Wait, why is Ben Carson a vegetarian?
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.