For some Christians, going vegan may be a sudden thing after attending a church talk about factory farming and animal cruelty.
Like Paul on the road to Damascus, they are struck with a life-changing conviction — this one to give up meat and dairy — for keeps.
But not Mike Huggins, a leader and co-founder of Grace and Main, an intentional community of hospitality in Danville, Va.
Huggins, who is 30, embraced veganism just over five years ago — and then only after a long period of study inspired by a need to lose weight.
“It was not necessarily one ‘aha’ moment,” he said. “It was a combination of learning and researching and thinking and praying about it.”
But why would — or should — people of faith consider abandoning meat and dairy from their daily menus?
It turns out a lot of people are asking those questions and coming up with a wide range of answers — from physical to spiritual — on why to give up meat, cheese and eggs.
For Franklin Graham, it was his love of Quarter Pounders, barbecue and steak.
“Therefore, beginning January 1, I’m going to try something drastic — I’m going on a vegan diet,” Graham said in a Dec. 27 Facebook post.
Graham said people around him predict he’ll last only a couple of days. Here is where his decision gets slightly biblical.
“Remember in the Bible, Daniel went on a complete vegetable diet and after 10 days his appearance was better than the others who hadn’t,” Graham said in the post. “If you have any great vegetable recipes, post them here so I can try them.”
But Scripture says much more than that about diet. Seen from a vegan perspective, Genesis presents God’s desire that humanity stick to fruits and vegetables. In the chapter-one passage, God provides people “every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth” to eat. Animals also are mentioned, but only in that they are given green plants to eat.
The dietary value implied in the passage has been famously promoted by Pope Francis I.
Francis is well known for his minimalist eating habits, and in 2015 he was named Person of the Year by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
Francis was the first religious leader PETA ever picked for the distinction.
“Pope Francis was chosen for asking the world’s 1.2 billion Roman Catholics and all citizens of the world to reject human domination over God’s creation, treat animals with kindness, and respect the environment,” the animal rights group said.
Both the Graham and Francis approaches help describe why Huggins has gone without meat, cheese and eggs for more than five years.
“One reason was my health,” he said.
He was already trying to live a more healthy lifestyle, motivated in part by the fact he weighed 375 pounds at the time.
“I was told fruits and veggies were the healthiest, though growing up these were the least desirable,” he said.
Huggins said he had also become concerned about the environment. His research led him to learn about the detrimental effect factory farming has on the planet. In turn, it was becoming evident how a damaged ecosystem affects the vulnerable in society more than others.
Initially, Huggins said he embarked on a vegetarian diet, which then gave way to a vegan one. And at that time, the physical connected with the spiritual.
“As I was learning about that I began to think this seemed to be the biblical choice for me,” he said.