Type the words “Mennonite vegans” into your search engine and you likely won’t come up with much. But being a Mennonite vegan is very doable, whether you are culturally Mennonite or not. And with a birth name of Carrie and a married name of Steven, I am clearly not culturally Mennonite.
Why did we go vegan? Initially, I just couldn’t decide which animals I could eat and which ones I couldn’t. For my husband Laurence (Laur), it was a case of having 10 kilograms to lose. And when he went plant-based, the weight came off very simply.
But I cannot be fundamentalist about it. Jesus never said his followers could not eat meat. We know that Jesus ate fish and even cooked them. And he attended gatherings where meat would have been enjoyed.
Nor is there a credible New Testament guideline that condemns being vegan or plant-based. As Paul says in Romans: “The one who eats everything must not belittle the one who does not, and the one who does not eat everything must not judge the one who does, for God has accepted him.”
Although Mennos love their meat, being vegan does not complicate our church and community life in the least. Laur and I refer to ourselves as 95-percent vegan when we are not at home. When dining out with friends and family, we can always find an item that is vegan enough, even at a steakhouse. Every restaurant has “sides” we can order, and most offer a veggie option these days.
If we go to a potluck—and we Mennos love our potlucks—we bring a pot of homemade beans and an offering of seasoned rice. We can normally eat the salads and cooked veggies, the bread and desserts because we don’t worry if there is a minute amount of animal products in there somewhere. Nothing is gained by being difficult, and lots can be lost. People who might otherwise pursue a more plant-based diet could easily be discouraged.
I love C. S. Lewis’s book The Screwtape Letters: Letters from a Senior to a Junior Devil in which Wormwood explains to a junior tempter that delicacy has become the new gluttony: “But what do quantities matter, provided we can use a human belly and palate to produce querulousness, impatience, uncharitableness and self-concern? Glubose [another senior devil] has this old woman well in hand. She is a positive terror to hostesses and servants. She is always turning from what has been offered her to say with a demure little sigh and a smile, ‘Oh please, please . . . all I want is a cup of tea, weak but not too weak, and the teeniest weeniest bit of really crisp toast.’ You see? Because what she wants is smaller and less costly than what has been set before her, she never recognizes as gluttony her determination to get what she wants, however troublesome it may be to others.”
My husband and I hope others see us as joyful, helpful Christians who happen to be vegan—rather than querulous, selfish vegans who happen to be Christians.
There are plenty of free resources if you are thinking of adopting a more plant-centred life:
My Vegan Seniors website—at veganseniors.weebly.com/—will link you to other excellent resources.
I also have a Facebook site where I weekly post joyful, healthful Vegan News to encourage people along, at facebook.com/veganseniors/.
Jan Carrie Steven and her husband Laur are members of Grace Mennonite Church, St. Catharines, Ont. She is a community volunteer and a pastoral-care visitor. Her hobbies include biking and hiking.
Jan Steven’s recipe for Easy Beans is available here: canadianmennonite.org/easy-beans