Meat-Free Monday: Why Not Eat Vegan? 

There are a few reasons beyond just the obvious one: it’s a big adjustment to your life and can be quite inconvenient and difficult if you don’t live a bigger city.

And some people have been burned by self-righteous vegans who treated them like garbage and turned them off to the possibilities altogether.  

Now, I’ve experienced great support from family, friends, and co-workers as I’ve gone fully plant-based. They’ve been encouraging and accommodating, and it warms my heart.

But why do so many people go for   crash diets or even gastric surgery without ever trying a plant based diet? Surely that adjustment is far more inconvenient than going vegan. 

I think an answer may come from moral foundations theory.

Most of us approach vegetarianism and/or veganism from the moral foundation of  care. We see the videos of animal abuse inherent in factory farming,  and we want to change,  to prevent that suffering,  even if just for the few animals per year who suffer and die for our consumption.

Sometimes it’s a fairness issue. I have no problems with my grandparents’ past cattle farming, just like I had no problem with them using leaded gasoline in their cars.

I had no problem with my ancient ancestors’ hunting and herding. 

But this isn’t 1940, or 1423, or 3000 BCE.  We don’t need to do that to live,  and our methods for raising and killing animals have grown far crueler and more wasteful since then,  due to industrialized agriculture and maximized profits.

We don’t have to do that any more, so I don’t.

But a lot of people don’t solely operate from care and fairness. A lot of people also care about the moral foundations of authority,  in-group loyalty, and sanctity. 

So how might these moral foundations make a person more resistant to going plant based? 

Authority (tradition) 

We are taught throughout school that cow’s milk “does a body good,” that we have to drink plenty or our bikes won’t grow strong. 

We are taught to eat meat,  too, though somewhat less directly. 

Also,  vegetarianism and especially veganism are strange,  and strangeness and eccentricity are actively devalued by the authority mindset.  

Why?  Because going against the grain small matters prepares you to go against the grain in large matters. 

In group loyalty

Meat is the American way, at least according to the beef industry’s ads. BBQ’s are patriotic, and refusing the celebratory meat is tantamount to disloyalty. This sounds silly,  but don’t most of our patriotic holidays involve a barbecue?

Sanctity

Somehow,  despite being purer in the senses of cruelty, bacterial contamination, and  actual contents, many vegan protein sources sound strange, fake, or otherwise suspect.  

In American culture, plant based proteins are ritually, or at least metaphorically, unclean. I’ve seen this reaction, but I can’t explain it. 

So there you go: a few reasons people might openly object to veganism or vegetarianism. 

Just because something doesn’t make sense to me,  doesn’t mean it doesn’t make sense from the other person’s perspective. 

Life isn’t always logical, but it always has a logic of its own

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Wayne Grudem Is NOT a “Good Man Giving Bad Advice” 

[I wrote this in early August, but shelved it until I’d cooled off some. Sometimes being timely isn’t worth it] 

Conservative evangelical theologian Wayne Grudem wrote a terrible article called “why voting for Donald Trump is a morally good choice.”

In it, he whitewashed Trump’s misogyny and racism, including his refusal to denounce the KKK.

Grudem minimized the dangers of having such an egotistical, unstable bully at the command of the world’s most powerful military.

He raised the spectre of widespread persecution of Christians under a Clinton presidency,  with no real evidence that this would happen,  while ignoring the persecution of Muslims that Trump has promised.

Obviously, I disagree with Grudem. So do conservative theologians like the Southern Baptist Convention’s Al Mohler and Russel Moore, though perhaps for different reasons. 

In fact, there had been a lot of pushback against Grudem from the Christian Right, which is encouraging.

This article sums up the general approach these articles have taken, assuming that Grudem is a generally good and wise man who has been misled by fears of who Clinton might appoint to the Supreme Court.

I want to take a more critical approach. Wayne Grudem and Donald Trump are a near-perfect match.

Torture: Donald Trump has advocated not only torturing trout suspects (without trial) just as his Republican predecessor,  evangelical darling George W. Bush did, but even torturing their families if it helps get useful information.

Wayne Grudem called waterboarding and other Bush-  era “enhanced interrogation” techniques a “moral responsibility” of government. Not only did he give his sanction to torture, so long as it was the kind that didn’t leave permanent scars, but he actually said “not to have used them would have been morally wrong…” (Politics According to the Bible, p 432, quoted in Christianity Today).

Christian supremacy: Donald Trump has shown open hostity toward Muslims, even the Muslim parents of a soldier killed in action.

And while few people actually believe Trump’s conveniently timed religious awakening (an awakening that has not led him to change any of his positions, apologize to anyone he has wronged or insulted, or divest himself of his strip clubs and casinos), it’s pretty clear which religious group he’s currying favor with.

Wayne Grudem’s examples of religious liberty in his endorsement all centered around Christians being allowed to deny God’s and services to people the disagree with (mostly gay people) Or limiting medical coverage for their female employees, Hobby Lobby style.

Grudem’s book on politics us called Politics According to the Bible, a title that is certainly ambitious, if not hubristic. Much of what he advocates is standard Christian Right “get this country back to God” soft theocracy.

It is safe to say that Trump’s hostility toward religious minorities is of no real concern to Grudem.

Misogyny, or at least male dominance. Trump has proven his misogyny over and again on the trail. And that’s leaving aside a history of adultery, objectification, rpe allegations, abd sexualizing his daughters on talk radio.

Grudem is one of the leading proponents of complementarianism, a theory in which the men lead and the women submit and support thrm. Men are spiritual and worldly leaders, protectors, and providers. Women are caretakers. They raise the children, support their husbands’ ministries and activities, and follow.

This aligns him with Trump, who proudly claimed to have taken little role in raising his children, other than bringing home a lot of money, and whose three wives have all set their careers aside for him.

Sure,  Grudem is a moralistic man who’d never be involved with something as crass or sleazy as a strip club, who’d never say “grab ’em by the pussy“, but fundamentally, he and Trump are the same: authoritarians who believe in male dominance, force, torture, and the suppression of civil rights for unpopular minorities.

If you call that “good,” you know how to vote in November.

If not, you can be like Al Mohler and Russel Moore and vote third party, or you can be like Rachel Held Evans and Shannon Dingle and vote for Hillary Clinton.

But let’s not pretend that Wayne Grudem’s endorsement of Donald Trump was some weird, outlier mistake. The two are much more alike than they seem.

Theory Thursday: Moral Foundations

I’ve been reading and thinking about moral foundation theory, and it’s really been eye-opening. It helps to explain and understand the reasons people hold different political and social positions and beliefs.

I’ll be writing more about this in the weeks to come, but I thought I’d start with an overview.

The five primary moral foundations are

  1. Care (vs. Harm)
  2. Fairness/Reciprocity
  3. Authority
  4. In-Group Loyalty
  5. Purity

Typically, Liberals and Progressives focus on the first two. Conservatives favor all five, typically putting that last three (Authority, In-Group Loyalty, and Purity) above the first two (Care/Harm and Fairness/Reciprocity).

There’s a sixth one, Liberty, that is gaining traction. Libertarians value that above all others, though everyone values it to some degree.

Caring about Care/Harm and Fairness is obvious – we don’t want people to be hurt. We don’t want people to be cheated. And every side of the political fence cares about these two.

But why care about the other three? Order tends to decay unless effort is put into maintaining it. Just like houses and engines and our bodies. In times of chaos, everybody gets hurt. Thus, it makes sense to put some effort into maintaining order. Thus, Authority, In-Group Loyalty, and Purity.

Why do progressives reject these, then?

Because Authority is power. Not only does it corrupt, but it is sought by the most corrupt. Accepting authority with little or no questioning means signing your name to all its abuses. Voting to re-elect George W. Bush in 2004 meant giving your sanction to Guantanamo Bay, the Iraq War, and the Patriot Act. Voting to re-elect Barack Obama in 2012 meant giving your tacit approval to his ongoing an unaccountable uses of drone strikes on civilians in countries we weren’t even at war with, like Pakistan.

Because In-Group Loyalty inherently leads to the marginalization (or worse) of those who do not fit into the group, and the destruction of those who threaten the group. I suffered through enough bullying in K12 to never trust a clique, team, or identity fully, and what I went through was nothing compared to what some of my LGBT+ friends experienced. Nothing at all. This sort of mindset leads to people cheering and dancing in the street when a terrorist leader is killed. This sort of mindset leads to people covering for their fellow cops when an unarmed 12 year old is killed. This mindset is at the heart of racism and homophobia.

Because Purity usually means men controlling women’s lives and sexuality, blaming them for our lusts and our bad actions. Jesus said “if your eye offends you, pluck it out,” not “if your eye offends you, tell whoever you’re leering at to wear thicker clothes.” Purity drives male domination of women across the world.

There are benefits to the moral foundations of Authority, In-Group Loyalty, and Purity, but progressives look at the harm that has been done in their name to ethnic minorities, to women, to gender and sexual minorities, and the harm that is still being done, and figure we’d all be better off sticking to Care and Fairness.

But the question comes about: how do we then create a stable society, especially during a crisis?

It’s no wonder that progressive movements tend to have their greatest gains not during times of crisis, but during times of stability. This is especially true during times when the prosperity is not shared anywhere close to equally between groups: the Gilded Age, the Post WW2-Boom, the last thirty years. During times of crisis (WW2, immediately post-9/11/01) people take a more conservative (or even hardline) turn. This ebb and flow may be a natural part of society’s life cycle, but it’s important to keep an eye on it, to prevent it from giving rise to a violent mass movement (like the Nazis, Al Queda, or the Islamic State).

To learn more about Moral Foundation Theory:

Moral Foundations website

Moral Foundations on Wikipedia

Moral Foundations and Political Backgrounds Quizzes

Here is Johnathan Haidt’s TED talk about Moral Foundations in Politics.

 

 

 

Where Ayn Rand Went Right (Prophets and Bullies)

We must call evil “evil.”

We must have the courage to speak up.
We must not give evil the sanction of our silence.

Now, I’m no Objectivist. I’ve talked about where Atlas Shrugged went off the rails.

And unlike former vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan, I don’t think Objectivism is compatible with Christianity. But if Balaam could learn from a donkey, surely we can be humble enough to learn from a mid-century social darwinist.

But the truth is, it is far too easy to let things slide, either to keep the peace, or because we don’t want to damage our favored candidate’s chances, or because we just don’t want to make a fuss.

But evil grows best in silence and darkness.

I truly believe that we must start within ourselves, with the beams in our own eyes (Matthew 7:3).  Otherwise, we become hypocrites, whitewashed tombs (Matthew 23:27). And we must temper our boldness with compassion and empathy, lest we become cruel ourselves.

This means we must have the courage to call out the people in power, not pick on minorities and the marginalized just because they’re easy targets. THAT is the difference between the prophet and the bully. And THAT is the difference we must never forget.

But we must take hold of the courage to speak up. We must call out actions, plans, policies, and institutions. Even if they are popular. Even if they are done “to protect American lives.” Even if we voted for the guy doing them. Especially if we voted for the guy doing them.

We must speak out … even as we remember that the people committing these terrible acts are beloved children of the same God that made and loves us.