Sunday, March 07, 2004

The Christian Perspective on Vegetarianism

Most Christians (with the exception of Seventh-Day Adventists) do not believe it is wrong, immoral, or unethical to eat meat (or, by extension, to hunt). This would be quite difficult to do in light of the facts that Jesus Himself ate fish, even after His Resurrection (Lk 24:43), and seeing that many of His disciples were fishermen. So no biblical case can be made of the inherent wrongness of meat-eating or hunting.

Furthermore, God commanded the Jews to kill and eat lamb as part of the Old Testament sacrificial system. Jesus ate lamb Himself, as part of the Last Supper (which many scholars believe was a Passover meal). God cannot command what is inherently wrong.

On the other hand, some Christians - as a matter of preference or even individual conscience - abstain from meat, on an aesthetic basis, or on the basis of an ideal return to conditions before the Fall, where there was no eating of flesh. I myself eat only fish (with some exceptions because I have hypoglycemia and sometimes need to eat whatever is available rather than to start becoming weak and having other symptoms of the malady), and this is based on an aesthetic and subjective preference, not derived from an opinion that eating meat is evil. I have no objection whatsoever to others doing so. Such a judgment is impossible to make on a Christian, biblical basis.

With regard to a related issue, Christians ought to oppose all unnecessary cruel treatment of animals (e.g., painful traps, excessive hardships in research and caged environments, pollution and trashing of landscapes, etc.). Christians are to be kind to animals just as they are towards people (St. Francis of Assisi offers a notable example of this). But a prohibition of all (swift and efficient) killing of animals cannot be established, as absolute "pacifism" is not a biblical teaching, nor has the historical Christian Church ever held to it (some significant sects such as Mennonites, have).

Lastly, a common blatant hypocrisy must sadly be pointed out: Many secularist or religious non-Christian (or "liberal Christian") vegetarians seem not to notice that the legality and permissibility of abortion (which they oftentimes espouse) is far more morally objectionable than any cruelty (real or alleged) to or killing of animals for meat or other purposes (fur, leather, medical research, zoos and circuses, etc.). If one considers all killing of animals as evil and immoral, certainly the barbaric killing of preborn human beings (even up to the moment of birth, as in partial-birth infanticide, currently legal in the U.S.) must be included in the moral outrage.

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