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It's a Regular Religion

You argue that veganism is extreme, but it wasn't too long ago that these accusations were being leveled at vegetarianism, yoga, meditation, chanting, etc.
 
(I'm reminded of a Seinfeld episode where George Costanza falls in love with a Latvian Orthodox girl, and the only way she'll go out with him is if he converts to her religion. George's parents are worried if he's in a cult, and he has to explain to them, "It's a regular religion.")
 
During the 1980s, when the Robin George case was going on, Robin George's lawyers accused the Krishna Consciousness movement of having "brainwashed" Robin George even though she freely admitted she ran away from home as a teenage girl to join the Hare Krishna movement, and that she was free to leave at any time.
 
Robin George's lawyers argued that chanting and a vegetarian diet had turned Robin George's brain to "oatmeal."
 
Mukunda Goswami (Michael Grant) said the only valid point in the Robin George case was that the Krishna Consciousness movement had sheltered a runaway teenage girl, which is against the law, rather than return her to her parents.
 
Since then, it's now a requirement that anyone joining Krishna Consciousness be over eighteen, or have parental permission.
 
When Robin George's lawyers argued that Robin George was living in voluntary poverty, an appellate court justice in San Diego responded, "The Little Sisters of the Poor (a Catholic religious order) do that all the time."
 
When asked about the Robin George case on one occasion in the '80s, San Diego temple president Badri Narayan dasa (Robert Morrill) didn't think the charges would stick, pointing out, for example, that chanting is a common religious practice found throughout all the world's great religions: the Catholics have the rosary, the Protestants have their hymnals, etc.
 
Dr. Harvey Cox, a liberal Protestant theologian at the Harvard Divinity School, similarly observes:
 
"Almost every religion I know of has formulae, prayers, chants or hymns, in which the repetition of sound, is used for a devotional purpose...But I think that these criticisms of chanting or repetition of prayers as somehow mentally destructive are frankly some of the most uninformed and ignorant of the criticisms I've come across. 
 
"These sorts of criticisms cannot possibly by made by people who know anything about the history of religions, unless they want to come right out and say that they're against all religion, or all devotional practices, all prayer -- which I think many of them are. At least they ought to be honest and not conceal their personal bias under allegedly scientific language."
 
1. The Holy Names
 
Every genuine religious tradition in the world teaches that God’s names are holy and meant to be glorified. The Bible contains numerous references to glorifying God and His holy name. (Exodus 15:3; Deuteronomy 32:2-3; I Chronicles 16:8-36; Psalms 29:2, 47:1, 86:11, 91:14, 96:1-3, 97:12, 98:4-6, 113:3, 116:1-17, 146:1, 148:1-5, 13)
 
The Lord and His name are praised throughout the Psalms. "I will praise the name of God with a song," says King David. (Psalm 69:30) In other places we read: "All nations whom Thou hast made shall come and worship before Thee, O Lord: and shall glorify Thy name." (Psalm 86:9)
 
"O give thanks unto the Lord; call upon His name; make known His deeds among the people. Sing unto Him, sing psalms unto Him: talk ye of all His wondrous works. Glory ye in His holy name." 
 
(Psalm 105:1-4) 
 
"...Praise Him with the timbrel and the dance; praise Him upon the loud cymbals." 
 
(Psalm 150:4-5)
 
Israel Baal Shem Tov (1699-1761), the great Jewish mystic, founded Hasidism, a popular pietist movement within Judaism, in which members dance and chant in glorification of God. The Hasidism were especially influenced by verses in Psalms calling for the joyful worship of the Lord through song. (Psalms 100:1,2, 104:33)
 
According to The Jewish Almanac: "In the Jewish tradition the name actually partakes of the essence of God. Thus, knowledge of the name is a vehicle to God, a conveyor of divine energy, an interface between the Infinite and the finite...It is curious that a tradition that places such a strong emphasis on the One God possesses such a large number of names for the divine. Each name, however, actually represents a different quality or aspect of God."
 
When teaching his disciples how to pray, Jesus Christ glorified God’s holy name: "Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy name." (Matthew 6:9) Jesus also approved of his disciples’ singing joyfully in praise of God. (Luke 19:36-40) Of his own name, Jesus said: "For where two or three are gathered together in my name, I am there with them." (Matthew 18:20) 
 
The apostle Paul told his gentile followers to speak to one another in psalms and hymns, to sing heartily and make music to the Lord. Ephesians 5:19) He further taught them to instruct and admonish one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. (Colossians 3:16)
 
Paul wrote to his gentile congregation in Rome: "For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved." (Romans 10:13) According to the historian Eusebius, there was "one common consent in chanting forth the praises of God," in the early Christian churches. 
 
The Gregorian chants, popularized in the sixth century by Pope Gregory and later by works like Handel’s masterpiece the Messiah, with its resounding choruses of "hallelujah" (which means "praised be the name of God" in Hebrew), are still performed and appreciated all over the world.
 
In addition to praising the Lord’s name and glories through music, song, and dance, there has also emerged the practice of meditating upon God by chanting upon beads of prayer. 
 
St. John Chrysostom of the Greek Orthodox church, recommended the "prayerful invocation of the name of God," which he said should be "uninterrupted."
 
Reverend Norman Moorhouse of the Church of England writes:
 
"The rosary is chiefly associated with Roman Catholics, but many members of the Church of England also use it. And there are many Russian orthodox Christians who chant the name of Jesus several hundred or thousand times every day...
 
"In the Book of Psalms there are biddings to praise the name of the Lord and to sing...I remember that during the Second World War, I was in Greece for Easter, and it was a wonderful thing to hear all the people chanting and singing ‘Christos anesethe’—Christ is risen."
 
The repetition of the Jesus prayer ("Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me") became a regular practice among members of the Eastern Church. In The Way of a Pilgrim, a Russian monk describes this form of meditation:
 
"The continuous interior prayer of Jesus is a constant, uninterrupted calling upon the divine name of Jesus with the lips, in the spirit, in the heart...One who accustoms himself to this appeal experiences...so deep a consolation and so great a need to offer the prayer always, that he can no longer live without it."
 
"Perhaps you’ve heard about Hesychasm, a technique of mantra meditation that was employed by Christians as far back as the third century after Christ," says the Reverend Alvin Hart, an Episcopal priest in New York. "The method was the simple chanting of ‘the Jesus prayer,’ which runs like this: ‘Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy upon me.’ I personally have found great comfort in this mantra."
 
According to Reverend Hart, "Although it was recently popularized by the New Age movement...’the Jesus Prayer’ has a long and venerable tradition in the Philokalia, an important book on Christian mysticism. The word Philokalia literally means ‘the love of spiritual beauty,’ and I can say that the book definitely brings its readers to that level of appreciation...
 
"The Philokalia also emphasizes the importance of accepting a spiritual master. The Greek words used are starets and geront, but they basically mean the same thing. The result of chanting under a proper master is theosis, or the ‘respiritualization of the personality.’"
 
Reverend Hart says, "When we call on God—and we should learn how to do this at every moment, even in the midst of our day-to-day work—we should be conscious of Him, and then our prayer will have deeper effects, deeper meaning. This, I know, is the basic idea of Krishna Consciousness. In the Christian tradition, too, we are told to ALWAYS pray ceaselessly. This is a biblical command. (I Thessalonians 5:17)
 
"In a sense, this could also be considered the heart of the Christian process as well. For instance, in the Latin Mass, before the Gospel is read, there is a prayer spoken by the priest: dominus sit in corde meo et in labiis meis, which means, ‘May the Lord be in my heart and on my lips.’ What better way is there to have God on one’s lips than by chanting the holy name? Therefore, the Psalms tell us that from ‘the rising of the sun to its setting’ the Lord’s name is to be praised. And Paul echoes this idea by telling us that ‘whoever calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved.’ (Romans 10:13)"
 
Dr. Klaus Klostermaier notes that meditation and prayer are "important in the Christian tradition, at least for certain sects and monastic orders...In the Philokalia and in the path recommended by The Pilgrim, you find the...’Jesus Prayer,’ which may be unknown to most Christians today, but was very powerful in its time.
 
"So people are aware of the potency of ‘the name’ and the importance of focusing on it as a mantra...But it must be done with devotion...The idea of logos, or ‘the Word,’ has elaborate theological meaning that is intimately tied to the nature of Jesus and, indeed, to the nature of God."
 
"All the basic principles of bhakti yoga are richly exemplified in Christianity," writes Dr. Houston Smith in The Religions of Man. Dr. Smith is a Professor of Philosophy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His 1958 book is used as a standard text in major universities. Dr. Smith explains the fundamental principle of bhakti or devotion:
 
"All we have to do in this yoga is to love God dearly—not just say we love Him but love Him in fact, love Him only (loving other things because of Him), and love Him for no ulterior reason (even from the desire for liberation) but for love’s sake alone...
 
"...every strengthening of our affections toward God will weaken the world’s grip. The saint may, indeed will, love the world far more than the addict, but he will love it in a very different way, seeing in it the reflected glory of the God he adores.
 
"How is this love of God to be developed?" asks Dr. Smith. "Japa is the practice of repeating the names of God. It finds a close Christian parallel in one of the classics of Russian Orthodoxy, The Way of a Pilgrim. This book is the story of an unnamed peasant whose first concern is to fulfill the Biblical injunction to ‘Pray without ceasing.’
 
"He wanders through Russia and Siberia with a knapsack of dried bread for food and the charity of men for shelter, consulting many authorities only to come away empty-hearted until...he meets a holy man who teaches him ‘a constant, uninterrupted calling upon the divine Name of Jesus with the lips, in the spirit, in the heart...at all times, in all places, even during sleep.’
 
"The peasant’s teacher trains him until he can repeat the name of Jesus more than 12,000 times a day without strain. ‘This frequent service of the lips imperceptibly becomes a genuine appeal of the heart.’ The prayer becomes a constant warming presence within him...a ‘bubbling joy.’ ‘Keep the name of the Lord spinning in the midst of all your activities’ is the Hindu statement of the same point."
 
In Islam, the names of God are held sacred and meditated upon. According to tradition, there are ninety-nine names of Allah, found inscribed upon monuments such as the Taj Mahal and on the walls of mosques. These names are chanted on an Islamic rosary, which consists of three sets of thirty-three beads.
 
The Sanskrit literatures of ancient India are diverse and cover a vast body of knowledge. The one hundred eight principle Upanishads tend to focus primarily on spiritual wisdom, while the eighteen Puranas contain historical narrations from the distant past, when humans were pious, civilizations were more enlightened and the miraculous was ordinary. The Kali-santarana Upanishad emphasizes chanting:
 
"Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna
Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare
Hare Rama, Hare Rama
Rama Rama, Hare Hare"
 
to counteract the ill effects of this present age of spiritual darkness, while the Brihan-naradiya Purana emphatically states thrice that there is no alternative for spiritual deliverance in this age other than chanting God’s holy names. Traditionally, the Lord is glorified congregationally, with drums, cymbals and dance, or He may be praised individually, in silent prayer, upon rosary beads. 
 
Dr. Guy Beck’s PhD thesis, Sonic Theology: Hinduism and the Soteriological Function of Sacred Sound examines the doctrine that the Word or divine sound can have a "salvific" effect. Examining the Vaishnava (worshippers of Lord Vishnu, or Krishna) practice of chanting God’s names upon beads of prayer, he observes: "...a work from the sixth century AD, entitled the Jayakhya-Samhita, contains...many early references to the practice of japa or silent prayer.
 
"It says that there are three considerations in doing japa repetitions—employing the rosary (the akshamala), saying the words aloud (vachika) or repeating them in a low voice (upamshu). There are quite a few details in this text, garnered from early sources, and so a case can be made for a pre-Islamic, and even pre-Christian, use of beads or rosary in the Vaishnava tradition."
 
Because the Roman Catholics did not begin using rosary or japa beads until the era of St. Dominic, or the 12th century, Dr. Beck concludes, "the Vaishnavas were chanting japa from very early on."
 
Father Robert Stephens, a Catholic priest in Australia, considers Krishna "one of the many names of God." He writes that he is "saddened at the narrowness and arrogance of many Christian fundamentalists;" "those who claim a monopoly on all truth or goodness;" "those who desperately cling only to external forms under the pretense of faith in God," and "those who have turned their Sacred Scriptures into mere weaponry against those who differ from themselves."
 
According to Father Stephens, we who engage in interreligious discussion "have firm support from the Catholic Church, especially the Second Vatican Council, and from such official bodies as the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, and the Dialogue Commission of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India."
 
Father Stephens observes that "Because spiritual riches belong to all, dialogue and sharing are not an optional extra in a pluralistic society. We cannot live in a fortress of one-eyed people." Father Gerald O’Collins SJ, similarly, is of the opinion that the Bible does not necessarily provide authoritative answers to new questions which arise in the life of the Church, and that the Bible is not that kind of "norm for every problem and every situation."
 
Father Bede Griffiths says of Bhagavad-gita, "For a Christian, this is a wonderful confirmation of God’s love contained in the Gospel." Meister Eckhart wrote: "When we say God is ‘eternal,’ we mean God is eternally young." This is Krishna Consciousness. God is an eternal youth. 
 
Matthew Fox’s statement that "God and God’s Son are ultimately attractive and alluring because of their beauty" is also consistent with Vaishnavaism. The name "Krishna" means "the all attractive one."
 
Dr. Harvey Cox, a liberal Protestant theologian at the Harvard Divinity School, favorably compares Krishna Consciousness with Christianity:
 
"You can see the obvious similarities. Here you have the idea of a personal God who becomes incarnate...revealing what God is about and eliciting a form of participation in the life of God.
 
"I think a Christian will have some natural sensitivity to Krishna devotion... devotion of the heart, that is, pietistic Christianity...We noted several surprising similarities between what you might call Appalachian folk religion and Krishna Consciousness. Both religions put a big emphasis on joy, the spiritual joy of praising God...
 
"...both traditions emphasize puritanical values and practice certain forms of asceticism such as no drinking, no smoking, no non-marital sex and no gambling...Both seem to put more emphasis on a future life or another world."
 
According to Dr. Cox, "You have to remember that if you had been there at the early Methodist frontier revivals here in America...you would have seen some very ecstatic behavior...jumping up and down and singing. This sort of ecstatic religious behavior is, of course, associated with religious devotion from time immemorial in virtually every culture. We happen to be living in a culture which is very restricted, unimaginative, and narrow in this regard."
 
The Sikh religion is a blend of Hinduism and Islam. The Sikhs emphasize the name of God, calling Him "Nama," or "the Name." Guru Nanak, the founder of the Sikh religion, prayed, "In the ambrosial hours of the morn I meditate on the grace of the true Name," and says that he was instructed by God in a vision to "Go and repeat My Name, and cause others to do likewise."
 
Rosaries are used in Buddhism. Members of Japan’s largest Buddhist order, the Pure Land sect, practice repetition of the name of the compassionate Buddha ("namu amida butsu"). Founder, Shinran Shonin says, "The virtue of the Holy Name, the gift of him that is enlightened, is spread throughout the world." Followers believe that through the name of Buddha a worshiper is liberated from repeated birth and death and joins the Buddha in the "Pure Land."
 
Religions all over the world teach that God’s names are holy and meant to be glorified. A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada’s humble requests to the confused and alienated American youth of the late 1960s are especially relevant today:
 
"...don’t commit suicide. Take to chanting this Hare Krishna mantra, and all real knowledge will be revealed...We are not charging anything...No. It is open for everyone. Please take it...That is our request. We are begging you—don’t spoil your life. Please take this mantra and chant it wherever you like...chant, and you’ll feel ecstasy."
 
"...and you can develop (love of God) so simply. You just hallow the name of the Lord. Jesus says, 'hallowed be Thy name, my Father.' And we are also hallowing the name of the Lord. We don't even demand you say 'Krishna.' You can say 'Jehovah.' You can say 'Yahweh.' You can chant the names of God..."
 
--Srimad Bhagavatam lecture, 1972
 
****
 
"If one has become a lover of God, naturally he will be detached from material enjoyment. Love of God and love of the material world cannot go together. Lord Jesus Christ never advised going for economic development, for industrial development. He sacrificed everything for God. That is one test--'Here is a lover of God.' Lord Jesus Christ was punished. He was ordered, 'Stop this preaching.' But he did not. So that is love of God. He sacrificed everything. 
 
"The idea is that Lord Jesus Christ and his followers must both be, at least to some extent, at that point. That is the test. So we say that you follow any religious path. Which one doesn't matter. We want to see whether you are a lover of God. That is our propaganda...
 
"But Jesus Christ never said that he is God. He said 'son of God.' We have no objection to chanting the holy name of Jesus Christ. We are preaching, 'Chant the holy name of God.' If you haven't got any name of God, then you can chant our conception of the name of God, Krishna. But we don't say only Krishna...
 
"And it is such a simple thing. They don't have to go to a church or temple. It doesn't matter if they are in hell or heaven. In any condition they can chant the holy name of God...There is no charge, there is no fee, there is no loss. If there is some gain, why not try for it?...
 
"So what more do you want? Therefore let us cooperate. Don't think that it is against Christianity or that it is sectarian. Let us cooperate fully. Jointly let us preach all over the world, 'Chant the holy names of God.' Let us join together. That should be the real purpose of devotees of God. My students are preaching love of God. Why should others be envious of them? We don't say that you must chant Hare Krishna. If you have a name of God, chant it."
 
---Room conversation, London, August 14, 1971
 
****
 
As to Jesus' words: "When you pray do not repeat and repeat as the pagans do," some Bible translations appear to be attacking chanting or praying in "vain repetition."
 
Was Jesus attacking the *method* of prayer (chanting/repeating) as being pagan, or rather the *mentality* behind the prayer?
 
Matthew 6:7 suggests Jesus was attacking chanting/repeating, or praying "in vain repetition" as a pagan practice.
 
However, Jesus goes on to say in Matthew 6:31-32 (in the very same chapter!): "Do not, then, be anxious, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What are we to wear?' For on all these things pagans center their interest, while your heavenly Father knows that you need them all."
 
Jesus told his followers there is no need to pray to God for material blessings or even necessities. (Matthew 6:8, 31-33; Luke 12:29-30)
 
The *pagans* concern themselves with these things.
 
When Jesus taught his disciples how to pray, he began by teaching them to hallow God's name, and to pray to do God's will on earth as it is in  heaven -- to be a servant of God. (Matthew 6:9-13)
 
This is the Hare Krishna mantra, which can roughly be translated as, "O Lord, please engage me in Your service."
 
Repetition helps keep the mind focused on God, rather than on worldly distractions.
 
"Haribol" ("praise Hari!") is the Sanskrit equivalent to "Hallelujah" (which means "praised be the name of God" in Hebrew). 
 
George Harrison explained his putting the chanting of Hare Krishna in his 1970 hit song, "My Sweet Lord":
 
"Well, first of all, 'Hallelujah' is a glorious expression the Christians have, but Hare Krishna has a mystical side to it. It's more than just glorifying God; it's asking to become His servant... 
 
"Although Christ in my mind is an absolute yogi, I think many Christian teachers today are misrepresenting Christ. They're supposed to be representing Jesus, but they're not doing it very well. They're letting him down very badly, and that's a big turn off."
 
The late Reverend Janet Regina Hyland (1933 - 2007), raised Catholic, but went on to become an evangelical minister, a vegan, and author of God's Covenant with Animals (it's available through People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA), wrote me on July 21, 2007: 
 
"I also received your paper on Krishna Consciousness and Christianity (Points of Similarity). Being familiar with Christian monasticism, I always saw many similarities between the two. When Catholics say the rosary beads, they are repeating the same prayers, over and over... 
 
"When I was at the Assembly of God Seminary, we would attend revival meetings at local and rural churches...ecstatic behavior pretty much defined the services."
 
2. Vegetarianism
 
Animal advocacy has a long history within Christianity.  Christians today should support animal rights as they support civil rights and / or protection of unborn children.  Abortion and war are the karma for killing animals.  The peace and pro-life movements will never succeed until the slaughterhouses are shut down.  By killing animals, peace and pro-life activists are only thwarting their own cause.
 
"The vegetarian movement," wrote Tolstoy, "ought to fill with gladness the souls of all those who have at their heart the realization of God’s Kingdom on earth."
 
3. Vegetarianism in the Old Testament and the Jewish Tradition
 
According to the Bible, God intended the entire human race to follow a vegetarian diet (Genesis 1:29). Paradise is vegetarian. Rashi (Rabbi Solomon von Isaac, 1030-1105), the famous Jewish Bible commentator, taught that "God did not permit Adam and his wife to kill a creature and to eat its flesh. Only every green herb shall they all eat together." Ibn Ezra and other Jewish biblical commentators agree. 
 
The Talmud says, "Adam and many generations that followed him were strict flesh-abstainers; flesh-foods were rejected as repulsive for human consumption." 
 
Although man was made in God's image and given dominion over all creation (Genesis 1:26-28), these verses do not justify humans killing animals and devouring them, because God immediately proclaims He created the plants for human consumption. (Genesis 1:29) 
 
In a letter to Pope John Paul II, challenging him on the issue of animal experimentation, Dr. Michael Fox of the Humane Society argued that the word "dominion" is derived from the original Hebrew word "rahe" which refers to compassionate stewardship, instead of power and control. Parents have dominion over their children; they do not have a license to kill, torment or abuse them. The Talmud (Shabbat 119; Sanhedrin 7) interprets "dominion" to mean animals may be used for labor. 
 
Man was made in God's image (Genesis 1:26) and told to be vegetarian (Genesis 1:29). "And God saw all that He had made and saw that it was very good." (Genesis 1:31) Complete and perfect harmony. Everything in the beginning was the way God wanted it. Vegetarianism was part of God's initial plan for the world. 
 
"It appears that the first intention of the Maker was to have men live on a strictly vegetarian diet," writes Rabbi Simon Glazer, in his 1971 Guide to Judaism. "The very earliest periods of Jewish history are marked with humanitarian conduct towards the lower animal kingdom...It is clearly established that the ancient Hebrews knew, and perhaps were the first among men to know, that animals feel and suffer pain." 
 
After the Flood, God revised His commandment against flesh-eating. Human beings, since eating of the forbidden fruit, seemed incapable of obedience on this issue. One Jewish writer comments, "Only after man had proven unfit for the high moral standard given at the beginning, was meat made a part of the humans' diet."
 
It is important to note that before the Flood, when humans were vegetarian, lifespans were measured in terms of centuries.  Adam, for example, lived to be 930 years old.  Seth (Adam's son) lived to 912.  Enoch (Seth's son) to at least 905.  Kenan (Enoch's son) lived to 910, all the way up to Methuselah, who lived for 969 years. After the Flood, when flesh-eating was permitted, human lifespans were reduced to decades.  Abraham, for example, lived to be only 175.  Genesis 1:29-31 was a blessing; Genesis 9:2-4, a curse.
 
According to the Torah (Genesis 6:9), Noah is honored as a "tzaddik," or a righteous man. Commentators say this is because he provided charity ("tzedakah") for so many animals on the ark. The high level of awareness and concern given to the care and feeding of the animals aboard the ark reflects the traditional Jewish value of not causing harm to animals, or tsa'ar ba'alei chayim. This moral principle--officially set down as law in the Bible and elaborated upon in the Talmud (Shabbat 128b), the medieval commentaries and the Responsa literature--permeates the many legends that grew up around the leading figures in the Torah and in Jewish history.
 
Kindness to animals was so valued by the Jewish tradition; it was also considered an important measure of a person's piety, compassion and righteousness. From this value emerged the stories about how shepherds such as Moses and David were elevated to national leadership because of their compassion for their lambs. There are also many "maysehs," or moralistic folktales in Judaism about sages who rescued or fed stray cows and hungry chickens, watered thirsty horses and freed caged birds.
 
A Jewish legend says Moses was found to be righteous by God through his shepherding. While Moses was tending his sheep of Jethro in the Midian wilderness, a young kid ran away from the flock. Moses ran after it until he found the kid drinking by a pool of water. Moses approached the kid and said, "I did not know that you ran away because you were thirsty; now, you must be tired." So Moses placed the animal on his shoulders and carried him back to the flock. God said, "Because thou has shown mercy in leading the flock, thou will surely tend My flock, Israel."
 
In his essay, "The Dietary Prohibitions of the Hebrews," Jean Soler finds in the Bible at lest two times when an attempt was made to try the Israelites out on a vegetarian diet.  During the period of exodus from Egypt, the Hebrews lived entirely on manna.  They had large flocks which they brought with them, but never touched.
 
The Israelites were told that manna "is the bread which the Lord has given you to eat." (Exodus 16:5)  For forty years in the desert, the Israelites lived on manna (Nehemiah 9:15,21).  The apocryphal Wisdom of Solomon (16:20) calls manna the food of the angels. Manna is described as a vegetable food, like "coriander seed" (Numbers 11:7), tasting like wafers and honey (Exodus 16:31).
 
On two separate occasions, however, the men rebelled against Moses because they wanted meat.  The meat-hungry Hebrews lamented, "Would that we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the flesh-pots."  God ended this first "experiment in vegetarianism" through the miracle of the quails.
 
A second "experiment in vegetarianism" is suggested in the Book of Numbers, when the Hebrews lament once again, "O that we had meat to eat."  (Numbers 11:4)  God repeated the miracle of the quails, but this time with a vengeance:  "And while the flesh was between their teeth, before it was even chewed, the wrath of the Lord was kindled against the people, and He struck them down with a great plague." (Numbers 11:33)
 
The site where the deaths took place was named "The Graves of Lust."  (Numbers 11:34; Deuteronomy 12:20)  The quail meat was called "basar ta'avah," or "meat of lust."  The Talmud (Chulin 84a) comments that:  "The Torah teaches a lesson in moral conduct, that mean shall not eat meat unless he has a special craving for it, and shall eat it only occasionally and sparingly."  Here, according to Soler, as in the story of the Flood, "meat is given a negative connotation.  It is a concession God makes to man's imperfection."
 
In his excellent A Guide to the Misled, Rabbi Shmuel Golding explains the orthodox Jewish position concerning animal sacrifices:  "When G-d gave our ancestors permission to make sacrifices to Him, it was a concession, just as when He allowed us to have a king (I Samuel 8), but He gave us a whole set of rules and regulations concerning sacrifice that, when followed, would be superior to and distinct from the sacrificial system of the heathens."
 
Some biblical passages denounce animal sacrifice (Isaiah 1:11,15; Amos 5:21-25).  Other passages state that animal sacrifices, not necessarily incurring God's wrath, are unnecessary (I Kings 15:22; Jeremiah 7:21-22; Hosea 6:6; Hosea 8:13; Micah 6:6-8; Psalm 50:1-14; Psalm 40:6; Proverbs 21:3; Ecclesiastes 5:1).
 
Sometimes meat-eating Christians foolishly cite Isaiah 1:11, where God says, "I am full of the burnt offerings..."  These Christians claim the word "full" implies God accepted the sacrifices.  However, in Isaiah 43:23-24, God says:  "You have not honored Me with your sacrifices... rather you have burdened Me with your sins, you have wearied Me with your iniquities."  This suggests, as Moses Maimonides taught and Rabbi Shmuel Golding confirms above, that "the sacrifices were a concession to barbarism."
 
The Talmud (Baba Mezia 85a) contains the story of Rabbi Judah. A calf was being taken to be slaughtered. It broke loose, and hid its head under the rabbi's skirt. It cried out in terror. The rabbi said, "Go, for you were created for this purpose." In heaven, the response was, 
 
"This man has no pity, let suffering come upon him." The rabbi then began to suffer from disease for the next thirteen years. One day his maidservant was going to sweep away some young weasels. The rabbi said to let them be, quoting Psalm 145:9, "and His tender care rests upon all His creatures." The rabbi's health was then restored.
 
In the Talmud (Eruvin 100b), Rabbi Yochanon teaches, "Even if we had not been given the Torah, we still would have learned modesty from the cat, honesty from the ant, chastity from the dove, and good manners from the rooster. Thus, the animals should be honored."
 
According to the Talmud (Shabbat 77b), the entire creation is to be respected: "Thou thinkest that flies, fleas, mosquitos are superfluous, but they have their purpose in creation as a means of a final outcome...Of all that the Holy One, Blessed be He, created in His world, he did not create a single thing without purpose."
 
The Talmud (Avodah Zorah 18b) also forbids association with hunters. Rabbi Ezekiel Landau (1713-93) was once asked by a man if he could hunt on his large estate. The rabbi replied:
 
"In the Torah the sport of hunting is imputed only to fierce characters like Nimrod and Esau, never to any of the patriarchs and their descendants...I cannot comprehend how a Jew could even dream of killing animals merely for the pleasure of hunting...When the act of killing is prompted by that of sport, it is downright cruelty."
 
The Talmud (Gittin 62a) further teaches that one should not own a domestic or wild animal or even a bird if he cannot properly care for it. Although there is no general rule forbidding animal cruelty, so many commandments call for humane treatment, the Talmudic rabbis explicitly declared compassion for animals to be biblical law (Shabbat 128b).
 
According to the Talmud (Shabbat 151b), "He who has mercy on his fellow creatures obtains mercy for himself." The first century Jewish historian Josephus described mercy as the underlying principle of all Jewish laws. These laws, he says, do not ignore the animals: "Ill treatment of a brute beast is with us a capital crime."
 
The Tanchuma, homilies from the 5th century AD, teach:
 
"If men embark on a sea voyage and take cattle with them, and should a storm arise, they throw the cattle overboard, because people do not love animals as they love human beings.
 
"Not so is the Lord's love. Just as He is merciful to man, so is He merciful to beasts. You can see this from the story of the Flood. When men sinned, the Lord decided to destroy the Earth. He treated both man and beast alike. But when He was reconciled, He was reconciled to both man and beast alike."
 
During the Middle Ages Yehudah Ha-Chassid taught, "The greatest sin is ingratitude. It must not be shown even to the brute. That man deserves punishment who overloads his beast, or beats or torments it, who drags a cat by the ears, or uses spurs to his horse..."
 
The medieval work Sefer Chasidim, or The Book of the Pious, says, "Be kind and compassionate to all creatures that the Holy One, Blessed be He, created in this world. Never beat nor inflict pain on any animal, beast, bird or insect. Do not throw stones at a dog or a cat, nor should ye kill flies or wasps."
 
According to Shulhan Aruch, the Orthodox Code of Jewish Law, no special blessings are given for meat dishes. "It is not fitting to bless God over something which He created and which man has slain." It is also forbidden to celebrate the acquisition of a leather garment. 
 
Similarly, it is a custom never to wear leather shoes on Yom Kippur. "One does not ask for forgiveness of sins while wearing articles made from the skins of slaughtered animals." Shulhan Aruch teaches: "It is forbidden, according to the Torah, to hurt any living creature. It is, on the contrary, one's duty to save any living creature, be he ownerless, or if he belongs to a non-Jew."
 
Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch taught, "The boy, who in crude joy, finds delight in the convulsions of an injured beetle or the anxiety of a suffering animal will also be dumb towards human pain." British historian William Lecky noted, "Tenderness towards animals is one of the most beautiful features of the Old Testament."
 
There is considerable evidence within the Bible suggesting God's plan is to restore His Kingdom on earth and return mankind to vegetarianism.  Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, the Chief Rabbi of prestate Israel, wrote:  "It is inconceivable that the Creator who had planned a world of harmony and a perfect way for man to live should, many thousands of years later, find that this plan was wrong."
 
Rabbi Kook believed the concession to eat meat (Genesis 9:3) was never intended to be a permanent condition.  In his essay, "A Vision of Peace and Vegetarianism," he asked:  "...how can it be that such a noble and enlightened moral position (Genesis 1:29) should pass away after it once has been brought into existence?"
 
Rabbi Kook cited the messianic prophecies (Isaiah 11:6-9), in which the world is again restored to a vegetarian paradise.  The Bible thus begins and ends in a Kingdom where slaughter is unknown, and identifies the one anointed by God to bring about this Kingdom as "Mashiach," or the Messiah.  Humanity's very beginning in Paradise and destiny in the age of the Messiah are vividly depicted as vegetarian.  "In that future state," taught Rabbi Kook, "people's lives will no longer be supported at the expense of the animals."  Isaiah (65:25) repeats his prophecy again.  This is God's plan.
 
Rabbi Kook taught that because humans had an insatiable desire to kill animals and eat their flesh, they could not yet be returned to a moral standard which calls for vegetarianism.  Kook regarded Deuteronomy 12:15,20 ("Thou mayest slaughter and eat...after all the desire of thy soul,") as poetically misleading.  He translated this Torah verse as:  "because you lust after eating meat...then you may slaughter and eat."
 
In his book Judaism and Vegetarianism, Dr. Richard H. Schwartz notes that God's blessings to man throughout the Bible are almost entirely vegetarian:  products of the soil, seeds, sun and rain.  (e.g., Deuteronomy 8:7-9; Isaiah 30:20,23; Nehemiah 9:25)
 
Rabbi Zalman Schachter makes no apologies for past injustices inflicted upon animals in the name of religion. Much of the Bible was spoken to primitive tribes, wandering through the desert. "Our forefathers were a pastoral people," he writes. "Raising animals for food was their way of life. Not only did they eat meat, they drank water and wine from leather flasks, they lived in tents and wore clothes made from skins and sewed together with bones and sinews. They read from a Torah written on parchment, used a ram’s horn as a shofar, and said their morning prayers with leather tefellin." 
 
He adds, "Are we ashamed to recall that Abraham had two wives because in today’s Western world he would be called a bigamist? Vegetarianism is a response to today’s world...Meat-eating, like polygamy, fit into an earlier stage of human history."
 
In Kashruth and Civil Kosher Law Enforcement, Sol Friedman explains the meaning behind ritual slaughter:  "In Judaism, the act of animal slaying is not viewed as a step in the business of meat-preparation.  It is a deed charged with religious import.  It is felt that the flame of animal life partakes of the sacred, and may be extinguished only by the sanction of religion, and only at the hands of one of its sensitive and reverential servants."
 
The inconsistency in Judaism’s sanctioning the slaughter of animals while worshiping a God who has mercy on all His creatures is dealt with in Rabbi Jacob Cohen’s The Royal Table, an outline of the Jewish dietary laws. His book begins: "In the perfect world originally designed by God, man was meant to be a vegetarian." The same page also quotes from Sifre: "Insomuch as all animals possess a certain degree of intelligence and consciousness, it is a waste of this divine gift, and an irreparable damage to destroy them."
 
During the 1970s, Rabbi Everett Gendler and his wife studied Talmudic attitudes towards animals, and came to "the conclusion that vegetarianism was the logical next step after kashrut—the proper extension of the laws against cruelty to animals." After becoming a vegetarian, a rabbinical student in the Midwest said, "Now I feel I have achieved the ultimate state of kashrut."
 
In their book, The Nine Questions People Ask About Judaism, Dennis Prager and Rabbi Telushkin explain: "Keeping kosher is Judaism’s compromise with its ideal vegetarianism. Ideally, according to Judaism, man would confine his eating to fruits and vegetables and not kill animals for food."
 
Along with the concession to eat meat, many laws and restrictions were given. Rabbi Kook taught that the reprimand implied by these regulations is an elaborate apparatus designed to keep alive a sense of reverence for life, with the aim of eventually leading people away from their meat-eating habit. This idea is echoed by Jewish Bible commentator Solomon Efraim Lunchitz, author of K’lee Yakar:
 
"What was the necessity for the entire procedure of ritual slaughter? For the sake of self-discipline. It is far more appropriate for man not to eat meat; only if he has a strong desire for meat does the Torah permit it, and even this only after the trouble and inconvenience necessary to satisfy his desire. Perhaps because of the bother and annoyance of the whole procedure, he will be restrained from such a strong and uncontrollable desire for meat."
 
A similar statement was made by a modern rabbi, Pinchas Peli:
 
"Accordingly, the laws of kashrut come to teach us that a Jew’s first preference should be a vegetarian meal. If however, one cannot control a craving for meat, it should be kosher meat which would serve as a reminder that the animal being eaten is a creature of God, that the death of such a creature cannot be taken lightly, that hunting for sport is forbidden, that we cannot treat any living thing callously, and that we are responsible for what happens to other beings (human or animal) even if we did not personally come into contact with them."
 
In the face of cultural assimilation, Rabbi Robert Gordis does not believe the dietary laws will be maintained by Jews today in their present form. He suggests that vegetarianism, a logical conclusion of Jewish teaching, would effectively protect the kosher tradition: "Vegetarianism offers an ideal mode for preserving the religious and ethical values which kashrut was designed to concretize in human life."
 
In his 1987 book, Food For the Spirit: Vegetarianism and the World Religions, writer Steven Rosen makes a case for Jewish vegetarianism, concluding:
 
"...even if one considers the process of koshering to be legitimate, it is an obvious burden placed upon the Jewish people, perhaps in the hope that they will give up flesh-foods altogether. If eating meat is such a detailed, long, and drawn-out process, why not give it up entirely?"
 
Stanley Rubens of the Jewish Vegetarian Society says: "I believe man’s downfall is paralleled by his cruelty to animals. In creating slaughterhouses for them, he has created slaughterhouses for himself...What is the future for mankind? When the Day of Judgment comes, we will be given that same justice that we gave the less fortunate fellow creatures who have been in our power." According to Rubens, "it is essential for an orthodox Jew to be vegetarian."
 
The late Rabbi Isaac ha-Levi Herzog once predicted that "Jews will move increasingly to vegetarianism out of their own deepening knowledge of what their tradition commands...Man’s carnivorous nature is not taken for granted or praised in the fundamental teachings of Judaism...A whole galaxy of central rabbinic and spiritual leaders...has been affirming vegetarianism as the ultimate meaning of Jewish moral teaching."
 
“In the killing of animals, there is cruelty.”
 
--Rabbi Joseph Albo, Sefer Ha-Ikarim, Vol. III, Ch. 15 
 
“To make animals suffer is forbidden by the Torah.”
 
---Rabbi Shear Yashuv Cohen, Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Haifa, Israel 
 
“The dietary laws are intended to teach us compassion and lead us gently [back] to vegetarianism.” 
 
---Rabbi Shlomo Raskin 
 
"Aside from the cruelty, rage and fury in killing animals, and the fact that it teaches human beings the negative trait of shedding blood for naught; eating the flesh even of select animals will yet give rise to a mean and insensitive soul.” 
 
---Rabbi Joseph Albo, c. 1380-1444 
 
“A higher form of being kosher is vegetarianism.”
 
---Rabbi Daniel Jezer 
 
“What may have once made sense, now can no longer be justified...Let us realize today, in the vast majority of cases, 'kosher meat' is an oxymoron.” 
 
---Rabbi Fred Scherlinder Dobb 
 
“If you do not eat meat, you are certainly kosher… And I believe that is what we should tell our fellow rabbis.”
 
---Rabbi Shear Yashuv Cohen, Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Haifa, Israel 
 
“The Nazis explicitly structured their industrial destruction of the Jews on the model of animal slaughter. This is not to compare the suffering of animals and humans, but shows that the way we treat animals is similar to the way the Nazis treated us.” 
 
---Rabbi Hillel Norry 
 
“It is not necessary for any human benefit to consume the flesh of animals. In fact it is harmful to human health, destructive of the environment, and wasteful of valuable resources that could be better used to feed the hungry and provide for the needy. All of these are Torah values.”
 
----Rabbi Hillel Norry 
 
“Even the Torah itself recognizes that eating meat is not an ideal thing for the human being. It's not the ideal diet for the human race.”
 
---Rabbi Simchah Roth 
 
“There is simply no spiritual defense in either the Western or Eastern religious traditions for eating meat.”
 
---Rabbi Marc Gellman, The First Hamburger 
 
“I relate vegetarianism to Judaism in several ways…the torture of animals and the suffering that they go through, to be raised on these large factory farms and then eaten is really forbidden by Judaism.” 
 
---Adam Stein, rabbinical student
 
 Roberta Kalechofsky of Jews for Animal Rights similarly says:
 
"Merely by ceasing to eat meat
 Merely by practicing restraint
 We have the power to end a painful industry
 
"We do not have to bear arms to end this evil
 We do not have to contribute money
 We do not have to sit in jail or go to
 meetings or demonstrations or
 engage in acts of civil disobedience
 
"Most often, the act of repairing the world,
 of healing mortal wounds,
 is left to heroes and tzaddikim (holy people)
 Saints and people of unusual discipline
 
"But here is an action every mortal can
 perform--surely it is not too difficult!"
 
In the July/August 1997 issue of Humane Religion, in an article entitled "Jews, Christians and Hunting", the late Reverend Janet Regina Hyland, writes:
 
"Aside from the identity of the promised Messiah, Christian interpretations of the Hebrew scriptures rely heavily on Jewish sources. The biblical heroes of Judaism are the heroes of Christendom; the enemies of the Chosen People are seen as the enemies of God by Christians as well as Jews. And the historical background, as well as the significance of specific scriptures expounded by Jewish scholars, is accepted by their Christian counterparts.
 
"But there is a glaring exception to this reliance on Jewish sources and commentaries. When it comes to the matter of hunting, there is a wide divergence between Jewish and Christian tradition.
 
"The traditional Jewish abhorrence of hunting begins with commentaries on the man called Nimrod...The rabbis castigated him for this activity, and linked it to the general degeneracy of his character...(Jewish) commentators who castigate Nimrod have little use for that other biblical hunter, Esau, who ate the animals that he killed...But this ongoing, pervasive condemnation of hunting within Jewish tradition had no parallel among Christians. In fact, Christianity had increasingly supported the cruelty which vented itself in hunting...And because the churches and their clerics coveted...support...they blessed this slaughter of the innocent.
 
"The Christian voices that were raised in protest against the wanton murder of animal beings were ignored. Even the repugnance towards hunting and hunters that was encoded in Catholic Canon Law, was ignored. "Esau was a hunter because he was a sinner; and in the Holy scriptures we do not find a single holy man being a hunter." (from the Corpus Juris Canonici. Rome, 1582.)
 
Keith Akers notes that "Compassion for animals is firmly rooted in Judaism," and concludes in his chapter on the Jewish tradition in A Vegetarian Sourcebook (1983): "Judaism does not unequivocally condemn meat eating as a sin. But a strong case can be made that Judaism does revere vegetarianism as an ethical ideal. All Jews are enjoined to have respect and compassion for animals...Jews would have absolutely no problem in becoming vegetarians, while still remaining loyal to their religion."
 
4. Vegetarianism in the New Testament and Early Christianity
 
Jesus taught his disciples to pray for the coming of God's kingdom (Matthew 6:9-10), the kingdom of peace, in which the entire world is restored to a vegetarian paradise (Genesis 1:29; Isaiah 11:6-9).  Recalling Psalm 37:11, he blessed the meek, saying they would inherit the earth.  (Matthew 5:5)  The kingdom of God belongs to the gentle and kind (Matthew 5:7-9)  Christians are to "Be merciful, just as your Father is also merciful."  (Luke 6:36)  Those who take up the sword must perish by the sword.  (Matthew 26:52)  
 
Jesus repeatedly spoke of God's tender care for the nonhuman creation (Matthew 6:26-30, 10:29-31; Luke 12:6-7, 24-28).   Jesus taught that God desires "mercy and not sacrifice."  (Matthew 9:10-13, 12:6-7; Mark 2:15-17; Luke 5:29-32)  The epistle to the Hebrews 10:5-10 suggests that Jesus did not come to abolish the Law and the prophets (which Paul, and not Jesus, regarded as "so much garbage"), but only the institution of animal sacrifice, as does Jesus' cleansing the Temple of those who were buying and selling animals for sacrifice and his overturning the tables of the moneychangers in the Temple.  (Matthew 21:12-14; Mark 11:15-17; Luke 19:45-46; John 2:14-17)  
 
Jesus not only repeatedly upheld Mosaic Law (Matthew 5:17-19; Mark 10:17-22; Luke 16:17), he justified his healing on the Sabbath by referring to commandments calling for the humane treatment of animals.  
 
When teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath, Jesus healed a woman who had been ill for eighteen years.  He justified his healing work on the Sabbath by referring to biblical passages calling for the humane treatment of animals as well as their rest on the Sabbath.  "So ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham...be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath?" Jesus asked.  (Luke 13:10-16)
 
On another occasion, Jesus again referred to Torah teaching on "tsa'ar ba'alei chayim" or compassion for animals to justify healing on the Sabbath.  "Which of you, having a donkey or an ox that has fallen into a pit, will not immediately pull him out on the Sabbath day?"  (Luke 14:1-5)
 
Jesus compared saving sinners who had gone astray from God's kingdom to rescuing lost sheep.  He recalled a Jewish legend about Moses' compassion as a shepherd for his flock.  
 
"For the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost.  What do you think?  Who among you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it?
 
"And when he has found it," Jesus continued, "he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing.  And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!'
 
"I say to you, likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance...there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents."  (Matthew 18:11-13; Luke 15:3-7,10)
 
"The compassionate, sensitive heart for animals is inseparable from the proclamation of the Christian gospel," writes the Reverend Andrew Linzey in Love the Animals.  "We have lived so long with the gospel stories of Jesus that we frequently fail to see how his life and ministry identified with animals at almost every point.
 
"His birth, if tradition is to be believed, takes place in the home of sheep and oxen.  His ministry begins, according to St. Mark, in the wilderness 'with the wild beasts' (1:13). His triumphal entry into Jerusalem involves riding on a 'humble' ass (Matthew 21).  According to Jesus, it is lawful to 'do good' on the Sabbath, which includes the rescuing of an animal fallen into a pit (Matthew 12).  Even the sparrows, literally sold for a few pennies in his day, are not 'forgotten before God.'  God's providence extends to the entire created order, and the glory of Solomon and all his works cannot be compared to that of the lilies of the field (Luke 12:27).
 
"God so cares for His creation that even 'foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.'  (Luke 9:58)  It is 'the merciful' who are 'blessed' in God's sight and what we do to 'the least' of all we do to him.  (Matthew 5:7, 25:45-46)  Jesus literally overturns the already questionable practice of animal sacrifice.  Those who sell pigeons have their tables overturned and are put out of the Temple (Mark 11:15-16).  It is the scribe who sees the spiritual bankruptcy of animal sacrifice and the supremacy of sacrificial love that Jesus commends as being 'not far from the Kingdom of God.'  (Mark 12:32-34)
 
"It is a loving heart which is required by God, and not the needless bloodletting of God's creatures," concludes Reverend Linzey.  "We can see the same prophetic and radical challenge to tradition in Jesus' remarks about the 'good shepherd' who, unlike many in his day, 'lays down his life for the sheep.' (John 10:11)"
 
In Christianity and the Rights of Animals, Reverend Linzey finds two justifications for a Christian case for vegetarianism: 
 
"The first is that killing is a morally significant matter.  While justifiable in principle, it can only be practically justified where there is real need for human nourishment.  Christian vegetarians do not have to claim that it is always and absolutely wrong to kill in order to eat.  It could well be that there were, and are, some situations n which meat-eating was and is essential in order to survive.  Geographical considerations alone make it difficult to envisiage life in Palestine at the time of Christ without some primitive fishing industry.  But the crucial point is that where we are free to do otherwise the killing of Spirit-filled individuals requires moral justification.  It may be justifiable, but only when human nourishment clearly requires it, and even then it remains an inevitable consequence of sin.
 
"The second point," Linzey explains, "is that misappropriation occurs when humans do not recognize that the life of an animal belongs to God, not to them.  Here it seems to me that Christian vegetarianism is well-founded.  For while it may have been possible in the past to rear animals with personal care and consideration for their well-being and to dispatch them with the humble and scrupulous recognition that their life should only be taken in times of necessity, such conditions are abnormal today."
 
From history, too, we learn that the earliest Christians were vegetarians as well as pacifists.  For example, Clemens Prudentius, the first Christian hymn writer, in one of his hymns exhorts his fellow Christians not to pollute their hands and hearts by the slaughter of innocent cows and sheep, and points to the variety of nourishing and pleasant foods obtainable without blood-shedding.  
 
A stumbling block for some Christians is the apostle Paul's having referred to his vegetarian brethren as "weak."   Paul taught that it is best to abstain from meat or from food offered to idols so as not to offend the "weaker" brethren.  Paul repeatedly attacked idolatry.  (Romans 1:23; I Corinthians 6:9-10; II Corinthians 6:16; Galatians 5:19-21)  He recognized the immorality of accepting food offered to idols and pagan gods:  "that which they sacrifice they are offering to demons and not to God, and I do not want you to have fellowship with demons."  (I Corinthians 10:20)  Yet Paul then proceeded to give his followers permission to eat food offered to pagan idols!  "You may eat anything sold in the meat market without raising questions of conscience:  for the earth is the Lord's and everything in it."  (I Corinthians 10:14-33)  
 
Paul told his followers they need only abstain from such foods if it offends their "weaker" brethren.  "For if someone sees you...sitting at the table in an idol temple, will not his conscience weak as it is, encourage him to eat food offered to idols?...If my eating causes my brother to stumble, I shall eat no meat forever, so that my brother will not be made to fall into sin."  (I Corinthians 8:1-13)
 
Not only does this contradict the Apostles' decree concerning gentile converts to Christianity (Acts 15), it contradicts the teachings of Jesus himself.  In Revelations 2:14-16,20, the resurrected Jesus specifically instructs John to write to two churches that they not eat food offered to idols.
 
Since Paul refers to Christians who abstain not just from meat, but from food offered to pagan idols as "weak," would his definition of "weak" not have included the resurrected Jesus (Revelations 2:14-16,20)  as well?  
 
Paul's use of the word "weak" has been debated.  According to Christian theologian Dr. Upton Clary Ewing, Paul used the word "weak" with a positive connotation.  According to Paul, "God has chosen the weak things in the world to shame the strong." (I Corinthians 1:27)  
 
Describing his tribulations for the cause of Christ, being caught up in the heavenly spheres, and a revelation from Jesus, Paul wrote:
 
"If I must boast, I shall boast of matters that show my weakness...I will boast, but not about myself--unless it be about my weakness...the Lord...he told me, 'my strength comes to perfection where there is weakness.'  Therefore," Paul concluded, "I am happy to boast in my weaknesses...I delight, then, in weaknesses...for when I am weak, then I am strong."  (II Corinthians 11:30, 12:1-10)
 
Paul wrote further that Jesus "was crucified out of weakness, yet he lives through divine power, and we, too, are weak in him, but we shall live with him for your benefit through the power of God...We are happy to be weak when you are strong."  (II Corinthians 13:4,9)
 
Taken in this context, the word "weak" suggests complete dependence upon God.
 
Admittedly, even if Paul did use the word "weak" with a positive connotation, it would not necessarily mean that it's wrong to eat meat (Genesis 9:3), but just that it's better to be a vegetarian (Genesis 1:29; Isaiah 11:6-9)  
 
The Reverend J. Todd Ferrier, founder of the Order of the Cross, an informal mystical Christian order, believing in reincarnation and abstaining from meat and wine, wrote in 1903: 
 
"But Paul, great and noble man as he was, never was one of the recognized heads at Jerusalem. He had been a Pharisee of the Pharisees...He strove to be all things to all men that he might gain some. And we admire him for his strenuous endeavors to win the world for Christ. But no one could be all things to all men without running the great risks of most disastrous results...
 
"But here as a further thought in connection with the teaching of the great Apostle an important question is forced upon our attention, which one of these days must receive the due consideration from biblical scholars that it deserves. It is this:
 
"How is it that the gospel of Paul is more to many people than the gospel of those privileged souls who sat at the feet of Jesus and heard His secrets in the Upper Room?" 
 
Christian theologian Dr. Upton Clary Ewing writes:
 
“With all due respect for the integrity of Paul, he was not one of the Twelve Apostles… Paul never knew Jesus in life.  He never walked and prayed with Him as He went from place to place, teaching the word of God.”
 
The great theologian Soren Kirkegaard, writing in the Journals, echoes the above sentiment:
 
“In the teachings of Christ, religion is completely present tense:  Jesus is the prototype and our task is to imitate him, become a disciple.  But then through Paul came a basic alteration.  Paul draws attention away from imitating Christ and fixes attention on the death of Christ, The Atoner.  What Martin Luther, in his reformation, failed to realize is that even before Catholicism, Christianity had become degenerate at the hands of Paul.  Paul made Christianity the religion of Paul, not of Christ.  Paul threw the Christianity of Christ away, completely, turning it upside down, making it just the opposite of the original proclamation of Christ.”
 
The eminent theologian Ferdinand Christian Baur, in his Church History of the First Three Centuries, wrote:
 
“What kind of authority can there be for an ‘apostle’ who, unlike the other apostles, had never been prepared for the apostolic office in Jesus’ own school but had only later dared to claim the apostolic office on the basis on his own authority?  The only question comes to be how the apostle Paul appears in his Epistles to be so indifferent to the historical facts of the life of Jesus…He bears himself but little like a disciple who has received the doctrines and the principles which he preaches from the Master whose name he bears.”
 
Dr. Albert Schweitzer, winner of the 1952 Nobel Peace Prize, wrote in his Quest for the Historical Jesus and his Mysticism of Paul:
 
“Paul…did not desire to know Christ…Paul shows us with what complete indifference the earthly life of Jesus was regarded…What is the significance for our faith and for our religious life, the fact that the Gospel of Paul is different from the Gospel of Jesus?…The attitude which Paul himself takes up towards the Gospel of Jesus is that he does not repeat it in the words of Jesus, and does not appeal to its authority…The fateful thing is that the Greek, the Catholic, and the Protestant theologies all contain the Gospel of Paul in a form which does not continue the Gospel of Jesus, but displaces it.”
 
William Wrede, in his excellent book Paul, informs us:
 
“The obvious contradictions in the three accounts (given by Paul in regard to his conversion) are enough to arouse distrust…The moral majesty of Jesus, his purity and piety, his ministry among his people, his manner as a prophet, the whole concrete ethical-religious content of his earthly life, signifies for Paul’s Christology nothing whatever…The name ‘disciple of Jesus’ has little applicability to Paul…Jesus or Paul:  this alternative characterizes, at least in part, the religious and theological warfare of the present day.”
 
Rudolf Bultman, one of the most respected theologians of the 20th century, wrote in his Significance of the Historical Jesus for the Theology of Paul:
 
“It is most obvious that Paul does not appeal to the words of the Lord in support of his… views.  When the essential Pauline conceptions are considered, it is clear that Paul is not dependent on Jesus.  Jesus’ teaching is—to all intents and purposes—irrelevant for Paul.”
 
Paul quotes Jesus as having said to him three times, "My grace is sufficient for thee." (II Corinthians 12:8-9) Christians sometimes misinterpret this verse to mean they're free to do as they please—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 Timothy 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)
 
Christians often ignore the New Testament as a whole, and focus only on one of Paul's statements to justify their hedonism. The late Reverend Janet Regina Hyland, an evangelical minister, a vegan, and author of God's Covenant with Animals (it's available through PETA), said they're quoting Paul out of context. Paul, she observed, 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)
 
Regina Hyland said further that this verse indicates it's possible for one to lose one's salvation (a point of contention among born agains!).
 
Christians who focus only on II Corinthians 12:8-9 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?! 
 
Why, then, did Paul give moral instructions throughout his epistles in the first place?
 
The traditional interpretation of II Corinthians 12:8-9 is that Paul had a "thorn" in his side, and asked the risen Jesus about it. The response was: "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?
 
Reverend Frank Hoffman, a retired vegan Methodist minister, and owner of the www.all-creatures.org Christian vegetarian website says he agrees with the traditional interpretation.  
 
5. The Early Church Fathers on Vegetarianism
 
One of the greatest theologians in the early Christian church, Tertullian, or Quintus Septimius Florens Tertullianus, was born in Carthage about AD 155-160. Cyprian, the Bishop of Carthage, called him the "Master." 
 
Tertullian was one of four early church fathers who wrote extensively on the subject of vegetarianism. According to Tertullian, flesh-eating is not conducive to the highest life, it violates moral law, and it debases man in intellect and emotion.
 
Responding to the apparent permissiveness of Paul, Tertullian argued: "and even if he handed over to you the keys of the slaughter house...in permitting you to eat all things...at least he has not made the kingdom of Heaven to consist in butchery: for, says he, eating and drinking is not the Kingdom of God."
 
Tertullian similarly scorned those who would use the gospel to justify gratifying the cravings of the flesh:
 
"How unworthily, too, do you press the example of Christ as having come ‘eating and drinking’ into the service of your lusts: He who pronounced not the full but the hungry and thirsty ‘blessed,’ who professed His work to be the completion of His Father’s will, was wont to abstain—instructing them to labor for that ‘meat’ which lasts to eternal life, and enjoining in their common prayers petition not for gross food but for bread only."
 
Tertullian made his case for moderate eating by referring to the history of the Israelites (Numbers 11:4-34): "And if there be ‘One’ who prefers the works of justice, not however, without sacrifice—that is to say, a spirit exercised by abstinence—it is surely that God to whom neither a gluttonous people nor priest was acceptable—monuments of whose concupiscence remain to this day, where lies buried a people greedy and clamorous for flesh-meats, gorging quails even to the point of inducing jaundice.
 
"It was divinely proclaimed," insisted Tertullian, "’Wine and strong liquor shall you not drink, you and your sons after you.’ Now this prohibition of drink is essentially connected with the vegetable diet. Thus, where abstinence from wine is required by the Deity, or is vowed by man, there, too, may be understood suppression of gross feeding, for as is the eating, so is the drinking.
 
"It is not consistent with truth that a man should sacrifice half of his stomach only to God—that he should be sober in drinking, but intemperate in eating. Your belly is your God, your liver is your temple, your paunch is your altar, the cook is your priest, and the fat steam is your Holy Spirit; the seasonings and the sauces are your chrisms, and your belchings are your prophesizing..."
 
Tertullian sarcastically compared gluttons to Esau, who sold his birthright in exchange for a meal. "I ever recognize Esau, the hunter, as a man of taste and as his were, so are your whole skill and interest given to hunting and trapping...It is in the cooking pots that your love is inflamed—it is in the kitchen that your faith grows fervid—it is in the flesh dishes that all your hopes lie hid...Consistently do you men of the flesh reject the things of the Spirit. But if your prophets are complacent towards such persons, they are not my prophets...Let us openly and boldly vindicate our teaching.
 
"We are sure that they who are in the flesh cannot please God...a grossly-feeding Christian is akin to lions and wolves rather than God. Our Lord Jesus called Himself Truth and not habit."
 
In general, Tertullian railed against gluttony, and taught that spiritual life consists of simple living. He explained, "if man could not follow even a simple taboo against eating one fruit, how could he be expected to restrain himself from more demanding restrictions? Instead, after the Flood, man was given the regulation against blood; further details were length to his own strength of will."
 
According to Tertullian, the entire creation prays to God:
 
"Cattle and wild beasts pray, and bend their knees, and in coming forth from their stalls and lairs look up to heaven. Moreover the birds taking flight lift themselves up to heaven and instead of hands, spread out the cross of their wings, while saying something which may be supposed to be a prayer."
 
In his commentary on the Book of Daniel, Hippolytus (AD 200) depicted the Biblical hero and his three companions as pious ascetics. Referring to the passage in Scripture which states that these four men did not wish to defile themselves with the king’s meat, Hippolytus equated the purity of their vegetarian diet with the purity of their thoughts: 
 
"These, though captives in a strange land, were not seduced by delicate meats, nor were they slaves to the pleasures of wine, nor were they caught by the bait of princely glory. But they kept their mouth holy and pure, that pure speech might proceed from pure mouths, and praise with such (mouths) the Heavenly Father."
 
Clement of Alexandria (AD 150-220), or Titus Flavius Clemens, founded the Alexandrian school of Christian Theology and succeeded Pantaenus in AD 190. In his writings, he referred to vegetarian philosophers Pythagoras, Plato, and even Socrates as divinely inspired. But the true teachings, he insisted, are to be found in the Hebrew prophets and in the person of Jesus Christ.
 
Clement taught that a life of virtue is one of simplicity, and that the apostle Matthew was a vegetarian. According to Clement, eating flesh and drinking wine "is rather characteristic to a beast and the fumes rising from them, being dense, darken the soul...Destroy not the work of God for the sake of food. Whether ye eat or drink, do all to the glory of God, aiming after true frugality. For it is lawful for me to partake of all things, yet all things are not expedient...neither is the regimen of a Christian formed by indulgence...man is not by nature a gravy eater, but a bread eater.
 
"Those who use the most frugal fare are the strongest, the healthiest and the noblest...We must guard against those sorts of food which persuade us to eat when we are not hungry," warned Clement, "bewitching the appetite...is there not within a temperate simplicity, a wholesome variety of eatables—vegetables, roots, olives, herbs, fruits...?
 
"But those who bend around inflammatory tables, nourishing their own diseases, are ruled by a most licentious disease which I shall venture to call the demon of the belly: the worst and most vile of demons. It is far better to be happy than to have a devil dwelling in us, for happiness is found only in the practice of virtue. Accordingly the apostle Matthew lived upon seeds, fruits, grains and nuts and vegetables, without the use of flesh."
 
Clement acknowledged the moral and spiritual advantages of the vegetarian way of life: 
 
"If any righteous man does not burden his soul by the eating of flesh, he has the advantage of a rational motive...The very ancient altar of Delos was celebrated for its purity, to which alone, as being undefiled by slaughter and death, they say that Pythagoras would permit approach. 
 
"And they will not believe us when we say that the righteous soul is the truly sacred altar? But I believe that sacrifices were invented by men to be a pretext for eating flesh."
 
 
According to St. Gregory Nazianzen (AD 330-89):
 
"The great Son is the glory of the Father
and shone out from Him like light...
He assumed a body
to bring help to suffering creatures...
 
"He was sacrifice and celebrant
sacrificial priest and God Himself.
He offered blood to God to cleanse
the entire world."
 
"Holy people are most loving and gentle in their dealings with their fellows, and even with the lower animals: for this reason it was said that ‘A righteous man is merciful to the life of his beast,’" explained St. John Chrysostom (AD 347-407). "Surely we ought to show kindness and gentleness to animals for many reasons and chiefly because they are of the same origin as ourselves."
 
Writing about the Christian saints and ascetics, Chrysostom observed: "No streams of blood are among them; no butchering and cutting of flesh...With their repast of fruits and vegetables even angels from heaven, as they behold it, are delighted and pleased."
 
Chrysostom considered flesh-eating a cruel and unnatural habit for Christians: "We imitate the ways of wolves, the ways of leopards, or rather we are worse than these. For nature has assigned that they should be thus fed, but us God hath honored with speech and a sense of equity, yet we are worse than the wild beasts."
 
In a homily on Matthew 22:1-4, Chrysostom taught: "We the Christian leaders practice abstinence from the flesh of animals to subdue our bodies...the unnatural eating of flesh-meat is of demonical origin...the eating of flesh is polluting." He added that "flesh-meats and wine serve as materials for sensuality, and are a source of danger, sorrow, and disease."
 
In a homily on II Corinthians 9, Chrysostom distinguished between nourishment and gluttony:
 
"No one debars thee from these, nor forbids thee thy daily food. I say ‘food,’ not ‘feasting’; ‘raiment’ not ‘ornament,’...For consider, who should we say more truly feasted—he whose diet is herbs, and who is in sound health and suffered no uneasiness, or he who has the table of a Sybarite and is full of a thousand disorders?
 
"Certainly the former. Therefore, let us seek nothing more than these, if we would at once live luxuriously and healthfully. And let him who can be satisfied with pulse, and can keep in good health, seek for nothing more. But let him who is weaker, and needs to be dieted with other vegetable fruits, not be debarred from them."
 
In a homily on the Epistle to Timothy, Chrysostom described the ill effects of becoming a slave to one’s bodily appetites:
 
"A man who lives in selfish luxury is dead while he lives, for he lives only to his stomach. In other senses he lives not. He sees not what he ought to see; he hears not what he ought to hear; he speaks not what he ought to speak. Nor does he perform the actions of living.
 
"But as he who is stretched upon a bed with his eyes closed and his eyelids fast, perceives nothing that is passing; so is it with this man, or rather not so, but worse. For the one is equally insensible to things good and evil, while the other is sensible to things evil only, but as insensible as the former to things good.
 
"Thus he is dead. For nothing relating to the life to come moves or affects him. For intemperance, taking him into her own bosom as into some dark and dismal cavern full of all uncleanliness, causes him to dwell altogether in darkness, like the dead. For, when all his time is spent between feasting and drunkenness, is he not dead, and buried in darkness?
 
"Who can describe the storm that comes of luxury, that assails the soul and body? For, as a sky continually clouded admits not the sunbeams to shine through, so the fumes of luxury...envelop his brain...and casting over it a thick mist, suffers not reason to exert itself.
 
"If it were possible to bring the soul into view and to behold it with our bodily eyes—it would seem depressed, mournful, miserable, and wasted with leanness; for the more the body grows sleek and gross, the more lean and weakly is the soul. The more one is pampered, the more the other is hampered."
 
The orthodox, 4th century Christian Hieronymus connected vegetarianism with both the original diet given by God and the teachings of Jesus:
 
"The eating of animal meat was unknown up to the big Flood, but since the Flood they have pushed the strings and stinking juices of animal meat into our mouths, just as they threw quails in front of the grumbling sensual people in the desert. Jesus Christ, who appeared when the time had been fulfilled, has again joined the end with the beginning, so that it is no longer allowed for us to eat animal meat."
 
Jesus insisted upon the moral standards given by God in the beginning (Matthew 5:31-32, 19:3-9; Mark 10:2-12; Luke 16:18), and this did not go  unnoticed by early church fathers such as St. Basil and St. Jerome.
 
St. Basil (AD 320-79) taught, "The steam of meat darkens the light of the spirit. One can hardly have virtue if one enjoys meat meals and feasts...In the earthly paradise, there was no wine, no one sacrificed animals, and no one ate meat. Wine was only invented after the Deluge...
 
"With simple living, well being increases in the household, animals are in safety, there is no shedding of blood, nor putting animals to death. The knife of the cook is needless, for the table is spread only with the fruits that nature gives, and with them they are content."
 
St. Basil prayed for universal brotherhood, and an end to human brutality against animals:
 
"The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness
Thereof. Oh, God, enlarge within us the
Sense of fellowship with all living
Things, our brothers the animals to
Whom Thou gavest the earth as
Their home in common with us
 
"We remember with shame that
In the past we have exercised the
High dominion of man and ruthless
Cruelty so that the voice of the earth
Which should have gone up to Thee in
Song, has been a groan of travail.
 
"May we realize that they live not
For us alone but for themselves and
For Thee and that they love the sweetness
Of life."
 
St. Jerome (AD 340-420) wrote to a monk in Milan who had abandoned vegetarianism:
 
"As to the argument that in God’s second blessing (Genesis 9:3) permission was given to eat flesh—a permission not given in the first blessing (Genesis 1:29)—let him know that just as permission to put away a wife was, according to the words of the Saviour, not given from the beginning, but was granted to the human race by Moses because of the hardness of our hearts (Matthew 19:1-12), so also in like manner the eating of flesh was unknown until the Flood, but after the Flood, just as quails were given to the people when they murmured in the desert, so have sinews and the offensiveness been given to our teeth.
 
"The Apostle, writing to the Ephesians, teaches us that God had purposed that in the fullness of time he would restore all things, and would draw to their beginning, even to Christ Jesus, all things that are in heaven or that are on earth. Whence also, the Saviour Himself in the Apocalypse of John says, ‘I am the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end.’ From the beginning of human nature, we neither fed upon flesh nor did we put away our wives, nor were our foreskins taken away from us for a sign. We kept on this course until we arrived at the Flood.
 
"But after the Flood, together with the giving of the Law, which no man could fulfill, the eating of flesh was brought in, and the putting away of wives was conceded to hardness of heart...But now that Christ has come in the end of time, and has turned back Omega to Alpha...neither is it permitted to us to put away our wives, nor are we circumcised, nor do we eat flesh."
 
St. Jerome was responsible for the Vulgate, or Latin version of the Bible, still in use today. He felt a vegetarian diet was best for those devoted to the pursuit of wisdom. He once wrote that he was not a follower of Pythagoras or Empodocles "who do not eat any living creature," but concluded, "And so I too say to you: if you wish to be perfect, it is good not to drink wine and eat flesh." 
 
It's possible historically that Christianity, like Buddhism, began as a pacifist and vegetarian religion, but was corrupted over the centuries, beginning, perhaps, with the apostle Paul.  Secular scholar Keith Akers writes in his as of yet unpublished manuscript, Broken Thread, The Fate of the Jewish Followers of Jesus in Early Christianity:
 
"The 'orthodox' response to vegetarianism has been somewhat contradictory...The objection to meat consumption has been taken as evidence of heresy when Christians have been faced with outsiders; however, vegetarianism met with a kinder reception among the monastic communities...Vegetarianism does attain a certain status even in orthodox circles.
 
"Indeed, a list of known vegetarians among the church leaders reads very much like a Who's Who in the early church.  Peter is described as a vegetarian in the Recognitions and Homilies.  Hegesippus, quoted by Eusebius, said that James (the brother of Jesus) was a vegetarian and was raised as a vegetarian.  Clement of Alexandria thought that Matthew was a vegetarian...
 
"According to Eusebius, the apostles--all the apostles, and not just James--abstained from both meat and wine, thus making them vegetarians and teetotalers, just like James.  Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Basil, Gregory of Nanziance, John Chrysostom, and Tertullian were all probably vegetarians, based on their writings...they themselves are evidently vegetarian and can be counted on to say a few kind words about vegetarianism.  On the other hand, there are practically no references to any Christians eating fish or meat before the council of Nicaea. 
 
"The rule of Benedict forbade eating any four-legged animals, unless one was sick.  Columbanus allowed vegetables, lentil porridge, flour, and bread only, at all times, even for the sick.  A fifth-century Irish rule forbids meat, fish, cheese, and butter at all times, though the sick, elderly, travel-weary, or even monks on holidays may eat cheese or butter, but no one may ever eat meat.
 
"The Carthusians were especially strict about vegetarianism.  The origin of their order is related by the story of St. Bruno and his companions, who on the Sunday before Lent are sitting before some meat and are debating whether they should eat meat at all.  
 
"During the debate, numerous examples of vegetarians among their monastic predecessors are mentioned--the Desert Fathers, Paul (the Hermit), Antony, Hilarion, Macharius, and Arsenius, are all cited as vegetarian examples.  After much discussion, they fall asleep--and remain asleep for 45 days, waking up when Archbishop Hugh shows up on Wednesday of Holy Week!  When they wake up, the meat miraculously turns to ashes, and they fall on their knees and determine never to eat meat again.
 
"It is true that the church rejected the requirement for vegetarianism, following the dicta of Paul.  However, it is interesting under these circumstances that there are so many vegetarians.  In fact, outside of the references to Jesus eating fish in the New Testament, there are hardly any references to any early Christians eating meat.
 
"Thus vegetarianism was practiced by the apostles, by James the brother of Jesus, Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Basil, Gregory of Nanziance, John Chrysostom, Tertullian, Bonaventure, Arnobius, Cassian, Jerome, the Desert Fathers, Paul (the Hermit), Antony, Hilarion, Machrius, Columbanus, and Aresenius--but not by Jesus himself!
 
"It is as if everyone in the early church understood the message except the messenger.  This is extremely implausible.  The much more likely explanation is that the original tradition was vegetarian, but that under the pressure of expediency  and the popularity of Paul's writings in the second century, the tradition was first dropped as a requirement and finally dropped even as a desideratum."
 
In the (updated) 1986 edition of A Vegetarian Sourcebook, Keith Akers similarly observes:  "But many others, both orthodox and heterodox, testified to the vegetarian origins of Christianity.  Both Athanasius and his opponent Arius were strict vegetarians. Many early church fathers were vegetarian, including Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, Heironymus, Boniface, and John Chrysostom.
 
"Many of the monasteries both in ancient times and at the present day practiced vegetarianism...The requirement to be vegetarian has been diluted considerably since the earliest days, but the practice of vegetarianism was continued by many saints, monks, and laymen. Vegetarianism is at the heart of Christianity."
 
6. Vegetarianism in Catholic Christianity to the Present Day
 
In her 2004 book, Vegetarian Christian Saints:  Mystics, Ascetics & Monks, Jewish scholar Dr. Holly Roberts (she has a Master's degree in Christian theology) documents the lives and teachings of over 150 canonized vegetarian saints:
 
St. Anthony of Egypt; St. Hilarion; St. Macarius the Elder; St. Palaemon; St. Pachomius; St. Paul the Hermit; St. Marcian; St. Macarius the Younger; St. Aphraates; St. James of Nisibis; St. Ammon; St. Julian Sabas; St. Apollo; St. John of Egypt; St. Porphyry of Gaza; St. Dorotheus the Theban; St. Theodosius the Cenobiarch; St. Sabas; St. Fugentius of Ruspe; St. Gerasimus; St. Mary of Egypt; St. Dositheus; St. Abraham Kidunaja; St. John the Silent; St. Theodore of Sykeon; St. Lups of Troyes; St. Lupicinus; St. Romanus; St. Gudelinis; St. Liphardus; St. Maurus of Glanfeuil; St. Urbicius; St. Senoch; St. Hospitius; St. Winwaloe; St. Kertigan; St. Fintan; St. Molua; St. Amatus; St. Guthlac; St. Joannicus; St. Theodore the Studite; St. Lioba; St. Euthymius the Younger; St. Luke the Younger; St. Paul of Latros; St. Antony of the Caves of Kiev; St. Theodosius Pechersky; St. Fantinus; St. Wulfstan; St. Gregory of Makar; St. Elphege; St. Theobald of Provins; St. Stephen of Grandmont; St. Henry of Coquet; St. William of Malavalle; St. Godric; St. Stephen of Obazine; St. William of Bourges; St. Humility of Florence; St. Simon Stock; St. Agnes of Montepulciano; St. Laurence Justinian; St. Herculanus of Piegaro; St. Francis of Assisi; St. Clare of Assisi; St. Aventine of Troyes; st. Felix of Cantalice; St. Joseph of Cupertino; St. Benedict; St. Bruno; St. Alberic; St. Robert of Molesme; St. Stephen Harding; St. Gilbert of Sempringham; St. Dominic; St. John of Matha; St. Albert of Jerusalem; St. Angela Merici; St. Paula; St. Genevieve; St. David; St. Leonard of Noblac; St. Kevin; St. Anskar; St. Ulrich; St. Yvo; St. Laurence O'Toole; St. Hedwig; St. Mary of Onigines; St. Elizabeth of Hungary; St. Ivo Helory; St. Philip Benizi; St. Albert of Trapani; St. Nicholas of Tolentino; St. Rita of Cascia; St. Francis of Paola; St. John Capistrano; St. John of Kanti; St. Peter of Alcantara; St. Francis Xavier; St. Philip Neri; St. Mary Magdalen of Pazzi; St. Jean-Marie Vianney; St. Basil the Great; St. Jerome; St. Ephraem; St. Peter Damian; St. Bernard; St. Catherine of Siena; St. Robert Bellarmine; St. Peter Celestine; St. Olympias; St. Publius; St. Malchus; St. Asella; St. Sulpicius Severus; St. Maxentius; St. Monegundis; St. Paul Aurelian; St. Coleman of Kilmacduagh; St. Bavo; St. Amandus; St. Giles; St. Silvin; St. Benedict of Aniane; St. Aybert; St. Dominic Loricatus; St. Richard of Wyche; St. Margaret of Cortona; St. Clare of Rimini; St. Frances of Rome; St. James de la Marca; St. Michael of Giedroyc; St. Mariana of Quito; St. John de Britto; St. Callistratus; St. Marianus; St. Brendon of Clonfert; St. Kieran (Carian); St. Stephen of Mar Saba; St. Anselm; St. Martin de Porres; St. Procpius; St. Boniface of Tarsus; St. Serenus. 
 
According to Father Ambrose Agius:
 
"Many of the saints understood God's creatures, and together they shared the pattern of obedience to law and praise of God that still leaves us wondering.  The quickest way to understand is surely to bring our own lives as closely as possible into line with the intention of the Giver of all life, animate and inanimate."
 
The Reverend Alvin Hart, an Episcopalian priest in New York, says:
 
"Many Georgian saints were distinguished by their love for animals.  St. John Zedazneli made friends with bears near his hermitage; St. Shio befriended a wolf; St. David of Garesja protected deer and birds from hunters, proclaiming, 'He whom I believe in and worship looks after and feds all these creatures, to whom He has given birth.'  Early Celtic saints, too, favored compassion for animals.  Saints Wales, Cornwall and Brittany of Ireland in the 5th and 6th centuries AD went to great pains for their animal friends, healing them and praying for them as well."
 
Boniface (672-754) wrote to Pope Zacharias that he had begun a monastery which followed the rules of strict abstinence, whose monks do not eat meat nor enjoy wine or other intoxicating drinks. 
 
St. Andrew lived on herbs, olives, oil and bread. He lived to be 105.
 
St. Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109) "was moved to feelings of compassion for animals, and he wept for them when he saw them caught in the hunter’s net." 
 
St. Richard of Wyche, a vegetarian, was moved by the sight of animals taken to slaughter. "Poor innocent little creatures," he observed. "If you were reasoning beings and could speak, you would curse us. For we are the cause of your death, and what have you done to deserve it?"
 
It is said that St. Francis of Assisi (1182-1226) bought two lambs from a butcher and gave them the coat on his back to keep them warm; and that he bought two fish from a fishwoman and threw them back into the water. He even paid to ransom lambs that were being taken to their death, recalling the gentle Lamb who willingly went to slaughter (Isaiah 53:7; John 1:29) to pay the ransom of sinners.
 
"Be conscious, O man, of the wondrous state in which the Lord God has placed you," instructed Francis in his Admonitions (4), "for He created and formed you to the image of His beloved Son--and (yet) all the creatures under heaven, each according to its nature, serve, know, and obey their Creator better than you."  St. Francis felt a deep kinship with all creatures.  He called them "brother" and "sister," knowing they came from the same Source as himself.
 
Francis revealed his fraternal love for the animal world during Christmas time 1223:  "If I ever have the opportunity to talk with the emperor," he explained, "I'll beg him, for the love of God and me, to enact a special law:  no one is to capture or kill our sisters the larks or do them any harm.  Furthermore, all mayors and lords of castles and towns are required to scatter wheat and other grain on the roads outside the walls so that our sisters the larks and other birds might have something to eat on so festive a day.
 
"And on Christmas Eve, out of reverence for the Son of God, whom on that night the Virgin Mary placed in a manger before the ox and the ass, anyone having an ox or an ass is to feed it a generous portion of choice fodder.  And, on Christmas Day, the rich are to give the poor the finest food in abundance."
 
Francis removed worms from a busy road and placed them on the roadside so they would not be crushed under human traffic.  Once when he was sick and almost blind, mice ran over his table as he took his meals and over him while he slept.  He regarded their disturbance as a "diabolical temptation," which he met with patience and restraint, indicating his compassion towards other living creatures.
 
St. Francis was once given a wild pheasant to eat, but he chose instead to keep it as a companion.  On another occasion, he was given a fish, and on yet another, a waterfowl to eat, but he was moved by the natural beauty of these creatures and chose to set them free.
 
"Dearly beloved!" said Francis beginning a sermon after a severe illness, "I have to confess to God and you that...I have eaten cakes made with lard."
 
The Catholic Encyclopedia comments on this incident as follows:  "St. Francis' gift of sympathy seems to have been wider even than St. Paul's, for we find no evidence in the great Apostle of a love for nature or for animals...
 
"Francis' love of creatures was not simply the offspring of a soft sentimental disposition.  It arose from that deep and abiding sense of the presence of God.  To him all are from one Father and all are real kin...hence, his deep sense of personal responsibility towards fellow creatures: the loving friend of all God's creatures."
 
Francis taught:  "All things of creation are children of the Father and thus brothers of man...God wants us to help animals, if they need help.  Every creature in distress has the same right to be protected."
 
According to Francis, a lack of mercy towards animals leads to a lack of mercy towards men:  "If you have men who will exclude any of God's creatures from the 'shelter' of compassion and pity, you will have men who will deal likewise with their fellow men."
 
One Franciscan monk, St. Anthony of Padua (1195-1231), who preached throughout France and Italy, is said to have attracted a group of fish that came to hear him preach. St. James of Venice, who lived during the 13th century, bought and released the birds sold in Italy as toys for children. It is said he "pitied the little birds of the Lord...his tender charity recoiled from all cruelty, even to the most diminutive of animals."
 
St. Bonaventure was a scholar and theologian who joined the Franciscan Order in 1243. He wrote The Soul's Journey into God and The Life of St. Francis, the latter documenting St. Francis' miracles with animals and love for all creation. Bonaventure taught that all creatures come from God and return to Him, and that the light of God shines through His different creatures in different ways:
 
"...For every creature is by its nature a kind of effigy and likeness of the eternal Wisdom. Therefore, open your eyes, alert the ears of your spirit, open your lips and apply your heart so that in all creatures you may see, hear, praise, love and worship, glorify and honor your God."
 
St. Bridget (1303?-1373) of Sweden, founder of the Brigittine Order, wrote in her Revelations:
 
"Let a man fear, above all, Me his God, and so much the gentler will he become towards My creatures and animals, on whom, on account of Me, their Creator, he ought to have compassion."
 
She raised pigs, and a wild boar is even said to have left its home in the forest to become her pet.
 
"The reason why God's servants love His creatures so deeply is that they realize how deeply Christ loves them," explained St. Catherine of Sienna (1347-1380). "And this is the very character of love to love what is loved by those we love."
 
"Here I saw a great unity between Christ and us..." wrote Julian of Norwich (1360-?), "for when he was in pain we were in pain, and all creatures able to suffer pain suffered with him."
 
Christian mystic, Thomas A' Kempis (1380-1471) wrote in his devotional classic, The Imitation of Christ, that the soul desiring communion with God must be open to seeing, respecting and learning from all of God's creatures, including the nonhumans:
 
"...and if thy heart be straight with God," he wrote, "then every creature shall be to thee a mirror of life and a book of holy doctrine, for there is no creature so little or vile, but that showeth and representeth the goodness of God."
 
St. Filippo Neri spent his entire life protecting and rescuing other living creatures. Born in Florence in 1515, he went to Rome as a young man, and tried to live as an ascetic. He sold his books, giving away the money to the poor. He worked without pay in the city hospital, tending to the sick and the poor. He gave whatever he possessed to others.
 
St. Filippo loved the animals and could not bear to see them suffer. He took the mice caught in traps away from people's homes and set them free in the fields and stables. A vegetarian, he could not endure walking past a butcher shop. "Ah," he exclaimed. "If everyone were like me, no one would kill animals!"
 
The Trappist monks of the Catholic Church practiced vegetarianism from the founding of their Order until the Second Vatican Council in the late 1960s. According to the Trappist rules, as formulated by Armand Jean de Rance (1626-1700), "in the dining hall nothing is layed out except: pulse, roots, cabbages, or milk, but never any fish...I hope I will move you more and more rigorously, when you discover that the use of simple and rough food has its origin with the holy apostles (James, Peter, Matthew).
 
"We can assure you that we have written nothing about this subject which was not believed, observed, proved good through antiquity, proved by historians and tradition, preserved and kept up to us by the holy monks."
 
A contemporary Benedictine monk, Brother David Steindl-Rast points out that the lives of the saints teach compassion towards all living beings. "Unfortunately," says Brother David, "Christians have their share of the exploitation of our environment and in the mistreatment of animals. Sometimes they have even tried to justify their crimes by texts from the Bible, misquoted out of context. But the genuine flavor of a tradition can best be discerned in its saints...
 
"All kinds of animals appear in Christian art to distinguish one saint from another. St. Menas has two camels; St. Ulrich has a rat; St. Brigid has ducks and geese; St. Benedict, a raven; the list goes on and on. St. Hubert's attribute is a stag with a crucifix between its antlers. According to legend, this saint was a hunter but gave up his violent ways when he suddenly saw Christ in a stag he was about to shoot...Christ himself is called the Lamb of God."
 
According to Brother David, "...the survival of our planet depends on our sense of belonging--to all other humans, to dolphins caught in dragnets, to pigs and chickens and calves raised in animal concentration camps, to redwoods and rainforests, to kelp beds in our oceans, and to the ozone layer."
 
Roman Catholic Cardinal John Henry Newman (1801-90), wrote in 1870 that "cruelty to animals is as if a man did not love God."  On another occasion, he asked:
 
"Now what is it that moves our very heart and sickens us so much at cruelty shown to poor brutes?  I suppose this:  first, that they have one us no harm; next, that the have no power whatever of resistance; it is the cowardice and tyranny of which they are the victims which make their sufferings so especially touching...there is something so very dreadful, so satanic, in tormenting those who have never harmed us and who cannot defend themselves; who are utterly in our power."
 
Cardinal Newman compared injustices against animals to the sacrifice, agony, and death of Christ upon the cross:
 
"Think of your feelings and cruelty practiced upon brute animals and you will gain the sort of feeling which the history of Christ's cross and passion ought to excite within you.  And let me add, this is in all cases one good use to which you may turn any...wanton and unfeeling acts shown towards the...animals; let them remind you, as a picture of Christ's sufferings.  He who is higher than the angels, deigned to humble Himself even to the state of the brute creation."
 
"Compassion cannot be rationed...The acceptance of one cruelty, under whatever pretext, predisposes men to accept and excuse any and every other cruelty, given suitable pretexts. And the one case of cruelty to which most men refuse to extend their compassion, is the case of slaughter for food...
 
"The acceptance of that cruelty is what conditions men to accept and tolerate other cruelties like vivisection, hunting and trapping...There is little hope of abolishing the manifold cruelties to animals which disgrace our society, until men give up the habit of eating flesh."
 
---Reverend Basil Wrighton, Roman Catholic priest, 1965
 
Reverend Marc Wessels of the International Network for Religion and Animals (INRA) writes:  
 
"The most important teaching which Jesus shared was the need for people to love God with their whole self and to love their neighbor as they loved themselves.  Jesus expanded the concept of neighbor to include those who were normally excluded, and it is therefore not too farfetched for us to consider the animals as our neighbors.
 
"To think about animals as our brothers and sisters is not a new or radical idea.  By extending the idea of neighbor, the love of neighbor includes love of, compassion for, and advocacy of animals.  There are many historical examples of Christians who thought along those lines, besides the familiar illustration of St. Francis.  An abbreviated listing of some of those individuals worthy of study and emulation includes Saint Blaise, Saint Comgall, Saint Cuthbert, Saint Gerasimus, Saint Giles, and Saint Jerome, to name but a few."
 
And in School of Compassion, Deborah M. Jones engages with the Catholic Church's contemporary attitude towards animals. This is the fullest sustained study of the subject in that faith tradition. It begins by exploring the history of the Church's ideas about animals. These were drawn largely from significant readings of Old and New Testament passages and inherited elements of classical philosophies. 
 
Themes emerge, such as the renewal of creation in the apocryphal legends, in the Desert Fathers, and in Celtic monasticism. The spirituality of St Francis of Assisi, the legal status of animals, and liturgies of the Eastern Catholic Churches also shed light on the Church's thinking. 
 
The British Catholic tradition - which is relatively favorable to animals - is considered in some detail. The second part of the book provides a forensic examination of the four paragraphs in the Catechism of the Catholic Church which relate particularly to animals. Finally, major contemporary issues are raised - stewardship, anthropocentrism, and gender - as well as key ethical theories. The book revisits some teachings of Aquinas, and explores doctrinal teachings such as that of human beings created in the 'image of God', and, with a nod to the Orthodox Tradition, as the 'priests of creation'. These help form a consistent and authentically Catholic theology which can be viewed as a school of compassion towards animals. 
 
Deborah M Jones is general secretary of the international organization Catholic Concern for Animals and a Fellow of the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics, with a doctorate in animal theology. She has also worked as editor of the Catholic Herald, deputy editor of Priests & People, as a writer and lecturer, and diocesan adviser for adult religious education.
 
7. Protestant Vegetarianism
 
Vegetarianism and concern for animals can be found in Protestant Christianity as well.  Commenting on Deuteronomy 22:6, which forbids harming a mother-bird if her eggs or chicks are taken, Martin Luther (1483-1546) wrote:  “What else does this law teach but that by the kind treatment of animals they are to learn gentleness and kindness?  Otherwise it would seem to be a stupid ordinance not only to regulate a matter so unimportant, but also to promise happiness and a long life to those who keep it.”
 
According to Luther, Adam “would not have used the creatures as we do today,” but rather, “for the admiration of God and a holy joy.”  Referring to passages from Scripture concerning the redemption of the entire creation and the Kingdom of Peace, Luther taught that “the creatures are created for an end; for the glory that is to come.”  
 
British historian William Lecky observed that, “Luther grew sad and thoughtful at a hare hunt, for it seemed to him to represent the pursuit of souls by the devil.”  Author Dix Harwood, in Love for Animals, depicts a grieving young girl being comforted by Luther.  Luther assures her that her pet dog who died would certainly go to heaven.  Luther tells her that in the “new heavens and new earth...all creatures will not only be harmless, but lovely and joyful...Why, then, should there not be little dogs in the new earth, whose skin might be as fair as gold, and their hair as bright as precious stones?”
 
Biblical teachings on human responsibilities towards animals were not lost on John Calvin (1509-1564).  According to Calvin, animals exist within the framework of human justice:  “But it must be remembered that men are required to practice justice even in dealing with animals.  Solomon condemns injustice to our neighbours the more severely when he says, ‘a just man cares well for his beasts’ (Proverbs 12:10).  In a word, we are to do what is right voluntarily and freely, and each of us is responsible for doing his duty.”
 
John Wray (1627?-1705), the “father of English natural history,” made the first systematic description and classification of animal and vegetable species.  He wrote numerous works on botany, zoology, and theology.  In 1691, Wray published The Wisdom of God Manifest in the Works of His Creation, which emphasized the sanctity and value of the natural world.
 
Wray advocated vegetarianism and made two points in his book.  The first was that God can best be seen and understood in the study of His creation.  “Let us then consider the works of God and observe the operation of His hands,” wrote Wray.  “Let us take notice of and admire His infinite goodness and wisdom in the formation of them.  No creature in the sublunary world is capable of doing this except man, and yet we have been deficient therein.”  Wray’s second point was that God placed animals here for their own sake, and not just for the pleasure of humans.  Animals have their own intrinsic value.  “If a good man be merciful to his beast, then surely a good God takes pleasure that all His creatures enjoy themselves that have life and sense and are capable of enjoying.”
 
Thomas Tryon’s lengthy The Way to Health, Wealth, and Happiness was published in 1691.  Tryon defended vegetarianism as a physically and spiritually superior way of life.  He came to this conclusion from his interpretation of the Bible as well as his understanding of Christianity.  Tryon wrote against “that depraved custom of eating flesh and blood.”  The opening pages of his book begin with an eloquent plea for mercy towards the animals:
 
“Refrain at all times such foods as cannot be procured without violence and oppression, for know, that all the inferior creatures when hurt do cry and fend forth their complaints to their Maker...Be not insensible that every creature doth bear the image of the great Creator according to the nature of each, and that He is the vital power in all things.  Therefore, let none take pleasure to offer violence to that life, lest he awaken the fierce wrath, and bring danger to his own soul.  But let mercy and compassion dwell plentifully in your hearts, that you may be comprehended in the friendly principle of God’s love and holy light.  Be a friend to everything that’s good, and then everything will be a friend to thee, and co-operate for thy good and welfare.”
 
In The Way, Tryon (1634-1703) also condemned “Hunting, hawking, shooting, and all violent oppressive exercises...”  On a separate occasion, he warned the first Quaker settlers of Pennsylvania that their “holy experiment” in peaceful living would fail unless they extended their Christian precepts of nonviolence to the animal kingdom:
 
"Does not bounteous Mother Earth furnish us with all sorts of food necessary for life?” he asked.  “Though you will not fight with and kill those of your own species, yet I must be bold to tell you, that these lesser violences (as you call them) do proceed from the same root of wrath and bitterness as the greater do.”
 
“Thanks be to God!” wrote John Wesley, founder of Methodism, to the Bishop of London in 1747.  “Since the time I gave up the use of flesh-meats and wine, I have been delivered from all physical ills.”  Wesley was a vegetarian for spiritual reasons as well.  He based his vegetarianism on the Biblical prophecies concerning the Kingdom of Peace, where “on the new earth, no creature will kill, or hurt, or give pain to any other.”  He further taught that animals “shall receive an ample amends for all their present sufferings.”
 
Wesley’s teachings placed an emphasis on inner religion and the effect of the Holy Spirit upon the consciousness of such followers.  Wesley taught that animals will attain heaven:  in the “general deliverance” from the evils of this world, animals would be given “vigor, strength and swiftness...to a far higher degree than they ever enjoyed.”
 
Wesley urged parents to educate their children about compassion towards animals.  He wrote:  “I am persuaded you are not insensible of the pain given to every Christian, every humane heart, by those savage diversions, bull-baiting, cock-fighting, horse-racing, and hunting.”
 
In 1786, Reverend Richard Dean, the curate of Middleton, published An Essay on the Future Life of Brute Creatures.  He told his readers to treat animals with compassion, and not to “treat them as sticks, or stones, or things that cannot feel...Surely ...sensibility in brutes entitles them to a milder treatment than they usually meet from hard and unthinking wretches.”
 
The Quakers have a long history of advocating kindness towards animals.  In 1795, the Society of Friends (Quakers) in London passed a resolution condemning sport hunting.  The resolution stated in part, “let our leisure be employed in serving our neighbor, and not in distressing, for our amusement, the creatures of God.”
 
John Woolman (1720-72) was a Quaker preacher and abolitionist who traveled throughout the American colonies attacking slavery and cruelty to animals.  Woolman wrote that he was “early convinced in my mind that true religion consisted in an inward life, wherein the heart doth love and reverence God the Creator and learn to exercise true justice and goodness, not only toward all men, but also toward the brute creatures...”  
 
Woolman’s deep faith in God thus led to his reverence for all life.  “Where the love of God is verily perfected and the true spirit of government watchfully attended to,” he taught, “a tenderness toward all creatures made subject to us will be experienced, and a care felt in us that we do not lessen that sweetness of life in the animal creation which the great Creator intends for them.”
 
Joshua Evans (1731-1798), a Quaker and a contemporary of Woolman’s, stated that reverence for life was the moral basis of his vegetarianism.  “I considered that life was sweet in all living creatures,” he wrote, ‘and taking it away became a very tender point with me...I believe my dear Master has been pleased to try my faith and obedience by teaching me that I ought no longer to partake of anything that had life.
 
The “Quaker poet” and abolitionist John Greenleaf Whittier (1807-92), wrote:  “The sooner we recognize the fact that the mercy of the Almighty extends to every creature endowed with life, the better it will be for us as men and Christians.”
 
One of the most respected English theologians of the 18th century, William Paley (1743-1805), taught that killing animals for food was unjustifiable.  Paley called the excuses used to justify killing animals “extremely lame,” and even refuted the rationalizations concerning fishing.
 
The founder and first secretary of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) was an Anglican priest, the Reverend Arthur Broome.  The RSPCA was originally founded as a Christian society “entirely based on the Christian Faith, and on Christian Principles,” and sponsoring sermons on humane education in churches in  London.  The Society formed in 1824, and its first “Prospectus” spoke of the need to extend Christian charity and benevolence to the animals:
 
“Our country is distinguished by the number and variety of its benevolent institutions...all breathing the pure spirit of Christian charity...But shall we stop here?  Is the moral circle perfect so long as any power of doing good remains? Or can the infliction of cruelty on any being which the Almighty has endued with feelings of pain and pleasure consist with genuine and true benevolence?”
 
This Prospectus was signed by many leading 19th century Christians including William Wilberforce, Richard Martin, G.A. Hatch, J. Bonner, and Dr. Heslop.
 
The Bible Christian Church was a 19th century movement teaching vegetarianism, abstinence from intoxication, and compassion for animals.  The church began in England in 1800, requiring all its members to take vows of abstinence from meat and wine.  One of its first converts, William Metcalfe (1788-1862), immigrated to Philadelphia in 1817 with forty-one followers to establish a church in America.  Metcalfe cited numerous biblical references to support his thesis that humans were meant to follow a vegetarian diet for reasons of health and compassion for animals.
 
German composer Richard Wagner (1813-1883) believed flesh-eating to be responsible for the downfall of man.  He felt vegetarianism could help mankind return to Paradise.  He wrote:  “Plant life instead of animal life is the keystone of regeneration.  Jesus used bread in place of flesh and wine in place of blood at the Lord’s Supper.”
 
General William Booth (1829-1912), founder of the Salvation Army, practiced and advocated vegetarianism.  Booth never officially condemned flesh-eating as either cruelty or gluttony, but taught that abstinence from luxury is helpful to the cause of Christian charity.  “It is a great delusion to suppose that flesh of any kind is essential to health,” he insisted.
 
“The moral evils of a flesh diet are not less marked than are the physical ills,” wrote Ellen White, founder of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church.  “Flesh food is injurious to health, and whatever affects the body has a corresponding effect on the mind and soul.”
 
Although Seventh-Day Adventists strongly recommend vegetarianism for reasons of health and nutrition, White also espoused the belief that kindness to animals should  be a Christian duty.  In Ministry of Healing, she urged the faithful to:
 
“Think of the cruelty that meat eating involves, and its effect on those who inflict and those who behold it.  How it destroys the tenderness with which we should regard these creatures of God!” 
 
In Patriarchs and Prophets, White referred to numerous passages in the Bible calling for kindness to animals, and concluded that humans will be judged according to how they fulfill their moral obligations to animals:  
 
"It is because of man’s sin that ‘the whole creation groaneth and travaileth together in pain’ (Romans 8:22).  Surely, then, it becomes man to seek to lighten, instead of increasing, the weight of suffering which his transgression has brought upon God’s creatures.  He who will abuse animals because he has them in his power is both a coward and a tyrant.  A disposition to cause pain, whether to our fellow men or to the brute creation is satanic.
 
“Many do not realize that their cruelty will ever be known because the poor dumb animals cannot reveal it.  But could the eyes of these men be opened, as were those of Balaam, they would see an angel of God standing as a witness to testify against them in the courts above.
 
“A record goes up to heaven, and a day is coming when judgement will be pronounced against those who abuse God’s creatures.”
 
In Counsels on Diet and Foods, White referred to the Garden of Eden, a Holy Sanctuary of God, where nothing would ever die, as the perfect example of humans in their natural state:
 
“God gave our first parents the food He designed that the race should eat.  It was contrary to His plan to have the life of any creature taken.  There was to be no death in Eden.  The fruit of the tree in the garden was the food man’s wants required.”
 
“Tenderness accompanies all the might imparted by Spirit,” wrote Mary Baker Eddy, founder of Christian Science, in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures.  “The individuality created by God is not carnivorous, as witness the millenial estate pictured by Isaiah (11:6-9).  All of God’s creatures, moving in the harmony of Science, are harmless, useful, indestructible.  A realization of this grand verity was a source of strength to the ancient worthies.  It supports Christian healing, and enables its possessor to emulate the example of Jesus.  ‘And God saw that it was good.’”
 
Congregational minister Frederic Marvin preached a Christmas Eve sermon in 1899 entitled, “Christ Among the Cattle.”  Marvin regarded Jesus’ birth in the manger as that of God incarnate teaching humanity by dramatic example.  Birth among the cattle was a sign for people all over the world to follow—a lesson teaching the need to show compassion towards the animals.
 
In his 1923, The Natural Diet of Man, Dr. John Harvey Kellogg observed:  
 
“The attitude of the Bible writers toward flesh-eating is the same as toward polygamy.  Polygamy as well as flesh-eating was tolerated under the social and religious systems of the old Hebrews and even during the early centuries of the Christian era; but the first man, Adam, in his pristine state in the Garden of Eden was both a monogamist and a flesh-abstainer.  If the Bible supports flesh-eating, it equally supports polygamy; for all the patriarchs had plural wives as well as concubines.  Christian ethics enjoin a return to the Edenic example in matters matrimonial.  Physiologic science as well as human experience call for a like return to Eden in matters dietetic.”
 
An essay on “The Rights of Animals” by Dean William Ralph Inge (1860-1954) can be found in his 1926 book, Lay Thoughts of a Dean.  It reads in part:
 
“Our ancestors sinned in ignorance; they were taught (as I deeply regret to say one great Christian Church still teaches) that the world, with all that it contains, was made for man, and that the lower orders of creation have no claims upon us.  But we no longer have the excuse of saying that we do not know; we do know that organic life on this planet is all woven of one stuff, and if we are children of our Heavenly Father, it must be true, as Christ told us, that no sparrow falls to the ground without His care.  The new knowledge has revolutionized our ideas of our relations to the other living creatures who share the world with us, and it is our duty to consider seriously what this knowledge should mean for us in matters of conduct.”
 
Dean Inge is reported to have said, “Whether animals believe in a god I do not know, but I do know that they believe in a devil—the devil which is man.”
 
“The day is surely dawning,” wrote the Reverend V.A. Holmes-Gore, MA, “when it will become clear that the idea of the Blessed Master giving His sanction to the barbaric habit of flesh-eating, is a tragic delusion, foisted upon the Church by those who never knew Him.”
 
Reverend Holmes-Gore called vegetarianism “absolutely necessary for the redemption of the planet.  Indeed we cannot hope to rid the world of war, disease and a hundred other evils until we learn to show compassion to the creatures and refrain from taking their lives for food, clothing or pleasure."
 
Perhaps alluding to the twin doctrines of karma and reincarnation, Reverend Holmes-Gore explained:
 
“The Church is powerless to free mankind from such evils as war, oppression and disease, because it does nothing to stop man’s oppression of victimizing living creatures...Every evil action, whether it be done to a man, a woman, a child, or an animal will one day have its effect upon the transgressor.  The rule that we reap what we sow is a Divine Law from which there is no escape.
 
“God is ever merciful, but He is also righteous, and if cruel men and women will learn compassion in no other way, then they will have to learn through suffering, even if it means suffering the same tortures that they have themselves inflicted.  God is perfect Love, and He is never vengeful or vindictive, but the Divine Law of mercy and compassion cannot be broken without bringing tremendous repercussions upon the transgressor.”
 
Reverend Holmes-Gore acknowledged that a great deal of social progress has been made, but injustices continue to flourish:  
 
“...we have made many great reforms, but there remains much to be done.  We have improved the lot of children, of prisoners, and of the poor beyond all recognition in the last hundred years.  We have done something to mitigate the cruelties inflicted upon the creatures.  But though some of the worst forms of torture have been made illegal, the welter of animal blood is greater than ever, and their sufferings are still appalling.
 
“What we need is not a reform of existing evils,” concluded Reverend Holmes-Gore, “but a revolution in thought that will move Christians to show real compassion to all God’s creatures.  Many people claim to be lovers of animals who are very far from being so.  For a flesh-eater to claim to love animals is as if a cannibal expressed his devotion to the missionaries he consigns to the seething cauldron.”
 
“Dear God,” began the childhood prayers of Dr. Albert Schweitzer (1875-1965), “please protect and bless all living things.  Keep them from evil and let them sleep in peace.”  This noted Protestant French theologian, music scholar, philosopher and missionary doctor in Africa won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1952.
 
Schweitzer preached an ethic of reverence for life:  “Not until we extend the circle of compassion to include all living things shall we ourselves know peace.”  When a man questioned his philosophy, saying God created animals for man to eat, Schweitzer replied, “Not at all.”
 
Schweitzer reflected, “How much effort it will take for us to get men to understand the words of Jesus, ‘Blessed are the merciful,’ and to bring them to the realization that their responsibility includes all creatures.  But we must struggle with courage.”  According to Schweitzer, “We need a boundless ethics which will include the animals also.”  
 
Schweitzer founded the Lambarene Hospital in French Equatorial Africa in 1913, managing it for many years.  “I never go to a menagerie,” he once wrote, “because I cannot endure the sight of the misery of the captive animals.  The exhibiting of trained animals I abhor.  What an amount of suffering and cruel punishment the poor creatures have to endure to give a few minutes of pleasure to men devoid of all thought and feeling for them.”  
 
Schweitzer taught compassionate stewardship towards the animal kingdom:  “We...are compelled by the commandment of love contained in our hearts and thoughts, and proclaimed by Jesus, to give rein to our natural sympathy to animals,” he explained.  “We are also compelled to help them and spare suffering as far as it is in our power.”
 
In a sermon preached in Bath Abbey, the Reverend E.E. Bromwich, M.A., taught:  “Our love of God should be extended as far as possible to all God’s creatures, to our fellow human beings and to animals...In His love, God caused them all to exist, to express His feelings for beauty and order, and not merely to provide food and companionship for man.  They are part of God’s creation and it is God’s will that they should be happy, quite as much as it is His will that we should be happy.  The Christian ought to be bitterly ashamed for the unnecessary suffering that men still cause their animal brothers.”
 
According to the Reverend Lloyd Putman:  “In the beautiful story of creation in Genesis, God is pictured as the Creator of all Life—not just of man.  To be sure, man is given ‘dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth,’ but far from being a brutal dominion, man is to view the animal world with a sense of stewardship and responsibility.  If man lives recklessly and selfishly with no regard for animals, he is denying that God is to be seen as the creator of all life, and he is forgetting that God beheld not only man, but all creation and said that 'it was very good.' He is omitting the Biblical emphasis on man and animals sharing a common creation.”
 
On June 5, 1958, the Reverend Norman Vincent Peale stated, “I do not believe a person can be a true Christian, and at the same time engage in cruel or inconsiderate treatment of animals.”  
 
One of the leading Protestant thinkers of the 20th century, Karl Barth (1886-1968), wrote in The Doctrine of Creation (1961): 
 
“If there is a freedom of man to kill animals, this signifies in any case the adoption of a qualified and in some sense enhanced responsibility.  If that of his lordship over the living beast is serious enough, it takes on a new gravity when he sees himself compelled to suppress his lordship by depriving it of its life.  He obviously cannot do this except under the pressure of necessity.
 
“Far less than all the other things which he dares to do in relation to animals, may this be ventured unthinkingly and as though it were self-evident.  He must never treat this need for defensive and offensive action against the animal world as a natural one, nor include it as a normal element in his thinking or conduct.  He must always shrink from this possibility even when he makes use of it.
 
“It always contains the sharp counter-question:  who are you, man, to claim that you must venture this to maintain, support, enrich and beautify your own life?  What is there in your life that you feel compelled to take this aggressive step in its favor?  We cannot but be reminded of the perversion from which the whole historical existence of the creature suffers and the guilt which does not really reside in the beast but ultimately in man himself.”
 
Responding to a question about the Kingdom of Peace, Donald Soper of the Church of England was of the opinion that Jesus, unlike his brother James, was neither a teetotaler nor a vegetarian, but, “I think probably, if He were here today, He would be both.” 
 
In a 1963 article on “The Question of Vivisection,” Soper concluded:  
 
“...let me suggest that Dr. Schweitzer’s great claim that all life should be based on respect for personality has been too narrowly interpreted as being confined entirely to the personality of human beings.  I believe that this creed ‘respect for personality’ must be applied to the whole of creation.  I shouldn’t be surprised if the Buddhists are nearer to an understanding of it than we are.
 
“When we apply this principle, we shall be facing innumerable problems, but I believe we shall be on the right track which leads finally to the end of violence and the achievement of a just social order which will leave none of God’s creatures out of that Kingdom which it is our Father’s good pleasure to give us.”
 
In 1977, at an annual meeting in London of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA), Dr. Donald Coggan, the Archbishop of Canterbury, said:  “Animals, as part of God’s creation, have rights which must be respected.  It behooves us always to be sensitive to their needs and to the reality of their pain.”
 
“Honourable men may honourably disagree about some details of human treatment of the non-human,” wrote Stephen Clark in his 1977 book, The Moral Status of Animals, “but vegetarianism is now as necessary a pledge of moral devotion as was the refusal of emperor-worship in the early church.”  According to Clark, eating animal flesh is “gluttony,” and “Those who still eat flesh when they could do otherwise have no claim to be serious moralists.”
 
“Clark’s conclusion has real force and its power has yet to be sufficiently appreciated by fellow Christians,” says the Reverend Andrew Linzey.  “Far from seeing the possibility of widespread vegetarianism as a threat to Old Testament norms, Christians should rather welcome the fact that the Spirit is enabling us to make decisions so that we may more properly conform to the original Genesis picture of living in peace with creation.”
 
The contemporary Christian attitude towards vegetarianism is perhaps best expressed by Kenneth Rose, in a 1984 essay entitled “The Lion Shall Eat Straw Like the Ox:  The Bible and Vegetarianism.”
 
“At present,” Rose acknowledges, “vegetarianism among those who base their lives on the Bible is quite rare.  Nevertheless, vegetarianism remains God’s ultimate will.  Since, according to the Bible, the goal of history is the transformation of the predatory principle in the principle of universal love, it seems reasonable to suppose that people who take the Bible seriously should strive to bring their lives into accordance with the righteousness and nonviolence that will prevail in God’s kingdom.  Surely we can’t in this life fully escape the consequences of the Fall, but we can try, with God’s grace, to live in accordance with God’s perfect will.
 
“...no rational or scriptural reason can be discovered,” Rose observes, “that would prohibit the teacher of Christian truth from encouraging believers to go beyond the concession to human weakness granted in Genesis 9:3 so that, even now, before the full dawning of God’s kingdom of peace, they may begin living according to the ethics of that kingdom.  To live in this way must be considered as part of God’s ultimate intention for humanity, for how else can one account for the fact that the Bible both begins and ends in a kingdom where the sound of slaughter is unknown?
 
“For those of us who take the Bible seriously,” Rose concludes, “our obedience to God will then become greater as it aspires to live out the vision of the peaceable kingdom the Bible points to.  To the degree that we stop slaughtering innocent creatures for food, to that degree we will nullify the predatory principle, a principle that structures the injustices characteristic of this fallen age.  And seeing all creatures with equal vision, we will enter more deeply into the kingdom of God."
 
In 1986, Dale and Judith Ostrander, ministers in the United Church of Christ, a pro-choice Protestant denomination, issued a biblical call for stewardship, in which they concluded:  
 
“For Christians the Scriptures contain the Word of God.  And there is a particular conviction about Jesus Christ being the normative Word through whom all scriptural words are interpreted—the central meaning of Love and reconciliation of all creation.  Therefore, all other biblical themes and all specific pieces of Scripture become authoritative for the Christian insofar as they affirm or are consistent with God’s reconciling purpose.
 
“The role of Christians is to help God’s reconciling purpose become a reality.  This means, among other things, living out our calling to care for God’s creation.  It means taking seriously the interconnectedness of all life and our kinship with all living things.  If Christians accept God’s loving dominion, then, created in God’s likeness, we are called to exercise our given ‘dominion’ over creation with the same kind of love.  And if the great commandment is to love God, we must love God also through the complex ecological relationship of all living things.
 
“To misuse our delegated authority over the creation in exploitative, abusive, cruel or wasteful ways is to live as if we did not love God.  We are led, therefore, as Christians to raise questions about our attitudes toward and treatment of animals.  A growing number of ‘voices crying in the wilderness’ are calling us to take more seriously the ways in which we are despoiling the Earth and threatening its ability to sustain and support life.  These voices are calling us to rethink our attitudes and our treatment of animals as we consider anew what it means to be faithful stewards of creation.”
 
In a sermon preached in York Minster, September 28, 1986, John Austin Baker, the Bishop of Salisbury, England, attacked the overcrowded confinement methods of raising and killing animals for food ("factory farming"), choosing as his example, the treatment of chickens:
 
"Is there any credit balance for the battery hen, denied almost all natural functioning, all normal environment, lapsing steadily into deformity and disease, for the whole of her existence?" he asked.  "It is in the battery shed and the broiler house, not in the wild, that we find the true parallel to Auschwitz.  Auschwitz is a purely human invention."
 
In 1987, the Reverend Carolyn J. Michael Riley declared Unity Church in Huntington, N.Y. a fur-free zone.  Reverend Riley, a vegetarian since 1982, remains committed to her position.  “I really do believe,” she says, “that everyone is able that much more to feel the Spirit, because there are no longer vibrations of death.”  Reverend Riley says she wants to “help raise the consciousness of the suffering going on in the animal kingdom.”
 
According to the Reverend James Caroll, an Episcopal priest in Van Nuys, California, “A committed Christian, who knows what his religion is about, will never kill an animal needlessly.  Above all, he will do his utmost to put a stop to any kind of cruelty to any animal.  A Christian who participates in or gives consent to cruelty to animals had better reexamine his religion or else drop the name Christian.”
 
Rick Dunkerly of Christ Lutheran Church says:  
 
"The Bible-believing Christian, should, of all people, be on the frontline in the struggle for animal welfare and rights.  We who are Christians should be treating the animal creation now as it will be treated then, at Christ's second coming. It will not now be perfect, but it must be substantial, otherwise we have missed our calling, and we grieve the One we call 'Lord,' who was born in a stable surrounded by animals simply because He chose it that way."
 
In a 1991 article entitled “Hunting: What scripture Says,” Rick Dunkerly observes:
 
“There are four hunters mentioned in the Bible: three in Genesis and one in Revelation. The first hunter is named Nimrod in Genesis 10:8-9. He is the son of Cush and founder of the Babylonian Empire, the empire that opposes God throughout scripture and is destroyed in the Book of Revelation. In Micah 5:6, God’s enemies are said to dwell in the land of Nimrod. Many highly reputable evangelical scholars such as Barnhouse, Pink and Scofield regard Nimrod as a prototype of the anti-Christ.
 
“The second hunter is Ishmael, Abraham’s ‘son of the flesh’ by the handmaiden, Hagar. His birth is covered in Genesis 16 and his occupation in 21:20. Ishmael’s unfavorable standing in scripture is amplified by Paul in Galatians 4:22-31.
 
“The third hunter, Esau, is also mentioned in the New Testament. His occupation is contrasted with his brother (Jacob) in Genesis 25:27. In Hebrews 12:16 he is equated with a ‘profane person’ (KJV). He is a model of a person without faith in God. Again, Paul elucidates upon this model unfavorably in Romans 9:8-13, ending with the paraphrase of Malachi 1:2-3: ‘Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.’
 
“The fourth hunter is found in Revelation 6:2, the rider of the white horse with the hunting bow. Scholars have also identified him as the so-called anti-Christ. Taken as a group, then, hunters fare poorly in the Bible. Two model God’s adversary and two model the person who lives his life without God.
 
“In scripture,” notes Dunkerly, “the contrast of the hunter is the shepherd, the man who gently tends his animals and knows them fully. The shepherds of the Bible are Abel, Jacob, Joseph, Moses and David. Beginning in the 23rd Psalm, Jesus is identified as ‘the Good Shepherd.’
 
“As for hunting itself, both the Psalms and Proverbs frequently identify it with the hunter of souls, Satan. His devices are often called ‘traps’ and ‘snares,’ his victims ‘prey.’ Thus, in examining a biblical stance on the issue of hunting, we see the context is always negative, always dark in contrast to light...premeditated killing, death, harm, destruction. All of these are ramifications of the Fall. When Christ returns, all of these things will be ended...
 
“Of all people,” Dunkerly concludes, “Christians should not be the destroyers. We should be the healers and reconcilers. We must show NOW how it will be THEN in the Peaceable Kingdom of Isaiah 11:6 where ‘the wolf shall lie down with the lamb...and a little child shall lead them.’
 
"We can begin now within our homes and churches by teaching our children respect and love for all of God’s creation...”
 
In 1992, members of Los Angeles’ First Unitarian Church agreed to serve vegetarian meals at the church’s weekly Sunday lunch.  This decision was made as a protest against animal cruelty and the environmental damage caused by the livestock industry.
 
Vegetarianism and ethical concern for animals are consistent with Protestant Christianity:
 
“It is not a question of palate, of custom, of expediency, but of right,” wrote the Reverend J. Tyssul-Davies, BA, on the subject of vegetarianism.  “As a mere Christian Minister, I have had to make my decision.  My palate was on the side of custom; my intellect argued for the expedient; but my higher reason and conscience left me no alternative.  Our Lord came to give life, and we do not follow Him by taking life needlessly.  So, I was compelled, against myself, to eschew carnivorism.”
 
The Reverend George Laughton taught that:  “The practice of kindness towards dumb creatures is a sign of development to the higher reaches of intelligence and sympathy.  For, mark you, in every place there are those who are giving of their time and thought and energy to the work of protecting from cruelty and needless suffering the beasts of the field and streets.  These are the people who make the earth clean and sweet and more like what God intended it to be.”
 
Rose Evans, a pro-life Episcopalian and editor and publisher of Harmony:  Voices for a Just Future, a "consistent-ethic" periodical on the religious Left, says there are more Christian vegetarians than Jewish vegetarians.  Yet some people still react to the idea of Christian vegetarianism as though it were an oxymoron.
 
"To stand for Christ is to stand against the evil of cruelty inflicted on those who are weak, vulnerable, unprotected, undefended, morally innocent, and in that class we must unambiguously include animals. There is something profoundly Christ-like about the innocent suffering of animals. Look around you and see the faces of Christ in the millions of innocent animals suffering in factory farms, in laboratories, in abattoirs, in circuses and in animals hunted for sport."
 
---Reverend Andrew Linzey, Anglican priest, 1998
 
"A great wickedness of the Christian tradition," observes Reverend Linzey, "is that, at this very point, where it could have been a source of great blessing and life; it has turned out to be a source of cursing and death. I refer here to the way Christian theology has allowed itself to promulgate notions that animals have no rights; that they are put here for our use; that animals have no more moral status than sticks and stones.
 
"Animal rights in this sense is a religious problem. It is about how the Christian tradition in particular has failed to realize the God-given rights of God-given life. Animal rights remains an urgent question of theology.
 
"Every year," says Dr. Linzey, "I receive hundreds of anguished letters from Christians who are so distressed by the insensitivity to animals shown by mainstream churches that they have left them or on the verge of doing so. Of course, I understand why they have left the churches and in this matter, as in all else, conscience can be the only guide. But if all the Christians committed to animal rights leave the church, where will that leave the churches?
 
"The time is long overdue to take the issue of animal rights to the churches with renewed vigor. I don’t pretend it’s easy but I do think it’s essential—not, I add, because the churches are some of the best institutions in society but rather because they are some of the worst. The more the churches are allowed to be left to one side in the struggle for animal rights, the more they will remain forever on the other side.
 
"I derive hope from the Gospel preaching," Linzey concludes, "that the same God who draws us to such affinity and intimacy with suffering creatures declared that reality on a Cross in Calvary. Unless all Christian preaching has been utterly mistaken, the God who becomes incarnate and crucified is the one who has taken the side of the oppressed and the suffering of the world—however the churches may actually behave."
 
8. It Makes Sense to Abstain from Intoxication
 
Tobacco kills about 430,700 each year. Alcohol and alcohol-related diseases and injuries kill about 110,000 per year. Secondhand tobacco smoke kills about 50,000 every year. Aspirin and other anti-inflammatory drugs kill 7,600 each year.
 
Cocaine kills about 500 yearly alone, and another 2,500 in combination with another drug. Heroin kills about 400 yearly alone, and another 2,500 in combination with another drug. Adverse reactions to prescription drugs total 32,000 per year, while marijuana kills no one.
 
According to a 2003 Zogby poll, two of every five Americans say: “the government should treat marijuana the same way it treats alcohol: It should regulate it, control it, tax it, and only make it illegal for children.”
 
It makes sense to abstain from intoxication!
 
Collegiate excess has repercussions far beyond hangovers and missed classes, and should be of concern to members of the surrounding community.
 
"Binge drinking hurts not only the drinker but also others near him," says Henry Wechsler, Ph.D., a lecturer at the Harvard school of Public Health, where he was also the director of the College Alcohol Study, and author of Dying to Drink: Confronting Binge Drinking on College Campuses.
 
"The binge drinker disturbs the peace, through noise, vandalism and sometimes violence. Like secondhand smoke, binge drinking pollutes the environment."
 
"The [social] cost of alcohol is in the billions of dollars. Roughly half the total is related to what's called alcohol addiction," says Paul Gruenewald, scientific director of the Prevention Research Center at the University of California, Berkeley, which is funded by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.
 
"The other half is related to other harms that happen to people when drinking; primarily drunk driving, drunk driving crashes, pedestrian injuries, violent assaults, and various criminal behaviors and various injuries," Gruenewald said.
 
"It's not a pretty picture. It's quite ugly from the public health point of view. It's a much bigger problem than crime related to illegal drugs," he added.
 
Alcohol, not marijuana, is the most abused drug in the United States.
 
As of 1983, there were an estimated eight million known alcoholics in America, with the number increasing by 450,000 every year.
 
One survey reported that 75 percent of all crimes and 60 percent of all divorces have drinking in their background. The National Safety Council reports 50 percent of all traffic deaths are caused by drunk drivers.
 
According to vegan author Dr. John MacDougall in his 1983 book, The MacDougall Plan, over seven percent of the adult population in the United States suffers from alcoholism, resulting in decreased productivity, accidents, crime, mental and physical disease and disruption of family life.
 
Excessive consumption of alcohol leads to liver disease, cancer, birth defects (fetal alcohol syndrome) and multiple vitamin deficiency diseases.
 
A report by the World Health Organization states:
 
"Alcohol is a poison to the nervous system. The double solubility of alcohol in water and fat enables it to invade the nerve cell. A man may become a chronic alcoholic without ever having shown symptoms of drunkenness."
 
The conclusion of the report is that none are immune to alcoholism and total abstinence is the only solution.
 
Dr. MacDougall writes that excessive consumption of caffeine leads to an elevated heart rate, irregular heart beat, increased blood pressure, frequent urination, increased gastric secretion, nervousness, irritability and insomnia.
 
Moreover, the body actually becomes physically addicted to caffeine. Withdrawal symptoms include headaches, drowsiness, tension and anxiety.
 
Again: it makes sense to abstain from intoxication!
 
The Prohibition of alcohol in the United States failed, like the current prohibition of marijuana is failing. Whether or not mind-altering substances should be banned in a secular democracy, or rather legal and strictly regulated or restricted, is a separate issue, subject to serious political debate.
 
9. The Biblical Tradition Commends Sobriety
 
Condemnations of alcohol and drunkenness can be found throughout the Bible. The ancient Hebrews regarded alcohol as both a blessing and a curse. God was praised because "He causes the grass to grow for the cattle and fruits and vegetables for man to cultivate that he may bring forth food from the earth. Wine to gladden the heart of man..." (Psalm 104:14-15)
 
On the other hand, alcohol was also an instrument of God's displeasure: "Thou hast made Thy people suffer hard things; Thou hast given us wine to drink that made us reel." (Psalm 60:3)
 
Wine was permitted for medicinal use. (Proverbs 31:6-7; I Timothy 5:23). At no place in the Bible is alcohol (or any other drug) explicitly forbidden. Drunkenness, or the excesses of alcohol (and presumably all other drugs) is condemned, but not the drug itself.
 
Complete abstinence from intoxication, however, was considered a sign of holiness. God commanded His priests to be holy and pure before worship. "Do not drink wine nor strong drink, thou nor thy sons with thee, when you go into the tabernacle of the congregation, lest ye die: it shall be a perpetual statute for ever throughout your generations." (Leviticus 10:9)
 
God also established the order of the Nazarites. The Nazarites distinguished themselves by never allowing a razor to touch their head, abstaining from alcohol, and by their piety before God. "When either a man or woman shall separate themselves to vow a vow of a Nazarite....he shall separate himself from wine and strong drink, and shall drink no vinegar of wine, or vinegar of strong drink, neither shall he drink any liquor of grapes..." (Numbers 6:1-21)
 
Wine drinking was equated with sexual immorality and worshiping other gods: "Go, ye, love...an adulteress, according to the love of the Lord toward the children of Israel, who look to other gods, and love flagons of wine." (Hosea 3:1) "Whoredom and wine and new wine take away the heart." (Hosea 4:11)
 
It appears that wine was never intended for kings or political leaders, because of its intoxicating effects. (Proverbs 31:4-5)
 
Excesses of alcohol among religious leaders were also denounced in biblical times: "the priest and the prophet reel with strong drink, they are confused with wine, they stagger with strong drink; they err in vision, they stumble in giving judgment." (Isaiah 28:7)
 
According to Reverend Alvin Hart, an Episcopal priest in New York, the drinking of wine was frowned upon in biblical times. "Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging; and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise." (Proverbs 20:1) Intoxicating beverages were known to be habit-forming (Proverbs 23:35), resulting in violence (Proverbs 4:17) and distracting their imbibers from God (Amos 6:6).
 
The Bible says, "...wine is treacherous; the arrogant man shall not abide... woe unto him that giveth his neighbor drink." (Habbakuk 2:5,15) And: "Who has sorrow? Who has strife? Who has complaining? Who has wounds without course? Who has redness of eyes? Those who tarry long over wine, those who try mixed wine. Do not look at wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup and goes down smoothly. At the last it bites like a serpent, and stings like an adder." (Proverbs 23:29-32)
 
John the Baptist never touched alcohol. Jesus told the multitudes: "John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine..." (Luke 7:33) 
 
Jesus warned his disciples: "Be on your guard," he warned, "so that your hearts are not overloaded with carousing, drunkenness, and worldly cares...be vigilant and pray unceasingly." (Luke 21:34-36) 
 
Referring to Proverbs 23:20, which says not to mix with winebibbers nor with gluttonous eaters of meat, Jesus similarly condemned one who "eats and drinks with the drunken." (Matthew 24:49; Luke 12:45)
 
Peter linked alcoholic excesses to the gentile practices of idolatry and sexual immorality. "For we have spent enough of our past in doing the will of the gentiles—when we walked in lewdness, lusts, drunkenness, revelries, drinking parties and abominable idolatries." (I Peter 4:3)
 
Paul did not forbid wine. Instead, he advocated moderation.  Wine is to be taken sparingly, if at all.
 
"A bishop then, must be blameless, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober-minded, of good behavior, hospitable, able to teach; not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but gentle, not quarrelsome, not covetous." (I Timothy 3:2-3)
 
"Likewise, deacons must be reverent, not double-tongued, not given to much wine, not greedy for money." (I Timothy 3:2-3,8) For a bishop must be blameless, as a steward of God, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but hospitable, a lover of what is good, sober-minded, just, holy, self-controlled." (Titus 1:7-8)
 
"It was divinely proclaimed," insisted the early church father Tertullian, "'Wine and strong liquor shall you not drink, you and your sons after you.' Now this prohibition of drink is essentially connected with the vegetable diet. Thus, where abstinence from wine is required by the Deity, or is vowed by man, there, too, may be understood suppression of gross feeding, for as is the eating, so is the drinking.
 
"It is not consistent with truth that a man should sacrifice half of his stomach only to God--that he should be sober in drinking, but intemperate in eating. Your belly is your God, your liver is your temple, your paunch is your altar, the cook is your priest, and the fat steam is your Holy Spirit; the seasonings and the sauces are your chrisms, and your belchings are your prophesizing..."
 
St. Basil (AD 320-79) taught, "The steam of meat darkens the light of the spirit. One can hardly have virtue if one enjoys meat meals and feasts...In the earthly paradise, there was no wine, no one sacrificed animals, and no one ate meat. Wine was only invented after the Deluge...
 
"With simple living, well being increases in the household, animals are in safety, there is no shedding of blood, nor putting animals to death. The knife of the cook is needless, for the table is spread only with the fruits that nature gives, and with them they are content."
 
St. Jerome (AD 340-420) wrote to a monk in Milan who had abandoned vegetarianism:
 
"As to the argument that in God's second blessing (Genesis 9:3) permission was given to eat flesh--a permission not given in the first blessing (Genesis 1:29)--let him know that just as permission to put away a wife was, according to the words of the Saviour, not given from the beginning, but was granted to the human race by Moses because of the hardness of our hearts (Matthew 19:1-12), so also in like manner the eating of flesh was unknown until the Flood, but after the Flood, just as quails were given to the people when they murmured in the desert, so have sinews and the offensiveness been given to our teeth.
 
"The Apostle, writing to the Ephesians, teaches us that God had purposed that in the fullness of time he would restore all things, and would draw to their beginning, even to Christ Jesus, all things that are in heaven or that are on earth. Whence also, the Saviour Himself in the Apocalypse of John says, 'I am the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end.' From the beginning of human nature, we neither fed upon flesh nor did we put away our wives, nor were our foreskins taken away from us for a sign. We kept on this course until we arrived at the Flood.
 
"But after the Flood, together with the giving of the Law, which no man could fulfill, the eating of flesh was brought in, and the putting away of wives was conceded to hardness of heart...But now that Christ has come in the end of time, and has turned back Omega to Alpha...neither is it permitted to us to put away our wives, nor are we circumcised, nor do we eat flesh."
 
St. Jerome was responsible for the Vulgate, or Latin version of the Bible, still in use today. He felt a vegetarian diet was best for those devoted to the pursuit of wisdom. He once wrote that he was not a follower of Pythagoras or Empodocles "who do not eat any living creature," but concluded, "And so I too say to you: if you wish to be perfect, it is good not to drink wine and eat flesh."
 
"Thanks be to God!" wrote John Wesley, founder of Methodism, to the Bishop of London in 1747. "Since the time I gave up the use of flesh-meats and wine, I have been delivered from all physical ills." Wesley was a vegetarian for spiritual reasons as well. He based his vegetarianism on the Biblical prophecies concerning the Kingdom of Peace, where "on the new earth, no creature will kill, or hurt, or give pain to any other." He further taught that animals "shall receive an ample amends for all their present sufferings."
 
Wesley's teachings placed an emphasis on inner religion and the effect of the Holy Spirit upon the consciousness of such followers. Wesley taught that animals will attain heaven: in the "general deliverance" from the evils of this world, animals would be given "vigor, strength and swiftness...to a far higher degree than they ever enjoyed."
 
Wesley urged parents to educate their children about compassion towards animals. He wrote: "I am persuaded you are not insensible of the pain given to every Christian, every humane heart, by those savage diversions, bull-baiting, cock-fighting, horse-racing, and hunting."
 
The Bible Christian Church was a 19th century movement teaching vegetarianism, abstinence from wine, and compassion for animals. The church began in England in 1800, requiring all its members to take vows of abstinence from meat and wine. One of its first converts, William Metcalfe (1788-1862), immigrated to Philadelphia in 1817 with forty-one followers to establish a church in America. Metcalfe cited numerous biblical references to support his thesis that humans were meant to follow a vegetarian diet for reasons of health and compassion for animals.
 
10. The Biblical Tradition Condemns Gambling
 
Although gambling is not explicitly forbidden in the Bible, it does prey upon the individual’s desire for worldly riches. This desire for immediate wealth and self-aggrandizement is contrary to the spirit of New Testament teaching.
 
Jesus taught the multitudes to seek the eternal treasures in heaven rather than pursue temporary, earthly gain. He insisted upon the self-sacrifice and renunciation of earthly possessions and family ties and duties. (Matthew 6:19-21, 6:24-34, 8:21-22, 10:34-39, 19:20-21,29; Luke 9:57-62, 12:51-53, 14:25-26,33; James 5:1-3)
 
Jesus had no interest in worldly disputes over income and property. (Luke 12:13-14) He taught that life is meant for more than the accumulation of material goods. He condemned those who lay up treasures for themselves, but are not rich towards God. (Luke 12:15-21) In his parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man, Jesus expressed concern for materialistic persons (Luke 16:19-31).
 
Jesus taught that it is hard for those attached to earthly riches to enter the kingdom of God. (Matthew 19:16-24; Mark 10:17-23; Luke 18:18-25) His apostles lead lives of voluntary poverty; sharing their possessions with one another. Those among the brethren who did not do so were condemned. (Acts 2:44, 5:1-11)
 
"He who loves his life will lose it," taught Jesus, "and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life...For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?" (Matthew 16:26; Mark 8:36; Luke 9:25; John 12:25)
 
In Paul’s words:
 
"Piety with contentment is great gain indeed; for we brought nothing into the world and, obviously, we can carry nothing out. When we have food and clothing, we shall be content with these.
 
"Those who are eager to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into numerous thoughtless and hurtful cravings that plunge people into destruction and ruin.
 
"For the love of money is the root of all evil. In striving for it, some have wandered away from the faith...But you, O man of God, shun these things and go after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness."
 
- I Timothy 6:6-11
 
Although a representative of the Catholic church once said, "There is no eleventh commandment against gambling," conservative Protestants have traditionally taken a dim view.  
 
"I find it impossible even in my weakest moments," wrote Richard Emrich in the Christian Century, "when the financial needs of the church are most pressing, to imagine St. John, St. Paul, or St. Peter running a bingo party or our Lord sending out his disciples to sell chances.  
 
"And I shudder at the thought that some young person might say, "It's all right to gamble.  We do it at church."
 
The Puritans of Massachusetts enacted America’s first law against gambling in 1638. In 1682, the Quakers in Pennsylvania passed their own law against gambling and "such like enticing, vain, and evil sports and games."
 
During the period from 1830 to 1860, lotteries were banned across America. By 1908, nearly every state in the nation had banned horse racing.
 
Neil Reagan, older brother to Ronald Reagan, once said of his younger brother, "I don't think he ever saw the inside of a pool hall," indicating that even in mainstream secular American society, gambling carries with it a shady connotation.
 
Again: the biblical tradition opposes gambling, but this is an implied idea, not clearly spelled out in Scripture.
 
This is true of the pro-life position and many other moral positions taken by differing denominations.
 
11. All Religions Teach Sexual Restraint
 
Shaking a finger at one person and admonishing him or her with, "Right now," "dog," "that, too...", etc. while looking the other way at or glorifying teenage sex IS inconsistent, if not hypocritical. 
 
Christians must not resort to intellectual and theological dishonesty!
 
At a pro-life demonstration years ago, when Father Frank Pavone of Priests For Life asked Alveda King, the niece of Dr. Martin Luther King if the pro-life demonstrations were comparable to the civil rights movement, she replied, "Father, this IS the civil rights movement!"
 
If protecting unborn children is a noble cause and calling, a just and religious cause, like the civil rights movement, why should pro-lifers have to resort to lies and deception?
 
The Ten Commandments warn against bearing false witness.
 
Jesus, in his Sermon on the Mount, said: "Let your word 'yes' be yes and your 'no,' no. Anything beyond this is from the evil one."
 
(Isn't Satan known as a deceiver?)
 
Even the apostle Paul, who taught a completely different theology than that of Jesus, condemned dishonesty (Colossians 3:13).
 
The apostle Paul said, "If anyone has confidence in the Law, I am ahead of him."
 
Does that mean Paul places himself ahead of Jesus, who repeatedly upheld the Law (Matthew 5:17-19; Mark 10:17-22; Luke 16:17), as did his apostles (see chapters 10, 15 and 21 of Acts)? 
 
If Christians aren't even following the moral instructions Paul gives throughout his epistles, if they aren't even following Paul, then no one's going to take them seriously, what to speak of putting them ahead of Jesus!
 
Boy, they "believe"!
 
Paul quotes Jesus as having said to him three times, "my grace is sufficient for thee." (II Corinthians 12:8-9) Christians sometimes misinterpret this verse to mean they're free to do as they please—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)
 
The apostle Paul wrote in I Corinthians Chapter 7:
 
"It is good for a man not to touch a woman, but because of prevailing immoralities, let every man have his own wife and let every woman have her own husband.
 
"The husband must render to his wife the obligations that are due her, and similarly the wife to her husband...
 
"Do not deprive each other, except by mutual agreement for a time to devote yourselves unhindered by prayer; and come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you on account of your lack of self-control."
 
(The apostle Paul's words here suggest regulated or restricted sexual activity, even within marriage!)
 
"I say this by way of concession, not as a regulation. I wish all were as I am (celibate), but each person has his own gift from God, the one in this direction, the other in that.
 
"To the single and the widows, I say that it is good for them to remain as I am (celibate); but if they cannot restrain their passions, let them marry, for it is better to marry than to be consumed by passion.
 
"To the married couples I command -- not really I but the Lord -- that the wife must not leave her husband; and in case she does separate, she must either stay single or make up with her husband. And the husband must not divorce his wife.
 
"...if the unbeliever wants to separate, let there be separation..." 
 
(Jesus forbade divorce, except in the case of unfaithfulness. And here we see Paul forbidding divorce, except in the case of an unbeliever demanding separation!)
 
"Regarding the unmarried I have no divine injunction, but as one who has received mercy from the Lord to be trustworthy, I give my opinion... it is good for a person to remain in his present situation. 
 
"Are you united to a wife? do not seek release. Are you unattached to a woman? Do not seek a wife. But in case you marry, you do not sin; nor does the unmarried woman sin if she marries...
 
"The single person is concerned with the Lord's affairs, how to please the Lord, but the married person is concerned with things of the world, how to please his wife; he has divided interests.
 
"The unmarried woman or the virgin is interested in the Lord's affairs, that she may be dedicated to Him in body and spirit; but the married woman is concerned with things of the world, how she may please her husband."
 
"I mention this for your own good, not to throw a rope around you but to promote proper behavior and undisturbed devotion to the Lord."
 
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 Timothy 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)
 
The late Reverend Janet Regina Hyland (1933 - 2007), author of God's Covenant with Animals (it's available through People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA) says Christians citing "three times..." are quoting Paul out of context. Paul 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)
 
Regina Hyland said this verse indicates it's possible for one to lose one's salvation (a serious point of contention among born agains!).
 
Christians who focus only on II Corinthians 12:8-9 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?! 
 
Boy, not all Christians are pro-life! Couldn't pro-choice Christians cite "three times..." to justify their right to abortion?!
 
The traditional interpretation of II Corinthians 12:8-9 is that Paul 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 throughout his epistles?
 
Reverend Frank Hoffman, a retired pro-life vegan Methodist minister, and owner of the www.all-creatures.org Christian vegan website says he agrees with the traditional interpretation. 
 
12. Belief in reincarnation IS compatible with Western spirituality!
 
There are many passages throughout the Old Testament which speak of death with finality, and make no mention of an afterlife. "Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return," said the Lord to Adam and Eve in Genesis 3:17. Humans lost a physical immortality, and there is no mention of existence beyond the body.
 
Psalm 49:12 says man is like the animals that perish. Psalm 103:15 says mans' days are like the grass or a flower of the field. Psalm 115:17 says, "The dead do not praise the Lord, nor any who go down into silence." According to Psalm 143:3, those long dead "dwell in darkness." 
 
The Book of Ecclesiastes (3:19-20) says men are like beasts; "as one dieth, so dieth the other," that man "hath no pre-eminence above a beast"; "all go into one place; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again." 
 
Job (6:18) teaches that there is no existence after death; men "go to nothing, and perish," and "he that goeth down to the grave shall come up no more." (7:9)
 
Reincarnationist thought, nonetheless, has found its way into Judaism. The Pythagoreans, Neoplatonists, Hindus, Buddhists and Jains have all forbidden animal slaughter at various times in human history because of a belief in transmigration of souls and, consequently, the equality of all living beings. The doctrine of reincarnation is taught in the Kabbala, or mystical Judaic tradition, and was used to advocate ethical vegetarianism in Sedeh Hermed -- a huge, talmudic encyclopedia authored by Rabbi Hayyim Hezekiah Medini (1837-1904).
 
In Wheels of a Soul, Rabbi Phillip S. Berg, a renowned contemporary Kabbalist, explains: 
 
"...the concept of reincarnation is by no means exclusive to Judaism. The idea was prevalent among Indians on the American continent; and in the Orient, the teaching of reincarnation is widespread and influential. It is the basis of most of the philosophical systems of India, where hundreds of millions accept the truth of reincarnation the way we accept the truth of gravity--as a great natural and inevitable law that only a fool would question."
 
According to Rabbi Jacob Shimmel: "We are reborn until we reach perfection in following the Torah...In Hebrew, reincarnation is called gilgul, and there is a whole section of the Kabbala entitled Sefer HaGilgulim. This deals with details in regard to reincarnation.
 
One remarkable figure from this mystical school of Jewish thought is Rabbi Isaac Luria (1534-72). Born in Jerusalem, he became a brilliant student, noted for his intelligence, logic and reasoning abilities. By the age of 15, Luria had surpassed all the sages in Egypt in his understanding of talmudic law.
 
With a thirst for higher knowledge, he studied the Zohar and the Kabbala. For seven years, he lived as an ascetic on the banks of the Nile River; fasting often, seeing his wife only on the Sabbath, and merely for brief conversation, if necessary. During this time, he experienced many strange voices and ecstatic visions.
 
At times, the prophet Elijah appeared to teach him the secrets of the Torah. Luria later went to Safed (in Palestine) and became the spiritual master of the community of mystics there. He taught that the good souls in heaven could be brought down to inhabit human bodies.
 
Luria saw spirits everywhere. He heard them whispering in the rushing water of rivers, in the movement of trees, in the wind and in the songs of birds. He could see the soul of a man leave the body at the time of death. Intimate conversations were often held with the souls of past figures in the Bible, the talmudic sages and numerous respected rabbis.
 
Luria's disciples said he could perform exorcisms and miracles and speak the language of animals. They wrote: "Luria could read faces, look into the souls of men, recognize that souls migrated from body to body. He could tell you what commandment a man had fulfilled and what sins he had committed since youth."
 
****
 
Is reincarnationist thought compatible with Christianity? The first books of the Bible speak of man as a physical being, formed from the dust and then infused with a divine "breath of life." New Testament writings, however, describe the individual as a spiritual being, clothed in an earthly body of flesh.
 
The New Testament distinguishes between the carnal and the spiritual. “It is the Spirit that giveth the body life,” taught Jesus, “the flesh profit nothing.” (John 6:63)
 
Paul taught Jesus had both an earthly and a spiritual nature (Romans 1:3), and referred to his own spiritual self. (Romans 1:9)
 
The spirit is a prisoner to sin and the flesh in a body doomed to death. (Romans 7:18-24) Christians are to behave in a spiritually, rather than in a fleshly way. (Romans 8:4; 13:14; I Peter 2:11)
 
The desires of the Spirit and those of the flesh are opposed to one another. (Galatians 5:13,16-17)
 
Christians have “crucified the flesh with its passions and desires;” they “live by the Spirit” and are “directed by the Spirit.” (Galatians 5:19-26)
 
To be carnally minded is to die. One must transcend one's lower, bodily nature. (Rom. 8:5-14) Saving the spirit of an individual differs from the destruction of the person’s flesh. (I Corinthians 5:5)
 
God’s kingdom is not carnal, but spiritual:
 
“...flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, neither does the perishable inherit the imperishable...For this perishable must put on imperishability and this mortal must put on immortality. (I Corinthians 15:50,53)
 
The body is like a lump of clay. (Romans 9:21; II Corinthians 4:7) The body decays, but the self is renewed in spiritual life. (II Corinthians 4:16-17)
 
The body is a temporary tent in which the spirit resides; the spirits of the faithful will soon be clothed in everlasting, heavenly bodies. (II Corinthians 5:1-3)
 
The spirit resides inside a body of flesh. (II Corinthians 10:3) To identify with the body is to be absent from the Lord. (II Corinthians 5:8-10)
 
Paul wrote of being “caught up as far as the third heaven...whether in the body or out of the body I do not know...” (II Corinthians 12:2-3)
 
Being with Christ differs from remaining “in the body;” one’s self is separate from the physical body. (Philippians 1:21-24)
 
Christians are to set their sights on heavenly, not earthly things, and to put to death their earthly nature. (Colossians 3:1-5)
 
The flesh decays, but the word of God is eternal. (I Peter 2:23-25) To love this world is to alienate oneself from God’s love, because the passions of this world are temporary. (I John 2:15-17) This world belongs to the devil (II Corinthians 4:4); this present world is evil (Galatians 1:4).
 
God rewards each individual according to his deeds. (Romans 2:6) One reaps what one sows. (II Corinthians 9:6; Galatians 6:7) Some souls remain entangled in decaying flesh, while others turn to the Spirit.
 
“The one who sows for his own flesh will harvest ruin from his flesh; while the one who sows for the Spirit will harvest eternal life from the Spirit.” (Galatians 6:8)
 
A kernel of spirit is placed in a body:
 
“...God gives it a body as He plans, and to each seed its particular body. All flesh is not the same; but one kind is human, another is animal, another is fowl, and another fish.” (I Corinthians 15:38-39)
 
The New Testament also distinguishes between earthly bodies and heavenly bodies:
 
“There are heavenly bodies and also earthly bodies; but the radiance of the heavenly is one kind and that of the earthly is another kind.” (I Corinthians 15:40)
 
Resurrection in the New Testament is not the Old Testament doctrine of the reassembling of dust into living bodies, but rather, the clothing of the spirit with a new body; the placing of a kernel of spirit into a new body, from where its existence continues.
 
The New Testament emphasizes the distinction between the soul and the body, the clothing of the soul with a new body, and the eternal nature of the soul and its relationship to God versus the temporary nature of the flesh and the material world.
 
These concepts can all be found in the doctrine of reincarnation.
 
****
 
During the second century, Justin Martyr, in his Dialogue with Trypho, taught that the soul inhabits more than one body in its earthly sojourn.
 
He even suggested that those who lead carnal lives and thus deprive themselves of the capacity to serve God may be reborn as beasts.
 
The earliest Christians who taught the pre-existence of the soul came to be known as the "pre-existiani." Clement of Alexandria wrote with interest about what he called metensomatosis.
 
"...we have existed from the beginning," wrote Clement in his Stromata, "for in the beginning was the Logos...Not for the first time does (the Logos) show pity on us in our wanderings; he pitied us from the beginning."
 
Origen (185-254), was one of the fathers of the early Christian church, and its most accomplished biblical scholar. His influence upon the early church was second only to that of Augustine.
 
Origen taught that God creates spirits, and all spirits are created equal. All are endowed with free will. Some fall into sin, becoming demons, or imprisoned in bodies. This process of growth or retardation is continuous.
 
A human being, at the time of death, may become an angel or a demon. Origen gave a highly allegorical interpretation of Genesis and the Fall from paradise.
 
Origen held that the various orders of living creatures in the world corresponded to the varying degrees of perfection and imperfection.
 
All of God's children are created free and equal, but received their present condition "as rewards or punishments for the manner in which they used their free will."
 
Therefore, "as befits the degree of (the soul's) fall into evil, it is clothed with the body of this or that irrational animal."
 
Writing in the third century, he explained: "
 
By some inclination toward evil, certain souls...come into bodies, first of men; then through their association with the irrational passions, after the allotted span of human life, they are changed into beasts, from which they sink to the level of...plants.
 
"From this condition they rise again through the same stages and are restored to their heavenly place."
(De Principiis, Book III, Chapter 5)
 
According to Origen, God sent forth Christ to bring about the redemption of all souls; a salvation so universal, even the demons will be saved. "The purified spirit will be brought home; it will no longer rebel; it will acquiesce in its lot."
 
Origen based his theology upon passages from Scripture. The prophet Elijah lived in the 9th century B.C. Elijah never died, but was lifted up into heaven. (II Kings 2:11) In the closing lines of the Old Testament, Malachi recorded the prophecy: "Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord." (Malachi 3:1, 4:5) Elijah would precede the Messiah.
 
When the disciples asked Jesus about the prophecy that Elijah must precede the Messiah, Jesus replied, "Elijah will come indeed and will restore all things. But I tell you that Elijah has already come and they did not recognize him, but have done to him as they pleased." The disciples then realized he was talking about John the Baptist. (Matthew 17:9-13) 
 
Jesus even told the multitudes, "It is he (John) of whom it is written, ‘Behold I send My messenger ahead of you, who will prepare the road before you’...If you will accept it, this is Elijah who was to come." (Matthew 11:10,14; Luke 7:27)
 
Many in Jesus’ day believed him to be the reincarnation of an Old Testament prophet. In Matthew 16:13-14, when Jesus asked his disciples, "Who do men say that I am?" they replied, "Some say John the Baptist; others, Elijah; others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets." 
 
Similarly, in Luke 9:18-19, when Jesus asked, "Who do the crowds say that I am?" his disciples respond, "John the Baptist; but some say Elijah, and others that one of the old prophets has risen again."
 
Mark 16:14-16 records King Herod saying of Jesus, "John the Baptist is risen from the dead, and therefore these miracles are being done by him." Others said, "He is Elijah," while still others believed, "He is a prophet like one of the prophets of old."
 
Tertullian, one of the earliest of the Latin Fathers of the Christian Church, vehemently attacked any and all reincarnationist interpretations of Scripture. His attacks indicate the widespread influence of reincarnationist thought upon Christianity at the time.
 
Tertullian took the position that the above passages do not presuppose reincarnation. Since Elijah was lifted into heaven (II Kings 2:11), he never died. His appearance as John the Baptist was not reincarnation, but a return visit. However the Gospel of Luke (1:5-25,57-80) indicates that Elijah did not return to earth as a mature man, but was miraculously reconceived and reborn as John the Baptist.
 
Origen remarked that the fact that the Jews specifically asked John the Baptist if he was Elijah (John 1:21) indicated "that they believed in metensomatosis, as a doctrine inherited from their ancestors and therefore in no way in conflict with the secret teachings of their masters."
 
In the Fourth Gospel, Jesus and his disciples encounter a man who had been blind from his birth. The disciples asked, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents? Why was he born blind?"
 
Since reincarnation was a widespread belief during the time of Jesus, (as were beliefs in apocalypses, judgement day, heaven, hell and resurrection), one cannot help but wonder if the disciples had reincarnation in mind. For if the man had been born blind, he could not have committed the sin in his present life.
 
Jesus did not reject the notion of pre-existence as a solution to the problem of evil. He merely replied that this man was afflicted so that "the works of God should be displayed in him," and that it was their duty to practice the works of a merciful God. (John 9:4)
 
On another occasion, Simon (Peter) said to Jesus, "Look, we have given up everything and have followed you..." 
 
Jesus replied: "I assure you, there is no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mothers or father or children or fields on account of me and the gospel, but will receive a hundred times over now in this age homes and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and fields, along with persecutions; and in the world to come, eternal life." (Matthew 19:27,29; Mark 10:28-31; Luke 18:28-30)
 
It's hard to imagine these rewards—including hundreds of relatives, parents and children—being fulfilled in one brief lifetime.
 
"So where to now St. Peter?
"If it's true I'm in your hands?
 
"I may not be a Christian
"But I've done all one man can
 
"I understand I'm on the road
"Where all that was is gone
 
"So where to now St. Peter?
"Show me which road I'm on
 
"Which road I'm on..."
 
--Elton John, "Where to Now, St. Peter?" (1970)
 
In the 3rd century, Chalcidius taught, "Souls who have failed to unite themselves with God, are compelled by the law of destiny to begin a new kind of life, entirely different from their former, until they repent of their sins."
 
Arnobius (A.D. 290) said, "We die many times, and often do we rise from the dead." (Adversus Gentes)
 
St. Gregory of Nyssa (257-332) taught, "It is absolutely necessary that the soul should be healed and purified, and if this does not take place during its life on earth it must be accomplished in future lives." (Great Catechism)
 
St. Jerome (340-420), wrote in Epistola ad Demetriadem, that "The doctrine of transmigration has been secretly taught from ancient times to small numbers of people, as a traditional truth which was not to be divulged."
 
In his Confessions, St. Augustine (354-430) prayed, "Say, Lord to me...say, did my infancy succeed another age of mine that died before it? Was it that which I spent within my mother's womb?...and what before that life again, O God my joy, was I anywhere or in any body?"
 
Synesius, Bishop of Ptolemais (370-430), wrote in his Treatise On Dreams:
 
"Philosophy speaks of souls being prepared by a course of transmigrations... When first it comes down to earth, it (the soul) embarks on this animal spirit as on a boat, and through it is brought into contact with matter...
 
"The soul which did not quickly return to the heavenly region from which it was sent down to earth had to go through many lives of 'wandering.'"
 
Although belief in reincarnation was widespread in early Christianity, orthodoxy prevailed. The doctrine of reincarnation never really caught on, in part, because of the apocalyptic mood of the early church. The Second Coming of Christ and the resurrection of the dead were thought to be imminent.
 
During the fourth century, Origen became an easy target for ecclesiastical authorities seeking victory in power struggles with other theological factions within the Christian church.
 
Under circumstances that to this day remain shrouded in mystery, the Byzantine emperor Justinian in AD 553 banned the teachings of pre-existence from what had by then become the Roman Catholic Church. During that era, numerous Church writings were destroyed.
 
The doctrine of reincarnation was forced underground, but persistently appeared in sects such as the Cathari, the Paulicians, and the Bogomils.
 
The Cathari (who were also vegetarian) taught that the reason we are on earth in the first place is we are fallen souls forced to be repeatedly incarcerated in bodies, and must seek salvation from transmigrating from one body to another.  The Cathari saw Christ as the means of divine redemption from the wheel of death and rebirth.
 
Dr. Geddes MacGregor, Professor of Philosophy and Religion, and author of over twenty books, believes reincarnation is compatible with the Christian faith.
 
According to Dr. MacGregor: "Reincarnation is, of course, a kind of resurrection. Great importance was attached by Christian theologians, however, to the notion of the resurrection of the 'same body' that we now have, though in a glorified form.
 
"The so-called Athanasian Creed affirms that all men shall rise again with their bodies...and a council held at the Lateran... asserted that all shall rise again with their own bodies...
 
"...such very Latin teaching about a carnis resurrectio does not seem to fit Paul's teaching in the New Testament, which is that the body is to be of a new order... not otherwise recognizable as the same body as the one on earth.
 
"The curious notion of the revivification of the material particles of the body does not arise in St. Paul."
 
Dr. MacGregor explains that conflicting theological and scriptural accounts of the afterlife have caused many, including regular churchgoers, not to concern themselves with such affairs.
 
Many Christian theologians have discouraged "idle speculation" on the afterlife. Luther recognized the theological difficulties, while Calvin, in a commentary on I Corinthians 13:12, questioned his own doctrine of the eternality of the soul.
 
According to Calvin, Paul intentionally gave no details on the subject, since details "could not help our piety."
 
Dr. MacGregor suggests, however, that just as we have ceased to take literally Archbishop Ussher's biblical concept of a 6,000 year old universe, so also might reincarnation be consistent with a more enlightened world view.
 
During the Renaissance, a new flowering of public interest in reincarnation emerged. One of the prominent figures in this revival was Italy's leading philosopher and poet Giordano Bruno.
 
Bruno had entered the Dominican Order at the age of fifteen. As a scholar, Bruno upheld the Copernican world view, that the Sun -- and not the earth -- is the center of our cosmos, teaching that there are an infinity of worlds and that many are inhabited.
 
Galileo had announced other worlds and Giordano Bruno spoke of other life forms. Bruno believed there are no privileged reference frames for viewing the universe; the universe looks essentially the same from wherever one happens to view it. Bruno taught that at death the soul passes out of one body and enters into another.
 
Because of his teachings, Bruno was ultimately brought before the Inquisition. In his profession of faith before the Inquisition, Bruno acknowledged that, speaking as a Catholic, he must say that the soul at death goes directly to heaven, hell or purgatory.
 
However, Bruno insisted that as a philosopher who had given much thought to the question, he found it reasonable that since the soul is different from the body, yet is never found apart from the body, it passes from one body to another, as Pythagoras had taught 2,000 years before.
 
In his final answers to the charges brought against him, Bruno defiantly responded that the soul "is not the body" and that "it may be in one body or in another, and pass from body to body."
 
Giordano Bruno was eventually burned at the stake in Rome on February 17, 1600. His teachings influenced 17th century philosophers such as Leibniz and Spinoza.
 
"Has it occurred to you that transmigration is at once an explanation and a justification of the evil of the world?" wrote W. Somerset Maugham in The Razor's Edge.
 
"If the evils we suffer are the result of sins committed in our past lives, we can bear them with resignation and hope that if in this one we strive toward virtue our future lives will be less afflicted."
 
Sir William Jones, a Christian missionary who helped introduce East Indian philosophy to Europe in the 18th century, wrote:
 
"I am no Hindu, but I hold the doctrine of the Hindus concerning a future state (reincarnation) to be incomparably more rational, more pious, and more likely to deter men from vice than the horrid opinions inculcated by Christians on punishment without end."
 
In his monumental book, The Story of Christian Origins, secular historian Dr. Martin A. Larson notes that according to Hindu, Buddhist, and Pythagorean doctrine, "hell itself was actually a kind of purgatory, since it was a place in which perhaps a majority of all people underwent repeated refinement and punishment," before being reborn as a plant, animal, or human being.
 
Examining the concept of eternal damnation, Dr. Geddes MacGregor concludes:
 
"It is no wonder that purgatory seemed by comparison, despite its anguish, a demonstration of God's mercy. Purgatory is indeed a far more intelligible concept, in the light of what the Bible says about the nature of God. Even the crassest forms of purgatory suggest moral and spiritual evolution.
 
"Surely, too, even countless rebirths as a beggar lying in misery and filth on the streets of Calcutta would be infinitely more reconcilable to the Christian concept of God than is the traditional doctrine of everlasting torture in hell.
 
"The appeal of reincarnationism to anyone nurtured on hell-fire sermons and tracts is by no means difficult to understand."
 
Archbishop Passavalli (1820-1897), a learned Roman Catholic archbishop accepted the teaching of reincarnation from two disciples of the Polish seer Towianski.
 
Archbishop Passavalli admitted that reincarnation is not condemned by the Church, and that it is not in conflict with any Catholic dogma.
 
Another Catholic priest who came to believe in reincarnation was Edward Dunski, whose Letters were published in 1915.
 
Many other priests in Poland and Italy have believed in reincarnation, influenced by the great mystic Andrzej Towianski (1799-1878).
 
In her autobiography, A Servant of the Queen, Maude Gonne wrote that when a priest asked her why she was not a Catholic, and she replied, "Because I believe in reincarnation," she was told:
 
"The soul comes from God and returns to God when purified, when all things will become clear; and who can tell the stages of its purification? It may be possible that some souls work out their purification on this earth."
 
The Reverend Alvin Hart, an Episcopal priest in New York, says, "In the Second Letter of Peter, the word exitus ('exit' or 'a way out') is used for 'dying.' The expression implies that something does exist which at death goes away, or 'exits' the body.
 
"Reincarnation would explain a great many things--such as just where the soul goes after death. After all, it is unlikely that a merciful God would send a sinner to 'hell' after just one birth into this...world...It takes time...
 
"Reincarnation was also accepted by many philosophers in the early church. To my way of thinking it is a logical explanation of what happens at the time of death. Reincarnation is an acceptable answer."
 
****
 
The doctrine of reincarnation first fell into disfavor in the early church beginning with Augustine, who wrote: "Let these Platonists stop threatening us with reincarnation as punishment for our souls. Reincarnation is ridiculous. There is no such thing as a return to this life for the punishment of souls..."
 
As a result of this thinking, Western theology has been unable to resolve the 'problem of evil.' Why does a merciful and omnipotent God allow suffering and injustice? Why, for example, are some people born handicapped, or into poverty, while others are born into wealth and privilege?
 
The reincarnationist explanation is karma: we reap what we sow. We are suffering and enjoying according to the deeds we committed in innumerable previous lifetimes, and our deeds in this present lifetime dictate our future -- in 8,400,000 different species of life. 
 
Rabbi Harold S. Kushner caused a theological controversy back in the early 1980s, with his book, When Bad Things Happen to Good People. Kushner's solution to the 'problem of evil' is that God is not omnipotent! There are limits to His power. God is just as outraged as we are at the injustices in the world, but there's nothing He can do to stop them.
 
Asking millions of synagogue-and-church-and-mosque going Americans to take up an Eastern religion, worship a long-haired, flute-playing, blue God, and believe in karma and reincarnation may sound crazy and radical, but we now find mainstream Americans doing something even more radical: they are becoming worshipers of God-the-not-Almighty.
 
Brother Ron Pickarski, a vegan chef and Franciscan monk, said in an interview in historian Rynn Berry's 1998 book, Food for the Gods: Vegetarianism & the World's Religions, he believes Christianity will one day embrace reincarnation and vegetarianism. 
 
As for scientific proof of reincarnation: research by credible scientists into mind-body dualism suggests it is a real possibility. These include the research on near-death experiences by Dr. Michael Sabom, a cardiologist and professor at Emory University, and the past life memory research of Dr. Ian Stevenson, Carlson professor of psychiatry at the University of Virginia.
 
13. Belief in Other Incarnations of God is Consistent with Biblical Tradition
 
Whether or not Jesus is God or an empowered representative serving on God's behalf (which is closer to the Judaic concept of the messiah) and was later deified by his followers, is subject to debate.  In Acts 2:22, Peter refers to Jesus as a "man certified by God."  The doctrine of the godhood of Jesus is questionable.  (Matthew 12:18, 27:46; Mark 13:32; Luke 23:46; John 14:2, 17:21; Acts 2:22, 3:13).  
 
Yes, Jesus says, "The Father and I are one" (John 10:30), but he also prays with his disciples, "As You and I are one, let them (the disciples) also be one in us" (John 17:21), implying this "oneness" is a relationship others may also experience.  The biblical phrase about Jesus sitting at the right hand of God would also be meaningless if there were not two distinct individuals--God and Jesus:  the Lord and His servant.  
 
Dr. Victor Paul Wierwille, founder of The Way International, wrote an entire book on the subject, entitled:  Jesus Christ is not God.
 
In his 1983 essay "A Jewish Encounter with the Bhagavad-gita," Harold Kasimow discusses ideas "which seem totally incompatible with the Jewish tradition. The most striking example is the doctrine of incarnation, a concept which is as central to the Gita as it is to Christianity. According to the Gita, Krishna is an incarnation (avatar), or appearance of God in human form.
 
"A study of the Jewish response to the Christian doctrine of incarnation shows that Jews, and I may add, Muslims have not been able to reconcile this idea with their own scriptural notion of God."  
 
The existence of other sons of God--other messiahs and other incarnations of God--has been dealt with by one of the 20th century's leading Protestant theologians. Paul Tillich wrote in a 1978 essay, "Redemption of Other Worlds":
 
"...a question arises which has been carefully avoided by many traditional theologians...It is the problem of how to understand the meaning of the symbol 'Christ' in light of the immensity of the universe...the infinitely small part of the universe which man and his history constitute, and the possibility of other 'worlds' in which divine self-manifestations may appear and be received.
 
"Such developments become especially important if one considers that biblical and related expectations envisaged the coming of the Messiah within a cosmic frame. The universe will be reborn into a new eon. The function of the bearer of the New Being is not only to save individuals and to transform man's historical existence but to renew the universe. And the assumption is that mankind and individual men are so dependent on the powers of the universe, that salvation of the one without the other is unthinkable."
 
In other words, given the vastness of the universe and the possibility of other worlds, how can the divine incarnation on this small speck of dust be understood on a cosmic scale?
 
Tillich sees the basic answer to such questions "in the concept of essential man appearing in a personal life under the conditions of existential estrangement (from God)... The man...represents human history...he creates the meaning of human history. It is the eternal relation of God to man which is manifest in the Christ. At the same time, our basic answer leaves the universe open for possible divine manifestations in other areas or periods of being.
 
"Such possibilities cannot be denied. But they cannot be proved or disproved. Incarnation is unique for the special group in which it happens, but it is not unique in the sense that other singular incarnations for other unique worlds are excluded.
 
"Man cannot claim that the infinite has entered the finite to overcome its existential estrangement in mankind alone. Man cannot claim to occupy the only possible place for Incarnation. Although statements about other worlds and God's relation to them cannot be verified experientially, they are important because they help to interpret the meaning of terms like 'mediator,' 'savior,' 'Incarnation,' 'the Messiah,' and ; 'the new eon.'
 
"Perhaps one can go a step further. The interdependence of everything with everything else in the totality of being includes a participation of nature in history and demands a participation of the universe in salvation.
 
"Therefore, if there are non-human 'worlds' in which existential estrangement is not only real--as it is in the whole universe--but in which there is also a type of awareness of this estrangement, such worlds cannot be without the operation of saving power within them. Otherwise self-destruction would be the inescapable consequence.
 
"The manifestation of saving power in one place implies that saving power is operating in all places. The expectation of the Messiah as the bearer of the New Being presupposes that 'God loves the universe,' even though in the appearance of the Christ He actualizes this love for historical man alone."
 
Within the framework of Christian theology, then, Tillich sees the possibility of other incarnations of God on other worlds, as well as the salvation of nonhumans. This theology is almost Hindu in thought, recognizing that God has indeed incarnated many times, and on many different worlds, in many different universes. According to Hindu thought, there are billions of worlds and universes, endlessly being created and destroyed in time cycles lasting billions of years.
 
Today, our world is one. Nations are globally connected, as never before in human history. This was not the case two thousand years ago, where Palestine, China and South America were--for all intents and purposes--separate worlds. Tillich's theology also opens up the possibility of nonhuman--even animal--spirituality.
 
The Reverend Alvin Hart, an Episcopal priest in New York, says that John 14:6 is often mistranslated. The original Greek--ego emi ha hodos kai ha alatheia kai ha zoa; oudeis erkatai pros ton patera ei ma di emou--should read "I am the way, the truth, and the life, and none of you are coming to the Father except through me."
 
According to Reverend Hart, "...the key word here is erketai. This is an extremely present-tense form of the verb...You see? In Palestine, two thousand years ago, Jesus was the guru. If he wanted to say that he would be the teacher for all time, he would have used a word other than erkatai, but he didn't."
 
Dr. Boyd Daniels of the American Bible Society concurs: "Oh, yes. The word erketai is definitely the present tense form of the verb. Jesus was speaking to his contemporaries."
 
Christian theologian Charles Camosy writes in his 2013 book, For Love of Animals:
 
"By the beginning of the Renaissance, this was an open topic for discussion. We have Roman Catholic cardinals like Nicholas of Cusa, for instance, being very explicit in saying, 'We surmise that none of the other regions of the stars is empty of inhabitants.'... The great philosopher and theologian Francisco Suarez... claimed that an incarnation of God could take place more than once and that the object of Christian love should be 'every rational creature.'"
 
According to the Book of Mormon, God Himself specifically refutes the misconception that He can only make Himself known to one particular people at one point in human history, and leave only one set of written scriptures:
 
"Know ye not that there are more nations than one? Know ye not that I, the Lord your God, have created all men, and that I remember those who are upon the isles of the sea; and that I rule in the heavens above and in the earth beneath; and i bring forth My word unto the children of men, yea, even upon all the nations of the earth? Wherefore, murmur ye, because that ye shall receive more of My word?
 
"Know ye that the testimony of two nations is a witness unto you that I am God, that I remember one nation like unto another? Wherefore, I speak the same words unto one nation like unto another. And when the two nations shall run together, the testimony of the two nations shall run together also...And because I have spoken one word ye need not suppose that I cannot speak another; for My work is not yet finished; neither shall it be until the end of man...
 
"Neither need ye suppose that I have not caused more to be written. For I command all men, both in the East and in the West, and in the North and in the South, and in the islands of the sea, that they shall write the words which I speak unto them. For out of the books that will be written I will judge the world..."
 
14. The Worship of Consecrated Images is not "Idolatry"
 
When the U.S. Senate invited a Hindu leader (Rajan Zed) to open a 2007 session with a prayer, David Barton objected, saying: “In Hindu [sic], you have not one God, but many, many, many, many, many gods. And certainly that was never in the minds of those who did the Constitution, did the Declaration when they talked about Creator.”
 
Dr. A.L. Basham, author of The Wonder That was India, explains: "...the old-fashioned type of missionary was quite certain that Hinduism was the work of the Devil, and hence that it was very evil. It did all the things which Christianity, especially Protestant Christianity, said you shouldn't do, such as image worship and the worship of many gods.
 
"Catholics were always much more tolerant of this sort of thing. Though he may be theoretically monotheistic, the simple Catholic will, to all intents and purposes, pray to quite a wide range of divinities, including the Blessed Virgin Mary and various important saints, often in the form of physical images.
 
"But Protestant Christianity was founded on the basis that there is one God only, divided into three persons, and that worship of images is sinful. To the Protestant of the old-fashioned kind, this was a terrible thing to do, almost as bad as it was to a traditional Jew or Muslim. So the missionaries, I think, are largely responsible for the polytheism stereotype and the 'caste-ridden' society stereotype."
 
In 1985, my friend Victor, who is Jewish, invited me to a Shabbat (Sabbath) observance with a group of Jewish students on our college campus. They were singing songs in Hebrew, and clapping hands -- almost like a Jewish kirtan (Hindu devotional chanting and dancing)!
 
I met a student who said she was interested in things like yoga and meditation, but was put off by the idea of worshiping images ("idols"). She was also skeptical of my assertion that according to Vedic cosmology, human civilization goes back millions of years: she told me she had taken a college course in Anthropology.
 
At one point, she equated the worshipping of images ("idols") with the pagan religions of ancient Greece and Rome, asking: "How can you (Hindus) worship images ("idols")--that's so Grecian!" I tried to shift the conversation towards deeper theological questions: "Does God have form?" "What does God look like?" Even Genesis 1:26-31 says man is made in the image of God!
 
A convert to Hinduism from a Jewish background, Satyaraja dasa, (Steven Rosen) argues that the Old Testament only condemns the making of mundane graven images and then likening such images to the Supreme Lord. He insists that there is no prohibition against worshipping the form of God Himself. Rabbi Jacob Shimmel admitted to Satyaraja that there have been schools of thought within Judaism which regard God as a Person, with a divine form, attributes, qualities and characteristics. 
 
They based their position on a literal interpretation of the Bible. The Hebrew phrase "zelem Elohim" means "the image of God." Exodus 24:10-12 and Numbers 12:8 also refer to seeing the image of God. God sits upon a throne (Isaiah 6:1); His hair is like wool (Daniel 7:9); and Moses saw His back (Exodus 33:23). In Isaiah 66:1, God says, "Heaven is My throne, and the earth is my footstool." In Ezekiel 1:26, God has a human form and sits upon a throne.
 
Moses Maimonides (1135-1204), Judaism's greatest theologian thus far, took the position that God is immeasurable, inconceivable, and therefore, incorporeal. Since the time of Maimonides, Judaism has been impersonal, seeing God only as an omnipresent Spirit (nirvesesha brahman). Maimonides regarded passages from the Bible like the ones above as anthropomorphical and metaphorical. However, one of his most outspoken critics, Abraham ben David of Posquiere, wrote that scholars once believed in the literal words of the Bible, and were convinced God was a Person, and they ascribed physical-like characteristics to the Deity.
 
Satyaraja's assertion that there is no prohibition in the Old Testament against worshiping the actual form of God Himself is problematic. The biblical prophets of the Old Testament routinely denounce idol worship, and the idolatry they attack is the worship of any kind of image whatsoever...Some of their denunciations, for example, refer to the idols of the neighboring heathen populations of the Israelites as gods that can neither walk nor speak, etc.
 
In Bhagavad-gita 12.1, Arjuna inquires of Lord Krishna: "Which are considered to be more perfect, those who are always properly engaged in Your devotional service or those who worship the impersonal Brahman, the unmanifested?"
 
Lord Krishna replies: "Those who fix their minds on My personal form and are always engaged in worshiping Me with great and transcendental faith are considered by Me to be most perfect." (Gita 12.2) The Lord goes on to say that those who worship the impersonal Brahman also come to Him, but, "For those whose minds are attached to the unmanifested, impersonal feature of the Supreme, advancement is very troublesome." Making progress in that discipline is harder. (Gita 12.3-5)
 
So the Bhagavad-gita says worship of the Lord in His personal form is higher than worshiping the impersonal Brahman. The Western religious traditions generally stress the impersonal aspect of God over the personal. Impersonalism is not condemned in the first few verses of chapter 12 of the Gita, it is merely regarded as incomplete and inferior to personal theism.
 
And this is the nature of Vedic civilization: to engage people from all walks of life, regardless of their station in life, and purify them in their souls' progress towards God. Whereas in the Ten Commandments, God says, "Thou shalt have no other gods before Me," in Bhagavad-gita, Lord Krishna merely dismisses demigod worship as "less intelligent" (Gita 7.23), even though He also classifies demigod worship as in the mode of goodness (Gita 17.4).
 
Much of Christianity and Islam's intolerance of other religions stems from Judaism, like the commandment against worshiping other gods, rather than merely dismissing it as an inferior form of worship, as Lord Krishna does in Bhagavad-gita.
 
Of course, as I've stated elsewhere, when I refer to "Hindu polytheism", I refer not to demigod worship, but to our concept of vishnu-tattva expansions. We worship a plural Godhead, similar to the Trinitarian conception of God, at the top of our pantheon, and even refer to the Deities (note that plural!) in the plural as "Them" or "Their Lordships".
 
This is foreign to the rigid monotheism of Judaism and Islam, but familiar to Trinitarian Christianity. Rabbi Shimmel even tells Satyaraja dasa that because of belief in a Trinity, Christianity cannot be considered a truly monotheistic religion. (I don't know what Rabbi Shimmel would make of the loving affairs of Radha and Krishna, the pastimes of Krishna and Balaram, etc.)
 
Father Raymundo Pannikar said: "It is within the heart that I embrace both religions (Hinduism and Christianity) in a personal synthesis, which intellectually may be more or less perfect... Religions meet in the heart rather than in the mind."
 
15. A strong spiritual regimen lies at the heart of Krishna Consciousness
 
Srila Prabhupada set down four principle vows, required of any student in devotional life who wished to become his disciple. 
 
(1) No meat-eating. 
(2) No intoxication—this proscription includes even mild substances like tobacco or caffeine. 
(3) No gambling. 
(4) No illicit sexual connections. Sex is permitted only within marriage and only with the intent of procreation. 
 
In addition to these four regulative principles, Srila Prabhupada called for 16 rounds of chanting God’s holy names on rosary-like beads. Such a regimen would not be uncommon in a Christian monastic community.
 
Compared to the demands Jesus made upon anyone wanting to become his disciple (Matthew 19:16-24; Mark 10:17-23; Luke 9:57-62, 14:25-26,33, 18:18-25), these four regulative principles are not at all unreasonable. The Western religious traditions also teach that the body is a temple of God, a vessel for the soul, which is to be sanctified and used for His glory, rather than for one’s own lust. Many religious conservatives and fundamentalists believe sex is meant only for procreation; they condemn fornication, homosexuality, birth control, divorce, etc.
 
Gambling, drugs, alcohol, and sexual immorality are denounced as evils in spiritual circles. Vegetarianism makes perfect sense in terms of human anatomy, nutrition, ethics, resources, environment, energy, and economics.
 
In the West, vegetarianism, or nonviolence towards animals, can be traced back to Pythagoras. It has been a way of life for Jewish mystics, Christian saints, and Christian monastic orders. The Bible teaches that God intended humans to be vegetarian. Biblical history begins (Genesis 1:29-31) and ends (Isaiah 11:6-9) in a kingdom where violence is unknown. Chanting on beads is a common form of prayer for Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox Christians, etc...
 
The apostles studied under Jesus. A disciplic line was started by Jesus beginning with Simon (Peter). Aquinas studied under Albertus Magnus. Writing in 1987, Dr. Larry Shinn explains:
 
"In his book Soul Friend, Kenneth Leech unfolds the often forgotten heritage of the spiritual director in the Christian tradition. He notes that the practice of submitting oneself to a spiritual guide was primarily a monastic or elitist one in both the Jewish and Christian traditions. There was the zaddik in later Hasidic communities and the abbot in the Roman Catholic monastery. For example, in the writings of the Christian desert fathers, the advice is given, ‘Go, attach yourself to a man who fears God...give up your will to him, and then you will receive consolation from God.’
 
"The contemporary Trappist monk Thomas Merton describes the Christian ‘spiritual father’ or ‘spiritual director’ as one who was set on fire by the Holy Spirit. According to Merton, such a person should be, above all else, a charismatic leader marked by complete devotion to God. Second, he should be a man of experience who has struggled with the realities of prayer and devotion in the midst of worldly life. Third, he must be a man of learning who is steeped in the scriptures. Fourth, the spiritual guide must be a man of discernment who has special perception and insight into the world and its limitations as well as into his pupil’s soul and its particular needs. Finally, such a guide must always be open to the direction of the Holy Spirit as the channel of God’s love and grace. Only a person marked with these special attributes can hope to help others ‘read the breathings of the spirit.’ The similarity of these criteria to those for the Krishna spiritual master is obvious.
 
"It is not surprising that the Krishnas’ chanting raises suspicions among worried parents or persons who are unaware of the Indian context out of which this practice comes. Chanting is one way of focusing the mind’s attention as Christian monks and nuns who practice the ‘Jesus Prayer’ know. Also, chanting in most theistic traditions does have as its goal a lessening of material and worldly attachments so that one becomes more attached to God than to oneself, one’s friends, or one’s family. However, only in the monastic traditions of Christianity is the admonition of Jesus to love God more than family really taken seriously (see Matthew 10:37-39).
 
Vaishnavas, like Christians, are not pantheistic, but dualistic. The Vaishnava theology makes a clear distinction between the paramatma (God, or higher self within one’s heart) and the jivatma (individual ego or consciousness): distinguishing between a personal God and His children. Like Christians, Vaishnavas also believe that souls in this world have fallen from grace, that this world is transitory, and that there is an inner conflict between one’s carnal and spiritual natures.
 
Srila Prabhupada drew an analogy between the biblical and Vaishnava teaching on the Fall from grace:
 
"When a living entity disobeys the orders of God, he is put into this material world, and that is his punishment...The real fact is that the living entity is eternal, and the material world is created to satisfy his false existence...The individual is thinking that he is independent and can act independent of God. That is the beginning of paradise lost, of Adam's fall.
 
"When Adam and Eve thought that they could do something independently, they were condemned. Every living entity is the eternal servant of God, and he must act according to the desire or will of the Supreme Lord. When he deviates from this principle, he is lost. Losing paradise, he comes into the material world...That is the process of transmigration, the rotation of the cycle of birth and death. This is all due to disobeying God...Having rebelled against the principles of God consciousness, we are cut off from our original position. We have fallen."
 
Following biblical tradition, St. Augustine made a distinction between the earthly and the heavenly, the flesh and bodily appetites versus the spirit and peace of the soul. Describing the predicament of the soul in a physical body in the material world, Augustine wrote:
 
"And so long as he is in this mortal body, he is a pilgrim in a foreign land, away from God; therefore he walks by faith, not by sight."
 
Augustine said the soul "needs divine direction, which he may obey with resolution, and divine assistance that he may obey it freely..." These doctrines are consistent with Vaishnava theology.
 
The Vaishnava practice of offering one’s food in devotion to God has been compared to the Eucharist. Reverend Alvin Hart says, "It’s like the Mass, where the Host is considered nondifferent from the body of Christ..."
 
In Krishna Consciousness, one will find priests and monks with vows; the worship of consecrated images; the veneration of saints and different divinities; the chanting of the holy names on beads of prayer; the belief that sex is intended solely for procreation (upheld as a moral ideal by St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas); two monastic orders (bramacharya and sannyassa); sacramental food; the use of holy water, candles, incense and ash; a platonic theology based upon metaphysical dualism: the spirit versus the flesh, the earthly versus the heavenly; an emphasis on "otherworldly" concerns such as salvation, the afterlife and eternal life; belief in the incarnations of God; and the worship of a plural (e.g., Trinitarian) Godhead.
 
"I understand something about the deep spiritual concepts which are upheld in India and I appreciate them," said Pope John Paul II. "I’ve heard about Krishna. Krishna is great." Srila Prabhupada was pleased when Southern Cross wrote a very favorable article about the Hare Krishna movement. He wanted Christians and Vaishnavas to cooperate and respect and appreciate each other’s faith.
 
"The Hare Krishna movement should be a source of inspiration and move us Christians on to give closer attention to the very spiritual teachings of Jesus," says Father Kenneth L. Robertson, a Roman Catholic priest in Nova Scotia, Canada. "My prayer is that this good work prosper and be appreciated by all men and women of good will for the greater good of mankind."
 
16. Detractors Are Free to Argue Monastic Life is Extreme... A Formal Laity Isn't!
 
Chanting, vegetarianism, abstinence from all mind-altering substances, abstinence from gambling, etc. are good moral principles for a congregation or lay community to follow.
 
It can be argued that only the monastics take these principles to an extreme:
 
e.g., chanting sixteen rounds per day (which takes a couple of hours), as opposed to chanting a few rounds per day
 
offering all of one's food to the Deities, as opposed to merely being an ethical vegetarian or vegan
 
sex only for procreation, as opposed to mere opposition to fornication
 
abstaining not just from drugs and alcohol, but from caffeine, etc.
 
abstaining from secular life and conversation, movies, music, politics, television, etc.
 
rising early, observing rituals and a regimen, etc.
 
Dr. Harvey Cox observes, "...there aren’t many examples around of people who choose a path of religious asceticism, and devotion...The people who understand the Hare Krishna movement better than many others are people who have a relative who’s become a Benedictine monk or a nun. They know somebody who has chosen to do something which appears to be crazy: giving up television, giving up family life, leaving professional careers and going off to live in a monastery. But that’s legitimated in the Catholic system. I’ve talked with people about the Hare Krishna movement in this way and they can easily make the connection." 
 
Dr. Cox notes the familiar use of rituals and iconography in Krishna temples around the world. "I’ve heard Catholics say how comforting it is to walk into a Mass anywhere in the world and see the same gestures and hear the same words, especially during the old days of the Latin Mass. You can walk into any temple and pretty much the same thing is going on."
 
Dr. Cox favorably compares Krishna Consciousness with Christianity:
 
"You can see the obvious similarities. Here you have the idea of a personal God who becomes incarnate...revealing what God is about and eliciting a form of participation in the life of God.
 
"I think a Christian will have some natural sensitivity to Krishna devotion... devotion of the heart, that is, pietistic Christianity...We noted several surprising similarities between what you might call Appalachian folk religion and Krishna Consciousness. Both religions put a big emphasis on joy, the spiritual joy of praising God...
 
"...both traditions emphasize puritanical values and practice certain forms of asceticism such as no drinking, no smoking, no non-marital sex and no gambling...Both seem to put more emphasis on a future life or another world."
 
According to Dr. Cox, "You have to remember that if you had been there at the early Methodist frontier revivals here in America...you would have seen some very ecstatic behavior...jumping up and down and singing. This sort of ecstatic religious behavior is, of course, associated with religious devotion from time immemorial in virtually every culture. We happen to be living in a culture which is very restricted, unimaginative, and narrow in this regard."
 
Dr. Cox says there are elements within the theology of Krishna Consciousness which might nourish Christianity theologically. Specifically, he says "that the relationship between Krishna and Radha adds a dimension of human relationality which is not developed in Christian theology."
 
He says further that texts emphasizing the feminine aspect of God and the conjugal imagery as a metaphor for the human relationship with the Divine can be found in the Song of Songs, the Apocrypha, and the gnostic gospels, but these are lacking in the New Testament. 
 
"We have some of that imagery in some of the Carmelite mystics and other Catholic devotional writings, but still it’s not very developed. Therefore, the whole realm of male-female relationality has been almost totally excluded..."
 
On an abstract, theological level, Dr. Cox sees many similarities between Krishna Consciousness and Christianity. According to Dr. Cox, "It’s especially intriguing for Christian theologians, maybe even deceptively intriguing, because of the obvious structural analogies to a lot of Christianity in the devotional Hindu tradition. I find Vaishnavaism, and ISKCON (the International Society for Krishna Consciousness) itself, a fascinating and challenging spiritual and theological movement. My interest in it probably stems, in part, from the fact that it touches certain aspects of my own spiritual tradition, my own spiritual trajectory, in a way that other movements do not."
 
In 1989, an Appeals Court Justice in San Diego, California favorably compared Krishna Consciousness with the Little Sisters of the Poor, a Catholic religious order. 
 
Dr. A.L. Basham, author of The Wonder That was India and The Cultural History of India, sees many similarities between Krishna Consciousness and the Christian monastic traditions:
 
"Well, I think you have quite a lot in common. You take a vow of poverty. You live very simply—without superfluous material comforts and possessions. As for chastity, your monks...live strict celibate lives. Even...the married members, abstain from sex unless they wish to conceive children.
 
"As far as obedience is concerned, reverence for the teachings and guidelines laid down by the scripture and by the guru are certainly quite important in your order. To live in your ashrams, one must follow certain strict rules concerning diet and conduct and so on. So, you have much in common with the Christian monastic orders. Certainly you dress much more gaily, though...
 
"In monastic life the whole world over, there are many things in common, if not in theology and dogma, then at least in moral and spiritual practice.
 
"Especially in olden times," explains Dr. Basham, "the monasteries used to feed travelers, the beggars, and the poor, and you do the same. They were religious centers of prayer and song, music, literature, and story telling, and you’re doing pretty much the same thing. There is quite a lot in common between you...
 
"Usually the monastics have a good grounding in theology and they approach their theological dogmas in a rather different spirit from that of the lay person. Their involvement is obviously more experientially oriented, as is yours. Yes, I’m sure you can find quite a lot in common with Benedictine and Cistercian monks.
 
"The bhakti (devotional) tradition is very close to Christianity—Christianity of the devotional type—in its psychological attitudes. It comes particularly close to some aspects of mystic Catholicism. If you read the poems of mystics such as St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa, you find attitudes rather close to those of the bhakti poets of medieval India.
 
"I would say, for this reason, among others, that one shouldn’t look on Krishna Consciousness as a rival of Christianity...there’s really no need for the Christians to look on you as their rivals...They ought to recognize you for what you are: a movement with doctrines and ideas very close to their own, with much the same aims and rather an ally than a foe...
 
"I got off a train in Sealdah Station in Calcutta, just about sunset, and noticed a kirtan (praise of God through song and dance) taking place in one corner of the station yard...
 
"The devotees had erected a decorative tent in which they had set up the statue of Krishna and Chaitanya and various saints of the order.
 
"They were chanting 'Hare Krishna, Hare Rama' just as you do. They kept on chanting and chanting and chanting, until, after a while, a few of them began to dance and then nearly everybody was dancing.
 
"I don't think I got as far as dancing, but I found that I was certainly joining in the chanting and I was really carried away. I was there for at least two hours. It was a wonderful experience...
 
"You're engaged in a certain amount of public education as it is. Possibly you should put less emphasis on the priestly side and do more to encourage the lay, fringe membership. 
 
"The feeling of ordinary people is that one can't belong to your movement unless one shaves his head, wears a dhoti, and dances in the streets.
 
"Obviously, most people don't want to do those things. The movement hasn't adapted itself very much to the customs and habits of the local folk.
 
"I'm not saying that you should give up any of your fundamental beliefs such as vegetarianism and so on.
 
"If you can compromise to some extent on some of the less important ones, you might gain more members. You might get more converts if you make a few concessions to the Western way of life...
 
"It's not for me to decide. This is something your movement must decide for itself...
 
"The closest parallel which comes to mind is the Salvation Army, which you probably know something about.
 
"These people started from the 1870s onwards in London and other parts of England, carrying their message on the streets with brass bands, and dressed in unusual uniforms as you are.
 
"They would stop at street corners, start up the band and sing hymns, preach loud and soulful sermons and urge people to give up drinking and fornication and all these evil things and turn to the Lord...
 
"They put up with a great deal of persecution. And they sometimes got in trouble with the authorities for blocking traffic, just as you do.
 
"But in the end it was found that these people were intensely sincere, and they were gradually accepted. Now they are a respected branch of the Christian faith. 
 
"They do a lot of good in the world, much more good than many other Christian movements in the way of positive help to those in need. They are a rather close parallel, in some ways, to your movement."

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