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Update Newsletters
21 May 2006 Issue

1. Christian Concern for All God’s Creatures Conference

2. The May issue of The Peaceable Table

3. Leafleting Feedback

4. Christianity and the Problem of Human Violence  - “For God So Loved the World”

5.  Addendum to last week’s essay

1. Christian Concern for All God’s Creatures Conference, Saturday, June 3rd at Caldwell College, Caldwell, NJ.

Speakers include:

*Rev. Frank and Mary Hoffman, founders of The Mary T. and Frank L. Hoffman Family Foundation host many Christian websites for animals' rights (www.all-creatures.org). *Stephen Kaufman, M.D., Chair of the Christian Vegetarian Association and Co-chair of the Medical Research Modernization Committee.

*Deborah Jones, General Secretary of Catholic Concern for Animals (based in England) will be on video and video-conferenced. She is also Editor of The Ark, CCA's journal.

*Judy Carman, author of Peace to All Beings will share on how churches can start an animal ministry.

*Jan Fredericks, MA, LPC, founder of God's Creatures Ministry and Chairperson for Catholic Concern for Animals-USA.

Many tables, speakers, great vegan food and more. (We are hoping Rev. Hyland will be able to attend.)

Registration fee is $35.00. For more information please email Jan at Godscre58@yahoo.com.

Sponsored by God's Creatures Ministry and Coalition for Animals.

2. The May issue of The Peaceable Table http://www.vegetarianfriends.net/issue21.html includes articles, reviews, and recipes. For example, one article looks at the ministry of the Reverend James Granger, whose 1772 sermon in defense of animals made his congregations think he was "prostituting" the pulpit by bringing up the issue of cruelty to bulls and horses.

3. Leafleting Feedback
Casey writes: I just wanted to follow up with you concerning our leafleting. For Mothers Day three of us went to the huge Lakewood Church in Houston and distributed all of the (2,000+) booklets over the course of three services. They have an estimate of 40,000 attendees for the service, and most are families so a few thousand booklets can reach a decent percentage.

Security gave us some trouble at first so we had Houston Police Officer Maxen dispatched to clarify that we were on public property by being on the sidewalk with street signs, despite Lakewood also owning the parking garage across the small barricaded road and such.

Susan in Dallas writes: I just wanted to tell you that the leafleting at the TAIT concert went well. I went with a friend, Lorna. We passed out all of the fliers in about an hour. Lorna was very pleased with how polite the concert-goers were - and she said that she would definitely leaflet for Christian Veg again.

4. Christianity and the Problem of Human Violence  - “For God So Loved the World”

[This series reflects my views and not "official" CVA positions. It is being archived at http://www.christianveg.com/violence_view.htm.]

For many Christians, John 3:16 is a favorite passage; it reads, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” Many people understand this passage as indicating that belief in the Son is what one must do in order to go to heaven. I think this understanding is narrow and misses some critically important points.

The passage notes that “God so loved the world.” If the point of the passage had been that God was only interested in saving from death those who believed in the Son, it would have made no sense to mention that God gave the Son for the benefit of the entire world, including those who are intellectually unable to believe, such as young children, mentally disabled people, and animals. Jesus came to redeem all Creation, not just those who have faith in Jesus. This is why “the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God” (Romans 8:19). The sons of God are those who have faith in God’s redemptive power, and they, being new creations in Christ, will herald a new age where “he will wipe away every tear from their eyes and death shall be no more” (Revelation 21:4).

What does “everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life” mean? Many people think this refers to permanent afterlife. A close look at the word “eternal” offers a broader concept. “Eternal” means unbound by space and time, which describes God’s existence much better than human existence, since human lives inexorably head towards death. I think we may experience eternal life when we are perfectly connected to God, which comes from aligning ourselves with God’s boundless love for all Creation.

I think we gain further insight from Buddhism, which I regard as a philosophy, not as a religion, and consequently I do not see Buddhism as competing with Christianity. I think the above notion of “eternal” accords with the state of mind that the Buddhists call “being awake” or “enlightenment,” in which one’s mindfulness is so complete that one no longer feels trapped in a suffering and dying body but rather feels perfectly open to and accepting of the cosmos. Buddhists regard this state of mind as being present to “The Deathless,” which does not perish.

Do humans and/or animals have an afterlife? I do not think it is reasonable to believe that humans have afterlife and animals do not. Humans and animals have much in common at a genetic, physiological, and emotional level. Some have argued that only humans have a soul, yet the Hebrew Scriptures use the same word, nephesh, to describe the essence of both humans and animals. When relating to humans, translates have called nephesh "soul" (King James Version) or "being" (Revised Standard Version) (2:7), and they have translated the exact same word as "creature" for animals (2:19, KJV and RSV). Therefore, this common biblical basis for claiming that humans have souls while animals do not reflects translators’ biases, not the scriptures themselves.

Many people with “near-death experiences” (NDE) relate an out-of-body conscious experience which has convinced them in an afterlife. However, it is difficult for those who have not had such experiences to evaluate NDE claims. I do not know what happens to the “I” (the stable sense of self that I carry throughout my life, which seems unchanged even while most of my body’s cells die and some are replaced). I think our fear of death – which relates to the destruction of the “I” – encourages us to envision some kind of existence after our bodies cease to function. Perhaps there is an afterlife, but, regardless of the fate of the “I,” our faith teaches us that faith in Christ does offer the possibility of eternal life.

Stephen R. Kaufman, M.D.

5.  Addendum to last week’s essay on the Theodicy Problem, in which I suggested that evil exists because God is unable to stop suffering and death:

This theology helps resolve a paradox associated with God seeming to “will” the tragic plights of the Suffering Servant and Jesus. According to a Girardian reading of the Bible, God had desired to end scapegoating violence, but it would have made no sense to do this via scapegoating. In other words, if it were wrong to sacrifice one innocent individual for the benefit of the mob (which was innocent to the degree that they “know not what they do”), then it would be wrong to sacrifice the innocent Suffering Servant or Jesus to prevent future innocent victims of scapegoating. However, I think the biblical accounts show that God willed that the Suffering Servant and Jesus would become victims of mob violence and, by their obvious innocence, expose the scandal of “sacred” violence, but God did not force this to happen. Their sacrifices were self-sacrifices, not divine injunctions.

Your question and comments are welcome

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