1. Activist Report
Letters to National Catholic Reporter
Christianity and Violence: Liberal versus Conservative, part 2
1. Activist Report
The CVA had successful Earth Day events in College Station, TX; Sand
Diego, CA; Nashville, TN; Richmond, VA; Atlanta, GA, St. Louis, MO, and
Cleveland, OH. Patti in Nashville writes, We had a great turnout at this
year's Earth Day. The table cover made our presentation look
professional, and the framed photograph drew onlooker's attention. We
were able to speak to many, many people. Quite a few were vegetarians,
and some were "on the fence.” The pamphlets regarding other religions,
the Jewish pamphlet and the "Bible's Teachings on Protecting Animals and
Nature" went very quickly as did the other documents. We had a very
successful and excellent day, complete with a vegetarian "restaurant" on
site that was sitting next to a Honey Baked Ham stand that was pretty
much ignored by the earth-friendly crowd.
Praise God from whom all blessings flow.
2. Letters to National Catholic Reporter 4/27/07
Regarding "Mepkin, PETA still at odds on eggs" (NCR, April 6):
When I was hatched, I expected to live my chicken life in comfort and
peace being respected for the chicken that I am. I am driven by instinct
as my bird brain is rather limited, but I do feel pain. I was shocked
when my beak was mutilated and my feet hurt every day as I walked in
very limited space on hard wire floors. I was not respected or honored
as a creation of God. Maybe next time around, I'll be hatched on a
free-range farm, not in this godforsaken abbey. MARTY KLEMENZ Elgin,
* * *
We know that we can be saved from our vices but who can save us from our
virtues? I read with great interest Colman McCarthy's column, "
'Cloistered' chickens" (NCR, April 6). He confessed his past sins
regarding treatment of animals while living in a monastery. I did not
read his profession of faith that he is a vegetarian. He did not declare
that he never eats meat.
This raises the question: Can Christians eat meat with a clean
conscience given the horrific lifetime suffering all animals endure
under the conditions of intensive factory farming and its enormous
ecological impact? Paul McCartney wrote: "If slaughterhouses had glass
walls, everyone would go vegetarian." Those who refuse to eat eggs of
caged chickens can appear virtuous, but if they eat meat of any kind
they may be hiding their vices behind their virtue. The question is what
comes first: not to eat the chicken or the egg? (Fr.) RICH BRODERICK
Cambridge, N.Y. Editor's note: Colman McCarthy eats a vegan diet.
Your story on the conflict between Mepkin Abbey and PETA mentioned
the news from Burger King (NCR, April 6). The fast food giant has
pledged to buy only eggs from free-range hens. The transition from
factory-farmed hens will be gradual in order to give farmers time to
change their ways.
My heart got sick when I read about the Trappist monks clipping their
hens' beaks and caging them lifelong in egg factories (NCR, March 2).
Have they no realization that God's life is one throughout his creation,
in us, in beasts and yes, in chickens? To cause those helpless animals
pain and deny them the sights and sounds and feels of God's good earth
and world, is not just evil, it cuts off much of the perpetrators'
sensitivities, turns them in some way from the one God of us all. Why do
priests and bishops have to learn that child abuse is evil from the
media? Why do monks, of all people, have to learn that animal abuse is
evil from Burger King? The Gospel according to The New York Times,
according to Burger King? It doesn't say much for Rome's claim to be the
holy of holies.
LUCILLE OLIVER Anderson, S.C.
3. Christianity and Violence: Liberal versus Conservative, part 2
[This series reflects my views and not "official" CVA positions. It
is being archived at
[From last week’s essay: . . .The conservative position, which points
to individual failings as the cause of suffering, readily lends itself
to scapegoating. . . . Liberals generally believe that institutions have
been constructed to protect privilege, but few liberals regard all
institutions as grounded in the scapegoating process.]
The problem, Rev. Britton Johnson has astutely observed, is that
contemporary liberalism has been heavily influenced by certain dubious
assumptions of postmodern thought.1
Postmodernists hold that customs and
moral rules, and the institutions that derive from these rules, reflect
human culture rather than divine plan. Postmodern liberals believe that
they can improve social conditions by reforming or eliminating harmful
customs, moral rules, or institutions. While postmodern liberals have
identified human culture as the source of customs, moral rules, and
institutions, they have not, as Girard has done, identified culture as
the source of human desires. In contrast to Girardian thinking,
postmodern liberals generally hold human desire as inherently innocent
and good, but corrupted by social customs, rules, and institutions.
Postmodern liberals generally believe that structuring society according
to supposedly “good” human nature will result in general well-being,
perhaps even a paradise on earth. Their expectation of a future paradise
is often grounded in the belief that such a paradise once existed prior
to the corrupting influences of evil institutions. However, people
acting on the impulses of human nature have created our customs, moral
rules, and institutions.
Can changing customs, moral rules, and institutions without
addressing the human desires that created them in the first place lead
to general well-being? In practice, many “progressive” campaigns, aiming
to purge evil institutions, have done great evil themselves. People
seeking to “return” the world to an ideal, mythic, age have instigated
many killing sprees. The killers have often held that their violence has
been an unfortunate but necessary means to the desirable end of
returning their society to an earlier, purer state; they do not
acknowledge the violence as an end in itself –violence designed to unite
their societies at the expense of scapegoats. Examples of programs that
used violent means purportedly to pursue “utopian” ends include the
French Revolution, Russia’s communist revolution, the Hutu massacre of
Tutsi in Rwanda, and the Nazis campaigns.2
Many people seem intuitively to understand that the more egalitarian
ideals of liberals might threaten social order and peace, which can help
explain why relatively poor people often support conservative
politicians, even though conservatives’ policies often seem to favor
rich people. Successful conservative candidates generally speak to the
conscious and unconscious fears of social anarchy that might accompany
the restructuring or dismantlement of institutions.
Mimetic theory sees all violence as grounded in the scapegoating
process, but people tend to distinguish between “good violence” and “bad
violence.” Conservatives fear “bad violence,” which directly relates to
mimetic rivalries. They tend to endorse “good violence” (which they
generally call “defense,” “national security,” or “justice”), such as
state-sanctioned police activities to uphold “the law.” Sometimes,
liberals assert, this “good violence” serves primarily to maintain an
oppressive order. This is most obvious in dictatorships, but it can also
occur in democracies, such as the pre-Civil Rights Act concerning
segregation laws and violence against suffragettes.3
The “fight” by
liberals against sanctioned violence can easily become a new form of
sanctioned “good violence” that liberals call “justice,” even though it
is actually a mirror image of the violence they had opposed.
Some people have used liberal or conservative platforms as vehicles
for exploitation. Both Liberals and conservatives claim to work toward
just and peaceful societies, but both ideologies can be manipulated to
endorse violence and victimization. Jesus encouraged followers to
generate community through love rather than by scapegoating and
exclusion, and the depth of our Christian faith dictates the degree to
which we are willing to trust that this is God’s will.
Stephen R. Kaufman, M.D.
1. Johnson, Britton W. A Proposal to Use Girardian Anthropology to
Analyze and Resolve the Present Challenge to the "Peace, Unity and
Purity of the Church".
3. Schrader, Ginny. “Happy Women’s Equality Day!”