By Craig Cline, Salem, Oregon
Jackie DeShannon had it right when she sang these lyrics almost 50 years ago, back in 1965:
“What the world needs now,
Is love, sweet love,
It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of.
What the world needs now,
Is love, sweet love,
No, not just for some but for everyone.”
In Theology, according to a dictionary, love can be defined as: a.
“God’s benevolence and mercy toward man; b. Man’s devotion to or
adoration of God; or c. the benevolence, kindness, or brotherhood that
man should rightfully feel toward others.”
Let’s focus on definition “c,” in conjunction with Jackie’s use of the word “everyone.” Of course, when she sang the song, she meant people: everyone -- everywhere.
The meaning of the word “everyone” can, however, be interchanged with the word “everybody,” literally every body.
Back to definition “c” and the use of the word “others.” Among the dictionary’s definitions is “a different or another person or thing.”
Now let’s interchange “person” or “thing” with the word “body.” This key word is defined as “the entire material structure and substance of an organism, especially of a human being or an animal.”
Two final revisions to the definition: the insertion of the word “compassion” after the word “kindness,” and the insertion of the words “and practice” after the word “feel.”
So what do we wind up with under our modified definition of theological love? “The benevolence, kindness, compassion, or brotherhood that man should rightfully feel, and practice, toward every body (everybody).”
You notice that the word “body” goes beyond us humans to also include animals, as is properly the case.
Having created this framework of understanding, let’s now go to Christian theology and the religious truth that Christians associate with the widely accepted “Golden Rule,” from Matthew 7:12. The dictionary states this to be “the maxim or teaching that one should behave toward others as one would have others behave toward oneself.”
In the New International Version of the Bible, we find this reading for Matthew 7:12: “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”
A similar reading is given in the English Standard Version of the Bible: “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.”
The New Living Translation of the Bible says this: “Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets.”
According to Wikipedia, the “Golden Rule” was presented by Jesus “as a valid summary for the entirety of moral law.”
Since the “Golden Rule” is indeed a law, and one that is universally applicable among Christians, it seems reasonable that they be duty-bound to obey it.
However, Christianity does not solely “own” the “Golden Rule” as a religiously worthy concept. This principle is common to the world’s various religions in general, and each religion may have its own particular way of describing or defining the principle.
In 2012, I wrote an article titled: “Rights, Wrongs, and the Golden Rule.” It has now been published by several organizations, and been read by a number of people. I’ve not had any negative feedback about its content. An example of one of the positive comments made about the article is this one: “What a beautiful, well-written article that gets to the heart of the issue.”
I chose this comment because it contains the word “heart.” It is from within our “human heart” that we human beings find our innate sense of compassion and spirituality.
The majority of people believe that humans are innately spiritual and that they embrace a belief in their spirituality.
The word “spirituality” is derived from the word “spirit,” which is defined as “that which is traditionally believed to be the vital principle or animating force within living beings.”
Because ALL living beings have an animating force, the point can be made that all beings have spirit, including the non-human ones. Most of us know these other, non-human beings as animals, in one form or another.
I recently read a quote (author unknown) that resonated with me: “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.”
We can all heighten our human experience by making it a humane experience. In fact, the word “humane” is derived from the word “human.” To be humane means “having the good qualities of human beings, as kindness, mercy, or compassion.” The word “humanity” is also so derived, and one of its definitions is “the quality of being humane; benevolence; kindness; mercy.”
Note how very closely the human qualities of being humane and having humanity tie in with the theological definition of love.
Note also that these qualities are the very ones that underlie the principle of the “Golden Rule.” What does this mean in terms of our common human experience?
It means, as the spiritual beings we are, that we should all be HUMANE HUMANS. All of us should live our lives in accordance with the hallowed law that we will continue to acknowledge herein as the “Golden Rule.”
In my “Rights, Wrongs, and the Golden Rule” article, I said: “Now let’s take a big step forward, as ‘humane humans,’ and cause ourselves to ‘see’ that the word ‘others’ as used in the dictionary definition of the ‘Golden Rule’ can and should include ALL members of what we call the animal kingdom, scientifically known as Animalia, and not just the human component of that kingdom.”
The philosopher and physician Maimonides Moses is quoted as having said: “Do not do to others what is hateful to you.” If you think about it, this phrase adds even an extra dimension to the “Golden Rule.”
At this point, I want to introduce the word “ahimsa,” defined as “an Indian doctrine of nonviolence expressing belief in the sacredness of all living creatures and the possibility of reincarnation, strictly practiced by Jains and affirmed by Buddhists and Hindus.”
These belief systems are grounded in “the doctrine that all life is one and sacred, resulting in the principle of nonviolence towards all living creatures.”
One last word for consideration is “anima,” defined as “the soul.” This definition is akin to that of the word “spirit” -- “the animating force within all living beings.”
I find it very interesting that the word animal is in fact related to the word anima. In light of this definitional relationship, we could agree that ALL animals, both human and non-human, have an innate spirit. Such a spirit could be called a soul, present even in the non-human animals.
However, I am not trying to argue that non-human animals have souls like those that humans commonly presume themselves to have. Whether they do or not doesn’t really matter.
What does matter is that virtually all religious followers, and virtually all organized religions, each with their own version of Christianity’s “Golden Rule,” actually LIVE UP TO IT in their beliefs, actions, and lifestyles.
In an ideal world, religious people of all kinds would be guided by the precept that all life is sacred, and that all life deserves to live without the threat, or act, of violence against it.
In an ideal world, religious people would therefore not “participate” -- either directly or indirectly -- in violence towards either humans or non-humans.
In an ideal world, we humans would be vegans. Our lifestyles would be centered on plant-based meals, instead of animal-based ones.
We humans know that non-human animals are sentient, like us; that they, like us, have sensory perceptions and their own form of consciousness.
It stands to “Golden Rule Reason” that we humans ought not be party to the needless and unjustified suffering and death of other sentient creatures, just as we ought not cause such suffering and death to members of our own species.
It is a given that we humans have to kill plants in order to live. It seems to me to be a “Golden Rule Given” that we should eat plants, and foods derived from plants, directly.
Christians, in particular, can look to Genesis 1:29 and 30 for guidance, wherein God gave every body “every green plant for food.”
As things stand now, most humans eat animal flesh and other products taken from animals that suffer greatly the horrendous abuses and cruelties so prevalent on “factory farms.” The flesh and other products are themselves produced by wastefully feeding billions of animals billions of pounds of plants. These plants could instead be fed to people in need the world over. This revision to the status quo would serve humanity in a far better way than is currently the case.
It is abundantly clear that the lifestyle that causes the least suffering and death, and that can do the most to benefit mankind, is one that is plant-based. This lifestyle offers the added benefits of being better for both the health of the environment and for the health of humans in general.
I hereby call on religious people and their various religions, in the U.S. and all over the world, to evolve to a higher-and-better spiritual path than the one that most of them have followed so far.
This path would truly be in accord with the “law” of the “Golden Rule” and with the divinely based morals and ethics that underlie it.
The higher-and-better path would simply call for people to subscribe to the principle known as “ahimsa,” and to apply it to all creatures by extending the applicability of the universally known “Golden Rule” precept.
Anyone and everyone everywhere could direct his/her own personal walk-of-life along this path. Once this spiritually-guided movement begins, it will develop a life of its own. That will be a very good thing for both humans and non-humans, looking forward.
I am hopeful that “religious organizations” and “animal issues organizations” will seek to join their substantially powerful forces in helping to create and administer this life-changing, life-saving spirituality.
What could possibly be better for us humans, and the non-humans that we share our planet with, than to seek to make this ideal a reality?
Let us all, whether or not we are religious in the conventional sense, join together in walking this new path. As a result, every body can have a life that is “Golden Rule Guided.”
It is THIS path that the world needs now.
Craig is an animal issues advocate who is continuing to evolve toward becoming a “Humaneitarian.” Helping to right “animal wrongs” is part of that evolution. Also read Craig's Rights, Wrongs and the Golden Rule.
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