Thursday, April 14, 2011

Cold Cuts or Sacred Trust?

I've been having an interesting discussion with an online-friend about human relationships with animals.  He maintains that they are given by God for human use and enjoyment.  I thought I'd post this explanation and see if anyone else wants to respond.

My friend writes this summation of what he believes I am saying:

... if you say eating animals came out of sin, then you must say that eating them now is a sin. There are a lot of things that the "fallen world" does that are sin and are not to be done by God's people..

I must not be explaining it well... so if you bear with me, I'll try again.

Let's look at some examples from the bible:

God's highest calling for marriage is one man - one woman, yet Abraham and many bible Patriarchs had more than one wife.  Did God condemn them for this anywhere in the bible?  I don't think so - but He allowed it without comment.

God's highest calling for humans doesn't include slavery.  Yet the bible contains long explanations of how to treat slaves.  Again, God allows accommodations to a fallenness in humanity and "makes the best of it" as it were. (He leads us along our journey towards a Greater Perfection that was foreshadowed - but not yet completed - in The Garden.)

Likewise look at human worshipping with icons and rituals and all the religious "stuff" we seem to need.  In the bible the case can be made that God acquiesses to human frailty by giving Israel temples and ceremonies (just like their pagan neighbours), because humans are unable to worship him (yet) in spirit and in truth alone.  They needed a stop-gap measure that would help keep them from pagan practices with all the "cool" trappings of statues and buildings and rituals and costumes etc.  (as if that's what God wants in the way of worship).

So, God gave Israel some of this stuff for a few generations, but carefully designed it to point only towards him.  This also goes for the Law and the Old Covenant.  It was a stop-gap measure that catered to human need - for a while.

In a related way, at one point the people demand a King like the nations around them - and God allows them to have a human king.  It's a stop-gap measure until The King of Kings is fully revealed.

Now, turning to animals and food - God allows us to kill animals for food after the flood, for some reason.  This is a new instruction that differs from the original "food mandate" given back in the Garden.  Was it to accomodate people's changing biological needs? (this happens along with a decreasing life expectancy and other drastic changes to the climate, environment etc.., so there's likely something larger going on).

Notably, it marks a breakdown in the fellowship between mankind and animals in that they now have greater fear of us (for good reason). So this no longer reflects the trusting relationship they had with humans "in the garden."  Interestingly, in that passage you'll see a strange little reminder about Capital Punishment, reminding us that if anyone takes the life of a human being, his life will be forfeit.  I think God is warning us that once we get used to killing animals, it'll become that much easier to kill one another.  Killing another sentient being requires a hardening of the heart and this can become a permanent condition if we are not extremely careful.  God did not design us to kill other beings.

Now, to be fair - I came across an argument claiming Jesus was a vegetarian.  I don't buy this.  I'm pretty sure Jesus ate lamb as part of Passover and it seems pretty clear that he ate fish with his fishermen disciples, and meat was part of some of the temple sacrifices where the worshipper is given back the animal to eat. So, I think when Jesus lived with us as a human-being, he ate some meat - with the proper attitude I'm sure of thanksgiving to the Source of Life who was in that animal just as He is in us.

To summarize, my point about our relationship with animals is that they are not created for our convenience and use, but they are given to us as a responsibility to care for and to love and be stewards of.  Just as Jesus said to his disciples that the greatest among them will not lord power over anyone, but seek to be everyone's servant, I think this applies to animals as well (if you understand what I am saying).  Animals are not our "masters" but rather they are fellow sentient beings towards whom we have a responsibility.  

When we ruin and pollute the environment where they live, when we kill them unnecessarily*** for food, when we use them for medical research, when we build super-highways that wipe them out by the millions every year as "road-kill," and smash them out of the sky with our aircraft -- we are creating suffering and adding to the violence and disaster in the world, rather than creating the peace of God.

And of course, the daily abuses that go on because of how we use animals, is too awful to dwell on. There is a continual holocaust going on across the planet.  How can any of this be part of God's ultimate, peaceful kingdom?  (I can point to some online videos about our current food practices if you're interested.) Even the pet industry brings about horrible treatment of animals because we humans are sinful and imperfect beings.  And the animals suffer the brunt of this.

Anyway, my point is not that we must suddenly stop eating animals because "it is a sin." -- but that the ultimate longterm goal for establishing God's Peaceable Kingdom on earth must look beyond our current philosophy of "lordship" and entitlement.

I don't know if all this makes my point clearer - but there you go .. ;-)

All the best,

***I don't believe we are currently supposed to all be vegetarians as most of us probably don't have a digestion system that could deal with that over the long term.  Also, in many parts of the earth (the far north) it's not an option.  But neither do we need to consume animals in the huge quantities that we do. And there's no doubt that we must treat the ones we do kill with much more kindness and respect and thanksgiving!

1 comment:

London Mabel said...

Because I cherry pick my Biblical beliefs, it's a bit simpler for me. I don't need my beliefs about animals to coincide with everything written in the Bible. I follow only a few passages, such as the one that tells us what we'll see when the holy spirit is present: patience, goodness, self-control, love, kindness, etc. You won't see those things at your average slaughter house, or large scale farm.