Sunday, October 19, 2008

As I Mentioned...

... in an earlier post, October is Vegetarian Awareness Month. I thought I'd share throughout the month with you a few great reads and finds in celebration of this peace-loving, non-violent, compassionate month.

Today I thought I'd share a bit of philosophy from my own, Christian perspective. I must admit, though, that I ordinarily feel just as much an island among my Christian sisters and brothers regarding this choice, as I do among anyone else. So, you must appreciate my surprise and understand the warmth and joy my heart felt when a dear, old friend of mine who was visiting us last spring told me that he was considering becoming vegetarian. Eric told me that his pastor, Greg Boyd, was vegetarian and had shared some pretty convincing arguments with him both in some of his church services and on his blog. On his blog, Boyd describes himself as a,

former atheist who surrendered his life to Christ in 1974. graduate of Yale Divinity School and Princeton Theological Seminary. professor of theology for 16 years at Bethel University. founder and senior pastor of Woodland Hills Church, an evangelical megachurch in St. Paul, MN.

I was weeding out some bookmarks on my computer today and came across the one of Boyd's blog that Eric had saved for me while he and his wife were here. Boyd shares, in an excellent series of posts, why he decided to become vegetarian over 4 years ago and I find that his thoughts mirror my own convictions. He boils it down to 4 specific reasons which he elaborates quite eloquently and Scripturally on his blog. In his first post, Why I'm Vegetarian, Boyd elaborates on the first three reasons:

1. "God Told Me To"

Here, Boyd shares,

The most fundamental reason I became a vegetarian is simply that I felt God told me to. It’s that simple. God has the right to forbid for one what he allows for others, and he just told me, very clearly, I wasn’t supposed to eat meat. It's not that the Bible forbids it. It doesn't. It's just that God forbids it for me. In fact, I felt very strongly the Lord wanted me to enter into a covenant of complete non-violence with him.

I am never to harm anything if I don’t have to -- not even a bug. And I'm never to harm humans even if it seems (by normal standards) that I "have to".

2. "Increasing the Capacity to Love"

and

3. "Seeing the Sacred Beauty in All Living Things"

Boyd writes,

My pledge not to harm creatures raised their value in my mind and this in turn allowed me to see their intrinsic value.

Animals are not just food, and insects are not just inconveniences. They are works of art by the eternal Creator and they have their own intrinsic, sacred worth. But I couldn’t see this worth very clearly when I thought of them primarily as food and inconveniences. Becoming a vegetarian and committing to complete non-violence has significantly deepened my capacity to experience the sacred beauty of God’s creation. This experience brings with it a new dimension of delight and joy over creation.

In the second post in the series, The First Fruit of the Coming Non-Violent Creation, Boyd gives greater attention to his fourth reason for abstaining from eating animals. His fourth reason shares the same title as his blog post and it is wonderfully written. A portion of it argues,

There was no violence in the beginning and there will be no violence in the end. There is violence now only because humans, the landlords of the earth, rebelled against God and allowed the Powers of evil to corrupt the creation.

Now, the most fundamental job of followers of Jesus is to manifest the reign of God. I take this to mean that we're called to put on display now what the world will look like when God fully reigns over it in the future. In theological terms we're to be "the eschatological community."

One way the New Testament expresses this truth is by referring to Kingdom people as the “first fruits” of a coming harvest (2 Thess 2:13; Ja 1:18; Rev. 14:4). The “first fruits” referred to fruit that ripened and was picked before others. In the Old Testament, first fruits were consecrated (set apart) to God and were a sign that God will faithfully bring the remainder of the harvest to fruition (e.g. Ex. 23:19). In the same way, Kingdom people are consecrated to God as a sign that God will faithfully bring his Kingdom to complete fruition.

As the “first fruits” of the Kingdom, our call is to be in the present what the entire world will be in the future, when the Kingdom is fully manifested. In a world that is yet under bondage to the rebel Powers, we're to display what it looks like to live in the reign of God. Our lives are to reflect God's will being done "on earth as it is in heaven" (Mt 6:10). We're to be, as much as possible, heaven on earth and thus a window through which people can see the future into which God is leading the world.

The last of Pastor Boyd's posts is entitled "Compassionate Dominion and Factory Farms". Again, he lays out his arguments as clearly as I have heard them stated elsewhere when referring to this heavy subject. It is one worth considering.

At the very end of this post, Boyd urges that if one cannot give up meat, one should seriously attempt to choose free-range, small farmed meat. While this is a better choice, it should be noted that while the animals may enjoy better lives ( and yes, this fact is important and much better), they still share the same demise and brutal treatment in the slaughterhouses. By brutal treatment, I do not mean that they are simply killed, but that they are routinely tortured before their deaths. Torture is not too strong a word. Being boiled alive is torture. Having limbs ripped from living animals is torture. Being kicked across rooms and dragged, broken-legged to slaughter is torture. Boyd discusses this a great deal and there are plenty of videos and other evidence that attest to this truth.

While the reasons laid out in Boyd's post were not crafted by me, they are shared by me. For whatever reason, God laid it upon my soul to be a sensitive one: sensitive to other people, but also other creatures. Making the decision over 20 years ago not to eat animals any longer was not a hard one for me to make. People sometimes ask if I miss meat. I can answer with a completely honest, "no." And the same goes for dairy and eggs. For me it is simple. Once I knew... really knew just how what was on my plate got to be there in the first place, it was not even attractive to me anymore. To me it is similar to choosing not to wear clothes that are made by child or slave labor. Suddenly the thing no longer has appeal. Did the object involve pain to someone or something else? It instantly loses its value in my eyes.

Do my meals involve physical or emotional pain (to the animals or humans perpetrating the deed) or death? I can happily answer, "no," and give thanks to God who provides so abundantly an astounding array of food that gloriously displays His creativity inherent in the tastes, textures and aroma of His provision. All of this and harm to none. Shalom.
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