Thursday, September 15, 2016

A Tale of Two Churches: Remembering Birmingham

September 15th.  

On this day fifty-three years ago in a little country church, in a small Georgia town, there was a wedding.  

The young bride and groom met a few years prior at Savannah State University.  The year before they wed, the groom spent several months overseas with the military.

Now, their day had finally come. Surrounded by family and friends, they began their new life together. Within a few hours, they were on the road, heading west to California, where the bride had always dreamt of living one day.

That same day in another church only 200 miles northwest, five excited young girls were downstairs in their church’s basement preparing for Sunday school.  Sadly, the lesson they would learn was one of hatred and death.  Demonic, murderous hatred for no other reason than the color of their skin.  They attended the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama. 

When the dynamite exploded beneath the church building, my hope is that they didn’t suffer and were already in the arms of the Lord before they had any awareness of what had been done to them.

The blast killed four of the girls: Addie Mae Collins (14) Carole Robertson (14) Cynthia Wesley (14) and Denise McNair (11).  Sarah Collins, the younger sister of Addie Mae survived the attack, but lost an eye and needed to have several reconstructive facial surgeries.

The young couple whose wedding I began this post with, were my parents.  Birmingham was my father’s hometown, and without realizing it they would be spending their wedding night in a war zone.    I asked my mother once if she and my father knew what was going on that day.  They had heard some news about it but did not know the full extent of what had transpired.

Our 11-year-old son is homeschooled.   Today, our social studies lesson was about the terrorist bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church and the devastating role it played in the civil rights movement.   After watching a short film about the attack, my son’s face was solemn, his eyes close to years.  Mine were as well.

My husband and I proceeded to educate him on the reasons why someone would bomb a church of all places, without having any thought or care about the death left in their wake. 

We also talked about Emmett Till, a 14-year-old Black boy visiting family in Mississippi the summer of 1955, who was kidnapped, tortured and murdered for supposedly flirting with a white woman. 

Today I had to make it clear to my biracial son, that there were and still are people in this world who would have no problem killing Black and biracial children as well as adults, convinced they’d be doing the right thing.    

As I type this, I’m sad that it was even necessary to tell my son about such atrocities. Not "out there" in another country, here in our own. But, this is the world we live in.  

So, it’s with a heavy heart tonight that I contemplate the lives of those four little girls and their unwitting sacrifice.  Their lives stolen, not by some foreign terrorist group, but four* fellow Americans, Ku Klux Klan members, drunk on the ideology of white supremacy that has never really left this country.  Yes, even with a Black family in the White House.

It has only become more subtle over the decades, and as a result, harder to prove.  

May we never forget.

Addie Mae Collins

Carole Robertson

Cynthia Wesley

Denise McNair

Rest in Peace and Power



"Terrorism is Part of Our History": Angela Davis on '63 Church Bombing, Growing up in"Bombingham"
Martin Luther King Jr. 'Eulogy for the Young Victims September18, 1963

Birmingham Sunday, Joan Baez

*I don't feel the need in this post to list the names of the guilty. The info is easily found by a simple Google search.

Friday, August 12, 2016

The Myth of a Christian Nation, by Gregory A. Boyd: A Book Review Series


The first time I read The Myth of a Christian Nation was around the summer of 2012.  It shook up so much of what I was conditioned to believe as an American Christian.
So much so that I suggested it as the book we study together in our small group.  And since it was an election year, what better timing to stir up stimulating political conversation with a few friends?

I know that may sound scary to most whether you’re a Christian or not.  What is it they say? When in a group of people, don’t discuss politics or religion.  Well, here we were about to do both…at the same time!  It may sound like a recipe for disaster, but our group had weathered other controversial topics in previous studies, managing to get through them with as much love and care for each other as we went in with.

So Greg Boyd’s work actually didn’t start as a book project at all. He decided during the 2004 election year to do a series of sermons at the church he pastors on a subject he felt was of utmost importance in the American church.  Those sermons became the basis for this book.

The main idea that Greg suggests is that a large portion of the evangelical church in the States has become idolatrous in Its wedding together belief in the Kingdom of God thru Jesus Christ with political power and nationalism.  
In the introduction, he warns the reader that they will be challenged with ideas and information that may seem foreign, anti-American, ungodly, and in the opinion of some, downright Satanic.  Yes, you read that right. These were the kinds of responses he received from some in his own congregation.

As a result of teaching this series, twenty percent of the members left. That was one thousand people.   But, most did stay and the topic received positive responses from many who had been feeling the same way (that much of the Evangelical church has slipped into political and nationalistic idolatry) but kept it to themselves to avoid the disapproval of fellow Christians.

Greg shares what he sees is the root of this phenomenon.  It is the sincere belief that we are a Christian nation and it is our duty as believers, to take back America for God. To the nonchristian mind, that may sound a little unnerving, huh?  Take it back from who? How? Take it where and back to what?

The Myth of a Christian Nation attempts to explain much of the “how”. As an evangelical Christian, sharing the faith with others is a given.  But by a growing segment of the Church, it’s assumed this includes a mandate to make our voices heard in the political arena.  So much so that winning the culture wars which includes outlawing abortion and gay marriage, for example, have been at the top of the list of ways to bring America back to its allegedly moral, Christian beginning. 

Yet over time, our country has become much more diverse since its founding.  The power of assumed Christian-ness in the U.S. is giving way to an increasingly pluralistic society. 

The result of Americanized Christianity as Greg points out, (pgs 13-14) is that:
“This myth harms the church’s primary mission. For many in America and around the world, the American flag has smothered the glory of the cross, and the ugliness of our American version of Caesar has squelched the radiant love of Christ. Because the myth that America is a Christian nation has led many to associate America with Christ, many now hear the good news of Jesus only as American news, capitalistic news, imperialistic news, exploitive news, anti-gay news, or Republican news.  And whether justified or not, many people want nothing to do with any of it.“

Greg concedes that it’s just as problematic for the Church to attach itself to left-leaning or liberal political parties.  Yet the “Religious Right” is much more vocal and has wielded a greater amount of power over the last few decades.

Next time, we’ll begin with chapter one: The Kingdom of the Sword.  I’ll share key points and also a bit of my own commentary.

I can’t recommend this book highly enough.  If you choose to read along with me (and I hope you will), I would love to hear your thoughts, positive or negative. Just share them in the comment section below. 

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

The Sound of Silence Beneath an Ocean of Denial

              (photo credit: Marine Mining on Investing News Network 2010)                                                                                                                         

So, I’ve had some things rolling around in my head for the last few weeks, questions that I hope to receive honest answers to.

Due to emotions running high over the latest police killings of black men, the assassinations of five police officers in Dallas by a sniper, and another three in Baton Rouge, LA (both shooters ex-military) a few days ago, I’ve been having some, shall we say spirited online conversations.

The most challenging have been with white individuals who seem to prefer in these times to defensively respond with #allivesmatter, believing that saying #blacklivesmatter is exclusionary and racist.

During the back and forth expressing our opinions and facts as we see them, complete with links to sites and memes sure to prove the other wrong, I have noticed a common thread in all of these interactions.

 I asked for their thoughts about the #crimingwhilewhite phenomenon from a couple of years ago when thousands of white people took it upon themselves to share online, actions they committed over the years without so much as any rough treatment by police. One I read said they even received a friendly police escort home to ensure their safety.  This person had been drinking!   Many of these personal stories included eyewitness accounts of seeing their black friends get treated like criminals for some of the same behavior, or simply “looking suspicious”. 

Another was a Facebook friend who took it upon himself to create a mini #crimingwhilewhite list on his own page, asking for his fellow white friends to share examples of their privilege on his wall, beginning with himself.  The list was long and their empathy great.

Then I asked my discussion partners for their opinions about the fact that many police officers, public officials, and even some conservative republican politicians,are admitting that there is, in fact, a racial bias against blacks (men especially) in this country, and racism is indeed institutional and systemic to our society.  No matter how subtle it may seem or how non-existent (because they are not on the receiving end) it may seem in the minds of some.

So, in their responses and attempts to discount most of what I’d shared, (and there were many) none of them ever acknowledged the situations I’ve listed above.  
Not. One. Single. Person.

Not even a response of disagreement or dismissal.  It was as if I never mentioned those facts at all.

Maybe they didn’t see them?  Maybe they did but simply believed that those individuals made it all up.  

ALL those #crimingwhilewhite contributors, cops, public officials (one a governor) and conservative political leaders (who aren’t exactly known for being too publicly vocal about racial discrimination issues) simply LIED. For what?

What would they have to gain by going to all that trouble? When it comes to police officers releasing info about the racist attitudes and treatment they see, it means putting their jobs and possibly their lives in jeopardy.

During these chats, it hasn’t been uncommon for some to request ceasing to continue these conversations after I’ve shared the above info.   

Maybe because the facts don’t fit the narrative they’ve been conditioned to believe, they refuse to engage?

It looks as though many have convinced themselves, and attempt to do so with people of color like myself, that it’s best to just move forward, pretend our country’s racist founding never happened, (or that it wasn’t that bad) come together, and stop being so divisive.  Or, stop playing the race card.  
Tactics used to attempt to silence us.  To those statements, I ask what (or who) is really at the root of this division? Who created that deck of cards in the first place? I think we all know.

I do find it interesting that we are never encouraged to forget and move on from the terrorist attacks of 9/11.  In fact, the very slogan for that terrible day is “Never Forget.”

Why are brown and black people expected to just let go of the past and move on when it comes to the atrocities committed against us by our own country, yet not those that are perpetrated against the U.S. by others? 

In my opinion, if it’s so essential to study and remember the events in our history like the terrorist attacks of 9/11, World Wars I and II, and many others (which I believe is necessary), then we should also with just as much determination, acknowledge and work together to dismantle systems of oppression, many of which have their foundations in white supremacy. 

Pretending these problems don’t or no longer exist will ironically keep us trapped in these realms of divisiveness that many say are caused by people like myself and others who refuse to stay silent, no matter how emotionally uncomfortable it gets.

So yes, if anyone out there can present logical explanations or answers to my questions on these issues, I’m all ears. Seriously.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

The Lord Spoke To Me...In a Tow Truck

You have heard it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy'. But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.  
Matthew 5:43-44

Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you.
Luke 6:27

..And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that.
Luke 6:33

If you love those who love you, what reward will you get?
...And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others?
Matthew 5:46,47


Having trouble seeing the video?  click here.

When I first read about this story, I thought surely no business person would be that petty or sink to such a level.  But I guess when someone believes "God spoke to them", that can justify just about anything.

To say the political climate here in the U.S. this year is volatile would be an understatement.  The protests, fights breaking out at rallies, and political parties eating each other alive from within, is at a level that I've never seen in the history of my voting life.

Unfortunately, the conflict doesn't stop with the players in this election season drama.
There are stories of family members and friends who have decided for the sake of the relationship, not to discuss their disagreements over the candidates they support.

And now, this division has apparently seeped into business dealings as well.

The story from several days ago in North Carolina, that's referenced in the video above, I found infuriating.  A young woman was in an accident, her car now undrivable.  So, like any of us would do, she called for a tow truck.  When the driver arrived, he proceeded to hook up her car to his equipment. Well, he did until he noticed the Bernie Sanders bumper stickers on her car.

See, Ken Shupe of Shupee Max Towing, is a self-described conservative Christian and Donald Trump supporter. When he saw the political affiliation of the customer, Cassy McWade, a stranded disabled young woman, he believed that the "Lord came to him" telling him to "get in his truck and leave."

This was for no other reason than her support for Sanders. Shupe believed that he wouldn't receive payment from Cassy because he assumed she was a socialist.

In his defense, he said he'd been "Berned" (his spelling)before by these socialist types and not gotten paid.  Ok, fair enough. If someone has had a number of people with particular political leanings refuse to pay for services, I guess that would explain the fear that it will always happen, therefore, needing to protect themselves.

Though to me, this appears to be just an obvious situation of prejudice.  Pre-judging someone because of their alleged beliefs. Sure I'm not naive enough to think that this wouldn't happen if things were reversed and the tow truck driver were a Hillary or Bernie supporter and the stranded driver had "Make America Great Again" bumper stickers on their vehicle.

Either way, in my humble opinion, it's wrong.  But here's the issue I really want to stress; Ken made a point of stating his Christian faith and that his actions were God-led.  

One of the important aspects about this faith(in It's more evangelical form) is that we are to share it with others throughout our lives so that they may come to know Jesus as well.

We are also encouraged to be a "good witness". That's basically Christianspeak for don't be an ass and expect someone to be all happy dappy doo to hear about the God you serve when you've just refused to do your job and help a customer, (cough, cough) I mean to behave like a decent human being..

Now, I'm not saying that Christians corner the market on being kind, friendly, giving, etc.  We don't, even if "leading someone to Christ" is not the goal in relationships, which in my opinion shouldn't be anyway. Otherwise, it becomes about earning brownie points with God. Few Christians would admit that (not even to themselves) but it's often the case.

My intent is not to judge this driver in a condemning way.  But to say that the Lord told him to leave a young woman stranded due political views and that he's a Christian in the same breath, (I'm going to use a churchy phrase again) hurts his witness as someone who professes to serve a God and Savior of mercy, kindness, and love.

No, I don't expect us to be perfect in all of our personal interactions, or in our business dealings, but to refuse to tow someone due to the political candidate they support?  Really?
Come on now.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Barefoot Vegan

The May/June 2016 issue of Barefoot Vegan Magazine is out now and I've written an article that's included!     "How an Introvert came to Run the Vegan Society of Humboldt"

This issue is themed around ‘Business’ and features Mainstreet Vegan’s Victoria Moran on the front cover, who talks about her vegan journey and what it takes to set up and maintain a successful vegan business.

You can download a PDF of the latest issue for free or subscribe to read the magazine via a web browser or app that supports iOS and Android devices. Go to All profits go towards the Barefoot Vegan Farm & Animal Sanctuary.

Thanks for your support!

Saturday, April 23, 2016

On Their Own Terms: Animal Liberation for the 21st Century, by Lee Hall: A Book Review

The first (and only) time I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Lee Hall in person, was at the 2011 VegFest in San Francisco.
A friend and I sat in on Lee's talk in the main lecture hall. We found Lee to be as engaging as they are knowledgeable on the issues of animal liberation and the state of our planet.   
But, this was no feel good or warm and fuzzy presentation.  And to be honest, afterwards my friend and I had feelings of doom accompanied by a “it just seems hopeless” attitude.   This was no slight against Lee.  It was just that hearing in one sitting all the gory details of how we as humans have reeked such havoc on the Earth and all of its inhabitants, leaving so much death and destruction in our wake, was a lot to digest.

I have absolutely no regrets because it was worth it to hear and see one of my favorite activists in the vegan community.

Lee's work has always challenged me to think more critically about our relationship with animals and theirs with us.

So a few months ago when Lee asked if I would read a draft of their latest book and give my feedback, I felt honored.  Even more so when I learned that Lee would include my questions in the final draft when it was published. (In chapter six)

The book, On Their Own Terms: Animal Liberation for the 21st Century is an updated edition of the same title originally published in 2010.  The common thread throughout is one of uncommon respect for both the Earth and all its inhabitants.  I say uncommon because while the popular vegan slogan “why love one but eat the other?” comparing our pets (dog and cats) with animals raised for our consumption is compelling, Lee asks us to question whether it was ever right to do either?   

Lee makes a strong case for taking an active role in reversing the effects of centuries of selective breeding.  Universal neutering is presented as the most logical action to take, along with making the choice to breed no more.   Over time, this could enable their counterparts in the wild (like wolves and wildcats) to regain more of their original habitats lost due to domestication. 

While Lee concedes that much of our interaction with domesticated cats and dogs is positive and loving, there are still millions of them that end up abused, abandoned, or euthanized.  They are forever dependent and at our mercy because they’ve been bred that way. 

When it comes to farm animals, I hadn’t considered the negative consequences beyond the slaughter that awaits them at the end of their short lives. But they are not the only ones who suffer as a result of our appetites.  Those in the wild pay a high price as well.
From chapter one, page seven, “ …Meanwhile, free-living animals remain invisible. How do they stand a chance as long as we entitle ourselves to the lands on which they live, and they are not seen by us as having any such claims at all?”

Lee also questions the understandable feelings of outrage over factory farming and animal mistreatment as the motivation for going and remaining vegan and shares what else needs to be considered. 

I cannot recommend this book highly enough.  If you are open to stepping out of your comfort zone and having your assumptions about animal rights and veganism challenged, you will not be disappointed.

To learn more about Lee' and their work, check out the links below..

Lee’s blog

with Priscilla Feral

Thursday, March 10, 2016

The Jihad of Jesus, by Dave Andrews: a Book Review

I must admit, when I first saw this title it seemed to me a contradiction in terms.  Then with my next thought, I wondered how many of my fellow Christians had judged this book by its cover, denounced it, and ran screaming from their computers as if their spiritual lives depended on it.   So.. I knew I had to read it.

But, before I get into my review, I want to share a little bit about the author. Dave Andrews lives in Brisbane, Australia with his wife Ange, children, grandchildren, and others in a large combined house in the inner city of Brisbane.   If I were to imagine a happy, hippie, Santa Claus, he would look like Dave.

He and Ange have spent over forty years living in intentional Christian communities and working with people marginalized by societies in India, Nepal, Pakistan, Australian, and Afghanistan.  So after reading Dave’s bio I already liked the guy and was ready to dig in to what could be a very interesting yet controversial read.

Like many mis uninformed westerners, the only thing I knew about the word and the idea of jihad was that it was something akin to a  holy war waged against moderate Muslims, any non-Muslims, Europeans, and especially Americans.  What I learned though was that in Islam jihad is understood as a religious duty and in Arabic, it means “struggle”.

The two accepted definitions are an inner spiritual struggle and an outer physical struggle.

The inner struggle called the “greater jihad” is non-violent and refers to a believer simply fulfilling their religious duties.  The “lesser jihad” is the physical struggle against enemies of Islam and any oppressors. It can take the form of violence or non-violence.  Those who support the violent form have interpreted it to mean “holy war”.

But, what Dave points out and documents extensively, is that the Christian church has had its own history of “lesser jihad” that spans centuries.  During the colonization of the Americas and much of the southern hemisphere, if agents of the Church could not convince the “heathens” to accept the message of Christ willingly, they were forced to convert. And it wasn't pretty.  Often many were simply massacred for their failure to cooperate.  

Fellow Christians were not safe either as thousands (maybe millions) were condemned as heretics and brutally murdered for espousing beliefs that conflicted with the doctrines of whatever church body (Protestant or Roman Catholic) happened to be in power at the time.

But the author doesn’t just give us all the embarrassingly gory details of the Church’s history of atrocities.  He shares Islam’s as well.
He talks about how Muhammad was a prophet and mystic.  But he was also a military innovator, and used his command of the armed forces to reach his goals.
Dave states that Islam may have begun as an attempt at reconciliation of tribes in Medina, and laying a foundation to work towards peace with the People of the Book, both Christians and Jews.    But after a while, it wasn’t long before there were campaigns of slaughter and enslavement of these groups, including Jewish tribes.

These historical events are laid out from as early as 100 A.D. through to the 21st century for the Church and 620 A.D. through the 21st century for Islam.

But what does this have to do with Jesus and jihad?   Both Islam and Christianity look favorably on the person of Jesus. Muslims don’t see Him as a deity, though Jesus (Isa to them) is honored as a great prophet. But for Christians, He is accepted as equally God and human.
What David is making the case for is that Jesus lived in the realm of jihad (nonviolent struggle) by way of love and justice.

Here, from page 129 is a list of five phases as he saw them unfolding:

     1. The first phase of his nonviolent jihad for love and justice Jesus followed on from John the Baptist in denouncing the exploitation of the poor by the rich.

     2.   In the second phase off His nonviolent jihad for love and justice Jesus denounced the oppression of the powerless by the powerful and actively advanced liberation of disempowered groups of people through the power of the Spirit.

     3.   In the third phase of his nonviolent jihad for love and justice Jesus advocated communities with leadership that would serve rather than oppress people.

     4.  In the fourth phase of his nonviolent jihad for love and justice Jesus created communities committed to doing justice to the marginalized & disadvantaged.

     5. In the fifth phase of his nonviolent jihad for love and justice Jesus demonstrated active, radical, sacrificial nonviolence to free people from the cycles of violence.

I really enjoyed this book, especially the historical references. I only shared a small sample here, but I appreciate how the author presented what I think is a balanced view of people’s actions in both faiths, the heavenly as well as the horrific.
I no longer have a one sided, negative view of jihad. I know now that the concept is much more nuanced and layered than I was lead to believe.

Check out the Jihad of Jesus site here

Dave Andrews' site

*I received a complementary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review..

Monday, January 4, 2016

Black Vegans Rock!

Black vegans rock, oh yes we do!

Does that mean that vegans of other persuasions don't?  Of course not.
Speaking personally, I love all the shades and flavors of my vegan tribe.

Enter Black Vegans Rock, a new site (which launched today) created by my friend Aph Ko, that highlights the lives and work of black vegans from around the world. 

Why is such a site needed and isn't that racist? Good question. 
The thing is, veganism often carries a stigma in communities of color and black communities especially, that says "Oh that's for rich white folks."

Well, Black Vegans Rock turns that stigma and stereotype on its head in a major way.

It all began back in June 2015 when Aph Ko compiled a list of 100 Black Vegans to check out. I was honored to be included as well.  Her list certainly proved a point. A point that needed to be addressed.  There are of course way more than 100 Black vegans in this world.  But you wouldn't think so based on the assumptions I mentioned above.

Check out the site, then bookmark and/or subscribe. They feature a different person daily.

The next time you have a conversation with a Black individual who is interested in plant-based living, or becoming an ethical vegan but is concerned there are no resources that speak to their cultural experience, share the site. There are more of us out there than you think.  :)

Plant-based Eaters are Selfish

I’ve been vegan for a little over 8 years now.   Seventeen years before that I was what many would call a health nut vegetarian.

As I’ve said in a previous post, I saw the effects of a rich, heavily meat-centered diet on my family and others in the black community. Diabetes and high blood pressure are all too common.
So I was determined to do what I could to escape the same fate.   Already pretty health conscious when it came to food, it wasn’t much of a leap for me to stop eating meat.   That decision was made without the knowledge of the ethical issues with eating meat and as it turned out all animal products.

Fast forward a few years and now veganism has gained more acceptance and no longer seems as weird or militant as it once did.  Are there weird, militant vegans? Sure. They’re just no longer the only type of individual the mainstream imagines when the subject comes up.  In fact, on several occasions when it’s revealed in a social situation that I’m vegan, the response is often one of admiration.

People say things like “wow that’s great. I know it’s healthier to eat that way, but I could never do it. I love ______ too much.”    One reason that I see for the cause of the gradual acceptance of vegan eating is the plant-based health movement of recent years. Raw foodism has had an effect as well. 

Testimonies, books, and documentaries abound with stories of people who made major changes by removing all animal products from their diet, some even at the instruction of their doctors. 

Veganism had finally arrived!  There was now proof that not only was going vegan good for the animals but might be the best thing for our bodies as well.
But when looking closer, most of these new converts were actually plant-based eaters.  And yes there is a difference.  Now, this is not some elitist post on the superiority of true vegans as opposed to those who changed their diet for health reasons.   But, for those who are new to this concept and not familiar with the distinction, here it is.
Modern veganism as defined by the Vegan Society in the UK is: 

"a philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude—as far as is possible and practicable—all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose; and by extension, promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of humans, animals, and the environment. In dietary terms, it denotes the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals."

A plant-based diet and lifestyle are mainly adopted to better the health of an individual, often in an attempt to prevent or treat degenerative disease.

Concern for animals is not usually part of the equation.  Though by default, fewer animals are killed as a result.

So while plant-based, whole foods diets are growing in popularity and acceptance, not everyone is supportive.    
Many of us in the vegan community look on plant-based eaters as selfish, shallow, body conscious individuals who will abandon their diet as soon another food fad comes along or they become convinced they’ll feel better once they resume eating animal products.

But I wonder, is it really selfish to want to increase our chances to have more years with those we love and who depend on us?  Or to be healthy enough to care for our companion animals?

It seems to me that those who have the luxury of youth on their side are the ones who most often tout proudly “I couldn't care less about my health, I’m vegan for the animals”.
Ok, to those people I would say, I know right now old age and the ailments that often accompany it seem like eons away and you’re indestructible.   It’s easy to be careless about your health when you still have it.

I'm not saying that we should all live on nothing but kale and quinoa, striving for some super skinny (unless it’s your natural size) “ideal” vegan body. Everyone should be whatever the healthy size is for them, despite society’s attempts to push us into conformity.   But dare I suggest that going vegan for the animals while giving no thought to our own health can be selfish in the long run?

I think I read somewhere once or heard on a podcast that “what good is it to the animals if there are piles of sick and dead vegans?”  Extreme yes, but a powerful word picture none the less.

Hey, I love Cracker Jack, vegan cupcakes, and the evil purple bagged Doritos as much as any junk food vegan.  So I’m not pushing this issue as someone who’s arrived.  Whatever that means.

But has the importance of sensitivity and not wanting to be guilty of fat shaming, caused us to become completely averse to celebrating with those who’ve experienced positive health changes? (Often including necessary weight loss) What about those who’ve turned their health around so dramatically that they’ve reduced their chances of an early death?   Is it right to attempt to silence their voices?  Their truth?   Believe it or not, I see it all the time on social media.  

As a side note, I think many in the mainstream vegan community don’t realize that often for vegans of color specifically, a plant-based diet is the vehicle by which they seek to decolonize their bodies and souls in addition to preventing or reversing degenerative diseases that plague those communities is such great numbers. 
And let’s face it, for many a plant- based diet is the “gateway drug” to compassionate, ethical veganism…for the animals.

No, becoming vegan or going plant-based is not magic or a guarantee of optimal health. Veganism is at its core a philosophy of nonviolence that includes diet yet goes way beyond what we eat. 

How many things in life carry a 100% guarantee anyway?   We’ve all heard the stories of someone’s cousin’s, friend’s grandpa who smoked cigars, never exercised, and drank whiskey every day of his life, yet lived to be 100.  Then someone else who never smoked a day in her life succumbs to lung cancer.

Recently, a wonderful vegan food blogger that I’ve followed for years was diagnosed with cancer. This blogger specializes in low fat, but super flavorful vegan recipes.

When they shared their story, one of the things they mentioned was the shock of it. They did everything “right”, yet still developed a life-threatening disease that they just knew they were immune to.   Others will swear up and down that becoming a low-fat eating vegan literally saved their lives and they have the medical records to prove it.

Does that mean we should make grand promises to the world, saying that if they just go vegan all their health problems will disappear?  In my humble opinion, that would be foolish and irresponsible.  But let's not ignore or worse attack those whose health has improved as a result of removing animal products from their diets.

Perhaps it’s time to rethink the belief that it’s nobler to go vegan for the animals while not caring how or if we nourish our own bodies.  We’re not on this planet for just ourselves, but also for those we love and those who love and depend on us.  And for the many who have no voice, they need us to have the strength to fight for them as long as we possibly can.

Now off to fix me some kale and quinoa..

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

What (not?) to Say When Cancer Comes Close to Home

 A few years ago my friend Rachel*, a vibrant wife and mother of 2 young children in her late 30's, was diagnosed with breast cancer.

 The shock and horror of that diagnosis and at such a young age took its toll on her family.  I know when I found out it really hit me that for the first time, I was now old enough to have a friend that could God forbid, lose their life from a degenerative disease.

  I spent hours crying and praying for her well being and for the strength to face the surgery, chemotherapy and possibly radiation that she would be exposed to.

 Before our first visit after receiving the news, I was struggling internally for what to say. How could I convey understanding, be supportive, yet without resorting to pity and condescension?  

  But then it came to me! The perfect and most certainly fear reducing response I could share. Words that would surely give her and her family comfort and peace as they navigated through the uncertainty of what was to come.

 The time came. I greeted my good friend with a hug and sincere inquiry on how she was feeling. How were she and her family were coping?  Did they need anything; meals, housecleaning?

  Then, I shared what I just knew would be well received and appreciated..

  I said, “You know Rachel, when I first heard the news of your diagnosis, I was so shocked and scared for you. Cried and prayed for you. But then, I realized and remembered that cancer isn’t the only disease that women your age are stricken with. Yeah, heart disease is actually the number one killer of women. And thousands of women die every year of ovarian, lung, pancreatic, and brain cancer. Too many to name really.”

  I continued, “So, what I’m saying is yes, you are dealing with breast cancer right now and a rare type at that.   But we really need to talk about building  awareness for ALL diseases that kill women, don’t ya think?  I mean, isn’t it just a bit selfish of you to expect me, your family and all your friends to be so focused on your experience when there are so many other illnesses out there that people are suffering from?  Come on Rachel suck it up, accept your diagnosis with some guts and dignity, because ALL DISEASES MATTER..”

 Now, if you are the kind of individual that I would be proud to call a friend, I hope and pray with every fiber of my being that you were mortified and disgusted by what you’ve just read.   Do I have a friend that was recently diagnosed with a rare form of breast cancer? Yes.  While I admit to exaggerating her story here for effect, I did not actually attempt to bring ‘comfort’ to her by defensively  creating memes  throwing back in her face all the other diseases that women suffer and often die from, smugly listing them one by one.   How do you think that would have made her feel?    

*Rachel is a pseudonym.