Other posts related to vegetarian

Dominion: The Power of Man, the Suffering of Animals, and the Call to Mercy

In those pre-Fall days, after all, animals were off the Garden menu:

And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.  Genesis 1:28

In the very next breath man is told to keep his mitts off the critters (and vice versa) and be content with the herbs and the fruit of the trees:

And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.  Genesis 1:29

If any passage in Scripture lends credibility to the writers, it is this, for of course they were not themselves vegetarians.  The alternative vision must simply have seemed inconceivable – a world in which it actually pleased our Maker to see His creatures stalking and slaying and absorbing one another.  The Catholic “meatless Friday” … came to us … from this same idea of predation as a consequence of the Fall and corruption of the world, as does the “grace” before meals.  Indeed there was a time when Christians fasted from animal products throughout all forty days of Lent…

The next step seems obvious to me.  If sanctity is the goal, and the flesh-eating a mark of the Fall, the one is to be sought and the other to be avoided.  Why just say grace when you can show it?  …. I am betting that in the Book of Life “He had mercy on the creatures” is going to count for more than “He ate well.”

Matthew Scully, Dominion: The Power of Man, the Suffering of Animals, and the Call to Mercy , pp. 44-45.

Mr. Scully, like Mr. Webb in On God and Dogs, argues that vegetarianism is an ideal that Christians should seek.  And I think that slowly Christians are starting to listen.

Pastor Greg Boyd, senior pastor of the evangelical megachurch, Woodland Hills Church, blogged a year ago about the five reasons he became a vegetarian.

  1. God Told Me To
  2. Increasing the Capacity to Love
  3. Seeing the Sacred Beauty in All Living Things
  4. The First Fruits of the Coming Non-Violent (and thus, non-carnivorous) Creation
  5. Compassionate Dominion and the Factory Farm Industry

Of the five of these, increasing the capacity to love appealed to me the most.  It might have been coincidental but I remember that at the moment I made a decision to reduce my consumption of meat I found myself forgiving certain people that up to that point I could not completely forgive.  Greg Boyd mirrors this experience in his own life.

Almost immediately after making this pledge I began to understand why the Lord had wanted me to make it. Scripture says a little yeast leavens all the dough (1 Cor 5:6). Well, I discovered that the little yeast of my willingness to engage in violence towards animals and other creatures for self-serving reasons (e.g. appetite, convenience) was polluting my heart and to some degree compromising my capacity to love. It felt like – and still feels like – my commitment to total non-violence has had, and is yet having, a purifying effect on my heart.

Along the same lines, my commitment to purge violence completely from my life has increased my sensitivity to the ugliness of violence, both in my own heart and in the world…  I have found that my commitment to non-violence has helped me wake up to all of the violence I have in my thoughts and speech, which in turn has helped me get free from this ugly violence. And this, in turn, has deepened my capacity for love.

Five years ago I never dreamed there was a connection between eating meat, anger in the heart and my ability to love. But for me at least, there definitely was. A little yeast leavens all the dough.

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No Fur. No Meat?

 | June 3, 2009 6:00 AM

In our generation it is quite uncommon to see anyone wearing fur.  Most people recognize we don’t need fur and that killing animals just for their fur seems cruel.  This is a generational change because in my parents’ generation such concern generally does not exist.

This kind of logic can now be further extended to meat.

Dominion: The Power of Man, the Suffering of Animals, and the Call to MercyIt was the use of livestock that first freed us from the chase, allowed man to settle and civilize himself…  Meat and dairy products undeniably furnished a wide array of protein sources, like the soybean today…  For ages people needed furs to survive in the severe elements we faced.

When substitute products are found, with each creature in turn, responsible dominion calls for a reprieve…  What were once “necessary evils” become just evils.  Laws protecting animals from mistreatment, abuse, and exploitation are not a moral luxury or sentimental afterthought to be shrugged off…

Matthew Scully, Dominion: The Power of Man, the Suffering of Animals, and the Call to Mercy , pp. 42-43.

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Sort of Vegetarian

 | June 2, 2009 12:58 AM

secret-asian-man-meat 

Vegetarianism is sometimes denounced as not masculine.  But I will go on public record that I am sort of vegetarian. :-)

I have considered this lifestyle change for several years, being inspired by friends (EstherRoger and John) and recently doing more research via blogs and books.  Ji Seon remarked after I made my decision that she was wondering when I would.

My exact label would be “minimal meat eater who only eats humanely raised meats.”  But since there isn’t a technical term for that I usually find myself fumbling to describe my dietary lifestyle.  Saying I am pescetarian, i.e. a vegetarian who eats seafood, might be more accurate but people often don’t know what that is.

In public  I end up being effectively vegetarian because I don’t really want to ask if the meat is humanely raised because most likely it is not so I just eat the veggies.  This proves especially difficult at barbecues like the Mother’s Day barbecue the men in our small group did for their wives.  The organizer bought filet mignon steaks, which I love, and did not realize I just made this lifestyle change.  I did appreciate very much his sympathy.

The truth is I am still eating meat almost every meal at home.  We still have all this grass fed beef I bought in January which at least was humanely raised.  Also a good friend and avid fisher keeps giving me a large portion of the fish he catches, which I am quite grateful for.  Plus my wife and children are not vegetarian.

I consider this time a transition time for me.  I have actually enjoyed trying to put more vegetables and less meat into my diet.  For the first couple of weeks I noticed my energy was low.  I am not sure why but I think I might have been low in iron.  It seemed that went away after eating some Chinese leafy greens which I think are high in iron.  It might just be mental but I do feel more healthy.  That might also have to do with the fact I have been getting more exercise lately. :-)

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Dominion

 | June 1, 2009 2:31 PM

Dominion: The Power of Man, the Suffering of Animals, and the Call to MercyIn fact, let us just call things what they are.  When a man’s love of finery clouds his moral judgment, that is vanity.  When he lets a demanding palate make his moral choices, that is gluttony.  When he ascribes the divine will to his own whims, that is pride.  And when he gets angry at being reminded of animal suffering that his own daily choices might help avoid, that is moral cowardice.

Matthew Scully, Dominion: The Power of Man, the Suffering of Animals, and the Call to Mercy , p. 121.

This paragraph I think sums up the book Dominion for me.  As a society we have created systems, the most egregious being the factory farms, which cause unspeakable abuse of animals yet are designed so that we never have to know about any of these abuses.  Matthew Scully’s book brings to light the myriad ways we cruelly exploit God’s creation for profit and/or pleasure.

Though not a Christian book, this book gets it title from Genesis 1:26.

And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.

God gave man dominion over the earth and Scully argues, convincingly in my opinion, that man has abused this privilege almost beyond redemption.

I first learned about this book in 2003 after reading a review of Dominion in Christianity Today.  Afterwards I endeavored to only purchase meat that was humanely raised.  But over time my concern for the bottom line became stronger than my concern for animals so I slowly stopped doing this and tried to justify it in many ways.

However I never forgot the image on the cover of Dominion.  And recently I became convicted again to reassess the moral implications of what I eat.  So I requested Dominion from the library and read it cover to cover.  You can read much of Dominion for free online.

I will be writing a few more posts about different things I learned from Dominion.  I hope you will enjoy them and/or find them thought provoking. Thanks to my vegetarian friends for inspiring me.

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On God and Dogs

 | May 24, 2009 9:52 PM

on-god-and-dogs

Recently I was inspired by Pastor John March and his post Animals: Another Other to Love (Or, Why I’m a Vegetarian) to read the book On God and Dogs: A Christian Theology of Compassion for Animals.

Halfway through Chapter One I realized Pastor March is much smarter than me and that this book is far too academic for me.  However just in that short amount of reading I felt I had learned quite a bit.

Stephen Webb’s audience for this book is those that are interested in animal rights and those who study Christian theology.  These “two different audiences … ordinarily do not read the same books.”  I happen to be a Christian who is not too interested in theology but is becomingly interested in animal rights and how they affect my everyday decisions.

It is obvious that Mr. Webb’s love for animals originated with the special relationship he had with his pet dog as a boy.  The moving story of his elderly arthritic dog painfully climbing up two flights of stairs to comfort a sick boy caused me to reflect about whether we should get a family dog.  We have had three dogs and for various reasons gave them up which reflects on what poor dog owners we were.

Mr. Webb is a vegetarian which seems to be typical for people who care about animal rights.  The trend of vegetarianism seems to be growing, even within Christian circles.  This is a trend I can no longer ignore even if I do enjoy so much the taste of meat.

Mr. Webb’s book’s goal seems to be to explore the relationship between people and their pets and to expand that.  However I did not really get very far in that exploration but instead read the beginnings of understanding how God cares for not just humans but all of his creation.

The Genesis account of creation provocatively portrays a vegetarian world (“Then God said, ‘I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food.’”  Genesis 1:29) in which the humans exercise authority over the animals but do not use or kill them.  Indeed, land animals are made on the same day as humans, showing their similarity to humanity, but they are also made before humans and pronounced good independently of humans, showing that they too are created out of love…  The use of the phrase “all flesh” in Genesis joins together the human and the animal in a basic kinship of creatureliness under the shared providence of a merciful God (Genesis 6:12, 13, Genesis 9:11, 17).

Meat eating is later permitted but Mr. Webb argues it was far from the ideal.

In Deuteronomy 12:20 God seems to allow meat eating due to the uncontrollable cravings of the Israelites…  When Deuteronomy 8:7-10 describes the ideal land and diet for the Hebrews … meat is excluded (also see similar descriptions in Jeremiah 29:5; Amos 9:14; and Hosea 2:22).

I don’t think any of the above verses are particularly persuasive for arguing that vegetarianism is Biblical but no one could disagree that until after the flood God did not permit meat eating which seems to point to a vegetarian diet being at least Edenic.

Eating and animals are thus more than symbols; food becomes part of the daily struggle of obeying God.  The Book of Daniel … Daniels and his friends … ate only vegetables, and at “the end of the ten days they looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food” Daniel 1:15.

Mr. Webb goes through the Bible pointing out various places where the rights of an animal and creation itself were to be considered.  The most interesting to me was Hosea 4:1-3 which pictures a time of immorality evidenced by the land mourning.  The “beast of the field and the birds of the air and the fish of the sea are dying.”  This sounds remarkably like current times.  Many of the other verses Mr. Webb highlights I think are not necessarily as much about animal rights as about being practical, for example including animals in the Sabbath (Exodus 20:10).

Interestingly Mr. Webb says Jesus was often described as “a lover of animals.”

… Jesus declares his Father’s love for the sparrows (Luke 12:6, Matthew 10:29), portrays God as a feeder of birds (Luke 12:24; Matthew 6:26), and compares himself to a hen gathering together her brood under her wings (Matthew 23:37) ….

However Mr. Webb would not say the same thing about Paul.

Most Christians follow Paul in showing little concern for the world of animals, although with Paul, too, the evidence is ambiguous…  Paul established the very influential idea for Christianity that vegetarianism must be a form of superstition and that Christian freedom must mean the complete secularization (and thus indifference) of food preparation and consumption (see, for examples from the Pauline tradition, 1 Timothy 4:4 and Colossians 2:16-17)…  Paul’s influence continues today, when many North Americans look at the mass production of animal flesh in factory fams as one of the chief signs of our country’s freedom, prosperity, and equality.

Mr. Webb concludes that the Bible is favorable to animal issues and compares it to how the Bible implicitly opposes slavery.

Clearly, it is possible to interpret the Bible (especially the Hebrew scriptures) favorably on the issue of animals but not without a struggle with the dominant theological tradition.  After all, animals are used, eaten, and traded in the Bible, and humans are clearly the main focus of the biblical narratives…  Gary Comstock has stated: “I have come to interpret the Bible’s views on the killing of animals in the way I interpret its views on the owning of slaves.  Even though each practice is implicitly, if not explicitly condoned, the practice is still shown to be wrong by the larger story of salvation in Jesus Christ…”  Jonah 4:11 is a most revealing scripture.  Here God reprimands the recalcitrant Jonah, saying, “Should I not be concerned about Ninevah,” a great city with thousands of people and “also many animals?”

Mr. Webb then talks about the Christian tradition and how some “equated gluttony and flesh eating.”  There were vegetarians like St. Benedict, James, the brother of Jesus (according to some traditions), John Wesley, etc.  But most of the time these Christians and their groups were considered on the fringe or even heretical.

At this point I stopped reading the book and picked up Dominion which was much easier to read.  I appreciate though what I learned from Mr. Webb within the first thirty-seven pages of his book.

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