Reflections on the Lectionary, Isaiah 11:1-10
Animals: Tradition - Philosophy - Religion Article from


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

Reflections on the Lectionary, Isaiah 11:1-10
December 5, 2010

This passage includes the prophecy that someday there will be peace and harmony in the “realm of God” and “the wolf shall lie with the lamb.” There will be no violence, and no individual will harm another. Despite what seems to me to be a clear message from Isaiah, I am sure that many churches will relate Isaiah’s vision to humanity alone, even though nonhumans join humanity in a peaceful world. We can expect many pastors to talk about love and peace, but few will preach Isaiah’s entire message and extend this peace to nonhuman beings. To do so would force them, and their congregations, to face their complicity in the massive worldwide assault against animals in the name of convenience and “lifestyle.” I have even heard that some pastors claim that the animals Isaiah describes are not animals at all, but rather allegorical figures that are meant to depict humans! We should always be skeptical of biblical interpretations that neglect compassion in favor of self-interest. Indeed, such an approach can render the Bible as racist, sexist, and speciesist as one wants – one can simply claim that the passages that obviously contradict one’s non-compassionate views should be treated as allegory, and then come up with a fanciful allegory that suits one’s purposes.
The consequence of failing to abide by the Bible’s moral imperatives is certainly a tragedy for animals at a scale that the human mind cannot fathom. And there are grave consequences for humanity itself. The mindset that countenances animal abuse likewise endorses abuse of God’s earth, and as a result we see dwindling natural resources, ecological devastation, and rising human conflicts over land, water, and food. Humanity is in great peril, and it results from rejecting the core teaching of virtually all religions, including Christianity, that compassion should be our guide as we should seek peace and harmony.

A peaceful world, Isaiah tells us, is “full of the knowledge of the Lord.” What is the knowledge of the Lord? I think it can be summarized as recognizing that, if we work together with love and compassion, we will find peace in our hearts and in our communities. All our physical and spiritual needs will be met, which is what, deep down, nearly everyone really wants. However, it takes great faith and trust in God’s goodness to choose the path of peace. Next week, I’ll reflect on what it means to be a peacemaker, which is not necessarily the same as being nonviolent.

Go on to: An Advent Reflection on Peacemaking
Return to: Reflection on the Lectionary, Table of Contents 

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