The Writings of
Vasu Murti

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vm@vasumurti.org

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Understanding Christians

My basic problem with Christians is that none of their arguments justifying the status quo with regards to animals and their rights would make any sense if this were 300 years ago, and we were discussing the abolition of human slavery instead of animal slavery. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is 800,000 strong (larger than any pro-life group), but discuss animal rights and vegetarianism--apart from religion--with these Christians, and all they can think of is the MOVE !

Can you imagine 18th century Christians telling abolitionists, "We don't need to free our slaves. That's 'good works.' We don't have to work for our salvation." ? Or how about, "Well, we called on Jesus three times--we don't have to free our slaves." ?

They usually try to justify their cruelty to animals by referring to a verse in the New Testament where Paul quotes Jesus as having said three times, "My grace is sufficient for thee."

Christians misinterpret this verse to mean that they're free to do whatever they want. Paul gives all kinds of other moral instructions elsewhere in his letters, however, commanding the gentiles to abstain from drunkenness, fornication, homosexuality, to ALWAYS (I Thessalonians 5:17) pray constantly, to train themselves for godliness, practice self-control, etc. He never tells them that they're free to do whatever they want--in fact, he specifically warns them:

"Make no mistake: 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])

Yet they ignore the New Testament as a whole and focus only on one of Paul's statements to justify their hedonism. Reverend J.R. Hyland, an evangelical minister, and author of "God's Covenant with Animals," told me they're taking Paul out of context. Paul, she notes, was very strict with himself:

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

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

They MUST be quoting Paul out of context, because otherwise, Paul's teachings don'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 that if you call on Jesus three times you can do whatever you want?!

My argument against "three times...my grace is sufficient for thee" is that if Christians interpret this to mean they're free to do anything they want, ignoring Jesus' and Paul's other teachings, then what about MURDER?

Paul contradicted Jesus. Paul identified himself as a former Pharisee, and an apostate from Judaism. He refers to his previous adherence to the Torah, or Mosaic Law (which contains many commandments for the humane treatment of animals, dietary laws, etc.) as "so much garbage." Jesus, on the other hand, insisted, "It is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for the smallest portion of the Law to become invalid." (Luke 16:17) Jesus condemned those who set aside even the least of the Law's demands. (Matthew 5:17-19)

Nor do Jesus' words refer merely to the Ten Commandments: Jesus meant the entire Torah--613 Commandments. When a man asked Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life, Jesus replied, "You know the commandments." He then quoted not just the Ten Commandments, but a commandment from Leviticus 19:13 as well: "Do not defraud." It's obvious Jesus didn't think Mosaic Law was "garbage."

A friend of mine, considers Paul to be pro-vegetarian.

I told him that if Paul cannot be reconciled to vegetarianism, then the only recourse for the animal rights movement is to point out that Paul supported slavery and the subjugation of women, and that we, as a secular society, have progressed beyond all that. SO WHAT if Paul considered Mosaic Law to be "so much garbage" ? Paul returned a runaway slave to his master. I'd rather follow Pythagoras."

I'm not sure if I'm facing secular people who are "Christian" in name only, or true believers. My friend Tim Parks, a Protestant missionary (now preaching in China), told me to distinguish between the two. I wrote an entire book on the subject of Christian vegetarianism: "They Shall Not Hurt or Destroy," in part to demonstrate that animal rights activists are quite capable of defending themselves in the theological arena. Rachael Price, a born again Christian, has endorsed the book.

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