ON KILLING CARROTS
[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
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.