Category Archives: Christianity

Organizations and individuals who self-identify as “Christians.”

The End of Captivity? (review)

The End of Captivity?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

It’s not about climate change

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

What does the Decline of Christianity Mean?

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

“Animals in Earliest Christianity”

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?

The Ebionite Christian Church, part 2

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

The Ebionite Christian Church

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.

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The Church Potluck, Reimagined

Lauren Lisa Ng, an ordained American Baptist minister and committed vegan, has written a very thoughtful blog on “The Church Potluck, Reimagined.” It has direct relevance for everyone who is interested in veganism and Christianity and is well worth reading. This post describes her rapid journey, after being a Christian for decades, from meat-eater to vegan. It describes her attempt to reimagine the standard American church potluck — which is currently a vast wasteland for vegans. Continue reading

Vegan Christian Holidays

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

Vegan Looks for a Church

Peg Farrar and her daughter Clementyne

Peg Farrar is 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: Peg, I understand that you’re looking for a church and you’re vegan. Can you tell us what your background is?

Peg: 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 (review)

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

Paul’s Third Journey in A Polite Bribe

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

A Polite Bribe — Great New Video on Early Christianity

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

Playing into the Hands of the Mythicists

Ignoring the factionalism in the early church plays into the hands of the Christian traditionalists.  When you try to identify the original foundational teaching in the New Testament, without taking into account the factionalism, it’s a confused mess.  A variety of completely contradictory views about Jesus is possible. Jesus supported animal sacrifice, or Jesus opposed animal sacrifice; Jesus was apocalyptic, or Jesus was not apocalyptic; and so forth.

The end result is that there is no meaningful scholarly consensus on who Jesus was. Since the scholars don’t agree among themselves, there is no single scholarly consensus about Jesus that can effectively be set up in opposition to Christian traditionalism, and thus by comparison the Christian dogmas don’t look so bad.

But ignoring factionalism also plays into the hands of the mythicists — those who hold that Jesus is himself a myth.  Continue reading

Playing into the Hands of the Traditionalists

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