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From 18 April 2004 Issue

ParkStRanger Goes to Church
by Greg Lawson - ParkStRanger@aol.com 

Some of our subscribers have a problem with orthodox religion and have written us in the past asking us not to feature religious based articles. I can understand this, but there are spiritual reasons for veganism and animal rights, and I think we should address this topic now and then. Any complaints you have about this article should be directed to ARO's editor, JJswans, and not me. LOL

I stopped going to church services when I was a teen. One of the last services I attended was in Army boot camp at Fort Knox in 1970. Our platoon was forced to march in snow to the Easter service. The words spoken by the chaplain, an Army major, were so bizarre that they have remained with me all these years. He said, "Oh what a glorious day it will be, when we all fall out in formation on those streets of gold." It made me think to myself, hmm, that doesn't sound like so much fun, What have You got to offer, Satan?

I just joined the Unitarian Universalist Community of El Paso. Until recently, I had only attended one church service in the last 30 years, and that was to give the sermon. Three years ago the Unitarian Universalist Community of El Paso was between ministers and they were inviting guest speakers to give talks. As president of the Vegetarian Society of El Paso, I was asked to be a speaker. One of the UU guiding principles is "respect for the web of life." I didn't talk about the religious reasons, I gave the ethical and environmental reasons for veganism.

In the question and answer period that followed, a chicken farmer responded to my remarks by saying that debeaking chickens doesn't hurt them. Instantly my blood pressure went up. I replied that that was a lie chicken producers told themselves to avoid feeling guilt, that debeaking and forced molting and the use of battery cages were ways to increase profits at the expense of the suffering of the birds.

(Lord grant me patience).

Our scheduled speaker for the veg society of El Paso January dinner was LoraKim Joyner, minister of the Unitarian Universalist Community. I met her last November when we had her as our guest on ACT Radio. LoraKim is a former Avian veterinarian who decided to become a minister for all species. She has been president of the Unitarian Universalists for the Ethical Treatment of Animals for the last two years.

I went to the UU Blessing For the Animals service in late November and I was really moved. There were about 60 people, a dozen dogs, several cats, a turtle, a vingaroon, a ferret and several other animals in attendance. The service was devoted to animal concerns and the hymns we sang were animal related. I knew I would have to go back. So I did, several times.

Sunday, March 21, Reverend LoraKim gave a sermon about Animal Liberation. Allow me to share a few of her words.

"Our choices are ours to make. Each of us decides in our own way who lives and who dies, who flourishes and who suffers. Animal liberation or human liberation is not the question, but animal liberation and human liberation is the hope.

And when we decide on the side of life, of all life - we shall set ourselves free."

Our work towards Animal Liberation liberates us. I feel this is so damn true. There is a lot of pain in our compassion. From the latin, passion is suffering, and so we are with those who suffer. That is our choice in life. Compassion. To be with those who suffer.

Each month we have a discussion group meeting at the UU on Spirituality, Justice and Animal Issues. How could I not be a part of this community? It only makes sense.

I have always considered myself a Veg-evangalist. When I am with my congregation as president of VSEP, at our bimonthly vegetarian dinners, I feel a great sense of peace and hope, I consider it my ministry. I feel a part of something bigger than myself, I feel this way when I write for Animal Writes. We are a community. Someday our vision will be fulfilled. Someday, society will recognize that all creatures have rights. All creatures.

I went vegetarian in 1978 for Animal Rights reasons. Environmental reasons followed. Spirituality has become a part of it too.

Today I left a stack of Vegetarian Society of El Paso newsletters on the free literature table at the Unitarian church. Our last issue featured an article I wrote reviewing Reverend LoraKim's talk to our veg society in January.

Pretty sneaky, huh?

Peace,

Greg

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