[The following article is based on a sermon given on Feb 27, 2000 by the Rev. Robert Anthony Schuller--not to be confused with his father the Rev. Robert Harold Schuller, founder of the Crystal Cathedral ministry.]
Sooner or later, most vegetarians are faced with carnivorous people who defend their eating of flesh by saying things such as "well, you kill plants in order to eat them." Faced with statements like these, many vegetarians earnestly try to "explain" the differences between killing a cow and killing a carrot. But there was no opportunity to explain the difference when the Rev. Robert A. Schuller used the pulpit of the Crystal Cathedral, with its world-wide television audience, to equate killing an animal and killing a plant.
His sermon topic was supposed to be the sixth commandment, usually translated as "Thou Shalt Not Kill." But Rev. Schuller explained that the word used in Exodus 20:13 for causing the death of another being was most accurately rendered as murder; that the commandment actually says "Thou Shalt Not Murder." He went on to claim that only murder refers to the "premeditated, deliberate taking of the life of another, and we have to remember that there is a BIG difference between killing and murder." (In order to make this claim, he had to ignore the dozens of times the Old Testament uses the Hebrew word for "kill" to describe/prohibit the deliberate taking of another's life.)
Schuller then informed his listeners that although we are commanded not to murder, in some circumstances it is our duty to kill. He pointed out that "society recognizes the right that we have to defend ourselves" from harm, and let his listeners know that the Lord, Himself, endorses this societal norm: "God understands and expects us to protect our families and ourselves, even if it means that we need to kill."
Immediately after endorsing the "need to kill" other people in certain circumstances, Schuller spoke of the need to kill animals. Although he made no claim that this is a matter of self-defense, he did say that killing/eating animals is a matter of survival. "There is a clear distinction between thou shalt not kill and thou shalt not murder. The commandment is to not commit murder because it is literally impossible for us to go through life without killing something. If we wish to survive, we have to kill in order to eat. Even vegetarians have to kill plants in order to digest them."
Where has Schuller been for the past several decades as the nutritional message of the ill effects of eating animal flesh, and the salutary effects of eating plant foods, has been disseminated? Although he is the heir apparent to his father's powerful and far-reaching ministry, and has been given the task of carrying Robert H. Schuller message into the new millennium, the son seems stuck in the early decades of the 20th century; a time when there had been no scientific investigation of the claim that meat provided optimum nutrition for human beings. It was a time when the conventional wisdom equated meat-eating with the triumph of western civilization. This claim was so pervasive that a young Mahatma Ghandi believed he must try and force himself to eat the flesh of other creatures, for the sake of his down-trodden countrymen. He thought meat-eating would make him strong and allow him to meet the European oppressor on a somewhat equal basis. As a schoolboy he had memorized a popular Indian rhyme: Behold the mighty Englishman/He rules the Indian small /Because he is a meat-eater/He is five cubits tall.
But even early in the last century, as Gandhi matured, he understood that the claims for meat-eating were not true. Unfortunately, Rev. Schuller still seems to accept them. And aside from ignoring the physical damage that his promotion of carnivorism, as necessary to survival, can inflict, it is even more disturbing that he lacks the compassion and empathy which allows someone to understand the difference between slitting the throat of a struggling lamb and uprooting a bunch of radishes.
Although there are people who have not yet been educated about the deleterious effects of eating flesh, it does not take the witness of doctors or nutritionists to understand the obvious fear and suffering of an animal who is in pain, or who is desperately trying to avoid being killed: it takes compassion. And when a Christian minister, who preaches to millions of people about the love and concern of God, is so insensitive to the suffering of animals, he is in danger of eroding the compassion for all creatures that is a hallmark of the Christ consciousness.
Copyright 2000 by Viatoris Ministries.