Finding My Faith On My Dinner Plate

Member Speaking – Steve Poncelet

July 13, 2014

Hi.  .. Good Morning ..

I will apologize now because public speaking isn’t one of my strengths, yet here I am speaking in front of all of you.  I`ve never been one to seek attention, let alone be the center of it. I have to laugh because God, or my understanding of a higher power, has decided in its “warped” sense of humor to make me – 6’6”, 275 pounds, and bald. I don`t fit the stereotype of a man trying to lead a peaceful and respectful life, which has led me to Unitarian Universalism with its very first principle, “The inherent worth and dignity of every person”.

As some of you may know, I am vegan. Shocking, I know, and trust me, no one was more shocked than me! You are looking at a guy who was once an avid hunter and fisherman and I bought a hind quarter of beef every year for the summer cook-outs. I loved going to the all you can eat wing places and easily eating double my money’s worth. (PAUSE) Then something happened. I realized I was doing all of those things less and less. I was starting to look at things around me in a new light. That new light allowed me to see other living things around me with a respect I didn`t have before, a strong feeling of empathy toward other human beings and animals. As I am discovering, and being open to, this is all part of my journey as a member of this race and as a part of this world.

Some of you may also know I am a full time college student. In my first semester I was required to write a research paper and chose “The Specific Health Benefits of  a Vegan Diet” as the topic. I thought it was a natural fit because of my dietary habits but I also saw it as a method to learn more about the path I am choosing. I expected to learn what I set out to research, as the title of my paper identified. I’ll try to keep the mind boggling statistics to a minimum but still throw a few at you to give some perspective. Are you ready?

Many studies have proven a vegan diet, which consists of no meat, poultry, seafood, or any animal bi-products such as cheese, milk, and eggs can reverse the effects of rheumatoid arthritis, certain cancers, and heart disease. The American Institute for Cancer Research collects a multitude of laboratory studies regarding foods that fight cancer and compiles their results to educate the public. As an example of those results, vegan women had thirty-four percent lower rates of female-specific cancers such as breast, cervical, and ovarian cancer. Vegan men showed a forty percent reduction in cancer of the intestinal system, stomach, and colon. The institute recommends filling at least two thirds of your plate with vegetables, fruit, whole grains, and beans to maintain a healthy weight.

Scientists at Sweden’s Karolinska Institute have discovered the removal of animal products from a diet has additional health benefits. They performed a three month study of sixty-six patients with rheumatoid arthritis because people with rheumatoid arthritis also have an increased risk of heart disease. The patients were randomly given a diet of plant based products, gluten free products, or a well-balanced non-vegan diet. The vegan diet consisted of vegetables, fruits, sunflower seeds, and gluten-free grains and starches. To supplement the lack of calcium, the patients were given sesame milk made from un-shelled sesame seeds. Those patients consumed ten percent protein, sixty percent carbohydrates, and thirty percent fats but no more than ten percent saturated fats. The non-vegan diet given contained the same fat intake as the vegan diet, ten to fifteen percent protein, and fifty-five to sixty percent carbohydrates. The patients were also asked to eat five or more servings of fruits and vegetables daily and increase the amount of complex carbohydrates and starches.

The results of this study were both promising and surprising. In only a three month time span, the patients eating a vegan and gluten-free diet had lowered cardiovascular issues and risk factors including LDL (“bad cholesterol”), the ratio of LDL to HDL (“good cholesterol”), lower weight and body mass index also known as BMI. The vegan diet also raised the level of antibodies that can keep diseases from developing. Simply put, a vegan diet will not only help people lose weight and maintain a healthy lifestyle, but it can also help prevent heart disease and strengthen the immune system.

This is what I expected to find during my research and supported one of my reasons to go vegan.

(PAUSE)

Here is what I didn’t expect.

The vegan diet directly ties into my belief that everyone has worth. Agriculture alone is responsible for eighty-seven percent of the world’s freshwater use and the grains used to feed the livestock could be utilized in helping to end world hunger. World meat production has quadrupled in the past fifty years and farm animals now outnumber people by more than 3 to 1. In other words, the livestock population is expanding faster than the human population and is projected to continue to expand as the far east middle classes increasingly adopt meat-centered diets and as the Western taste for meat, eggs, and dairy products continues to grow. This trend will contribute to continuing malnourishment in the developing world, land degradation, and water scarcity because more animals means more crops are needed to feed them and more land is needed to accomplish that. Land availability is one of the main constraints on food production. Western diets play a large part because livestock consume much more protein, water, and calories than they produce. Most of the protein from vegetable feeds is used for the animal`s bodily functions and not converted to meat, eggs, or milk.

A United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization report states that hunger causes the death of more than 1.5 million children a year. With the world’s population expected to increase from 7.2 billion to 9 billion by 2050, one of the most urgent questions we now face is how we, as a species, will feed ourselves in the 21st century.

(PAUSE)

I found plenty of statistics during my research that back up my thoughts on the specific physical health benefits of a vegan diet, but the global and humanitarian effects of my decision have given me a different perspective of my role as a human being. I have come to believe the most basic right anyone or any living thing has is the right to live. Without that, no other rights matter.

Little did I realize my choice of what I eat has a direct impact on someone else on the other side of the planet, making the earth a much smaller place and proving to me that we are all connected in so many ways no matter where we live.

This journey that I am on feels right for me and I am only just beginning to understand why.

So….. when today’s service is over, I’m not expecting all of you to jump up out of your chairs to run home and clean out your refrigerators and freezers of all meat and meat based products. I’m not anticipating you will all dump gallons of milk down your drains as you CURSE Guers Dairy because of the information I just gave you. What I can hope for is that I provided some awareness about eating healthy for yourself and how that can impact others especially those that love you.

(PAUSE)

What I can wish for is I, at the very least, gave you a reason to pause before you eat your next meal and just think about why our first principle is, “The inherent worth and dignity of every person”, and not  “The inherent worth and dignity of just every OTHER person”.             Thanks.

 

 

SCHUYLKILL UNITARIAN UNIVERSALISTS

July 13,  2014

ORDER OF SERVICE

Consulting Minister: Rev. Robert P. Throne

Member Speaker                         Steve Poncelet

Pianist: Diane Feeser

PRELUDE – Diane Feeser

WELCOME &  ANNOUNCEMENTS  

CALL TO WORSHIP and CHALICE LIGHTING 

                       

* OPENING HYMN – “We Celebrate the Web of Life”   #  175

STORY FOR ALL AGES –   Barbara Poncelet

SINGING THE CHILDREN OUT –

                                                                 “Go Now In Peace” 

JOYS AND CONCERNS    (add a stone & share briefly)

PRAYER & MEDITATION      (please join hands)

OFFERTORY –  Diane Feeser, keyboard

* RESPONSIVE READING – “The Body Is Humankind”  # 651

* HYMN – “We Are the Earth Upright and Proud”    #   303

SERMON – “Finding my Faith on My Dinner Plate”
Steve Poncelet

*  HYMN – “ Imagine”  John Lennon, The Beatles – see insert

EXTINGUISHING THE CHALICE  – (in unison)

“We extinguish this flame,

but not the light of love,
the warmth of community,

nor the fire of commitment.
These we carry in our hearts to share

with all the world.”

POSTLUDE