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


'PETA Campaign Coverage'
Why every ad-man keeps a Bible close at hand

From The Catholic Times dated September 24, 2000:

If you want to add weight to any cause a few well-chosen phrases from the Good Book usually does the trick. Joseph Baker delves into the crazy world of Bible-bashing and discovers how a radical animal-rights group is using the image and wisdom of our Lord to promote their dubious message.

Who can blame them for trying?

Everyone else remakes God into their own image; why shouldn't People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA)?

PETA is a radical animal rights lobby group. It puts fur, fish and fowl on the same moral plane as humanity, arguing that people have no more right to use animals for food, clothing or medicine than they do to harm other people. In fact, some of those associated with PETA have gone so far as to argue that animals have more right to life than unborn humans.

Now PETA has conscripted Jesus and the Bible to its cause.

Launched on Belfast's Falls Road last year, PETA's billboard campaign caused a furore with its pronouncement that "Jesus was a vegetarian".

The posters were denounced by churchmen and politicians, and within a week they were removed.

The campaign recently hit the USA, inevitably provoking similar hostility.

Their posters argue that the Fifth Commandment ('Thou shalt not kill') applies to animals too. This would be a surprise to Moses and the people of Israel who routinely ate meat and believed their God also wanted animal sacrifices. It would also have been a surprise to Jesus' own society, with its fondness for lamb and fish.

PETA says it is only trying to speak to Christians in their own language.

Don't laugh.

It doesn't matter that there isn't a credible biblical scholar alive who would argue that Jesus was a vegetarian, as PETA does. It is ancient custom to spout scripture to support your agenda.

PETA's myth-making about a herbivorous Jesus just takes to its logical absurdity a practice Christians have perfected. Over the centuries, Jesus has been constantly retooled to fit the dictates of fashion. He has gone from a blue-eyed blond, meek and mild, almost feminine deity to a virile leftist revolutionary. At various points in history, we've emphasised his transcendence, his compassion, his justness, his humanity. We all want God on our side.

It's true, Jesus is many things. And our understanding of what God's plan means has to be applied to current circumstances. But that's not the same as rewriting history or dogma.

The fact is, we can never know for certain the true nature of Jesus, just as we can never know the true nature of God. It is mystery.

God gave us poor, limited humans some help in the form of scripture and tradition. Biblical and archaeological scholarship can help us, through patient and careful sifting of the tiny scraps of evidence left behind by ancient civilisations in the Middle East, to better understand God's message. One of the key tasks of such scholarship is to help us to avoid the false paths of those who would pass off their own message as God's. In this case the academics and theologians aid our bishops, who have been entrusted with the sacred task of protecting the integrity of our faith.

PETA's appeal to Christians may be over the top but it should not be dismissed too readily. It provides a useful lesson for all those tempted to be selective in what they would draw from God's teaching.

Reproduced with thanks.

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