Simple living, veganism, and transformation in a world of limits
Category: Religion and spirituality
Religion loosely speaking consists of the major and minor religions, like Buddhism, Christianity, Judaism, etc., plus spiritual approaches to existence that address the issues that religions typically do.
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 “What does the Decline of Christianity Mean?”
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 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 “Norm Phelps (1939–2014)”
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 “The Ebionite Christian Church, part 2”
A reader of this blog recently asked, “When are we going to form the ECC (Ebionite Christian Church)? Or maybe EUC, Ebionite Universal Church?” Many vegetarians and vegans who come from the Christian tradition find that there isn’t really a Christian church, group, or denomination, which it makes sense to join. So why not form our own? Here are my thoughts.
One person recently commented on this site, “Compassionate Spirit could respond [to the need for a vegetarian or vegan alternative in Christianity] by offering a religious experience at Christmas and Easter to see if it meets a need.” This request doesn’t sound that hard. Christmas and Easter are the two most common Christian holidays, and there’s all this material on vegetarianism and Christianity.
“Mnemosyne Dance” is the pseudonym of a local (metro Denver) vegan activist who is looking for a church where she and her family can feel at home. I thought it would be interesting to interview her for this blog and she agreed. This “interview” was conducted partially in person but then by e-mail. Here’s what she said.
Question: “Mnemosyne,” I understand that you’re looking for a church and you’re vegan. Can you tell us what your background is?
Mnemosyne Dance: I was raised as a conservative Christian, with a Baptist and Pentecostal background. My religious beliefs sheltered me from other ideas. But in early adulthood, I started to change my worldview. In about 1990 I became active in the animal rights movement in Indianapolis. My core beliefs are in the Christian tradition, but I also support animal rights and am now vegan (past 9 years). Continue reading “Vegan Looks for a Church”
Paul and Jesus. How the Apostle Transformed Christianity. James Tabor. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2012.
This is a marvelous little book which is basic to understanding the “historical Paul.” It’s so simple, elegant, and straightforward, that after reading it, one can’t help wondering why someone hadn’t written it earlier. Not only is it important to understanding the historical Paul, but it’s also important to understanding the historical Jesus — because it is through Paul that we have some of our best information about the early Jesus movement.
A Polite Bribe is an excellent representation of Paul’s journeys as presented in Acts. Because Paul describes his first two journeys to Jerusalem (as a Christian) in his letters, we have the opportunity to “compare and contrast” events in Paul’s letters with the same events described in Acts, written at least fifty years later. But we are adrift when it comes to Paul’s third journey. Paul never mentions this third journey in his letters — except prospectively, as a journey he intends to make at some time in the future. Continue reading “Paul’s Third Journey in A Polite Bribe“
There’s a point in A Polite Bribe when we approach the dramatic confrontation between Paul and Peter at Antioch. Paul thought that he, James, and Peter, had a deal: the message of Jesus could go to the gentiles. But in Antioch Paul is furious that Peter has betrayed this agreement, and denounces Peter to his face. Continue reading ““Eating at the Table of Gentiles”?”
A great new video on early Christianity, A Polite Bribe, has been released. If you’ve never read Paul’s letters or the book of Acts, well guess what–now you don’t have to! They’ve made a movie out of it!
Moreover, it’s a movie that makes some critical points about the history of the early church. There was a split in the early church between Paul and the Jerusalem church. Paul made a collection for the church in Jerusalem (Galatians 2:10, Romans 15:25–27, etc.). This collection was likely refused by the Jerusalem church. Whoa! What was this all about? Continue reading “A Polite Bribe — Great New Video on Early Christianity”
Christianity was shattered into many different factions at an unusually early stage. Bitter disputes are recorded in Paul’s letters between Paul and Peter and James. You can’t read the collection The Ante-Nicene Fathers without seeing that much of early Christian literature is polemical. It is directed, not against external enemies, but against other followers of Jesus who are “misrepresenting” Christianity.
Irenaeus, Hippolytus, Tertullian, Epiphanius, and Theodoret wrote lengthy refutations of their Christian opponents. Origen ruefully comments that “many” Christians have differences of opinion on “subjects of the highest importance.” This is totally unlike what we see in Buddhism, Islam, or even modern Christianity, where all the various schools of thought resemble each other in broad outline. In early Christian writings, we sometimes see Christian polemics against Jews or pagans; but it is not nearly as voluminous as the polemics against other Christians.
NOTE: this post discusses Nicholas Notovitch and Edmond Bordeaux Szekely. For G. J. R. Ouseley and “The Gospel of the Holy Twelve,” see the next post.
Why would anyone want to fabricate a gospel to prove that Jesus was a vegetarian, or anything else about Jesus? There is plenty of solid historical evidence that the message of Jesus was simple living, nonviolence, and vegetarianism, and that vegetarianism was a key idea of the movement which he headed. But Nicholas Notovitch and Edmond Bordeaux Szekely have not gone down the historical path; they have instead fabricated a gospel. Both of these gospels are sometimes innocently quoted by vegetarians to prove that Jesus went to India or that Jesus was a vegetarian. But neither of them constitutes real evidence about Jesus, or about anything else before the nineteenth century. Continue reading “Pious Fraud, Vegetarian Style”
How can we imagine Jesus slaughtering animals or even condoning it? Yet both Christian tradition and the doors of the churches are often closed to ethical vegetarians concerned about animals. One approach to this problem is to look for alternative gospels, and if none is found, to write such a gospel. This approach has sometimes produced some interesting results, one of which is The Gospel of the Holy Twelve.
Looking for modern “alternative gospels” would not be my approach to this problem. What happened to the ethical vegetarianism of the historical Christian community which originated in the first century? What happened to the Jesus who said “I have come to destroy the animal sacrifices,” and was killed after disrupting the animal sacrifice business in the temple? We shouldn’t give up hope so quickly! But I can well understand the frustration of many who have turned away from the Christian tradition in response to the corruption of the scriptures and the general ignorance of most scholars of the subject. Continue reading ““Dreams and Visions of the Night””