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christian dining etiquette
prohibited food & drink
Most Christians are omnivores and have no moral or religious objection to eating meat of any kind, though some fast on Fridays or during Lent mainly for spiritual reasons.
Some Christians are demi-vegetarians and refuse animal products that have been intensively reared and eat only free-range meat and fish.
Some Christians are vegetarian, and exclude fish, flesh and fowl, but not necessarily all dairy produce and eggs.
Some Christians are vegan, and exclude fish, flesh and fowl and all dairy produce, including eggs, and honey.
food laws and beliefs
Two main biblical insights influence Christian dietary practices.
Genesis 9.1-4 allows meat eating under certain conditions, and in practice most Christians are omnivores and have no ethical or spiritual objection to eating meat of any kind. They believe that God had granted humans permission to eat flesh as part of the Noahic covenant.
Some Catholic and Orthodox Christians fast on Fridays or during Lent or other penitential seasons of the Church’s year but this is usually for spiritual – rather than ethical - reasons (see Feasting and Feasting).
Some Christians are demi-vegetarian, vegetarian or vegan – for ethical or religious reasons (see Vegetarianism). Most base their practice on the other main biblical insight derived from Genesis 1.29 that depicts vegetarianism as God’s original will.
The inspiration for the modern vegetarian movement came from the Bible Christian Church in the nineteenth century - which, in obedience to Genesis 1.29-30, made vegetarianism compulsory among its members. The Genesis text reveals that God’s original will was for a peaceful, vegetarian world. Meat eating was only allowed in the Hebrew Bible after the fall and the flood, i.e. the human descent into violence. Post-modern Christian vegetarians argue that humans should seek to approximate God’s will by living as free as possible from violence to sentient creatures.
Christian vegetarians believe meat eating is unjustifiable because we now know that we can live healthy lives without recourse to flesh foods. Some Christians also adopt vegetarianism, or demi-vegetarianism, as a protest against the suffering inflicted on animals in intensive farming, especially veal crates, sow stalls and battery cages. Christianity has generally opposed animal cruelty, but the recent upsurge in Christian vegetarianism is testimony to a renewed sense that respect for animal life is a duty in itself, and especially that inflicting suffering cannot be reconciled with a Christ-like life.
feasts and fasting
Catholics may observe several feast and fast days during the year. Feast days include Christmas, Easter, the Annunciation (March 25th), Palm Sunday (the Sunday before Easter), the Ascension (40 days after Easter), and Pentecost Sunday (50 days after Easter). The only feast days common to most Protestant and Reformed traditions are Christmas and Easter.
Some Catholics fast during Lent, on the Fridays of Advent, Ember Days (at the beginning of the seasons). Some fast or abstain only on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. Fasting is usually for spiritual reasons, such as teaching control of fleshly desires, as a penance for sin, or to express solidarity with the poor. Some Christians now advocate vegetarianism during Lent for specifically ethical reasons. The Good Friday fast commemorates the day Christ died on the cross. Fasting in not a major part of the Protestant or Reformed tradition.
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- Mike Lininger, Editor, Etiquette Scholar
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