The Fellowship of Life
The Church in the Dock
Have you ever asked yourself: "Why now?" Not: "Why am I here now"
which is another question altogether but why now, in this late twentieth
century, are passions of caring groups being so aroused by the slaughter
of animals - an evil perpetrated by man since the beginning of time.
Throughout the centuries a few enlightened thinkers have spoken
against our exploitation of animals. Some religions practise respect for
animals, even revering them, for example the Jain belief: "Harmlessness
is the only religion". Not so Christianity.
In earlier days, although the Church played an influential role in
the large rural communities, landed gentry gave the directions and
clergy were often dependent upon them for their livelihood. Was it
likely, then, that a clergyman with an uneasy conscience about the
killing of animals would question the Squire, his earthly lord and
master of the hunt? The ignorant tenants, who attended church mainly
through fear of chastisement if they did not conform to standards
befitting their lowly circumstances, received no guidance. The voice
from the pulpit was silent, and the Bible was no more helpful,
containing so many contradictions.
As late as the 1930's the Rector was addressed as 'Sir' and treated
with deference by his flock. His sermons were heeded. Nowadays the
Rector is 'Peter' or 'Paul' to his declining congregation, and sometimes
criticised more than respected. His influence has waned and what could
have been a great opportunity if a courageous, united Church had
examined its conscience and spoken out, has been lost. Even now, when
there is such an outcry from animal welfarists, the Church, which should
be at the forefront of the revolution, is still strangely silent. The
Church's weaker influence has, however, proved to be a mixed blessing,
for intelligent, compassionate people with religious feelings have found
a new freedom and are now reasoning for themselves.
A clergyman, too, can now have independent views without fear that he
will lose his living, and several notable examples come to mind. For the
Church as a whole, though, a very weighty stumbling block stays in
place. As with the old gentry, Royalty - and the monarch as Head of the
Church of England - continue to give no lead against slaughter.
Because of a dormant conscience, the general public is guilty of
apathy, yet it is within the power of ordinary people to bring about
political change as well as help to crack that hard nut - Big Business,
which only sees God's creatures in terms of profit.
In his 'Outspoken Essays' Bishop Inge (1860 - 1954) writes of animals
that "if they were able to formulate a religion, they would depict the
Devil in human form". With fewer restrictions on us than in the past,
there is licence for evil AND good. Let us hope that, with God's help,
we can soon make at least some restitution.
For all those countless pyres of poor, innocent, ill-used animals
throughout the ages, from this Custodian - SORRY.
A perennial subject of controversy is whether or not Jesus Christ ate
Unfortunately, Jesus did not shout from the rooftops his opposition
to meat eating. I think, being the man he was, he would have definitely
done so if he had felt as strongly as we do, and his views and actions
would have been recorded repeatedly in the Gospels. All Christians would
then have been vegetarian and the world would, to say the least, have
been a better place.
To me, whether or not Jesus was a vegetarian (or vegan) matters very
little, although it would be comforting to know he did not eat meat -
for the animals' sake and not because of diet.
What does matter is that, like many others who have been blessed with
awareness, I know that what has been done to the animals is against
God's will. Therefore I do not feel the need for any verification.
Animals Before Humans
It is often said that people who love animals more than other human
beings fall short in their human relationships, being inadequate and
inferior to the full blown homo sapiens.
With animals, such people have a rapport stronger than that which the
hypocrites, who knowingly eat those they profess to love, can ever
attain. True animal lovers do not eat animal flesh. The incidence of
ethical vegetarianism in our prisons would make interesting reading, as,
on the other hand, would conclusive evidence that seasoned meat eaters
are in fact bloodthirsty, for, if not governed by self-interest or
gluttony; they simply callously disregard what is happening in
slaughterhouse, laboratory, hunting field and water, and so tacitly
concur. Nowadays, with so much publicity, there is no excuse for not
knowing what is going on. As Schweitzer says: "The quiet conscience is
an invention of the devil".
Loving animals more than people is not a personality deficiency;
rather it is a bonus of perception leading to understanding of and
closeness to another species of God's creation. The meat eater lacks
this awareness, failing to appreciate qualities in all animals. As a
carnivorous Mother Superior once remarked: "Sheep are such stupid
creatures. When one runs away from us they all run away". Wise sheep!
No doubt there are some of us who often feel ashamed of being a human
being. In today's world there are fewer restraints on us all, and those
who are unprincipled can - and do - take advantage of this greater
licence. In our group, and indeed the whole circle of the animal rights
movement, we have an opportunity to meet most of our like. Perhaps the
time is not too far off when the meek will inherit the earth, for
dedication to a rightful cause such as ours is a powerful stimulus.
Originally published as a pamphlet by the 'Custodians' network
Also see: The Church/Custodians advert
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