Sunday, April 02, 2006

CHRISTIANITY, JESUS & ANIMAL RIGHTS

Animal rights people are not necessarily atheists. We consider animal rights to be a philosphy - and a preferred lifestyle - but not a religion.We know that people across the planet ferociously guard their often conflicting beliefs about morality and self-imposed notions of the Almighty. To emphasize certain points, I'll be fairly heavy-handed in my critique of Christian thinking. Bear in mind that religious discussions are endlessly futile, and few people are converted through logic alone.

Most, but not all, Christians believe that humans have a right to kill animals they intend to eat. Really? This seems to be another case of God said we can take what we want - so let's kill it and grill it! But how do Christians KNOW that humans have a right to kill and eat animals? Are they on a higher plane of consciousness where God is blissfully smiling down on all this remorseless animal killing? Are they in communion with God, and therefore know how pleased the Creator is to have his creatures butchered and eaten? Perhaps Christians "sense" that it is okay to eat meat, shoot animals, skin chickens alive - but what if they are simply wrong?

Exactly what Jesus ate for lunch and dinner we do not know, but we do know for certain that he was not a trapper, hunter, or rodeo cowboy. There's also no mention of him branding and castrating livestock. Interestingly, the New Testament contains references to people eating fish, but Jesus Christ himself ate fish only twice. Their is absolutely no mention of Jesus Christ being a butcher or eating red meat. Because people ate fish in the New Testament, we cannot logically surmise that Jesus was a hunter or rancher. Such notions of Jesus being an animal abuser are impossible to support using scriptural writings. Simply contorting Jesus to fit personal ideas of morality is not true worship, and it leads to innacurate impressions of what Jesus taught.

For instance, we cannot assume that because our football team is winning, that Jesus is on our side. Jesus Christ couldn't care less about football, and he'd prefer that people did not bash each other's heads for sport. Nor can we surmise that because animals abound, then it's God's will that we kill them. Unless we have obtained a very high level of consciousness - call it Christ consciousnes, kingdom of heaven or whatever - we simply cannot be certain of God's will.

Where is it written that Christians must or should eat meat? Where is it written that Jesus was a hunter or champion bull rider? Where is it written that killing and butchering animals is the road to heaven? I can just as easily portray Jesus as a peaceful man who did not abuse animals, and I'd be far more accurate based on written accounts of his life.A careful study of the lives of Christian saints reveals that none of them indulged in animal killing or animal abuse. Many, many saints were fond of animals.

Indeed, untold millions of sentient beings have suffered immensely over the centuries because of ungodly people inflicting pain, misery, injustice and death in the name of their Almighty. Historically, people have rationalized their ungodly behavior. They will use any rationale - religion or philosophy - as an excuse to conquer, exploit, subjugate, discriminate, or inflict pain.

Eastern and Western saints tell us that Jesus was a very highly evolved being, that he was in fact an incarnation of God. Some contemporary Christians claim to have a relationship with Jesus. But how can mere mortals even begin to fathom Jesus Christ's extremely high level of consciousness? Wouldn't it be more wise to assume that Jesus Christ was very decent toward animals, as Saint Francis was? Saint Francis was a great proponent of animals, and one of the most highly revered saints in Western history. I consider Saint Francis to have been a much greater being than the average person who simply finds the idea of killing animals convenient or necessary. Saint Francis was trying to teach people valuable lessons about animals and the natural world we share with these creatures.

Much of what Western societies believe about animals can be traced back to the ancient Greeks, Romans and various interpretations of the Bible. About the time Buddha reached full enlightenment, ancient Greek philosophers believed that Greek men were superior to all other humans and animals. In Eastern cultures, animals are given much more consideration than Western societies give them, although animal cruelty has always been a universal scourge. Animal cruelty exists for two main reasons: it provides income and/or it provides pleasure.

To a Buddhist or Hindu, it makes perfect sense not to kill animals. In more anthropocentric Western societies, animal cruelty is considered an unavoidable fact of life, and in some instances, cruelty to animals is a preferred lifestyle. Yet, virtually all of this mass exploitation is unecessary. Not a single slaughterhouse, fur coat, hunting season or rodeo do we need.

Unlike the Judeo-Christian tradition, Buddhism affirms the unity of all living beings, all equally posses the Buddha-nature, and all have the potential to become Buddhas, that is, to become fully and perfectly enlightened. Among the sentient, there are no second-class citizens. According to Buddhist teaching, human beings do not have a privileged, special place above and beyond that of the rest of life. The world is not a creation specifically for the benefit and pleasure of human beings. Furthermore, in some circumstances according with their karma, humans can be reborn as humans and animals can be reborn as humans.

Eastern religiouns provide extremely complex views of karma and different levels of consciousness that cannot be found in Western writngs. However, a saint is saint regardless of where they are from, and no one can be a saint who harms any sentient beings. Mother Theresa was not known for her hunting, fishing or trapping abilities, but she was known as a great humanitarian.

To a growing number of Christians there exists no means of reconciling the institutionalised violence of the meat industry, and its inherent disrespect for life, with divine will. Far from being a substitute religion or a modern day heresy, vegetarianism is increasingly advocated on Biblical grounds. To many, it is not merely an objection to the conduct of the world, but a physical statement of faith.

The King James Bible states: "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy." It also states "thou shalt not kill; and whoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgement." ( Mathew 5:4, 5:21)

The early Hebrews who penned Genesis were not vegetarians, although they accepted this as being God's original aspiration for mankind. Genesis 1:29 tells us: "And God said Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in which is the fruit of a tree yeilding seed; to you it shall be for meat." Genesis 9:4 states: "But flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood thereof, shall ye not eat." Leviticus 3:17 states: "It shall be a perpetual statute for your generations throughout all your dwellings that ye eat neither fat nor blood." Ecclesiastes 3:19 states, "Man hath no preeminence over the beast."

My concern is that we do not know exactly Jesus Christ's ideas of the animal world. But we do know what he was not, and he was not an animal abuser. The fact that some people in the New Testament were fed with fish does not logically justify factory farming or massive hunting seasons. Ultimately, people believe what they want to believe. - By Scott Palczak