Saturday, July 25, 2015

Vegetarianism and Christianity: Should Christians Eat Meat? (part I)

I am going to start a series on this blog to look at the question of whether or not a Christian should or ought to be a vegetarian: from a practical, religious, health and ethical point of view. Is there warrant for a believer today to restrict animal flesh and/or animal products from their diets, or could this be about stewardship of the earth, or even if this is about caring for animals as included in “the least of these?” Is this nonsense, common sense or is this about social justice and morality, and is this to be included in the Kingdom of God? 

This series is meant as an educational forum and I will be asking some friends of mine to create post. I personally am receiving some benefits from a vegetarian diet (although perhaps not necessarily causally linked, I will freely admit.) But as I believe that there are environmental benefits to ending the “factory farm” method of animal production; my underlying assumption is that it is better for a human body to not eat meat and to restrict animal products from our diet, both due to health reasons and for moral and ethical reasons. I have now come to believe that factory farming is detrimental to the animals, to the health of the human who consume the animal flesh raised in this way, and to the environment dealing with the waste produced by these “farms.”

My open question is whether vegetarianism or veganism should remain (merely) my personal view or is this view one that should (or ought to) become a part of any Christian’s life. In the Kingdom of God, should the treatment of animals be as serious an issue as slavery was (and is,) abortion, human trafficking, or even the equality of the sexes?

There are many of you who access this blog through Facebook, but for this project I would like to see if we all could keep this conversation to the blog; because of security, not all who follow my blog are my Facebook friends, but if we want to turn this (for a short time) into a closed Facebook “chat-room” send me a message; we could do that if it would work better for all involved.

My primary goal is to get my Christian friends to really think hard about what they eat, and what I believe is an ethical and moral responsibility to themselves and the environment. This is not the forum for “Dominionism[1],” but let us start a conversation to hear reasons why eating meat and animal products may not be the right thing for a Christian to do. Let us explore the ethical and moral reason to not eat meat or animal products. 

We, as Christians, know that a quick reading of the Gospels show that there is warrant for having no restrictions on what foods we eat, as Jesus in the synoptic Gospels declared all foods “clean.” But remember what he was teaching his followers: this was an overturn of very strict Torah (Kosher) interpretations of dietary laws that were an external and ethnic sign of membership in the great Abrahamic Covenant and membership in the Diaspora of Israel.  Kosher laws and laws of the Sabbath were seen as markers of those who wanted to please God and keep separate from the rest of the Gentile world.

We have seen various epochs of the growth and dissemination of Judeo-Christian ideals; perhaps now is a good time to take a close look at our food, how it is produced and how we should think of the stewardship of our bodies and the world around us. It may be time to think not only about a theology of our human bodies, but of the stewardship of our world.  I believe that both of these things are a vital part of the Kingdom of God.

If we know that, as Christians, our bodies are “Temples of the Holy Spirit”, that as regenerate or “saved” human beings, God’s Holy Spirit now dwells in us, that we are to be a holy nation, that we are now, in Christ to be a royal priest hood, and that Jesus is the mediator of the new Covenant in  his Blood; We no longer gain covering for sin through animal sacrifice, but through the once-for-all-time sacrifice of the Son of God on the cross. It is significant that we now memorialize that sacrifice through the sacrament of Holy Communion which is through the elements of bread and wine, and not at a table eating the sacrificial animal, who’s blood covered our sin.

I would like this to be a thoughtful conversation; therefore, I would like to set ground-rules for myself and to any who would like to participate. 

1. All communication will be done with charity. We (myself included) will assume the best of the communication and will ask for clarification if a statement is misunderstood or not clear.

2. As I am a student of philosophy, I am holding myself and any who make comments accountable to philosophical rules of argument; but since not all people understand those rules, charity will be sought and given, and there will be no offence taken for correction of a misstatement. Some rhetoric will be allowed, but try to back it up with research and statistics. Ad hoc statements and/or rants will be challenged (but again, with charity.)

3. Ideally, this will be an open, and ecumenical conversation: i.e. this is an all-comers forum. See rules #1 & 2 for guidance. If you are using a doctrinal statement as a part of your argument, clarify the statement so those who either are not from your denomination or are not Christian will understand where you are coming from.

4. As the main writer and moderator of this project: I promise to mediate all comments within a 24 hour period, and contact anyone who’s comment has not been posted for a reason why, and will allow a “second chance” (as it were) to edit and re-post. We all are busy, so let us see what we can learn from each other.

Thank you in advance for participating.

[1] My understanding of Dominionism is a theological position that God gave men (not women) sole rule over the earth; to do whatever was in God’s will (as they perceived it to be) to control and use animals and land. A form of this is within Lock’s economic theory, i.e. unused land (not farmed ect.) is wasted land. This is where the concept of “manifest destiny” had some of its origin.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Facebook: "Friend" or foe?

I remember when I was learning to use Facebook: I would see what friends were doing, where they were going, and what they were thinking. I understood nearly from the first, the time-wasting qualities of scrolling for interesting articles that people who were my friends had posted. As I used Facebook, I also learned of privacy and security issues. You really do need to be careful of what information you post, and there really are such things as Facebook “stalkers.”

It took me some time, but I did learn that this was not my living room or even a coffee shop; these people that I “friend” are not all close-enough friends to air in public my up-sets, rants or personal problem for all to see; this is tempting for a person who lives alone.

I want to keep up with real friends, and I have very little in the way of free time right now. Facebook seems like a virtual living room or coffee shop, and I see enough of other “friends” lives for me (or anyone) to feel as if this virtual relationship is a real friendship, with real support from people you begin to think of like a surrogate family; which is a danger of this virtual world. Most of the people you “friend” are not real friends. (Yes, some are real friends, but don’t miss the point here.)

A friend is a person you see in person, can hear the sound of their voice, and have shared things with you (and you with them) often enough that you really do know and trust them.

Then there are Facebook friends: some whom I have never have met in person, but I begin to feel like they are real friends. This is where the problems begin.

We all select friends in real life, based on certain criteria; and one criteria is that you actually have something in common with them. Those common things can be a job, faith, hobbies, home life, or collecting bottle caps, or belly-button lint. Whatever!

And if we really care about our friends, we want or hope that they would tell us if we are doing something wrong or dangerous, and we would do the same for them.  We hope our friends would tell us if there is something important we should know about, or even something as mundane as “Excuse me but you have a piece of spinach in your teeth.”

But what is Facebook? 

Facebook is a social-media/marketing tool.  Facebook earns money by being a direct marketing tool, customized by algorithms designed to record your likes, to post advertisements, and various media articles to interest you and your group of “friends.” It is used to collect data from all segments of society, world-wide. It was originally designed to reach groups of college students and record their likes, and follow the trends on what and where they spent money. Taping into this huge market is of prime concern to certain segments of the economy.  Facebook has grown to be a corporate entity, now traded on the stock market, and is a marketing tool used to reach all across society and see what people like, don’t like, and generally to take the “pulse” of all cultures around the world.

But what do we seem to be using Facebook for?

We treat it like a coffee shop of world ideas. We treat our Facebook friends as if they were real friends, and when our “friends” do things which are contrary to what we believe is important, or follow ideas that are counter to the ideas that we hold dear; we feel that we should behave like a good friend and point out to them when we think they are doing something wrong. After all, that is what a good friend is supposed to do.

Yet when these “friends” don’t listen, we try better words, new rhetoric, even “meme’s” and photo cards to reach and teach them. We get righteously angry with them; after all, if they are our “friend” shouldn’t they “get with the program?”

Whatever our political party, we try and educate those who don’t “listen” to us, and convince them to see things our way.

But Facebook is an international marketing tool.

If we are “for” gun control, we will try and correct those misinformed “friends” to see things the “right” way.

But Facebook is used to sell products and attract customers.

If we are some particular segment of theistic believers, we will ask leading, significant questions to tease out our particular brand of orthodoxy, and be certain to correct, (very firmly,) those who just don’t seem to “get it right.”

 But Facebook is used to collect marketing data.

If we are Atheists, we will work on our arguments (ad-hoc or reasoned,) in order to smoke out those weak minded, non-scientific “religious” folks. They certainly have it dead wrong, and need to be educated.

But according to Facebook is a “…popular free social networking website…” but the first important bullet point tell us that Facebook is a “Market place- [it] allows member to post, read and post to classified ads.”

Yes, we can chat. Yes, we can post and see what our friends are doing. Yes, we can post headlines from around the world and keep up with some current events. But Facebook is not private. It is not a closed group. Your “friends” may not be a like-minded group of internet geeks who post private comments within their closed chat-space: that is, unless you use Facebook that way. Honestly, if you really desire a closed group; then create one.

If you want to convince people of your views, take the time to meet these “Facebook” friends and become their real friend. But in the mean-time; maybe those of us with real debate skills can create closed groups to “duke it out” and really get good at rhetoric in print. There is nothing wrong with doing that.

But you are not going to convince ANYONE of ANYTHING on Facebook.
(Yes, I do see the irony of posting a link to this blog post on Facebook.)

But instead:

You may get really good at thrashing someone with words on a screen.

You may get really good at being an Internet “Troll.”

You may get really good at surrounding yourself with only those people who will “like” your posts…for you can un-friend anyone who disagrees with you.

You may get really good at “one-liner” aphorisms that can be turned into “memes.”

But remember, you will only convince those who already agree with your view i.e. preaching to the Choir. 

You will alienate those who do not agree with you, and possibly contribute to creating an even deeper polarization of society.

You cannot get good at debate by typing on a screen.  You need to do that in a group, “for real.”  Spending time perfecting your answers on Facebook is not a debate.

Bringing back the “Town Hall” style debate is another topic for another day.

Rather than give up on Facebook, why don’t we keep social-media social. Enjoy your wide-variety of friends, “like” their photos of kids, pets and vacations; but keep your rhetoric to the closed group or the real-public square, or the real lecture hall, or the real friends over for coffee in your living room.

By the way; let me know what time you will be over.
Bring some snacks, and I’ll provide the coffee or tea.