obvious websites first, such as PETA, where I watched a gruesome video called "Meet Your Meat." I never made it all the way through. What impacted me was that meat production involves horrendous suffering—suffering you don't see or realize exists as you carefully choose the lean hamburger at HEB.

Then, I turned to Christianity—were any vegetarians out there Christians? Or, did most people shy away from a lifestyle that is often associated with wild-haired, hippy liberals (well, that's what I had thought!). But, much to my amazement, I found a whole community of vegetarian Christians. And, after visiting several websites, I discovered a library of popular and academic works on vegetarianism and Christianity. I read everything I could get my hands on.

What I learned was that very thoughtful, even brilliant people, had come to the vegetarian lifestyle. Their reasons differed—some became vegetarians for ethical reasons, others for religious reasons, and still others for dietary reasons. What impressed me most, however, was that all of them acknowledged that animals are beings worthy of respect and concern.

My favorite writer on this issue is Andrew Linzey, an Anglican scholar who has written on the subject since the 1970s. His major premise is that while God's people are called to have dominion over all creation, dominion requires service and intervention for the powerless, not wholesale, tyrannical subjugation. I obviously can't summarize his entire argument here, so you'll just have to read his books. There's no one better at making the theological argument for vegetarianism than Linzey.

It seems such a futile gesture—becoming a vegetarian. I mean, how can one person refusing to eat meat change the suffering of billions of creatures? But, I consider it to be a worthwhile gesture. I view vegetarianism as a perpetual fast, a spiritual protest against cruelty and utilitarian use of other creatures for our pleasures. I see it as one small step toward the Peaceable Kingdom envisioned by the prophets and by Jesus himself (more on this another day).

So, the stewing chicken pushed me over the edge, but what I found on the other side was well worth it.

**If you're interested in reading about Christianity and vegetarianism, go to my librarything site where I've posted most of my library.

Sunday, July 8, 2007


My name is Susan, and I'm a technoholic.

I admit it, I love gadgets--no, I adore them. There's nothing more luscious than the arrival of a new gadget. The pristine corners of the box. The wonderful smell of plastic and electronics. You open the box, and everything is neatly packaged--the object of your lust, centrally placed in the box, surrounded by accessories, instructions, the warranty card. You pull out the central gadget, wrapped lovingly in plastic, carefully pull open the taped end, and hold the virginal device for the first time in your hands. No fingerprints yet, just a gleaming, beautiful, techno-scented piece of equipment beckoning you to explore its wizardry (after, of course, you charge it, which seems to take endless hours as you wait in anticipation).

Over the past several years, I've suffered from technoholism. It started with a Palm PDA (I owned the original one). I've since succumbed to a Canon Elph, a Treo 600, a fifth-generation iPod, a Treo 680, and a Canon Powershot (well, the Canon Elph I had was only 3.1 mp, the Powershot is 7.1 mp!!!!).

And now, I'm ashamed to say, the iPhone is singing to me like a Siren. I've tried to plug my ears and eyes, but, alas, it's to no avail. I knew I was lost when I went to Apple's evil website and explored the iPhone's features. My husband caught me in the middle of this lurid episode--I quickly minimized the page, but too late.

"Susan," he cried, "No! Not an iPhone."

"I'm just looking," I lied, "I don't really want one. I mean, my Treo can do lots more than the iPhone. Pshaw, I'm loyal to Palm."

But as soon as he left, I maximized the page, ogling over all the amazing features. Sure, I keep telling myself that my Treo 680 is better. But as soon as I assure myself that the iPhone is evil, my Treo crashes (yet again) or refuses to let me answer a phone call. I skulkingly return to the Apple site and my fingertip reaches toward the computer screen and caresses the iPhone picture lovingly.

No, I wasn't one of the crazies, standing in line on June 29th to get the first iPhones, though, admittedly, I wanted to be. I read every news article I could find about the iPhone's arrival--brazenly using my Treo 680 to access them--oh the adultery of it.

And then, yesterday, I took the next-to-last fatal step. I visited the local ATT store, dragging my children with me, making them swear not to tell my husband where we had gone. We walked in, and, when a salesperson approached, I asked imploringly, "Do you have an iPhone I can look at?" The salesperson assessed me knowingly, "Ah, another one," she surely thought. "The display's over there."

And like Mecca calling her pilgrim, the iPhone drew me to her temple. There were three iPhones at the altar-just enough for me and my two innocent children. We walked to the shrine and dared to touch the shiny idols.

I knew I was lost the moment I touched the iPhone. It was smaller than I imagined and lighter. Its screen awoke the moment I touched it, and it whispered, "Slide to unlock." My finger swept the pristine glass screen, and, the beautiful icons appeared ready to be pressed.

I don't know how long I stood there mesmerized. But I tried several times to leave the display only to be drawn back--Apple's fruit seemed good to the eyes and useful for making one techno-fulfilled. The coup-de-grace was when I confessed to another salesperson how frustrated I was with my old lover (the Treo 680). I was told how simple it would be to dump it for the iPhone. "It's so easy," the salesman breathed, cunningly luring me like the serpent in the Garden, "You just buy the phone and Apple will do all the rest."

I left the store without a phone (I have no money, right now). But I am only one writing project away from being able to afford one. It's inevitable now. I've reached the point of no return.

The most lurid part of all of this is that my addiction is contagious. As we were leaving the store, my son (only a tender nine years old) said, "Mommy, everyone in my class has a cell phone--everyone except me. I need one, I really do. I only need $400 more dollars in my account, and I can get an iPhone!"