Why Jesus Ate Fish

March 22, 2013Case Michielsen

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I should begin by saying that I am both a vegan and a Christian. There are compelling reasons to be both. Several Christian publications offer valid reasons for the Christian to consider the vegetarian lifestyle. These include the fact that God’s original intent was for human beings to be vegetarians (Gen 1:29) and Isaiah’s inspiring prophesy in which the lion will someday eat straw like the ox (Is 65:25). So it seems that, according to the Christian worldview, the order that has proceeded, and that which will proceed, this current state, will be peaceful and bloodless. Not much to argue with so far. But many Christian vegetarians are appalled by Luke 24: 42 & 43, “They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate it in their presence.”

What can this mean? Some insist that this passage is a forgery, it can not be authentic. Others claim that this single verse makes vegetarianism completely incompatible with Christianity. But lets take a closer look.

If we take this verse to be an authentic account of Jesus Christ after the resurrection, and we uphold the belief that he was without sin, then we must deduce that eating meat is not inherently sinful. This point may seem like anathema to any vegan, Christian or otherwise. But once we analyze the politics of food, it becomes clear that the option to avoid meat is sometimes available only to a privileged few. For example, the impoverished and starving child hardly has the option to refuse any meal that is provided. The natives of extreme elevations or frozen tundra haven’t had the luxury of choosing a vegetarian diet (until recently, but which still remains highly unsustainable). And as any honest vegan will tell you, even we are not without blood on our hands. The vegan philosophy is not about the impossible task of eliminating any and all animal suffering in our lives, it is about minimizing it. Animals suffer and die in the process of farming and shipping vegetables. Animals suffer and die in the process of mining the metals, and harvesting the lumber, that is used to make household objects that people use everyday. Hell, even people suffer and die in the process of securing the petroleum that is used to make the plastic used to build the computer you are looking at right now. There is no one who has lived without causing harm to another living creature, whether directly or indirectly. No one. Not even Christ.

So, in that simple act of eating a piece of broiled fish, Christ has placed himself in solidarity with the poor of world. He has removed the guilt from those who are without the luxury of being vegetarians. But my argument here is not that people should choose to eat meat. It is precisely the opposite. If offered the choice, people should choose to minimize animal death and suffering to the best of their ability. That choice, however, should not make them feel superior to any other human being. As in the words of the Apostle Paul, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Eph 2:8-10).

 

  • http://reachheavenonearth.blogspot.co.uk/ Adam Clark

    I agree. As a Christian and a vegan myself, that is how I see it. It is about following a path to continually try and minimize the suffering of all sentient beings rather than attain the impossible goal of eliminating it entirely. Jesus was living in different times and didn’t have the luxury of the choices we have now. I suspect if Jesus was alive today (and not living near either of the polar regions!) he too would be vegan.

  • John T.

    Luke 24 is not the only passage about Jesus and fish. Many of the disciples were fishers and there are many stories referring to fishing – and none of them challenge the catching or eating of fish. The most famous passage is Jesus and the disciples feeding the 5000 with bread and fish. In this story it is Jesus that distributes fish to the people, not simply receiving fish from the disciples as in Luke 24. Jesus gives thanks for fish, eats fish, distributes fish and even pays temple tax with fish. Jesus accompanies his fishing disciples on fishing trips and increase their catch. Jesus tells fishing parables to explain the kingdom of God.

    It is only a simplistic reductionist imposition of vegetarian ideology onto scripture that leads to the conclusion that Jesus “removed the guilt from those who are without the luxury of being vegetarians”.

    Jesus did indeed show his solidarity with the poor in eating fish with them on the banks of Lake Galilee, in large and small groups, before and after the resurrection. This solidarity is the engagement with their traditional Galilee lifestyle and culture – the food of the land (and water) given by God to them, their Jubilee birthright inheritance. Jesus affirmed the fishers.

    “The Galilean Fishing Economy and the Jesus Tradition”

    http://www.kchanson.com/articles/fishing.html

    • http://reachheavenonearth.blogspot.co.uk/ Adam Clark

      I agree. Like you, and unlike some who argue Jesus was vegetarian, I too believe Jesus ate fish. I suspect his diet was similar to a semi-vegetarian Mediterranean diet, based around fruit, vegetables and grains supplemented with fish. No dairy (at least from cows) and meat only on feast days. It’s a far cry from the standard Western diet of meat and dairy three times per day.

  • http://cimarronline.blogspot.com/2004/05/paul-munn.html paul munn

    I appreciate that you say that “eating meat is not inherently sinful.” It seems curious, though, that you would then later say that Christ “removed guilt” from the poor who eat meat out of necessity, so I suspect you still see some guilt in it.

    But more important to me than the vegetarian argument is the underlying assumption, which is widespread, not just among vegetarians, that “causing harm to another living creature… indirectly” is sinful. With the “indirectly” part referring to economic and societal connections that link us all. Thus you conclude (as you must) that everyone who has lived is guilty of this indirect harm. “Even Christ” is guilty of it. And of course there’s no way to stop sinning in this way, the best we can do is try to “minimize” it. Am I reading you right?

    This doesn’t seem like the nature of sin and guilt that Jesus taught, and offered us real freedom from. And taking it to the conclusion of including Jesus in the same kind of guilt seems to reveal a mistake somewhere in that line of thinking, doesn’t it? I think the mistake has to do with the “indirect” part, the ideology of economic and political connectedness, that binds us all together in the guilt of our society. I don’t get that same message from Jesus.

    • http://twitter.com/theonlychrisj Chris Jackson

      I absolutely agree. It’s pretty risky to claim that all disciples are
      supposed to be vegetarian, when a number of the original dudes were fishermen by
      trade. But more than that, you have to question the legitimacy of an
      opinion that says “Jesus was completely sinless, except for the things that my personal choices dictate as sinful. He totally did that stuff.”

      • http://reachheavenonearth.blogspot.co.uk/ Adam Clark

        “It’s pretty risky to claim that all disciples are supposed to be vegetarian, when a number of the original dudes were fishermen by trade.”

        I am not sure that is a good argument. Jesus also had ex-tax collectors, prostitutes and soldiers as disciples or close followers. I doubt Jesus would like us earning a living from any of these professions once we repent and become Christian.

        • John T.

          Firstly, the new testament says nothing of prostitutes being disciples. I am not saying there weren’t any, just the bible didn’t mention it. Jesus said a soldier had more faith than anyone in Israel, so I don’t think he had a problem with the soldier.

          Jesus certainly called Matthew away from his tax collecting when he became a disciple just as he called the fishers away from their nets to be disciples. However the difference between tax collecting and fishing is that Jesus later went fishing, taught fishers how to catch more, ate fish and distributed fish to other people. He taught the disciples to be fishers of men (and women) but he did not collect tax or teach how to be tax collectors of men.

          There is no basis to compare fishing to tax collecting. If you look at the article on the Galilee fishing economy I posted you will see that the fishers were amongst the main victims of the tax collectors, it was Rome’s tax on fish that oppressed the fishers. Jesus, through his stories and his direct actions (like going fishing and distributing fish), stood in solidarity with the Galilee fishers. Jesus ministry begins with recruiting from the oppressed Galilean fishers and ends with a Galilee fish meal. The symbol of the first century church was the fish.

          Given that Jesus engaged in fishing and never said anything against fishing, I am not sure it is a good argument to suggest that Jesus does not want anyone to be fishers after they have repented.

          The eucharistic fish meals at Lake Galilee are represented as good things in the new testament. The vegetarian ideology makes them shameful things which inverts and perverts the stories.

          • http://reachheavenonearth.blogspot.co.uk/ Adam Clark

            Fair enough. However, given that fishing now involves massive ships guided by sonar that are literally sweeping our oceans clear of all marine life, I wonder 2,000 years on who is the oppressor and who is being oppressed.

          • JaJa Fehr

            where do I find this “article on the Galilee fishing economy”?

          • John T.

            Its in a previous post (below) but here it is again

            http://www.kchanson.com/articles/fishing.html

      • Guest

        In Biblical theology, one one’s sin, Adam, led the whole race into damnation. If we’re not all bound together in the guilt of our society, then it’s not logical that one man’s sacrifice could redeem everyone. Of course, this is still talking about sin, not some extra standard. I think the point is that when we are under grace, the reasoning of law is insufficient. You know, God did not have to save mankind. He could let us perish in our own sin and that would be nonetheless just. So why ask whether we have to spare animals? If it’s in our power, then let us do so regardless.

        • amy shaw

          amen

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000516521514 Michael Richardson

      In Biblical theology, one man’s sin, Adam, led the whole race into damnation. If we’re not all bound together in the guilt of our society, then it’s not logical that one man’s sacrifice could redeem everyone. Of course, this is still talking about sin, not some extra standard. I think the point is that when we are under grace, the reasoning of law is insufficient.
      You know, God did not have to save mankind. He could let us perish and that would be no less just. So why do we need to ask whether we have to spare animals? If it’s in our power, then let us do so regardless.

      • http://cimarronline.blogspot.com/2004/05/paul-munn.html paul munn

        I appreciate your focus on grace rather than “the reasoning of law.” One of my biggest objections to the ideology that drives much of modern activism (including much of vegetarian activism) is that it is not only law-driven, but that it redefines a moral law that we can neither satisfy or ever be delivered from. If you purchase items that can be economically linked to oppressive or destructive practices, then you are guilty. If what you consume can be somehow linked to suffering, you are guilty. Thus, as the author admits, “even Christ” must be seen as guilty. And how can a person possibly stop, or be delivered from this in any real way? It seems to me clearly a departure from what Jesus taught, even in his law-based teachings.

        You seems to suggest, though, that “to spare animals” is the more grace-full, or loving response. I don’t think anyone would object to you sparing animals, if that’s your motivation. But the blanket assumption that not eating meat is always more loving (so we all ought to do it always) raises questions. Wasn’t Jesus always loving? Why help the disciples catch so many fish, why not spare them? Why serve them fish for breakfast, if it displayed God’s grace more if he spared the fish?

        • Kathryn Price

          Paul, you say, “One of my biggest objections to the ideology that drives much of modern
          activism (including much of vegetarian activism) is that it is not only
          law-driven, but that it redefines a moral law that we can neither
          satisfy or ever be delivered from.” I don’t see such activism as law-driven, I see it as compassion-driven. The focus is not on our freedom from guilt, it is on their freedom from oppression and suffering. Aren’t we supposed to be people of the good news? Yes, it is difficult to avoid products linked to oppressive or destructive practices, but it is a good news kind of action to do so. Even if it is not possible to do so with everything, it is possible to do it as much as we are able. It seems that your focus is about being delivered from guilt, from which you say you can never be delivered from in any real way as long as consumption is linked to suffering. But, what if some purchases are good news for others — both animals and people — and what if refraining from some purchases is the same?

          • http://cimarronline.blogspot.com/2004/05/paul-munn.html paul munn

            I can definitely see the compassion-driven aspect in much of modern activists relations to those they see as oppressed. And I support people’s attempts to help those in need through their purchases (though I don’t see filtering our help through the economic system as the best way to respond to people’s needs).

            What I’m objecting to here is what I see from many activists in relation to those they perceive as oppressors. Because by the modern rationale of political and economic connectedness, pretty much everyone becomes an oppressor through their consumption or their citizenship in a democratic nation. For example, in the article the author seems glad that Jesus “removed the guilt” from the poor that have to eat meat to live. Why would they even be considered guilty in the first place?

            This assumption of guilt by activists, both towards themselves (as I’ve seen among friends and people who write on JR) and towards those they preach against, seems to me clearly law-based. It doesn’t matter what our intent is, only that our actions can be somehow connected to oppression or suffering somewhere down the line. This allows activists to tell everyone that they are causing suffering in the world (“even Christ”) and use that as a motivator for change. The “good news” you speak of seems to be limited to “you can reduce somewhat the suffering you are causing in the world.”

            That falls far short of the good news Jesus preached, doesn’t it? He said follow him and “sin no more.” And he showed it could be done by God’s grace. Leaning on his power, we can stop oppressing others and break free from cooperation with the destructive Powers of society. And, as he also demonstrated, we who are oppressed can be really set free from the economic and political Powers that control our lives. That’s some real good news, if you believe it.

            If, however, you think Jesus was an oppressor too, unavoidably causing the suffering of others through his economic and political connectedness, then it will probably be difficult to trust him to show a real way out.

          • Kathryn Price

            I see the good news in terms of Jesus’ proclamation in the words of Isaiah: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor….Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luke 4:18-19, 21). I see it in terms of the new creation we are called to be and in all he demonstrated with his life — in freedom to break away from oppressive systems and base our way of being in the world on love. I see it as far more than reducing suffering somewhat, and certainly as far more than “sin no more” — I see it as creating a whole new way of being in our relationships in the world. The world tells us there is no other way but killing and oppressing. Is it right?

            You seem to see using the awareness of suffering as a motivation for change as somehow a lesser motivation than…what? Sin no more? Was not Jesus’ awareness of suffering and keen response to it the reason for his challenge to the debt and purity systems in his community that kept people oppressed?

            I agree that it may not be possible to disengage from all oppressive systems that are so intertwined in our world. But trying to create awareness about them and responding when we are made aware is good news to those who are caught in them. Trying to dismantle those systems is good news if you are being crushed in one of them. I’d hope that someone would speak on my behalf if I were in one of the many kinds of prisons the Powers have created. If we follow Jesus, don’t we follow him into those places?

          • http://cimarronline.blogspot.com/2004/05/paul-munn.html paul munn

            That first paragraph is well said. I heartily agree. It seems to me, though, that the present and complete freedom that Jesus proclaimed is quite different from the piecemeal and limited freedoms that political activism can accomplish. But I’m encouraged about what you believe and are reaching for here.

            I don’t hear in your response much of the ideology I’m criticizing here, so it may not apply to you (though I think it does apply to this article). The only bit I wonder about is “I agree that it may not be possible to disengage from all oppressive systems that are so intertwined in our world.” Do you mean we will unavoidably still be part of that oppression?

            How does that fit with our being called to “in freedom break away from oppressive systems” (which Jesus showed us is possible)?

          • Kathryn Price

            In regard to the difficulty of disengaging from all oppressive systems, I thought I was agreeing with you when you said, “Because by the modern rationale of political and economic
            connectedness, pretty much everyone becomes an oppressor through their
            consumption or their citizenship in a democratic nation.” I now see that you were disagreeing with the notion that we are oppressors through that connectedness. Or, were you?

            I would say that we have come to an awareness that we are in many ways engaging in oppressive systems and the difficulty in breaking away is in that very kind of anonymous interconnectedness, even to the clothing we wear (who made it and under what conditions?). When we bring pressure to bear on such systems so that they do change (fair trade practices, etc.), we are breaking away. But in heating my home (very important in Minnesota) and driving a car I’m purchasing energy that is obtained in destructive ways and has caused wars, thus the difficulty. I don’t know how to live off the grid in that regard. When I drive through Iowa on my way to Nebraska (where family lives) I see more and more wind turbines every time. They are not a perfect system, either, but far better than some forms of energy. Maybe these things seem rather pedestrian next to proclamations of being a new creature in Christ, but being a new creature in Christ reaches into the pedestrian, and maybe especially there.

          • http://cimarronline.blogspot.com/2004/05/paul-munn.html paul munn

            That’s right, I was echoing and disagreeing with what I hear from many modern activists (and others) that seems to build a morality around our political and economic connectedness (as citizens and consumers) which unavoidably links each of us to the suffering in our world. As you suggest, the only apparent way then to stop contributing to the oppression and suffering is go completely “off the grid.” Which is impossible. And so people are stuck with the belief (and usually guilt) that with almost everything they do they are contributing to oppression or suffering somewhere. There are suggestions about how we can reduce this, but we are also told there is no way to get free of it, for either the oppressor or oppressed.

            This seems to be a morality that is clearly different from what we see in Jesus preaching. He certainly exposed and denounced sin in society, but not a “sin” that we could not stop doing, or a “sin” we could do with no knowledge of it or no evil intention. And he didn’t seem to teach or demonstrate that following his way of love (and non-oppression) meant going “off the grid,” did he?

            Jesus also (as you seem to agree) announced the possibility of real freedom for those who follow him and trust in God’s power to deliver. Not just “in heaven” either, but now, as he demonstrated in his life. The ideology of interconnectedness to oppression seems to deny that such freedom is possible, making it as much a message of slavery to sin as “the law” ever was.

          • Kathryn Price

            I will take some time to think about this. I haven’t thought of the ideology of interconnectedness as a message of slavery to sin. I think about it more in terms of waking up. I think about the coffee that my parents drank when I was a kid, never imagining that it was probably harvested by Salvadorans who in some cases couldn’t afford to drink it themselves. What the heck kind of system is that? Sure, it was easier not to know, but not better not to know. It wasn’t my parents’ fault that they didn’t know. The culture and market was designed to keep all that invisible.

            Jesus lived in a different time. He probably knew who made the bread he ate. I do think his teaching probably meant “going off the grid” in the terms of his culture. Otherwise, what was all that talk about forgiveness of debts?

            As for activism, I hold activists in the highest regard. I was one for a while, and hope to be one again when the demands of seminary end (when I graduate next spring) and when I regain my health (a whole other story). I have a lot of use for the activists who stood inside and outside of slaughterhouses with their cameras to tell a story no one wants to know. I saw farmers who wept at the footage we showed one time at some event whose name I don’t even remember, who said they never realized. How in the heck could you not know what happens to your animals after you send them to a slaughterhouse? Because no one wants to know, that’s how. Those activists who asked questions and climbed over barriers and cried and bled and had nightmares– I have a lot of respect for them. No, they didn’t talk about Jesus. And neither did I in those days. I figured Jesus didn’t care about animals, as the church had taught me. And even though I’m now in seminary and I have found a good church, sometimes I feel like the church in general is just so darned slow to get it that I’d rather be a political activist with other activists and I don’t care what they believe. I care what they accomplish. Sometimes I still can’t escape the nightmares of things I kind of wish I never had seen. And every day I ask God why it is the way it is. What’s up with this system?

            I can’t and won’t knock activists.

          • Kathryn Price

            Maybe the question is, “What will you do with the power that you have?” If you see the ideological of interconnected to oppression as keeping you in slavery to sin, what will you do with your freedom from it? Jesus brought a message of liberation, and I’d argue that when he said to his disciples, “Say to this mountain, move,” he was talking about the Roman empire (I think this is a Ched Myers’ interpretation). That isn’t a message of individualism.

            Jesus denounced oppressors; would he denounce activists seeking to overturn oppression? Going back to the article here, I’m not sure why the authors’ point of minimizing suffering to the best of our ability is not worthy of the gospel. “Minimize suffering,” is not the whole gospel, but neither is it apart from it.

            I have recently read, “The Cross and the Lynching Tree,” by James Cone. I am stunned that a nation that considered itself largely Christian could coexist peaceably with lynching and all the manifestations of a system that supported it, and even use Christianity to support it. It was a churchgoing nation, but the fact that it didn’t cry out against lynching tells me that the gospel was not in its midst in any real way, not in any way that mattered. If the gospel doesn’t matter, then…it doesn’t matter. The message I take away from Cone’s work is that we can have the gospel in our midst and be profoundly insensate to suffering in our midst, even savagely insensate. I’d say, rejoice in our freedom in Christ, be strengthened by it, and then be a witness, take on the powers. I think activists are taking them on and if they take them on while the church lags behind, fretting… then who are the new creations?

          • http://cimarronline.blogspot.com/2004/05/paul-munn.html paul munn

            I don’t experience the message of our unavoidable connectedness (and complicity) in oppression as “keeping me in slavery to sin.” Because I don’t believe it. I see it as largely a false message, contrary to what Jesus taught and lived. I do see others suffering because of that message, though, which is why I oppose it such as I am doing here.

            And my objection to “minimize suffering” was primarily that we are being told that the best we can do is try to minimize suffering to some extent, while still having to face the fact that our consumption (even that simply necessary to our survival) will always make us contributors to the oppression of others. Jesus presented a very different picture. So I’m insisting that we should not be satisfied with “minimize suffering” and instead reach for that real freedom (for ourselves and others) that he offered us and demonstrated as a reality here and now.

            From what I can see from most activist movements (that I and my friends have been involved with), we won’t get there by following the message and tactics they embrace. Such as “use the power that you have,” for example. But it does little good to talk about “activists” generally; I’d say go ahead and get more involved more and see if you’re satisfied where it takes you. I have been objecting here to a specific message that I hear from many activist types but that may not apply to you or certain other individuals involved in activism.

        • http://reachheavenonearth.blogspot.co.uk/ Adam Clark

          “Why help the disciples catch so many fish, why not spare them?”

          I basically read Luke 5:1-11 as Peter was complaining that they hadn’t caught any fish and in reply Jesus demonstrated by the miraculously large catch that if they put their trust in God He will provide for them (a parallel to Matthew 6:26). They need not worry. It was also the final straw in their fishing careers as Jesus used the miracle to tell them from now on they will catch men not fish. “So they (Peter, James and John) pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.”

          I doubt the demonstration had anything to do with improving their fishing technique! I suspect if Peter, James and John had been arable farmers instead Jesus would have done a similar thing with a field of shrivelled wheat.

          • http://cimarronline.blogspot.com/2004/05/paul-munn.html paul munn

            Yes, I agree. My point was that Jesus had an important (and loving) purpose in that action, which was not impeded by a moral principle that he must spare the suffering of the fish.

            I wouldn’t support causing suffering to animals for no reason, but I have encountered many situations where loving my neighbor (especially my poor neighbor) involves a certain amount of animal suffering. It seems to me that Jesus clearly showed that is a real possibility.

          • http://reachheavenonearth.blogspot.co.uk/ Adam Clark

            Unlike some vegans who view humans and non-human animals as equals, I agree with you. In God’s eyes, and in my humble opinion, humans are more special than animals. “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” (Matthew 6:26). However, as you say this does not mean we should cause unnecessary suffering to animals or eat them if there are other choices available. If we can love and care for animals in the same way God loves and cares for us, we will be on our way to ushering in the Peaceable Kingdom and celebrating some really “good news.”

          • John T.

            I see it differently, humans are no more special than other species.

            In biblical terms, it comes down to the meaning of “dominion”. The Hebrew word “radah” is usually interpreted as “rule” or “domination” and more recently as guardian, however it seems to me that “extract from” is a more accurate meaning. The word is also used in the bible to describe “taking” e.g. Judges 14:9 “that he had taken (radah) the honey out of the carcase of the lion”. When referring to kings or empires having dominion it is often accompanied with a matter of economic extraction – “taking from” e.g. 1 Kings 5:16 , (Solomon’s officers) “which ruled (radah) over the people that wrought in the work”

            When God gave humans “dominion” over the fish etc. it did not make humans king to rule over the other species, it only gave humans permission to take from the fish etc. The underlying spirituality of this is that the fish etc. are gifts from God that have been given to humans for their sustenance. Humans are not special, this gift of life and sustenance is also given to other species, it is a key element of the ecological interdependence of species – that often involves one species eating another.

            In biblical terms, what makes humans different from other species is not our “dominion”, our God given permission to take from other species, for this gift is shared amongst all species. What makes humans different from other species is that we have eaten of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil – we consumed that which we did not have dominion over, we did not have divine permission to eat, in fact we had direct divine instruction not to eat it.

          • http://reachheavenonearth.blogspot.co.uk/ Adam Clark

            We are told we are made in God’s image. I understand this to mean we have similar characteristics to God but just without His wisdom. After all God may have been around 4.5 billion years, that’s a long time learning! Therefore if we are similar in character, how we ideally treat others should be similar to how God treats us.

            If your interpretation is correct God takes from us like human kings,. I suspect, given His deep wisdom, we have more to learn from Him than He does from us. He gives far more than He takes.

            P.S. I use the masculine tense for God here, but God could well be feminine or androgynous. I don’t know.

          • John T.

            Nothing in Genesis suggests plants and animals were not created in God’s image too, but the story is about the essence of human consciousness, not zoology or botany. All species including humans were formed of the dust of the earth.

            Being created in the image of God does not necessarily make us God-like. The serpent’s temptation was (Genesis 3:5) “For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.”

            Eve’s motivation for eating the fruit was seeking wisdom – 6 “And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise………..”

            Being godlike, or seeking to be godlike, is the original problem.

          • http://reachheavenonearth.blogspot.co.uk/ Adam Clark

            Fair enough. I too believe in the Fall and the issues with seeking knowledge. Most of us have driven a car but not many of us know exactly how everything works under the bonnet/hood. If we spend too much time examining the engine we would not have much time left over to drive around and love our neighbour. I guess this is how I see the world and the Matrix we are in. We do not have to understand how it all works to be a good human.

            In terms of being God-like, or seeking to be God-like, we are where we are. Since the Fall, I see we have three choices: to become God-like, Satan-like or neither. Satan has set himself as being God-like but with one added key ingredient (pride) and one missing key ingredient (love). To quote John Milton’s Satan “Better to reign in Hell, than serve in Heaven.”

  • Rich Irwin

    Thank you for writing about this topic. As someone who dabbles in theology (and actually gets paid to do so somewhat like a vegetarian eating fish) I am wondering if there is a difference between eating in Jesus’ Kingdom (after the resurrection for Jesus and after its fruition for us) and eating right now. Paul seems to lean toward it not mattering one way or another.

    For me, trying to live without bringing more death into God’s world “than necessary” ( wow, that leaves a lot of room for rationalizing) means not eating animals anymore, but that I do sometimes “use” them (belt, shoes, milk,eggs) is a creative challenge. I resigned myself to using fish oil some time ago to help with cholesterol. Another compromise.

    Of course growing vegetables does leave me with more resources to share. In my current situation, this is so our congregation’s most visible impoverished family can buy phones and cell plans for all family members and rent things from the predatory lenders (this is of course after refusing to receive free financial and budgeting planning). Fortunately, Stop Hunger Now and some other places seem to be more faithful with my money.

    Our end is a creation where death no longer exists nor is remembered any more. Will we be regulated to breads, fruits and vegetables at the Master’s banquet? (and how will that silence the animal eating critics who say I am killing plants?) How do we witness to that Kingdom today? I suppose I find a similar dilemma (with much higher stakes) whenever I choose to make my quarterly financial contribution to the United States. Someone, I think it was Brimlow, wrote that part of living in “the between times” is to be under Adam’s curse of working the soil and having it produce thorns and simultaneously living in the Kingdom of God which is both here and yet to come. What if our resurrected bodies resembled fish! OK, think the allergy medicine is kicking in. Or maybe I am just reading too much George Carlin. Peace and courage to the Jesus Radicals!

    No real conclusion here (and maybe not a point!), but I am grateful for the topic.

    • Nekeisha

      Rich–have you looked into plant-based alternatives to fish oil? I hear that flaxseed oil is actually a very good substitute. A vegan diet–no flesh-based foods at all–can often do wonders for cholesterol and other issues like diabetes etc.

      I am also curious to know about what is behind the compromise for using animals for belts, shoes, milk and eggs, versus partaking of their flesh directly. For one thing, the vast majority of milk is still tied to the meat system as dairy cows (on industrial and less industrial farms) are usually who ends up becoming meat. (Learning about that connection is one of the things that compelled me to take veganism seriously.) There can be immense amounts of suffering in the production of leather and shoes (and other animal-based clothing products like fur) just as their is immense suffering in the production of flesh-foods. Is the compromise a theological one or one of convenience? It seems to me that the latter often times is the driving force, and theology is then used to justify what is essentially a decision about the amount of effort one chooses to exert (which I have found is not as much as people seem to think it is).

      I’m just curious about how you are making these distinctions.

      • Rich

        Nekeisha, thanks for the flaxseed oil tip. I’ll check into that. I’m probably leaning toward convenience, but I think theological distinctions can be made between using animals and killing them. But I agree there is an unfaithful journey from being a good steward of God’s creation and the US’s animal industry (and the food industry as a whole) .
        While I have cloth belts and shoes, I have not seen them last as long or work as well as leather ones. And the leather belts and shoes have been in my closet for years. So there is some rationalizing here. I am using leather but not much. As to eggs, almost all come from a friend’s hen raising hobby, and it allows me to share with our church family I mentioned above. Don’t really see a problem there. The milk I have no real defense for. We have not trained our children (or myself) to drink soy milk. We have not exerted ourselves.
        I am challenged to extend my theology beyond not killing to justice for animals and I appreciate your response. At the end of the day, I am trying to be a witness. Occasionally I get asked why I don’t eat meat and am allowed to give my testimony of extending pacifism from people to animals. Out here in rural North Carolina, I can get some strange looks! Especially if the argument centers around whether one prefers eastern or western NC B-B-Q ! Or not if one will own firearms but how many is enough. Nevertheless, I appreciate your insights and am looking for ways to make whatever witness I have more faithful.

  • http://www.facebook.com/chris.petruzzi.7 Chris Petruzzi

    As an economist, I appreciate that your article deals with the costs of alternative actions to meet desired ends. I particularly appreciate your noting that the vegan diet would be prohibitively costly to many (if not most) of the world’s people. I believe that letting children in third world countries starve to death has a greater spiritual cost than is any spiritual cost of eating animal products.

    • Nekeisha

      I have to respectfully disagree with this position. As someone who grew up on a small Caribbean island in what would have been considered “poor” conditions (no indoor plumbing, wooden house, tin roof), my diet consisted primarily of non-meat items. Fish was a bit of a staple but it did not have to be. Other kinds of meat were actually what was expensive. I was actually able to return to that country a few years ago and maintained a vegan diet 99% of the time, except for a dish I chose to eat with mayonnaise because my nana made it. (She would not have been offended if I said no–it was just the choice I made at that time and one that I probably would not make in the future.)

      There is a reason why meat is served in many places in the world during feasts, holidays and when guests are present. For those folks, it is not a staple of their diet. It is something prepared special when it is affordable. Raising of animals for food is costly in terms of the ratio between input and output (the amount of water, grain, etc. that is used to feed an animal to get what they produce). It is costly in terms of the impact on the environment, which has been well documented (and factory farms are not the only culprits–less industrial farming has significant impact as well.) It is costly in terms of human health. On all fronts–ecological, health, and energy-yield–it is less costly to produce vegetables. (It is even less costly if you know your way around wild plant edibles.)

      Furthermore, no vegan I know is arguing that we should let children “starve to death” and the assertion that a vegan diet leads to that is not based in any facts or reality. For example, if you look at the actual impact of something like commercial fishing, one will quickly see that Westerners trawling and destroying the seas and causing species collapse in various oceans around the world is doing significantly more to collapse local economies and increase starvation in a way that veganism never will. There are places on the coasts of Africa where waters are so depleted that people simply 1) cannot make a living any longer; b) cannot feed themselves or their children any longer; c) are dying trying to get to European countries as economic refugees. And the reason these things are happening are because Westerners with more money and access than the people of Senegal and other similar countries, are choosing to stuff their faces with fish because they like the way the flesh tastes. Continuing to eat that kind of food in the face of that kind of devastation is what is spiritually bankrupt, in addition to irresponsible and lacking in compassion. For more information on this, look up the documentary End of the Line or check out this New York Times article “Europe Takes Africa’s Fish, and Boatloads of Migrants Follow”: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/14/world/africa/14fishing.html?pagewanted=all

      Yes it is true that not everyone in the world can maintain a strict vegan diet. But then again, I don’t know of very many vegans who argue that every person on earth needs to adopt this kind of diet. The facts are that there is clear and growing evidence of the damage that flesh-food production and flesh-food consumption has–on human health, on the environment, on other animals–and flesh-food eaters who are actually able make the switch in as ethical ways as possible (ie most of the people reading this article) are rapidly running out of good reasons not to do so.

      • Chris Petruzzi

        Nekeisha,

        Thanks for your cordial and respectful response.

        As with many resources, the costs and benefits of eating animal products (broadly defined to include fish) depend on the quantities and the circumstances. I believe that for most Americans, their health would improve and the cost of their diet would fall if they reduced their consumption of animal products. As you noted, however, on the Caribbean island on which you grew up, people ate fish as part of their diet. Some quantity of fish can be more easily obtained by people in the Caribbean than they could obtain vegetables with similar nutritional value. If people in the Caribbean (some of which is third world) were compelled to entirely exclude fish from their diet, it is likely that life would be harder for them. Children in Haiti already die from malnutrition, including starvation. If we were to tell them that they may not eat fish, it is likely that more would die. Would Jesus tell children in Haiti to not eat the fish which they could easily obtain?

        • Lenny

          Where did Jesus poop out the fish? That’s the real question. Did he give back to the earth or did he hide it away like treasures in heaven?

  • http://reachheavenonearth.blogspot.co.uk/ Adam Clark

    Here is a parable I once heard about simple living, fishing and commercialism:

    A wise man is happily relaxing in the shade of a tree by a large beautiful lake. He is playing his guitar and beside him lays a fishing rod cast out into the lake.

    A businessman walks up to him and asks him what he is doing. He replies that he is waiting for a fish to pass by. The businessman asks whether he has seen anyone else around the lake. The wise man replies that he has not seen anyone else for weeks.

    Spotting an opportunity, the businessman advises that he should build himself a boat and cast a net into the lake. The fish could then be taken to market and sold.

    The wise man asks, “Then what should I do?”

    The businessman replies that he could then use the profits from his catch to build himself a bigger boat to catch more fish.

    The wise man asks, “Then what should I do?”

    The businessman advises that he could then build a fleet of vessels and hire a crew of people to help him catch even more fish.

    The wise man asks, “Then what should I do?”

    The businessman proclaims that he would then be rich and be able to retire early.

    The wise man asks, “Then what should I do?”

    The businessman replies that he could then sit by the lake and play his guitar. :)

  • Mi_Fe

    Hi,
    Jesus was without sin and without guilt. From the bible we know that he ate fish, gave fish to eat to others (the miracle of the bread and fish) and thus eating animals is not a sin.
    It is correct to say that sinful men and women were call to follow him but once they did they stopped their sinful ways (perhaps Judas the traitor was the exception).
    As for the suffering of the world and our involvement in it, it has to do with original sin.
    If what I say contradicts the teachings of the Church I recant in favor of the Church.
    God bless,
    Rosa

  • Brian Pruitt

    Perhaps you have such strong convictions about being a vegan that your reading of the scriptures is skewed. Paul said that every creature could be received with thanksgiving. Jesus not only ate fish, but he fed fish to others. He called fisherman to follow him and never said one word to them about repenting of killing fish. Paul also told Timothy that teaching people that that had to abstain from certain foods was “a doctrine of devils.”
    Believers have the right to be vegans, vegetarians, or eat meat every day. The mistake comes when any of us try to put social pressure on others and then pretend the Bible supports that position.

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