The Fellowship of Life
two of several replies to a dispute between a correspondent and her Christian neighbour:
I am sorry that Mrs. Wade is worried by the friend who makes apparent
Christian excuses for rejecting Vegetarianism, but would assure her most
earnestly that this is a question which she must first decide in
accordance with her own conscience (which is the voice of God in each
one of us), and then other points must be considered in that light.
Many of these can be answered. The one about the fatted calf has
already been dealt with by another correspondent.* The story about the
draught of fishes, it is interesting to note (though this may sound like
special pleading), only occurs at the end of John’s Gospel, where its
historicity is suspect for quite other reasons; and in Luke 5: seeing it
is closely connected with Peter, it is strange that it finds no place in
Mark’s Gospel, which is probably derived from Peter. It is possible
that, like the story about cursing the fig-tree, it is a
misunderstanding of a parable.
The argument that we must eat our fellow-creatures because it is
usual for animals to do so is hard to take seriously. Since when are we
obliged to copy all the instincts of the animal world? Does Mrs. Wade’s
friend run about on all fours or sleep curled up on the floor? We (most
of us) do not indulge in indiscriminate sexual relationships because it
is the custom of most animals to do so. It is right for Homo sapiens to
rise above the baser instincts of his animal ancestors (not, I believe,
implanted by a benevolent Creator, but the result of evolution, aided by
an elementary form of free-will), and flesh-eating is one of these.
I must, however, with apologies, warn Mrs. Wade in her search for
enlightenment not to be led astray by those excellent and sincere but
not very well informed persons who take the early chapters of Genesis
and the story of the Fall as literal history – these passages only show
that the authors of the Priestly Code in the fourth century BC thought,
not inappropriately, that a vegetarian diet was suited to primitive
innocence – or who attach importance to the Apocryphal Gospels which,
however praiseworthy their sentiments, have no vestige of a claim to
authenticity. Ask any Biblical scholar.
This does not alter the fact that some of the early Christian Fathers
seem to have been vegetarians, which argues some tradition in this
direction; and Mrs. Wade may derive comfort from reflecting that some
later Christian saints have been vegetarians too.
D. Martin Dakin
In response to Mrs. Wade’s request for arguments to counter her
neighbour’s reference to Biblical support for killing the fatted calf;
it being alright as long as the animal is humanely killed: God
implanting the instincts that make nature red in tooth and claw, etc.
Christ sat down with publicans and prostitutes. Not necessarily
because he intended thereby to confer approval on their activities, but
because he knew that the world of man’s creation was simply a reflection
of his inner state, and he worked always for real transformation by a
“quickening of their spirit” or as we would say – lifting them on to his
wavelength, at which level “sin” or ignorance (of their true spiritual
destiny) would no longer be possible. This, surely, was why, even when
finally crucified, he could say “forgive them, they know not what they
do”. If only men had taken this to heart over the centuries, instead of
blandly assuming that vicarious sacrifice was a good thing for them and
absolved them from personal effort – indeed entitled them to inflict
suffering wherever and whenever it suited them as long as it was for
their own “good”!!
No truly religious man would tolerate zoos, circuses or the abattoir
– each an abuse of a creation meant to fill him with wonder, delight and
gratitude. These latter emotions add up to a loving at-one-moment with
creation – the Universe – God…To whom much has been given, much is
* “As for Christ approving of the fatted calf being killed for a celebration, this is part of the parable of ‘The Prodigal Son,’ not an actual event.” – Ian Gibbard, The Vegetarian, August 1973.
With thanks to the Vegetarian Society: www.vegsoc.org
Return to Letters
This site is hosted and maintained by The Mary T. and Frank L. Hoffman Family Foundation
Thank you for visiting all-creatures.org