The Mary T. and
Frank L. Hoffman
Letters and Responses
Letter From Rev. Dr. Frankie L. Perdue Concerning Biblical Teaching and Vegetarianism - 22 Nov 2003
I am the Rev. Dr. Frankie L. Perdue, a United Methodist Clergy who really took some interest toward your web site. You have an interesting perspective, I'll say that much and in a day and age of alternative foods you do make some sense. However let me remind you it wasn't always so. For most of humanity's existence basic survival depended upon what one could grow and what one could kill. That is just the long and short of it. You good folks (and I really believe you all mean well) seem to have also forgotten just what kind of teeth God has placed within us. We have both grinders for chewing vegetables and fruits and k-9 ripping teeth in the front (on sides of front teeth) for helping us tear into meat.
I say all this to simply say this. God placed both sets of teeth so that we could survive with either vegetarian and or the killed flesh of animals. Fact is life is cruel and survival is about the food chain and where one happens to be in it. Jesus even ate meat, (particularly fish) and other types at weddings and when at others homes. The Apostle Paul encouraged his disciples to even eat meat offered to idols when a guest of a non-believer so to suggest that eating meat is somehow non-Christian or anti-Christian is absurd.
Here's what I think. Eating meat in our day and age is something we might want to cut back on to be sure for health reasons and yes, for conscience sake because we know some animal has to suffer and die for us to enjoy it. However, it is not prohibited in scripture and rather then trying to press the issue with a "thus saith the Lord ... thou shalt not eat meat", we might better educate people to alternatives to excessive meat consumption and realize your sensitivities are really just vegan preference and NOT necessarily the WILL OF GOD for all peoples. Indeed we might make a case that God would have us eat less red meat as a common sense thing and that would be acceptable indeed. However to say that someone isn't your Christian brother because they aren't where you are is wrong and judgmental. It also isn't scriptural as one becomes a Christian by accepting what Christ did for us on the CROSS (who by the way was hung and stripped open like an animal so that we might have atonement for our sins) and then seek to follow as best we can his teachings within our lives. This vegan gospel is a false gospel if it says the only people who are really Christians are non meat eaters for that is merely a politically correct value of which vegans hold.
As a man of 50 now, who lived on a farm as a boy and grew both grains, vegetables and animals for food and milk, I now eat less meat for simple health reasons. I don't hunt anymore because there really isn't the need to survive through hunting like there used to be and I don't enjoy killing animals for the fun of it. Still, having said that, I still love to fish and eat what I catch. And while hunting isn't my thing, I'm not going to say to all people everywhere it can't be theirs as I try to proof text the Bible to them.
I believe if you want to reach people better, you need to take a softer approach and suggest God may have in mind for us a better way of at least cutting down our meat consumption if not eliminating it eventually. Let me close with this. Just suppose it could be proven that plants also "feel" when they are harvested. Would you then advocate not eating plant life too? What would be left then to eat? Can you see the absurdity? We have both grinders and K-9 rippers for teeth for a reason, so we can eat and survive with whatever is below us in the food chain. The day fortunately has come when animals don't have to be part of that equation for some. For others they eat meat but with reluctance and are cutting back. For others, they have chosen to eat more meat than vegetables and fruits and while vegans may not like it, they have that right, legally, biologically, and yes even theologically as we were given domain over and for our use all living things. Does this mean we should abuse the privilege? I think not. I believe we need to care for the earth and all creatures within it, taking only that which we need.
I would be interested in some of your other eccological or "GREEN THEOLOGY". Write me anytime, not merely to argue what I've written but to teach me what you know about environmental things at it relates to one being a Christian disciple of JESUS.
Thanks for "Listening"
Rev. Dr. Frankie L. Perdue
Pastor, St. Matthias UMC
Reply by Frank L. Hoffman
Thank you for your visit to our web site, email, and comments. We appreciate the time you spent to write this letter.
Like you, we understand that there were times in history, when humans may have had to eat the flesh of animals, but more often than not, the people chose to kill and eat animals rather than the available plant foods, as is primarily the case today.
Actually, from our physiology (teeth and digestive system), we are anatomically fruitivores, just as God created Adam and Eve to be.
Paul's comments concerning foods in general and flesh in specific were intended to eliminate the in-fighting within the early church between the Jewish-Christians (most of whom seem to have been vegetarian, or nearly vegetarian) and the Gentile-Christians who purchased meat in butcher shops where all the animals were offered up to idols. Paul and Jesus both say that salvation, or ones relationship with God, is greater than food. There is no New Testament command to eat flesh. In fact, the tone of the entire Bible is toward a return to Eden, or the new Eden, heaven, where there will be no more pain, suffering, or death.
The major problem concerns cruelty and indifference to the suffering of animals, which you acknowledged. About 95% of all animal foods comes from factory farming operations, where the animals suffer immensely, and according to some USDA figures we saw a couple of years ago, about 5% off all slaughtered animals go through the slaughtering process fully conscious. The Bible speaks of treating all animals humanely. Sport hunting, where humans take pleasure in killing is considered evil by the Jewish sages and I have never heard of rabbi that hunts. Isaiah even goes so far as to say that the unnecessary killing of animals is murder, which places it squarely within the intent of 10 commandments. The only way we know of to eliminate this totally unchristian behavior is to stop eating animals and their by-products.
We have never heard of a "vegan gospel", but we have heard of the gospel of peace, which would include love and compassion. Jesus and the apostles always set the bar higher so that we had something to reach for, and not return to our vomit. If we are capable of eliminating pain suffering and destruction of humans, animals, and the environment, shouldn't we strive to do so?
Thank you listening, too.
In the Love of the Lord,
We welcome your comments
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