Reflections on the Lectionary: Mark 8:27-38
Animals: Tradition - Philosophy - Religion Article from


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

Reflections on the Lectionary: Mark 8:27-38

This passage includes Jesus asking his disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” The Gospels frequently describe Jesus asking others who he is, but he was reluctant to describe himself. I think Jesus’ question nicely encapsulates what religion in general (and Christianity in particular) should aim to accomplish. Religion, as a response to the mysteries of life, should inspire us to ask questions and seek answers. Once a religion gives definitive answers, it encourages believers to close their hearts and minds to new knowledge and new insights. As the world changes, such close-mindedness can make ancient religions less relevant and even potentially harmful.
The world Jesus inhabited was, in many respects, very different from ours. For one thing, modern technologies have greatly increased the capacity of small numbers of people to harm huge numbers of humans and animals. Weapons of mass destruction imperil humanity, and factory farming (made possible by industrial mechanization and by antibiotics that prevent stressed animals from dying from infections) permits a handful of farmers to cause unimaginable pain and suffering to many thousands of animals.
What would Jesus do about this? Jesus could only address directly the social conditions of his day, but we can derive reasonable conclusions based on his sayings and teachings. We have elaborated on this theme previously, but briefly the Gospels stress Jesus’ concern for those who were weak, vulnerable, and victimized. Can we as Christian vegetarians know with certainly that Jesus would see today’s relentlessly abused factory-farmed animals as “the least among us,” and respond with love, compassion, and mercy? No, we cannot. But recalling that Jesus asked “who do you say that I am?” a reasonable answer is that Jesus was the sort of person who would not be a party to such cruelty. Such an answer involves applying the principles of his ministry, which will then guide us to make a faithful response to the issues and challenges facing us in a world that has changed greatly in 2000 years.

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