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

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Letters

CHRIST AND VEGETARIANISM

The Head Master of Eton (the Rev. and Hon. Canon Lyttelton) writes as follows:

"The question as to the example of our Lord in the matter of meat-eating is of great interest and importance, as its solution depends upon a principle of wide application. It is worth observing that if He had laid down any law or prohibition on the subject of diet, it would have stood out from the rest of His teaching as a unique exception to His method. That method was to proclaim certain profound principles as to man's relation to God, and to illustrate them by certain typical instances of difficult problems of conduct. Then He acted on the great principles which He taught of Sonship to God and love to man, but He never said or did anything to upset the social or political customs of the time, except in the case of certain ceremonial laws invented by the Scribes, and one very obscure utterance about divorce. It would not be easy but it would be interesting to ascertain the principle on which He dealt with some few social questions and passed by all the rest in silence. The restless modern reformer asks why? and the answer is at least two-fold. (1) The principles would have been choked under a mass of controversy about detail. (2) Christ would have failed in what was evidently a prominent object set before Him, viz., to make men think. In other words reformation of society was to come about by dint of thoughtful men and women acting out His principles in presence of manifold practical problems. It was felt by Him to be far more important that men should think for themselves than that Society should be rapidly reformed in respect of its outward conduct. St. Paul adopted the same line of policy, and the reticence of the great Apostle and his Master on such a subject as slavery is a very good illustration of their leading principle. If this is intelligible, we can see that it was simply necessary for our Lord to conform to the dietic practices of the time. The most aggressive non-conformity was necessary to free men's minds from the slavery of the Sabbatical rules. Here His behaviour was revolutionary; but in the case of a whole swarm of other burning questions, war, slavery, the treatment of the lower animals, the need of asceticism, etc., if He had by precept or example taken up a clearly defined position it is not conceivable that the message He came to deliver would have been understood. The only course open to Him therefore was to conform. And this leaves the ethics of vegetarianism exactly where they were. The only thing we may be quite sure of is that He would not have approved of a great movement being set going only on individual hygienic grounds: but the broader and more altruistic its motive is the more it will be in accordance with His spirit."

E. Lyttelton

From The Vegetarian Messenger and Health Review, October 1905.

Reproduced with Thanks to the Vegetarian Society..  

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