by Adam Hendron
A block of cheese — it’s a favorite whipping-post within Adventism. We hear familiar phrases: “It’s not a sin to eat cheese.” “There’s more to worshipping God than avoiding cheese.” “A lot of people will go to Hell who wouldn’t touch cheese.”
I was not raised in a believing family, and before becoming a Christian, I was a vegan vegetarian. It could not be said, therefore, that I was trying to work my way to heaven through diet. For me, it was a matter of biology, ecology, sociology, economy, and sympathy for animals.
In the kitchen of a Seattle restaurant where I worked, the radio was always tuned to a particular station from which a whiney voice cried regularly, “What about the cheese?!?” It was an amusing way of describing their ‘no nonsense’ broadcast style.
Cheese is that superfluous, non-essential ingredient that largely makes up for a lack of imagination in cooking. It covers a multitude of evil. Cheese, it seems, can redeem most any dish. Unlike the Savior, however, the effect of cheese is deleterious on the digestive system.
Many of us have heard the testimonies: “Cheese stops-up my system.” “Cheese makes my arthritis flare-up.” “Cheese disturbs my sleep.” Anticipating these problems, Jesus gave the gracious counsel: “Cheese should never be introduced into the stomach.”1
Whether or not we experience any symptoms, it should be enough that Jesus has spoken on this matter. It is an insult to His grace, to presume that His message is not clear enough. While church members debate the meaning of this subject, outsiders suffer.
John was considering becoming a Seventh-day Adventist. One of his children was extremely allergic to dairy. Out of consideration for the boy, the whole family was vegan. At a youth event, however, an unaware leader insisted that the child have some pizza. “A little cheese now-and-then won’t hurt anyone,” she said, not realizing that it would precipitate a trip to the hospital. John was even more exasperated after learning what the Church’s prophet warned about cheese.
Notwithstanding that Christ would discourage ice-cream socials, even crueler it is for our Churches to host one and make no provision for those who wish to avoid the harmful combination of milk and sugar2 Such must either face strong temptation or social isolation.
Should a little paper sign that reads ‘vegan’ be placed beside respective dishes, or is this an affront to those who choose to eat otherwise? On the other hand, some vegans are indignant at what they see as rebellion in the kitchen. Yet those who object to dairy don’t necessarily condemn those who partake of it, as it is often claimed. Both parties err, at times.
Though we should teach people the dangers of dairy, it is not the worst of evils and should not be our primary burden, nor should its use made a test of fellowship.3
Strident vegans are annoying. On the other hand, vegans are understandably upset by the carelessness of those who know better. “I am sad,” said Mrs. White, about those who willfully made dairy an article of diet.4 She was especially grieved when it seemed a particular hostess knowingly tempted her husband to eat cheese — for which he had a weakness.5
It is especially disheartening to see the leadership snubbing Christ’s counsel. “Your responsible men in the Office are not reformers. They eat meat, butter, cheese and rich pie and cake. Others will excuse their indulgence of appetite…”6
“Nothing brings such discouragement upon the Lord's watchmen as to be connected with those who have mental capacity, and who understand the reasons of our faith, but by precept and example manifest indifference to moral obligations.”7
“The gospel of health has able advocates, but their work has been made very hard because so many ministers, presidents of conferences, and others in positions of influence, have failed to give the question of health reform its proper attention. They have not recognized it in its relation to the work of the message as the right arm of the body. While very little respect has been shown to this department by many of the people, and by some of the ministers…”8
“Satan and his agents are seeking to hinder this work of reform, and will do all they can to perplex and burden those who heartily engage in it.”9 But no one suffers so much as our Savior, and those on both sides of this question can look to Him for strength to do what is right.
( Scripture references: Gen 1:29, John 16:12-13, Acts 3:21, Romans 8:21 & 14:15, 1 Cor 6:13; 19-20, 8:13, & 10:31, James 4:17, Rev 21:27.)
1 Counsels on Diet and Foods, p. 368.
2 Ibid, p. 533 & 536.
3 See Second Manuscript Release, p. 107.
4 Seventh Manuscript Release, p. 348
5 Fifteenth Manuscript Release, p. 246
6 Pamphlet 11, p. 76.
7 Counsels on Diet and Foods, p. 38.
8 Ibid, p. 73.
9 Ibid, p. 76.