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Christianity and Vegetarianism

Originally Published: Tuesday, August 24, 2004
Written by: Carlton Irving  

In exploring the vegetarian psyche, it becomes apparent many vegetarians are people of faith. Some in religious beliefs, other in the simple understanding of certain religious ideals, others again merely within themselves have faith. It is the underlying characteristic apparent throughout much of the vegetarian culture. The universal application of mercy towards our fellow beings. The disapproval by some vegetarians to consent to a recognized religion comes from the disapproval of some religions treatment of animals. For example the sacrifice of animals in religious ceremonies, and the consumption of meat to mark certain occasions, etc, etc. This obviously does not tie in with the simple belief set of vegetarians, therefore, it does not allow them to subscribe to said religions. In contrast to the vegetarian approach to spiritual denominations, various religions appear to extend their message of total respect for life, similar to the Buddhist approach. In particular, there are certain Christian orders which practice vegetarianism. And have adjusted their faith to suit the vegetarian culture. For example, the Seventh Day Adventist Church categories themselves as vegetarian, but not all followers are vegetarian. The Anglican Diocese believes that doctrine categorizes animals as put on Earth for use and consumption by humans and this is echoed in the approach of the Roman Catholic Church. We, humans, have total control over the animal kingdom and have the power to do what we wish with it. We have the ability now and technology to render almost any species extinct. We must recognize this and accept our responsibility to ensure that this does not happen. In Spain at religious festivals and social events often the abuse of animals is commonplace, as part of the festivities. These barbaric acts include stoning animals to death, throwing them from a tower and torturing them in the streets. These festivities are condoned in the name of religion, and it is not just in Spain that these types of rituals are taking place. Today’s Christians today probably are predominantly meat-eaters and think little of this. However early Christians were mainly vegetarian, specifically Origen, John Chrysostom, Clement of Alexandria, and Basil the Great. Some accounts note that Matthew, Peter and James (the brother of Jesus and first leader of the Jerusalem church) were vegetarians. Quotes and scripture to relate to these claims: The apostle Matthew partook of seeds and nuts and vegetables without flesh. Clement of Alexandria (The Instructor, book 2, chapter 1). Peter said, “I live on olives and bread to which I rarely only add vegetables.” Pseudo-Clementine Homilies 12,6; also Recognitions 7,6. James, the brother of the Lord … was holy from his mother’s womb; and he drank no wine nor strong drink, nor did he eat flesh. Hegesippus, quoted in The Church History of Eusebius, book 2, chapter 23. And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food”. Genesis 1:29-30 The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, And the leopard shall lie down with the kid, And the calf and the lion and the fatling together, And a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall feed; their young shall lie down together, And the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The suckling child shall play over the hole of the asp, And the weaned child shall put his hand on the adders den. They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain; For the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord As the waters cover the sea. Isaiah 11:6-9 A righteous man cares for his beast. Proverbs 12:10 He who slaughters an ox is like him who kills a man. Isaiah 66:3 God also despised the sacrifice of animals Your countless sacrifices, what are they to me? says the Lord. I am sated with whole-offerings of rams and the fat of buffaloes; I have no desire for the blood of bulls, of sheep and of he-goats. Whenever you come into my presence – who asked you for this? No more shall you trample my courts. The offer of your gifts is useless, the reek of sacrifice is abhorrent to me. Isaiah 1:11-12 There is blood on your hands; wash yourselves and be clean. Isaiah 1:16 For a desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God, rather than burnt offerings. Hosea 6:6 If you had known what that text means, “I require mercy, not sacrifice”, you would not have condemned the innocent. Matthew 12:7 Sacrifices were invented by men to be a pretext for eating flesh. Clement of Alexandria Other Christian references The eating of meat was unknown up to the big flood, but since the flood, they have the strings and stinking juices of animal meat into our mouths, just as they threw 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. St Jerome The steam of meat meals darkens 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. St Basil 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. St Francis of Assisi Let no one regard as light the burden of his responsibility. While so much ill-treatment of animals goes on, while the moans of thirsty animals in railway trucks sound unheard, while so much brutality prevails in our slaughterhouses … we all bear guilt. Everything that lives has value as a living thing, as one of the manifestations of the mystery that is life. Albert Schweitzer

Mother, wife, small business owner. www.justbuttons.org

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