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Goodbye, Regina

Regina Hyland, who was best known for her book Godís Covenant With Animals, died on October 8, 2007. She was an ordained evangelical minister with the Assemblies of God and one of the few people in the world who promoted ethical vegetarianism within a Christian context. She not only promoted vegetarianism but also worked to help migrant farm workers and was an ardent feminist; another one of her books was Sexism is a Sin.

You can find a summary of her life at her website, and Vasu Murti has some interesting comments at his blog.  Wikipedia also has an account of her life, which was originally written by Maynard Clark, and sounds like it relied heavily on Vasu Murti's account.  One of her articles which is posted on my web site, "Jesus and the Moneychangers," is one of the most frequently viewed pages here.

I was not close to Regina, but we corresponded a lot by e-mail. We talked once over the phone and she invited me to visit her in Florida, a trip which I never made. I had noticed that she had not responded to my most recent e-mail to her for some months; I found out why when her death was mentioned in passing in The Ark (publication of Catholic Concern for Animals).

Since we never met in person, I was surprised to find out a number of things about her after her death that I had been too polite to ask about in her life. For starters, at 73 she was 15 years older than I was -- somehow I had pictured her as just another boomer, and never saw a photograph of her until after she died. Also, she was married in 1954 but it ended tragically.  Her husband, Glen Edward, was hit by a drunk driver only a month after they were married; he went into a coma and then a persistent vegetative state and finally died seven years later.

There are a couple of things I would add to the above accounts. She told me once that she didnít really buy the evangelical understanding of the Bible, which was surprising to me. She said in an e-mail on 10/12/2005:

"But I do not agonize about the Bible. It is what it is: a book that has been foundational for Western civilization. A book that gives glimpses of the Truth and Goodness of God, but also a book in which 95 percent of what is written tells of a man-made deity, who is often even worse than the humans who created him."

She also told me that she was working on a book, tentatively titled Bible Heroes, in the year before her death. I donít know how far along she was on this. I saw a sample chapter and an outline.

She was not only passionate about concern for animals, she also sometimes disagreed with those with whom she worked.  She told me that the Assemblies of God people were not real comfortable with her views on either vegetarianism or feminism.  She also declined to associate herself with the Christian Vegetarian Association, citing the lack of interest in ethical vegetarianism among other issues.

Her main contribution was to cement in place that it is possible for a Christian to be an ethical vegetarian. Vasu Murti quotes her as just saying of meat-eating, "itís a sin." The conclusion of her book Godís Covenant With Animals says this:

"To thank God for the fruits of the earth, given to human beings for their sustenance, is a legitimate religious act. But to thank the Lord for providing the flesh of an animal is not legitimate. The eating of flesh is a perversion of God's law, indulged by a fallen human race. And to thank God for providing such food is the modern equivalent of sacrificial religion; it represents a continuing determination to claim God's blessing on the slaughter, and consumption, of His creatures."

There are an abundance of Christians (such as many Seventh-day Adventists) who are vegetarians for health reasons. But there are few at all in the Christian world who are vegetarians for ethical reasons, who are vegetarians because we should not cause the death and suffering of innocent creatures. Since she seems to be one of the few other people claiming to follow Jesus who believed that vegetarianism was part of the gospel, I will miss her. Goodbye, Regina.

Keith Akers
February 17, 2008