Reflection on the Lectionary: Mark 4:30-34
Animals: Tradition - Philosophy - Religion Article from


Stephen Kaufman, M.D., Christian Vegetarian Association (CVA)

Reflection on the Lectionary: Mark 4:30-34
(June 14, 2009)

This passage includes the well-known parable of the mustard seed – the smallest of seeds that grows into the greatest of shrubs. Many Christians apply this metaphor to Christian evangelism, in which individuals spread the Gospel far and wide. I think the metaphor also applies to the Christian Vegetarian Association’s ministry.
We offer a message of compassion, peace, and mercy that has the potential to divert humanity from its current self-destructive course and guide it toward the “Peaceable Kingdom” prophesied in Isaiah 11. Though our brothers and sisters in Christ often resist our message, it is steadily gaining acceptance. As more and more people move toward plant-based diets, our witness becomes more mainstream. Just as Christians once widely endorsed human slavery but now find the institution incompatible with Christian faith, I believe that eventually Christians will widely reject the idea that the Prince of Peace could conceivably endorse the cruelties of modern animal agriculture.
We will move toward plant-based diets one of two ways. If ministries such as the CVA flourishes like a mustard tree, people will adopt the “faith of Christ” – a faith that God is loving, compassionate, and sides with victims of violence and injustice, not the perpetrators. Alternative, people will move toward a plant-based diet because unsustainable animal agriculture, with its waste of land, water, and energy, will impoverish the world to the point that only a relatively small fraction of the population can afford the cost of animal flesh. Humanity has been blessed with an opportunity to avoid self-destruction, but this requires that humanity adopt the faith of Christ which, among other things, encourages a plant-based diet.  If humanity rejects that opportunity in favor of materialism and self-indulgence, humanity courts disaster.

Given that people are reluctant to abandon the religions of their families and communities, it is fortunate for humanity and the world that other faiths and traditions have teachings that accord with the faith of Christ. However, the faith of Christ comes with a challenge to radically change our lives, to focus on service to God rather than service to our sensory desires. Jesus accepted this challenge to the point of suffering and death. Most Christians, in stark contrast, have resisted the obvious call to simply change their diets and avoid supporting cruel, wasteful modern animal agriculture. We are called to be disciples of Christ, and we must find ways to break through the barriers that keep people who claim to embrace faith in Christ from embracing the faith of Christ. 

Go on to: Reflection on the Lectionary: Job 38:1-11
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