COMMENTS AND DISCUSSIONS
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
Our subjects cover: religion (Christian, Jewish and others); diet and lifestyle (vegan and vegetarian); and other miscellaneous subjects.
By people of compassion
- The Church is Chasing People Away -
Response by Evelyn Elkin Giefer
27 May 2001
Dear Frank and others,
I too am feeling your pain at the outcome of your meeting with the Methodist ministers. I have read with interest the responses posted to this list and your All-creatures list. I respect everyone's views and witness and appreciate their willingness to share. I too feel the anger well up when I think of how these ministers treated you and reacted to Pat's letter. I am embarrassed for the United Methodist Church, of which I am a member. It is easy to think, "how could these people really be God's ordained ministers and be so closed to the truths in the Bible?" However, I do not feel, as Roger does, that a person is not a Christian if s/he has no compassion for other living creatures. I believe that such a person is just in a more infantile stage of Christian growth, at least on that particular issue. I do believe that God loves all creatures and that compassion for them is compatible with Christian teaching. But I do not think that we can say all non-vegetarians or people who do not believe animals have souls cannot possibly be Christian. As much as I would like to think that people must believe as I do to be sincere believers in Christ, I believe we must take them at their word if they profess to believe in Christ and are truly seeking God's guidance.
I also think before we can judge someone else's religion, we should look at our own lives. I know when I look at mine, I see that I am far from the ideal towards which I strive. For example, I honor and cherish all life. But I cut my grass. Every time I cut the grass, thousands of living, sentient, marvelous creatures of God, insects, die. For what? So that I can live? No. So that my yard looks neat. How can I justify my esthetic needs as being more important than the lives of these creatures? I also recall that I fished and killed insects as a child without remorse. I recall how I performed painful procedures and surgeries on healthy unanesthetized animals in veterinary school. The list goes on. While I was killing rabbits in a research lab, I was a professing Christian, attending church, helping the poor, praying, reading the Bible, and seeking God's direction for my life. At that time I did not even think that how I treated animals was important to my Christian beliefs. In the fullness of time, God revealed to me that all of these actions (the ones against animals) were sinful. The point is that we have all committed sin without realizing it (blind spots, as Neville says) and continue to do so, even though we are Christian. I believe that the ministers in your group are Christian too. Yes, they have a long way to go in fully grasping the depth and breath of the Gospel, but that does not make them not Christian.
Your witness was a very powerful one, I am sure. And I believe the Holy Spirit was and is working even now to bless your words to these hearers. I bet that there is not one who heard you that does not reconsider the scripture you quoted in a different light the next time they read it. The fact that they were silent at first says a lot: they did not jump on you and shout you down. Could not their silence have been an indication that they were reflecting on your words, rather than instantly opposing them? The minister who mentioned the Discipline no doubt felt a need to justify her unwillingness to consider that animals might have souls. But sometimes our excuses for our behavior and beliefs are the first sign that we are dealing with them, acknowledging a possibility that we may have been wrong. (I remember how I justified my eating meat for a long time after I became an animal rights advocate. I struggled with becoming vegetarian, making excuses to myself about why it was okay and that we were meant to eat animals, and that farm animals didn't really suffer.) I may be wrong about their motives. I wasn't there. And I am not trying to minimize the pain they caused you or justify their hardness of heart. But I hope I am right in believing that God will not let your words be in vain. If they are Christian (and only God can know that) and truly seeking God's guidance, then God will reveal the truth to them. Someone in your hearing will take your words and Pat's feelings to heart. That is my prayer. Some might say that I am just seeking to comfort you, when comfort is not justified, but I don't think the world is so bleak. I think God is still at work to change the world. Praise God for people like you and those on this list and many others who are helping God do that!
I would also like to say that I do believe that God loves animal souls and human souls equally. To say that we are better than or more important than non-human animals in God's sight seems contradictory to Christ's message of humbleness and service to all. Being made in God's image, we are to be like God, i.e., Christ, who was a servant of all; therefore we are to humbly serve animals, "wash their feet [hooves, etc.]", take care of them. While humans may have a unique place in creation (only we possess the ability to destroy the world), and a special calling, I do not think we are of more value to God than other creatures. I do not know if animals are capable of sin or if they are aware of Christ's sacrifice, but I do believe they have a knowledge of their Creator and that they wait for redemption from their bondage to decay as we do, although it would seem they are in bondage because of HUMAN sin, not their own. As far as the sparrows passage, could not Jesus have meant by "are you not of much more value than these?" that we are worth more than the 2 pennies that sparrows were sold for? So are the sparrows, obviously, since God cares when they fall. I know some translations seem to say that He meant people are worth more than sparrows. But I don't think that is compatible with the rest of Christian teaching.
In Christ's Peace,
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