Good Girls Go To Heaven But Vegetarians Go To Hell
Vegetarians are an anomaly in Namibia and meat is generally considered the only food group. Therefore it is understandable that people who voluntarily do not eat meat perplex them. Upon announcing to my host family that I was a vegetarian they looked at me with mystified expressions and said, “Do you eat fish and chicken?” Laughingly, I said “No. In America chicken and fish are considered meat.” and proceeded to explain the ethical, moral, and environmental ideals that do not match with eating meat. In response, they explained that meat was a tasty, tasty treat and I was missing out on the wonders of a juicy carcass.
One might think that would have been the end of the discussion but alas, months later we still had daily discussions about the virtues of meat. As my host family was able to afford the luxury of meat it was prevalent and eaten daily. Without fail, this led to comments along the lines of “Mmmm, this meat is delicious. Perhaps if you just closed your eyes and ate some you would enjoy it too.” If I had a dollar for every time my family persisted that I eat meat I could have doubled my volunteer allowance.
At the time, there were other Peace Corps vegetarians and a fellow volunteer encountered similar resistance to his lifestyle choice by a member of the Catholic diocese, Father “Peter”. Father Peter claimed that anyone who willingly avoided the temptations of meat was on a slippery slope to hell on account of the devil’s trickery. He believed once you start questioning the validity of slaughtering animals for their meaty goodness you would then get entangled in a religious quagmire with Hindus and Buddhists, thus leading you into a world of trouble. Father Peter used Leviticus to explain why Christians should take the moral high ground of bopping baby animals over the head and eating them for dinner.
After hearing this recitation I was thankful that while my family badgered me day in and day out to eat meat that they weren’t using the Bible as a tool to belittle my beliefs. Unfortunately, my relief was short lived.
One day after another espousal on the pleasures of meat my family changed their tack. Perhaps they realized that they needed to employ new tricks to change my vegetable loving mind and instead decided to put the fear of God into me.
Host Dad: “God wants you to eat meat.”
Me: “Oh, really.”
Host Dad: “Yep. It’s in the Bible.”
Me: “I find that hard to believe.”
Host Dad: “Genesis says that fruit caused man’s downfall. Meat, on the other hand, is what we sent on up to heaven as a present to God.”
Me: “Interesting interpretation. How about the New Testament? Of course the OT was down with sacrificial lambs; they were also down with sacrificing their own kids.”
Host Dad: “Ah, here, here.” [Quotes out of context verse in II Chronicles, which is not, by the way, in the New Testament] “There. You’re thwarting God’s will for your life.”
Me: “I doubt that’s true.”
Host Dad: “I think America made you a backsliding Christian.”
At that moment I realized there would never be an adequate compromise between my host family and me. They would continue to believe that meat was manna from God and I would continue to pick my fruit and vegetables from the tree of knowledge. All in all, I learned to be ok with that.