The San Francisco Vegetarian Society has now uploaded the YouTube video of my talk, “Vegetarianism and Christianity — Why Don’t They Mix?” This talk was given on Sunday, October 7, 2012, in San Francisco at the World Vegetarian Festival.
Let me know what you think.
I think your values are sound; your many years of faith are inspirational; and your grasp of the historical moment is world class.
A bit of a time investment to watch, but well worth it. I especially agree with the statement you made toward the end of the Q & A, saying in essence, that if the heart is open, you don’t need the texts.
But if the heart is open, we might find an expanded interpretation of common seemingly “vegetarian-neutral” Bible verses, such as the one that admonishes us to become like little children. How does a child typically respond upon learning that the meat on her plate was once the same as the lamb in the petting zoo? Children love animals, hate the idea of killing them for food, but this innate compassion is socialized out of them. To think—compassion is something to be unlearned.
I recently had a conversation with a lady as we both sat in a waiting room. After we’d been talking a few minutes, we discovered we are both pretty much on the same page as regards eating meat.
Since veganism is now popular for health reasons, that seemed to be the safest ground for talking with a stranger. Eventually, though, I had to tell her point-blank: “I just don’t like killing.” And then she told me a love story.
As a child, she lived on a farm. Her father raised cattle. Inevitably, she fell in love with a calf and gave him a name. This is a common story, and we know how it ends. The little girl was destroyed when she learned that her Dad intended to kill her pet for meat. She begged her father to let her buy him, but was told this was the business they were in, and she must learn that this is what is done. So her pet was killed. She wasn’t able eat the meat, knowing who it was. She told me she was tormented about this for literally months. Eventually, she did learn to eat meat. As an adult, she became vegetarian for several years, then went back to eating meat again. Then one day she said to herself: “I can’t do this any more.” She told me that even now, decades after the above incident, she is disturbed when she sees someone eating steak in a restaurant. She has never fallen out of love with the little calf who had to be killed because that was the way things are done.
Children see this issue clearly. They see all of the different kinds of food we have available to us, and wonder why it is necessary to kill a sentient, perfect,beautiful creature to satisfy our appetites. How different our world might be if we encouraged these seeds of compassion, but instead they are pulled out by the roots at a tender age. Society pays the price as children are taught that violence against an innocent animal is not only all right, but is desirable. What a confusing message for a child to absorb. Compassion is good in some cases, but in others it is inappropriate? But Jesus has told us we must become as little children.
The previous story by M Dean reminds me of one of my own epiphanies, when I read that when one orders lobster in a restaurant, someone in the back throws a living lobster into boiling water for you. I cannot imagine ordering lobster, knowing that.
Regarding your talk I appreciate everything you have to say about early Christianity, the church fathers, and pacifism.
I wonder about your statement that the Romans killed Jesus, not the Jews. Although strictly speaking that is true, even by the Bible, but by the Bible don’t you have to say that the Jews were primarily responsible for his death? You explained it by reference to Jesus’ disturbance of public order, but you don’t offer any documentation for that. Your explanation sounds plausible enough, but since it does appear to contradict the NT it would be nice to know if there is some evidence.
It was a good talk and I wish you had a greater presence on Youtube. I am looking forward to you new book.
Thanks for your kind comments.
Were “the Jews” (or at least some Jews) responsible for Jesus’ death? You could argue this either way. It’s true that the gospels sometimes talk as if “the Jews” were responsible. You have the priests plotting how to do Jesus in, you have the “Jewish mob” in Matthew crying “his blood be on us, and on our children.”
My thoughts are as follows. (1) The gospels were edited by gentile Christians, who would have opposed Judaism and Jewish Christianity and would have an interest in making “the Jews” look bad. (2) But crucifixion is a Roman punishment, so we know that he was killed by the Romans. (3) Therefore he must have done something (or have been accused of something) that the Romans would be concerned about. “Blasphemy” is not something the Romans would have been concerned about (since they, as pagan idolaters, were the biggest blasphemers of all time). But disrupting public order would concern the Romans. (4) Jesus disrupted public order, big time, by going into the temple and driving out those who bought and sold animals.
Even though the N. T. nowhere says that Jesus was specifically arrested for disrupting public order, that’s the only thing overt action mentioned in the N. T. that could have offended the Romans. Many scholars, though not all, would accept this argument.
Having said that, it is clear that there is one segment of Jewish opinion, namely that of the priests in the temple, which is clearly against Jesus. But the rest of “the Jews” are generally neutral or sometimes even favorable towards the Jesus movement. One gospel depicts the Pharisees as warning Jesus that some people want to kill him. In Acts the Pharisees warn other Jews that it is not a good idea to persecute the Christians. So even based just on the Bible, “the Jews” generally were not against Jesus, with the exception of one small but politically powerful minority (the priests).
Thank you for posting this video, which brought previous blog posts ‘to life’. I am an ethical vegan and I find your analysis quite plausible, and yet would question what God’s will is in all of this. If the Church had been ‘hijacked’ by meat-eating gentiles why did He not choose a new apostle to put things right? If the record we have of Jesus is seriously faulty then surely the Church is built on sand, not rock and is ultimately destined to fail, unless the true message can be recovered. I would like to think that what you say is correct, and that you will be blessed in diseminating it more widely.