The Fellowship of Life
a Christian-based vegetarian group founded in 1973


Peace & Goodwill

by Laurence Main

Many acknowledge the Christmas message in the eleventh chapter of the book of Isaiah: "And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse and a Branch shall grow out of his roots; and the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge." But few connect this "Prince of Peace" with the words of Isaiah a little later (verses 6 to 9): "The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid, and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice' den. THEY SHALL NOT HURT NOR DESTROY IN ALL MY HOLY MOUNTAIN: FOR THE EARTH SHALL BE FULL OF THE KNOWLEDGE OF THE LORD, AS THE WATERS COVER THE SEA."

Despite such a message, Christmas has become synonymous with an orgy of killing and eating birds and animals. The Church seems to condone such practices, and few that would call themselves Christians restrict their diet to that which God originally gave to man in Genesis, Chap.1 verse 29: "And God said, 'Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the Earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.'

Being free from commitment to any religious group, the Vegan Society has kept clear of the controversy of what defines a Christian. It is worth recording, however - if only for our self-defence against Christians convinced of the sanctity of eating flesh, that some believe a vegan diet to be consistent with the original Christianity that was later corrupted. A feature of the final years of the Age of Pisces has been the recovery of lost records and the discovery of cross-references which give hope of a more accurate picture of Jesus Christ and the early Christians. One prominent researcher is Hugh J. Schonfield and it is interesting to note, on page 154 of his book "Secrets of the Dead Sea Scrolls", that: "Hegesippus, as quoted by Eusebius (Eccl. Hist. Bk. ll xxiii), says that James, (the brother of Jesus Christ), called the Just by All, 'was consecrated from his mother's womb. He drank neither wine nor fermented liquors, and abstained from animal food. A razor never came upon his head, he never anointed with oil, and never used a bath (i.e. a public bathing establishment). He alone was allowed to enter the sanctuary. He never wore woollen, only linen garments'."

This same James became the leader of the Christians after Jesus Christ's disappearance and was eventually martyred by a stone-throwing mob, whom he prayed that God would forgive 'for they know not what they do.'

Modern Christianity is derived more from the beliefs of Paul, which were at variance with those early "Followers of the Way" who actually knew Jesus. Even so, in Romans, Chap. 14, verse 21, we find: "It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor anything whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak." These words are preceded in the same chapter, verse 14, with the reminder: "... the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost." Such a reminder illustrates the fact that veganism is only a part of a greater whole. A vegan way of life is a practical expression of love which can only be approached with humility and a deep desire to avoid hurting others.

Throughout history appalling crimes have been committed by people in the firm belief that they were doing nothing wrong - even 'saving souls'. Intolerance is a species of violence, but our attitude to others should be positive appreciation rather than negative toleration. Gandhi recognised no other God than Truth and the only means for the realisation of Truth is love or Ahimsa. Knowledge of Truth and the practice of love are impossible without self-purification, with only the pure in heart able to see God. Gandhi's mark of spirituality was not exile from the natural world but work in it with love for all. "Love to the loveless shown, that they might lovely be." This condition is absolute. There must be freedom and equality of status. We must not degrade the vision to the demands of the actual but must raise the actual to the pattern of the ideal. Our love of liberty and justice must exclude the passive violence of refusing to reform a situation which is contrary to the professed ideals. If greed, cruelty and contempt of life have gone to the making of our established way of life, we must change it. Until we act honestly in this matter we cannot secure a better world. We must adopt a policy of non-violent non-co-operation with evil, based on hatred of the wrong and love for the wrong-doer.

We are controlled by unchecked science and technology, no longer troubled by such doubts as those so wisely expressed by Leonardo da Vinci when he suppressed his invention of the submarine "on account of the evil nature of man."

There is no political way out of the world's mess, with politicians living from day to day and basing their policies on selfish interests, even stooping to use conspicuous minorities as convenient scapegoats. As it becomes harder to maintain and justify our accepted extravagant and cruel way of life, politicians can be expected to become tougher in its defence, tightening their grip on foreign states and taking emergency measures to protect their domestic position. Dinosaur-like vested interests cannot be expected to develop necessary change. The responsibility is ours. We must perceive reality. All selfish interests must be dropped, along with greed and envy. The final years of this century hold a spiritual crisis which will demand a great leap forward in our consciousness. As Ronald Higgins writes in "The Seventh Enemy: The Human Factor in the Global Crisis": "Rarely has so much hinged on our power to love."

Our faith in the New Age will enable us to recognise its birth-pangs. We must turn from the single vision of objective reason, the 'rationality' that makes scientists torture animals. The Truth is more elusive - the visionary awareness of the poet or mystic. No barren precision is sought, but the encompassing mystery, the knowledge OF rather than the scientific knowledge ABOUT. Animals present us with a test case, and by our conduct to them in their innocence and weakness our own standards are truly fixed. Admit that the strong have the right to exploit the weak and the essential lesson of life is lost. What use is science if it is not governed by ethics?

The feminine principle needs liberating. This is far from advocating that women should take on the role of men. We need to be more receptive, less assertive, associated with love rather than with power. By welcoming our tensions we can raise our consciousness. By recognising our evils we can overcome them and be made whole. This Christmas we must look forward to a second coming, at least in our hearts. Perhaps unseen powers are at work in ways that we cannot comprehend, though we can sense and even apprehend them if we are willing to be silent and listen.

"Everyone of us, every group with which we live and work must become the model of the era which we desire to create. We must live the future now." - Ivan Illich ("The Celebration of Awareness")

From The Vegan (Winter 1982)

Reproduced with thanks.

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