Pray Ceaselessly & Eat Justly

Living our environmentalism at every meal.

God has showed you, O human, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? Only that you act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God.Mic. 6:8

Pray without ceasing. -Thess. 5:17

In 1987 I was a senior in high school and struggling with the fact that almost a billion people were starving in the world while I was about to pay a liberal arts college enough to feed thousands of starving Ethiopians, Eritreans, or Sudanese for a year. What did the vast gulf between the developed world and the developing world say about the existence of God?

I had been reading Nation magazine and Mother Jones for a few years and had started an underground ’zine and a recycling program at my Oklahoma high school. I had organized protests of US policy in Latin America. I was trying to live out my role as a Christian who was concerned about the plight of “the least of these,” as defined by Jesus in Matthew 25.

I showed up at Grinnell College in Iowa feeling confused and guilty about my role in the world and wanting to do more to help, so I joined Poverty Action Now and the Latin American Support Organization. I volunteered weekends at the Catholic Worker soup kitchen and shelter in Des Moines and organized film screenings about US policy in the developing world.

Then one day I read a book that would radically change my life’s trajectory. In Diet for a Small Planet, Frances Moore Lappé makes a very simple argument: Growing crops to feed animals, who will burn off most of those calories simply by existing, is inefficient and wasteful. Furthermore, it drives up the price of feed crops, which means that the poor in the developing world can’t afford them. As the Worldwatch Institute puts it: “In a world where an estimated one in every six people goes hungry every day, the politics of meat consumption are increasingly heated, since meat production is an inefficient use of grain … Continued growth in meat output is dependent on feeding grains to animals, creating competition for grain between affluent meat-eaters and the world’s poor.” In other words, by eating meat, I was participating in a system that took food from the mouths of the global poor to fatten up farm animals for those of us in affluent countries.

Read more of Bruce’s article and learn the facts about food & the environment…

 


Comments:

Dear Editor:

Thank you for Bruce Friedrich’s wonderful essay, “Living our Environment at Every Meal.”  Indeed, a meatless meal is completely consistent with Biblical teachings, laws, and traditions.

Numerous  passages of Scripture  require us to refrain from abuse of
other creatures, which regularly suffer immensely during the raising
and slaughter of animals for food.

Even the holiest of our laws, the Ten Commandments, requires
that farmed animals be allowed to enjoy a day of rest on the Sabbath
(Exodus 23:12, Deuteronomy 5:14). So the Almighty must have felt that
kindness to animals was not a trivial matter.

Unquestionably, the Bible is full of amazingly strong admonitions and commandments to protect animals and nature, instructing us to exercise wise stewardship over God’s Creation.
In the beginning, the  Lord’s very first commandment (Genesis 1:22) was
to the birds, whales, fish and other creatures to “be fruitful and multiply,”
and fill the seas and the skies. His first commandment to humans
(Genesis 1:28), was to “replenish the earth … and have dominion” over
other creatures.

These first-given commandments concern the welfare and survival of animals and nature, and human responsibilities towards them. Again, the Lord must have considered this very important.

Clearly, God was well pleased with the works of His Creation, as is recounted in the first chapter of Genesis.
After He made each of the creatures and the features of the natural world, He saw that each was “good” and commanded the animals to thrive and increase. And when the entire Creation was completed, God saw
“everything that He had made” and found it “very good” (1:29-31).

Although the passage in Genesis 1:26 giving humans “dominion” over nature and animals has often been cited
as a right to control, dominate, or even despoil the environment, the mandate clearly refers to human stewardship responsibilities over the earth, to care for and protect God’s handiwork, to be a good steward of the natural world.

Later, when God promised Noah and generations to come never again to destroy the Earth with a flood, He
included in the covenant “every living creature … the fowl, the cattle, and every beast of the earth … ” (Genesis 9:
12-17).

Psalm 104 extols the creatures of “this great and wide sea”, saying “O Lord, how manifold are thy works!
In wisdom thou hast made them all: The earth is full of thy riches … The glory of the Lord shall endure forever.”

In Leviticus (26:3-6), the Lord promises that, if humans obey His commandments, the land will reward them with what seems to be a vegetarian bounty: “If ye walk in my statutes, and keep my commandments, and do them; then I will give you rains in their season, and the land shall yield her produce, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit … And I will give peace in the land.”

The New Testament also contains numerous favorable references to animals and nature. Among Jesus’ many teachings in this regard, he is twice quoted (Luke 12:6, Matthew 10:29) as saying that the Lord cares for all his creatures, even the “lowliest” of them: “Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is
forgotten before God.”

And nowhere in the Bible is Jesus recorded as ever having eaten any meat or flesh of any kind, even at The Last Supper, a Passover meal where the lamb dish was traditional. And the  only
mention of his ever eating fish is twice after his death and resurrection.

Today, tragically, human activities threaten the existence of various entire species of wildlife, and endanger the earth’s critical biological and life support systems essential to our own survival.

Is this how God intended for us to treat His Creation — the Creation He declared “very good” and over which He gave us responsibility ? As the Lord said of “every beast of the earth, and … every fowl of the air … all that moveth upon the earth, and all the fishes of the sea: into your hand are they delivered” (Genesis 9:2).

Considering how we have dealt with this trust placed into our hands, can we expect the Lord someday to say to us, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant ?”

It is truly a shameful thing that we so heavily use meat products the production of which often involves the massive
abuse and suffering of billions of factory farmed creatures, many
of which spend their entire lives in misery, fear, and anguish, in
addition to the often painful way they are killed.

It is hard to imagine that abuse of animals would be pleasing to a
merciful God. Can this truly be the will of the Lord,  who called
each animal He created “good” and the Creation itself “very good”
(Genesis 1:29-31), who commanded us to leave some crops in the fields
for the wildlife (Leviticus 25:4-7), and to allow oxen to eat while
working (Deuteronomy 25:4), and who repeatedly  prohibited cruelty
to animals ?

As Proverbs 12:10 tells us, “A righteous man has regard for the life
of his beast.” Truly, as Psalm 145:9 states,  “His compassion is over
all His creatures.”

Sincerely yours,

Lewis Regenstein
Atlanta, GA   

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