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.

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