Wait, why is Ben Carson a vegetarian?

May 26, 2015

At the risk of going all Get Religion over nothing: it’s a little weird to read articles about Ben Carson’s vegetarianism that fail to mention that the presidential candidate is a member of a church that promotes vegetarianism.

Nathanael Johnson celebrates the optics, while Samantha Rollins wonders about the politics. Jenny Hopkinson cites health concerns as Carson’s main motivation. Arthur Delaney and Ashley Alman note that Carson once stated his hope for a time when “there will no longer be a reason for most people to eat meat.” Only one of these links mentions “his religion,” and none finds space for the term “Seventh-day Adventist.”

Both Delaney and Alman and Hopkinson refer to a 1990 profile of Carson in the Vegetarian Times. That piece credits both Carson’s Adventist faith and his health concerns—which, to be clear, are hardly separate categories. Healthy living and a healthful diet have long been Adventist distinctives, little emphasized by most other Christian denominations but a significant part of Adventist identity.

Carson’s diet may well cause him trouble on the campaign trail, as it has already. I hope the reporting on this acknowledges that people avoid meat for a lot of different reasons, and Carson does it at least partly because his church encourages it. A candidate’s specific denomination isn’t always relevant; we don’t need to be reminded each time that Hillary Clinton or Lindsey Graham tosses off a poll-tested Bible quote that she’s a United Methodist and he’s a Southern Baptist. But sometimes it’s odd to leave it out—especially when it’s a church farther from the American mainstream and a teaching most other churches don’t share.


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Of course, the liberal pundits Steve Thorngate mentions are not going to write about anything good coming from an Adventist. They're inclined to leave things like "Carson is an Adventist Christian" out of their comments. Steve Thorngate should read a few conservative voices, they tend to mention this.

Steve Thorngate is not a Carson supporter and likes a good BBQ, I get that; however, he should be honest and try not to slant the facts. The Seventh-day Adventist Church. It is one of the fastest-growing Christian mainstream denominations in the world, has recorded more than 18 million baptized members at last count in 2013. It also owns the largest Protestant educational system in the world. Although the denomination does promote the main stream diet of Vegetarianism, it does not require it. Many wise Christians from various denominations are vegetarian or vegan.

Dennis J. Fischer replies from Lincoln, Nebraska, home of Union College, an Adventist educational institution, one that he is an alumni. He is also a former Adventist and a avid critic of the denomination. He obviously knows better than he writes. I expect he has an axe to grind with his former employer. Although Adventists believe in following the Ten Commandments (including the 4th), and they do practice the celebration of the Lord's Supper, none of the other ideas he states are beliefs of the Adventist denomination. McKee Bakeries, Home of the famous sweet cakes "Little Debbies", is owned and operated by the McKee Family, prominent Adventists and huge supporters of Southern Adventist University. The founder O.D. McKee and Little Debbie herself are alumni. For the facts on what Adventists believe, see the official statement: http://www.adventist.org/beliefs/

Hi Tim--I'm not sure I

Hi Tim--I'm not sure I understand where the hostility of your comment is coming from. I write a lot of politically opinionated posts; this really isn't one of them. My only point was that reporters (not pundits) would be doing a service to readers if they identified (not criticized) the connection between Carson's diet and his faith. If that's somehow offensive to Adventists and/or Carson supporters, I'm honestly at a loss as to why.

Whatever his reason, good for him!

We need more people to promote healthy, humane, and environmentally friendly food choices. I hope he's successful on the campaign trail!