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Update Newsletters
3 December 2006 Issue

Note: We are moving the CVA e-newsletter to a new server, and some people got a blank e-mail to cva-01 and others are getting this e-newsletter twice. We apologize for any inconvenience.

1. CVA Sustaining Membership

2. New Essay

3. CVA Activism

4. Christianity and Violence: The Gerasene Demonaic: Did Jesus Kill 2000 Pigs?

1. CVA Sustaining Membership
The CVA offers Sustaining Membership to those paying our $25 annual subscription. In addition to the weekly e-newsletter available to all members, Sustaining Members receive the Take Heart! daily e-messages, which include inspirational comments, biblical commentary, health tips, an advice column, and recipes.

To become a Sustaining Member, go to our membership page, and fill out the form, which will take you to the dues-paying section. Or, you can send a check to CVA, PO Box 201791, Cleveland, OH 44120. Donations to the CVA are tax-deductible.

Regarding the Take Heart! daily e-note, Barb writes: I just wanted to thank you so much for all your hard work. It can't be easy putting together an informative and well-written message every day. I really appreciate the positive tone that CVA takes. It's all about honoring God's creation by doing the best we can, not personally attacking people who haven't yet "seen the Light" concerning God's love for all creation.

2. New Essay
CVA chair Stephen Kaufman, M.D. has an original essay Vegetarianism and Christianity at www.salemveg.org.

3. CVA Activism
Georgia writes: We went to see Fast Food Nation on the opening weekend and passed out the CVA booklets afterward to people who seemed very open for
more information. Most of the people there were shocked at the realities that they saw and many talked afterwards.

Christina at Jeremy Camp Beyond Measure Tour in Anderson, IN writes: Two of us leafleted, together, for a little over one hour last Saturday evening. It was a cold, dark, wet and windy evening but we didn't let that dampen our enthusiasm.

I was privileged to be working with Michele. She is a very passionate, enthusiastic and encouraging person and I found the evening to be a very positive experience.

We handed out nearly a whole box of 'Honoring God's Creation' booklets. As before, I found most people happy to take a booklet. Many people read the title on the booklet and would say something like "Oh Christianity and
vegetarianism" smile and add thank you before walking away with the literature. Michele had one man who said he and his wife used to be vegetarians and had recently felt a strong need to return to a vegetarian lifestyle. He thanked her with great enthusiasm as he took the literature.

Despite the cold, wind and rain we were very glad to be leafleting and I hope to have the opportunity to work with Michele again.

After the event I heard from one person who talked with a person working for His Mercy Ministries, a soup kitchen in Vanier that the free will offering was going to that night. When the His Mercy Ministries organizer realized that the booklet contained vegetarian recipes, she was very keen to get her hands on a copy so they gave her one of their booklets.

Featured Upcoming Events
12/12 OH Westerville Behold the Lamb of God Tour
12/13 VA Manassas Rebecca St. James 2006 Christmas Tour
12/14 MI Kalamazoo Selah Christian Concert
12/15 SC Taylors Derek Webb Christian Concert
12/15 NY Cortland Selah Christian Concert
12/16 AR Bentonville Selah Christian Concert
12/16 SC Charleston Rebecca St. James 2006 Christmas Tour
12/17 MN Forest Lake
Selah Christian Concert
12/17 SC Myrtle Beach Rebecca St. James 2006 Christmas Tour
12/28-31 MO Kansas City One Thing FREE Adult Youth Conference

To find out about all upcoming leafleting and tabling opportunities in your area, join the CVA Calendar Group at http://groups.yahoo.com/group.christian_vegetarian/. Read the home page, and then join. You will then be able to log in anytime to identify upcoming events in your region. Contact Paris at christian_vegetarian@yahoo.com if you might be able to help.

4. Christianity and Violence
The Gerasene Demoniac - Did Jesus Kill 2000 Pigs?

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

Many animal advocates have been troubled by the story, described in Mark 5:1-20 and Luke 8:26-39, of the Gerasene demoniac. Jesus exorcised demons from a possessed man, and the demons then inhabited a herd of swine who, crazed, ran down a steep bank and drowned in a lake. A remarkable aspect of this story is that there is no such steep bank near Gerasa.

Therefore, I think it is most reasonable to regard this story as revealing allegorical truths rather than as literal historical narrative. In other words, I do not think that Jesus actually killed 2000 pigs; the story tells truths about Jesus' healing powers, but they are not all literal truths.René Girard has argued that, according to mimetic theory, the Gerasene demoniac reveals profound insights into scapegoating.1

The possessed man was the communal scapegoat. He bore the burden of the people's unclean spirits - they could blame him for their own forbidden thoughts and desires
that threatened social order and peace. In Mark's account, "Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always crying out and bruising himself with stones." Normally, "possessed" people were hunted, stoned, and
killed. Here, the man hid in the tombs and stoned himself, protecting himself from the scapegoat's usual fate. His howling was an affront to them, but they did not kill him. Rather than kill him, they bound him in chains that were insufficient to hold him and allowed him to bruise himself with stones without causing lethal damage. His self-expulsion from the community and self-injury satisfied the community's need for a scapegoat.

Therefore, there was a balance between the insufficient chaining by the community and the insufficient self-stoning by the man. This balance allowed the scapegoat to live while serving the community's need for a scapegoat.

Perhaps this unusual arrangement began when the scapegoat, recognizing that angry communal members were convinced of his possession and determined to stone him, started to stone himself. Since the "demons" were already stoning the man, the community was afraid to join the demons in stoning him.

The "possessed" man naturally feared Jesus, who had said, "Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!" (Mark 5:8). Jesus threatened the balance of violence between the man and the community, which could lead to the man's
death. When Jesus asked their names, the demons replied, "Legion," which means many. The demons represented all the forbidden desires of the community.

They were parts of the human psyche, and consequently they could not have had individual names, which would have indicated that they existed independent of human beings. The demons begged Jesus not to send them out
of the country (Mark 5:10; "abyss" in Luke 8:31). I think the "demons'" request reflected the community's concern that exorcising the demons from the community's current scapegoat would have forced the community to find a
new scapegoat onto whom they could project their fears, feelings of hate, and illicit desires.

Frequently, people have tried to transfer the role of the scapegoat from humans to animals. When the demons asked to be sent to the swine, this represented the community's desire to see its own demons find a new home.

The story refers to swine as the recipients of the spirits, since they, as unclean animals in Jewish eyes, seemed appropriate repositories of unclean spirits. However, the crazed pigs went over a steep bank and drowned. What
has happened here? According to Girardian theory, typically people have metaphorically or literally thrown those they regard as "possessed" off a cliff.

However, in this story, the "possessed man" was saved, and the demons that had afflicted the community and that had been projected onto the scapegoat were destroyed.
The community's response to the cured man is illuminating: "they were afraid" (Mark 5:15).

Their scapegoat was cured, and consequently their peace and equanimity were threatened. Many people have argued that the people were upset about the economic loss of the pigs, but if that were the case they would have been angry, not afraid. The Gerasene people asked Jesus to depart, Jesus having done enough damage to the social order already. Meanwhile, the cured man begged to leave town with Jesus, I think because the man was at high risk of being stoned by a community desperate to reestablish order.

However, Jesus refused the man's request, forcing the
man to bear witness to Jesus' act of healing by destroying demons rather than by destroying people. People "marveled" at the cured man's story, indicating that destroying demons was not as socially devastating as
everyone had feared.

I do not think we should regard demons as individuals separate from human beings. They are our forbidden thoughts and desires that threaten to disturb communal order and peace. However, they do more than possess us
individually. Because our desires are mimetic, they can become enshrined in institutions. The Holy Spirit works to cure demonic possession, but institutions can be more difficult to cure than individuals. Institutions can become false gods to which people offer blind allegiance.

Consequently, words alone cannot exorcise them. One needs to demonstrate that institutional demons derive from and depend on lies. Jesus' self-sacrifice on the cross showed that "sacred" sacrifice, enshrined in religious "laws," was scandalous.

1. Girard, René. The Scapegoat. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1986, pp. 165-183.

Stephen R. Kaufman, M.D.

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