[The following article by Keith Akers was published in The Ark, No. 234, Autumn/Winter 2016 issue. The Ark is the publication of the Catholic Concern for Animals.]
Is vegetarianism part of Christianity, or are they incompatible? Christianity and vegetarianism don’t have to be in competition, but in practice they are. While many become vegetarians for health reasons, the heart of vegetarianism is its ethical component — the practice of not eating meat out of concern for the suffering of animals. Continue reading
On Christmas day, WCUW radio (91.3 FM, in Worcester, Massachusetts) will broadcast an interview of me on Marlene Narrow’s “Vegan Nation” show. It will be on Friday, December 25, 2015 at 12:30 pm to 1 pm Eastern time (10:30 – 11:00 am Mountain time). (The interview has been pre-recorded.) The content will center around Jesus and vegetarianism. You can listen online by going to their website and click on the button on the left-hand side that says “WCUW Live / Listen Now!”
UPDATE December 26: here’s the link to the archive of this show (an MP3 file).
The End of Captivity? A Primate’s Reflections on Zoos, Conservation, and Christian Ethics. Tripp York. Cascade Books, 2015. 135 pages.
The End of Captivity? is a short, open-ended Christian meditation on humans and their effects on wild animals. The book is both challenging and infuriating at the same time. It is challenging because it asks us to question the basic logic that puts animals in zoos. But it is sometimes infuriating because, as the author points out, human dominion over the planet is so complete that there isn’t very much space around for wild animals. Where, exactly, can we send them? Continue reading
Several major news sources have stated that the Pope’s recent encyclical is concerned about climate change. The CNN headline summarized the message: “’Revolution’ needed to combat climate change”. The New York Times declared: “Pope Francis, in Sweeping Encyclical, Calls for Swift Action on Climate Change.”
Well, yes, the pope is concerned about climate change, but this view of what the pope’s encyclical is “about” is quite misleading. It is about the environment generally and the human relationship to the environment. It is worth actually reading the Pope’s encyclical to see what he does say. Continue reading
Jesus in the temple (Greco)
The latest data on Christianity comes from a recent report from the Pew Research Center on religion and public life. It sounds as if Christianity is on track to disappear as the dominant religion in America within a generation or two. In fact, it’s possible that Christianity might eventually disappear from American life altogether. Is this good news or bad news? The answer might seem to depend on whether you identify with Christianity. If you’re some religion other than Christianity, or atheist or agnostic, it’s great news; otherwise, not so much.
I’d like to ask a slightly different question — what does this mean for vegans? Even Christian vegans hold a perspective which is so different from that of other Christians, that the decline of Christianity does not clearly have a good or a bad implication. Continue reading
I will be giving a talk on “Animals in Earliest Christianity” to the Animal Rights Academy in Toronto this Tuesday. Alas, I will not be there physically, but I’ll Skype in via computer, and I understand that the conversation can go in both directions and we’ll have questions and answers.
The talk will be at University College, 15 Kings College Circle, room 256, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, from 7 pm until 9 pm EST on Tuesday, February 3. There is a Facebook page for the event here.
The talk is free, so if you’re in the area, I hope you can make it and we can talk about such questions as: what was the attitude of the earliest Christians towards animals? Was Jesus, or anyone else, a vegetarian? Is animal rights compatible with Christianity? And perhaps the most puzzling question of all, should we care?
UPDATE March 24, 2016: I just found out that the talk has been uploaded to YouTube. The bad news is, the video and audio are seriously out of synch. So maybe you could listen to it as long as you don’t pay too much attention to the video portion. Otherwise the video and audio are both of pretty good quality. If anyone knows how to fix the synchronization problem, let me know. In the meantime, though, here’s the link.
Jesus and Nicodemus (H. O. Tanner)
What role would an Ebionite Christian Church play — why would anyone want to form one at all? The main reason is to provide a place for ethical vegetarianism in Christianity. The Ebionites, whatever else you may say about them, believed that vegetarianism was part of the gospel message. When Epiphanius asks an unnamed fourth-century Ebionite why they abstain from meat, when meat-eating is in the Bible, the Ebionite responds, “Christ revealed it to me.” Continue reading
Jesus and Nicodemus (H. O. Tanner)
A reader of this blog recently asked, “When are we going to form the ECC (Ebionite Christian Church)? Or maybe EUC, Ebionite Universal Church?” Many vegetarians and vegans who come from the Christian tradition find that there isn’t really a Christian church, group, or denomination, which it makes sense to join. So why not form our own? Here are my thoughts.
One person recently commented on this site, “Compassionate Spirit could respond [to the need for a vegetarian or vegan alternative in Christianity] by offering a religious experience at Christmas and Easter to see if it meets a need.” This request doesn’t sound that hard. Christmas and Easter are the two most common Christian holidays, and there’s all this material on vegetarianism and Christianity.
Actually, though, this request is actually a lot tougher than it sounds. Let me tell you about it! Continue reading
“Mnemosyne Dance” and her daughter
“Mnemosyne Dance” is the pseudonym of a local (metro Denver) vegan activist who is looking for a church where she and her family can feel at home. I thought it would be interesting to interview her for this blog and she agreed. This “interview” was conducted partially in person but then by e-mail. Here’s what she said.
Question: “Mnemosyne,” I understand that you’re looking for a church and you’re vegan. Can you tell us what your background is?
Mnemosyne Dance: I was raised as a conservative Christian, with a Baptist and Pentecostal background. My religious beliefs sheltered me from other ideas. But in early adulthood, I started to change my worldview. In about 1990 I became active in the animal rights movement in Indianapolis. My core beliefs are in the Christian tradition, but I also support animal rights and am now vegan (past 9 years). Continue reading
Paul and Jesus. How the Apostle Transformed Christianity. James Tabor. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2012.
This is a marvelous little book which is basic to understanding the “historical Paul.” It’s so simple, elegant, and straightforward, that after reading it, one can’t help wondering why someone hadn’t written it earlier. Not only is it important to understanding the historical Paul, but it’s also important to understanding the historical Jesus — because it is through Paul that we have some of our best information about the early Jesus movement.
James Tabor is a key figure in the growing movement to recognize and understand “Jewish Christianity.” Continue reading
A Polite Bribe is an excellent representation of Paul’s journeys as presented in Acts. Because Paul describes his first two journeys to Jerusalem (as a Christian) in his letters, we have the opportunity to “compare and contrast” events in Paul’s letters with the same events described in Acts, written at least fifty years later. But we are adrift when it comes to Paul’s third journey. Paul never mentions this third journey in his letters — except prospectively, as a journey he intends to make at some time in the future. Continue reading
There’s a point in A Polite Bribe when we approach the dramatic confrontation between Paul and Peter at Antioch. Paul thought that he, James, and Peter, had a deal: the message of Jesus could go to the gentiles. But in Antioch Paul is furious that Peter has betrayed this agreement, and denounces Peter to his face. Continue reading
A great new video on early Christianity, A Polite Bribe, has been released. If you’ve never read Paul’s letters or the book of Acts, well guess what–now you don’t have to! They’ve made a movie out of it!
Moreover, it’s a movie that makes some critical points about the history of the early church. There was a split in the early church between Paul and the Jerusalem church. Paul made a collection for the church in Jerusalem (Galatians 2:10, Romans 15:25–27, etc.). This collection was likely refused by the Jerusalem church. Whoa! What was this all about? Continue reading
Addressing the question of factionalism in the early church is key to understanding what early Christianity was really about. Christian traditionalists would probably prefer to forget about the traumatic dispute between Paul and the other apostles, just a few decades after Jesus left the earth, which fundamentally altered the trajectory of Christianity. After all, “the apostles fighting with each other” — it’s not a pretty picture, and throws into question the whole traditional view of early Christianity. Continue reading