The Vegan Revolution. Saving Our World, Revitalizing Judaism. By Richard Schwartz. Lantern Publishing and Media, 2020.
Any other book titled The Vegan Revolution, if one didn’t look at the subtitle, would not necessarily seem to have anything to do especially with Judaism or Israel. But from page 1 forward Richard Schwartz starts talking about why Jews should be vegans. Surprise! The title is accurate. He really is talking about a world-wide vegan revolution. The vegan revolution taking place in Israel and among Jews is, in effect, the model for the world-wide vegan revolution. Judaism and Israel just provide the spark. Continue reading
Jesus in the temple (detail) – Scrovegni – public domain image
The historical Jesus would have completely rejected the casual torture and killing of animals. This practice of compassion was quite clear in the early church but was then lost as Christianity spread into the wider Roman world.
What does this imply about Jesus’ practice of compassion? Definitions of veganism vary, but the basic concept is not to kill or harm any sentient creature, especially for food. There is no word in ancient Greek or Latin for “vegan.” In fact, there was no word in English for it, either, before the first Vegan Society was formed in 1944. But the concept was present even in ancient times. It is roughly analogous to the ancient Sanskrit term “ahimsa,” referring to non-harming of sentient creatures, found in Eastern religions such as Buddhism and Hinduism. Veganism is not about purity; it is about compassion, “which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose,” as the Vegan Society puts it. Continue reading
Jean-Léon Gérôme, Entry of Christ into Jerusalem (public domain image)
NOTE (December 14, 2020): I’ve now expanded and revised this post here.
The historical Jesus, as I’ve argued elsewhere, was clearly vegetarian. To recap: (1) The controversy in the early church over vegetarianism shows that the leadership of the early church promoted vegetarianism and opposed animal sacrifice. (2) The testimony of later Jewish Christianity echoed and preserved this vegetarian, anti-sacrifice tradition. (3) Jesus himself was killed after disrupting the animal sacrifice business in the temple. But can we say that Jesus was a vegan? This is somewhat trickier. Continue reading
[The following article by Keith Akers was published in The Ark, No. 234, Autumn/Winter 2016 issue. The Ark is the publication of the Catholic Concern for Animals.]
Is vegetarianism part of Christianity, or are they incompatible? Christianity and vegetarianism don’t have to be in competition, but in practice they are. While many become vegetarians for health reasons, the heart of vegetarianism is its ethical component — the practice of not eating meat out of concern for the suffering of animals. Continue reading
Jesus in the temple (Greco)
Yesterday was Palm Sunday, which commemorates (in the Christian calendar) Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem in the last week of his life. Sometime during this week he disrupted the animal sacrifice business in the temple, the action for which he was executed. Below I have included a second clip from the January 14 interview with the Vegan Spirituality Online Gathering. In this clip, I discuss Jesus in the temple, a rather dramatic model for animal liberation. (The “chimes” that you occasionally hear during the interview were generated when someone joined the call.) Continue reading
Jesus and Nicodemus (H. O. Tanner)
On Thursday, January 14, the Vegan Spirituality Online Gathering (a project of In Defense of Animals) interviewed me. They recorded the whole call and have made it available on YouTube. Besides me, Lisa Levinson and Judy Carman were also on the call. It’s rather long — over an hour and twenty-two minutes — so I’m just including a short clip in which I discuss Jesus’ family and vegetarianism, including James, the brother of Jesus and the first leader of the church after Jesus. I’ll add a second clip later. Continue reading
On Christmas day, WCUW radio (91.3 FM, in Worcester, Massachusetts) will broadcast an interview of me on Marlene Narrow’s “Vegan Nation” show. It will be on Friday, December 25, 2015 at 12:30 pm to 1 pm Eastern time (10:30 – 11:00 am Mountain time). (The interview has been pre-recorded.) The content will center around Jesus and vegetarianism. You can listen online by going to their website and click on the button on the left-hand side that says “WCUW Live / Listen Now!”
UPDATE December 26: here’s the link to the archive of this show (an MP3 file).
Jesus in the temple (Greco)
Was Jesus a vegetarian? The long answer is to investigate both Jesus and the movement that he was part of, something I’ve done in my books The Lost Religion of Jesus and Disciples. This post will give a shorter answer that briefly discusses three key points: the controversy over vegetarianism in the early church, the later history of Jewish Christianity, and Jesus’ attack on animal sacrifice.
The dispute over vegetarianism in the early church shows that the leadership of the Jerusalem church was vegetarian. Continue reading
The End of Captivity? A Primate’s Reflections on Zoos, Conservation, and Christian Ethics. Tripp York. Cascade Books, 2015. 135 pages.
The End of Captivity? is a short, open-ended Christian meditation on humans and their effects on wild animals. The book is both challenging and infuriating at the same time. It is challenging because it asks us to question the basic logic that puts animals in zoos. But it is sometimes infuriating because, as the author points out, human dominion over the planet is so complete that there isn’t very much space around for wild animals. Where, exactly, can we send them? Continue reading
This was delicious.
A lot of people, reading my previous two posts on defining veganism — including some people who commented on them — reacted by saying: “it’s all semantics.” Who cares about the precise definition of veganism? This will never matter.
Actually, yes, words do matter, and here’s a major case in point — the history of Buddhism. The first precept of Buddhism is expressed in various ways, often as “not to take life” or “not to kill any sentient creature.” The Detroit Zen Center gives the precept as “Do not harm, but cherish all life.” That is very close to a vegan commandment. Continue reading
Lisa Levinson organizes Vegan Spirituality groups, retreats, and online gatherings across the country as part of In Defense of Animals’ Sustainable Activism Campaign, offering emotional and spiritual resources for animal activists. We recently discussed Vegan Spirituality and this is what she said.
Question: How did you get started down the idea of “vegan spirituality”? What is your religious / spiritual background? Continue reading
Jesus in the temple (Greco)
The latest data on Christianity comes from a recent report from the Pew Research Center on religion and public life. It sounds as if Christianity is on track to disappear as the dominant religion in America within a generation or two. In fact, it’s possible that Christianity might eventually disappear from American life altogether. Is this good news or bad news? The answer might seem to depend on whether you identify with Christianity. If you’re some religion other than Christianity, or atheist or agnostic, it’s great news; otherwise, not so much.
I’d like to ask a slightly different question — what does this mean for vegans? Even Christian vegans hold a perspective which is so different from that of other Christians, that the decline of Christianity does not clearly have a good or a bad implication. Continue reading
I will be giving a talk on “Animals in Earliest Christianity” to the Animal Rights Academy in Toronto this Tuesday. Alas, I will not be there physically, but I’ll Skype in via computer, and I understand that the conversation can go in both directions and we’ll have questions and answers.
The talk will be at University College, 15 Kings College Circle, room 256, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, from 7 pm until 9 pm EST on Tuesday, February 3. There is a Facebook page for the event here.
The talk is free, so if you’re in the area, I hope you can make it and we can talk about such questions as: what was the attitude of the earliest Christians towards animals? Was Jesus, or anyone else, a vegetarian? Is animal rights compatible with Christianity? And perhaps the most puzzling question of all, should we care?
UPDATE March 24, 2016: I just found out that the talk has been uploaded to YouTube. The bad news is, the video and audio are seriously out of synch. So maybe you could listen to it as long as you don’t pay too much attention to the video portion. Otherwise the video and audio are both of pretty good quality. If anyone knows how to fix the synchronization problem, let me know. In the meantime, though, here’s the link.
Norm Phelps died on December 31, 2014. An activist in the promotion of vegetarianism, veganism, and compassion for animals in spiritual traditions, he authored numerous books and articles.
He followed both the Tibetan Buddhist tradition and the Unitarian Universalist tradition — neither of which, he noted, is exclusive. But he was raised as a Baptist and a Methodist and wrote about Christianity and animals as well. Continue reading
Jesus and Nicodemus (H. O. Tanner)
What role would an Ebionite Christian Church play — why would anyone want to form one at all? The main reason is to provide a place for ethical vegetarianism in Christianity. The Ebionites, whatever else you may say about them, believed that vegetarianism was part of the gospel message. When Epiphanius asks an unnamed fourth-century Ebionite why they abstain from meat, when meat-eating is in the Bible, the Ebionite responds, “Christ revealed it to me.” Continue reading