This week at the Spectrum Café, guest columnist Marianne Thieme, a Dutch politician of the Party for the Animals, discusses how the respect for animals expressed by one of Adventism’s founders drew her to the Seventh-day Adventist Church—and its potlucks.
I had actually given up on churches when I said goodbye to the Roman Catholic Church in 2001. A church that consecrated hunters’ dogs and horses before going on hunts did not agree with my sense of compassion. As Dr. Albert Schweitzer already said in 1960, “Any religion or philosophy which is not based on a respect for life is not a true religion or philosophy.”
I heartily agree with him, and because I saw a great many Orthodox Church members running intensive cattle farms without any objection, I found that church membership did not easily go together with standing up for animals, nature and the environment.
Then I came across statements by Ellen White, who in the 19th century was already pleading for compassion for animals, vegetarianism and respect for the living environment. One of her quotes, from 1905, is: “Animals are often transported long distances and subjected to great suffering in reaching a market. Taken from the green pastures and travelling for weary miles over the hot, dusty roads, or crowded into filthy cars, feverish and exhausted, often for many hours deprived of food and water, the poor creatures are driven to their death, that human beings may feast on the carcasses.”
I started to learn more about Ellen White and her beliefs, and discovered that many members of the Adventist Church were inspired by her to lead a vegetarian lifestyle—and that they derive a good feeling from it, as well as good health. Time after time, scientific publications have reported that members of the Adventist Church are healthier than members of the average population—and that vegetarian Adventists live longer and healthier lives than meat eaters, and vegan Adventists even longer. I also find the medical and pioneering work in the field of giving up smoking very appealing.
It is therefore odd that people in church seem to be kind of ashamed of that lifestyle, because it dates to from a long time ago. The secrets of longevity in relation to Adventists are more often discussed in magazines like National Geographic than within the church.
Yet I meet many kindred spirits in the Adventist Church who think the same as I do about protecting the interests of the weakest.
When I was invited by the Loma Linda University for the Congress on Vegetarian Nutrition, I said the following in the local church: “I became interested in the Adventist Church because of their thoughts on a respectful relationship with animals, nature and the environment, and I hope you are not gradually coming back on those thoughts.” I got many approving responses, so I was no longer worried.
My husband, who was the world’s first vegetarian butcher, is nondenominational, and I represent my secular party. But fortunately, thoughts of compassion and sustainability connect many people from different lines of thought.
My favorite Sabbath meal is potluck. I think it’s wonderful that potluck has become a completely vegetarian meal in many places, so that everybody can eat the food prepared. It would be great if many more of those recipes could actually be shared internationally through a website. It could inspire many people, and I see plenty of culinary novelty in the Adventist churches that I go to all over the world. It is another factor that appeals to me about the Adventist Church. Wherever in the world you meet Adventists, there is always a great feeling of congeniality and much affinity with eating healthy, tasty food together.
Editor’s note: For more information about Marianne Thieme, see her 2008 Spectrum interview with Julius Nam: “A Platform of Compassion.”
Marianne Thieme is a member of the Dutch Parliament for the first animal rights party ever elected into office.
Photo: “Milde Dahl (of Dal) Met Bloemkool” (“Mild Dahl (or Dal) with Cauliflower”), De Vegetarier.
Albert Schweitzer, “Letter to a Japanese Animal Welfare Society,” 1961.
Ellen White, Ministry of Healing,314.
This week’s recipe for Mild Lentil Dal with Cauliflower is adapted from the website of De Vegetarier (“the vegetarian”), and is Marianne Thieme’s favorite potluck recipe. And like many potluck favorites, this dish welcomes variation. The editors of DeVegetarier note that they have added green peas, and garnished the dish with fresh coriander. The cauliflower can also be replaced with a vegetable medley.
Mild Lentil Dal with Cauliflower
Prep time: 20 min.
Total time: 35 min.
1 medium cauliflower, cut into small florets
Salt, to taste
Extra-virgin olive oil
About 2 c cooked or canned lentils, drained
1 tbsp. chopped parsley
2 in. fresh ginger, peeled
1 fresh green mild chili (adjust heat to taste)
1 cube vegetable bouillon
3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tsp. ground turmeric
2 tsp. ground coriander
2 tsp. ground cumin
2 cucumbers, peeled and roughly grated or chopped
Brown basmati rice (or wild rice, black rice or regular basmati rice), cooked
Greek yogurt, mixed with coriander, cumin, turmeric and a pinch of salt)
Extra parsley (finely chopped) ground cumin and/or fresh lemon or lime juice
1. Cook or steam the cauliflower until fork tender, with a little salt. Set aside.
2. Warm a small amount of olive oil in a large skillet on the stove, then add the onions and sauté. Add the lentils, and the parsley, then stir. Add the ginger and the chili pepper to taste.
3. Fill the pan with water just to cover the entire mixture, then add the vegetable bouillon cube, stir until dissolved, and let simmer for 10 minutes.
4. While the mixture simmers, sauté the garlic in a small amount of warmed olive oil in a small saucepan on low heat, then stir in the turmeric, coriander powder and cumin powder. Continue stirring until the mixture becomes a smooth paste. Set aside.
5. Remove the ginger and the pepper from the lentils, then add the cauliflower and green peas (if using). Add the garlic and spice mixture, stir well several times, then let cook slowly for another 2 minutes.
6. Remove pan from heat, and add the grated cucumber or serve it separately. Serve with rice, yogurt, and/or other suggested accompaniments.