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Vasu Murti

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Refuting "three times..."

The second most repeated argument against animal rights I've gotten from Christians is a verse in the New Testament where Paul quotes Jesus as having said to him three times, "My grace is sufficient for thee." (II Corinthians 12:8-9) Christians misinterpret this verse to mean they're free to do whatever they want—ignoring the rest of the New Testament, and (especially) Jesus' and Paul's other teachings.

The apostle Paul taught his followers to bless their persecutors and not curse them (Romans 12:14), to care for their enemies by providing them with food and drink (12:20), and to pay their taxes and obey all earthly governments (13:1-7). He mentioned giving all his belongings to feed the hungry (I Corinthians 13:3), and taught giving to the person in need (Ephesians 4:23). He told his followers it was wrong to take their conflicts before non-Christian courts rather than before the saints. (I Corinthians 6:1)

Paul taught that "it is good for a man not to touch a woman," i.e. , it is best to be celibate, but because of prevailing immoralities, marriage is acceptable. Divorce, however, is not permissible, except in the case of an unbeliever demanding separation. (I Corinthians 7)

Paul repeatedly attacked sexual immorality."This is God's will—your sanctification, that you keep yourselves from sexual immorality, that each of you learn how to take his own wife in purity and honor, not in lustful passion like the gentiles who have no knowledge of God." (I Thessalonians 4:3-5)

Paul told his followers not to associate with sexually immoral people (I Corinthians 5:9-12, 6:15,18). He condemned homosexuality (Romans 1:24-27) and incest (I Corinthians 5:1).

"Make no mistake," warned Paul, "no fornicator or idolater, none who are guilty either of adultery or of homosexual perversion, no thieves or grabbers or drunkards or slanderers or swindlers, will possess the kingdom of God." (I Corinthians 6:9-10 [NEB])

Paul condemned wickedness, immorality, depravity, greed, murder, quarreling, deceit, malignity, gossip, slander, insolence, pride (Romans 1:29-30), drunkenness, carousing, debauchery, jealousy (Romans 13:13), sensuality, magic arts, animosities, bad temper, selfishness, dissensions, envy (Galatians 5:19-21; greediness (Ephesians 4:19; Colossians 3:5), foul speech, anger, clamor, abusive language, malice (Ephesians 4:29-32), dishonesty (Colossians 3:13), materialism (I T imothy 6:6-11), conceit, avarice, boasting and treachery. (II Timothy 3:2-4)

Paul told the gentiles to train themselves for godliness, to practice self-control and lead upright, godly lives (Galatians 5:23; I Timothy 4:7; II Timothy 1:7; Titus 2:11-12). He instructed them to always pray constantly. (I Thessalonians 5:17)

Paul praised love, joy, peace, kindness, generosity, fidelity and gentleness (Galatians 5:22-23). He told his followers to conduct themselves with humility and gentleness (Ephesians 4:2), to speak to one another in psalms and hymns; to sing heartily and make music to the Lord. (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16)

Paul wrote further that women should cover their heads while worshiping, and that long hair on males is dishonorable. (I Corinthians 11:5-14) According to Paul, Christian women are to dress modestly and prudently, and are not to be adorned with braided hair, gold or pearls or expensive clothes. (I Timothy 2:9)

Yet the Christians I encounter ignore the New Testament as a whole, and focus only on one of Paul's statements to justify their hedonism. The late Reverend J.R. Hyland, an evangelic mini ster, a vegan, and author of God's Covenant with Animals (it's available through PETA), told me they're quoting Paul out of context. Paul, she noted, was very strict with himself:

"But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection; lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway." (I Corinthians 9:27)

My friend Ruth Enero, a Catholic peace activist whom I very much respect, also says they're quoting Paul out of context. Paul, she says, had a "thorn" in his side, and asked the Lord what to do about it. The response was simple: "My grace is sufficient for thee." This was a response to a specific problem, not a license to do as one pleases, or why else would Paul himself have given so many other moral instructions?

These Christians must be quoting Paul out of context, because otherwise it doesn't make any sense: on the one hand, Paul is warning that drunkards, thieves, homosexuals, etc. will not inherit the kingdom of God, and on the other hand he's saying if you call on Jesus three times. . .you can do whatever you want?!

Well, then: "Abortion. Abortion. Abortion."

My problem really isn't with Christians not being able to follow Jesus or Paul, but with the hypocrisy of going around saying "I believe," and then ignoring the rest of what their religion dictates when it suits them. Why not just be secular, like20everyone else? It would certainly make things easier for those of us in the vegetarian and animal rights movements.

It’s my contention we Americans really live in a secular society; one in which people just pay lip service to religious ideals.

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