Book Review: Vegangelical: How Caring for Animals Can Shape Your Faith, by Sarah Withrow King

VegangelicalFirst, let me offer a little autobiographical information. I love animals—I love all of creation. All I wanted to do up until I was sixteen years old was to be a zoologist and promote healthy, environmental living. My life direction changed, but my passions didn’t. I was president of the Alabama Animal Rights Fellowship (AARF—ha!) at the University of Alabama, attended a nationwide animal rights convention in Washington, D.C., and marched in protest of animal cruelty. I decided overnight to be vegan on February 22, 2002, and remained as such for five years. Many of my beliefs have not changed, nor my feelings on many related matters, but as I continue to grow and learn I want to be consistent in my life in service to God. I know what it’s like to be the only Christian vegan in a room of hundreds who hate religion. I’ve heard the arguments of vegans and non-vegans alike, many of which are emotion- and sensationalism-driven “facts” not primarily founded on careful consideration of many perspectives and bodies of evidence. I could probably affirm the decision of just about anyone to choose a vegan lifestyle, but I cannot affirm all reasoning. I made that decision based on a number of factors, so when people asked me why, I simply said, “Pick a reason; it’s probably in there.” Love, ethics, and economics played large parts in my decision, but not once did I use my Scripture references to say someone was sinning by eating animal flesh or wearing animal products and the like. Why? It can’t be found in Scripture. There is absolutely no Scriptural foundation upon which one may say not living a vegan lifestyle in all circumstances is a sin. However, Sarah Withrow King, in Vegangelical: How Caring for Animals Can Shape Your Faith, does just that with much hypocrisy, sensationalism, sloppy theology, and a lack of wisdom. This is typical “too little on too much in too few pages” pro-vegan literature.

King uses Scripture in reference to human interaction as equally applicable to animals. I can understand why someone would want to do that. Really, I can. But animals and humans aren’t the same. Humans were made as the image of God; animals were not. That is a distinction that ought not be overlooked. However, by using these Scriptures, King promotes equal treatment among all species—but really only the fuzzy, cuddly, charismatic kind in WWF magazines, domesticated pets, and farm animals with which we are all familiar; the cockroaches, earthworms, and beetles I think will not find so much compassion in the King household. She condemns those who engage in vivisection and mutilation, but both condones and encourages genital mutilation (spaying and neutering) of pets to keep their populations down and to euthanize them when they are too sick or in pain. So, do we harm or do we not? Do we say the same things about humans since we are equating them and using Scripture equally? Like Nazis much? “I see you have a bum leg, have cancer, and are suffering. I will hold you gently and love you as we put you out of your misery, [dog/cat/dad/child].” No, we are not equal, and Scripture ought not be so applied.

When she finally, at the end of the last chapter, asks herself the question about Jesus eating meat, she answers with the following: “I don’t know why Jesus ate fish…” (148) That’s it. No addressing of Jesus, the only perfect and sinless son of God sacrificed so that we may be redeemed, committing what King calls sin. If one is going to write a book about why it is sin for all people everywhere to be vegan because otherwise would be sin, one must have a thoroughly thought out and convincing argument regarding Jesus eating at least fish and the Passover lamb. But readers are left with a shrug and quick movement to, “Adopting a vegan diet and lifestyle is one of the easiest ways I have found to honor the gift of God’s creation and to follow the example of Jesus’ love for all” (149). That’s a great reason to make the vegan choice, and it’s part of why I was once vegan; but there’s a huge leap one must make from saying “I’m doing this to honor God” to “You’re sinning for not doing this!”

If I were to address every theological question, occasion of hypocrisy and sloppy research, this would get rather lengthy. This is emotion, emotion, emotion and data point, personal opinion, and “friend told me a story” information presented without discerning connectivity. So, for Christian readers (the intended audience), I hope the Jesus argument is enough to dissuade anyone from encouraging reading this book. There are many other works that are much more faithful to Scripture and reason that may prove beneficial. For larger works of a holistic Christian life that include creation care, I recommend Christopher J. H. Wright’s The Mission of God and The Mission of God’s People because they are two of my top recommendations you should have in your library anyway!


*Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


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