Tag Archives: vegetarianism

Why do Christians eat meat? (1)

Hardly a day passes on Twitter when someone does not criticise the Muslim practice of thanking Allah/God at the time they kill an animal to eat. Most people who condemn halal practice and completely disconnected with the methods used to produce the meat that they take for granted on the supermarket shelves. To many meat is just another commodity.

In the UK today many people would probably describe themselves as non-religious and many describe themselves as Christian are probably non-practising in that they do not pray and rarely attend church. Most people, therefore, have no concept of the background to Jewish kosher or Muslim halal practice because they live outside a religious environment. But why are practising Christians dismissive of kosher and halal practice?

Jesus and the sect that he joined were Jews. If they ate meat they would surely have eaten kosher. Kosher codes describe humane animal welfare in life and at slaughter, and hygienic cooking. What could be eaten would have been eaten. Because they could not keep raw meat for more than a couple of days eating meat became community events (hence the concept of holy days and festivals). They may well have gathered to celebrate a significant family or community event.

We probably misunderstand the meaning of “sacrifice”. Everything that could be eaten would have been eaten and not wasted. Hides or skins would have been salvaged and everything else that could not be eaten or used was burnt so that the skeletal remains could be disposed of safely so as not to attract vermin and scavengers that could bring disease.

If Jesus and his colleagues ate meat they would not have abandoned time-honoured good practice that was in fact more or less followed by many if not all religious cults at that time. I’ll hazard a guess and suggest that Jews may have done it better than many other peoples.

Somewhere along the line early Christians have lost touch with their heritage. Well not all of them – some Christians in the Middle East and North Africa have retained their cultural practices. Muslims include Jews and Christians in the term “Peoples of the Book” indicating that Christians living alongside Mohammed in and around what we call Saudi Arabia must have known how to prepare their meat the halal or kosher way.

Western Christians have little empathy with kosher and halal. Some indeed are openly hostile towards Jews and Muslims. A substantial number of Christians do not even accept that the One Creator God that Abraham followed is the same Creator God followed by Muslims. Allah is seen as a false God and presumably the world in which Muslims live is a false world. I know that does not make sense. If you believe in a Creator God there was only One Creation. Whether it was as described in Genesis or a Big Bang it happened once.

Part of the halal slaughter practice is the need for the person taking the life of an animal to thank God for his bounty and to seek forgiveness for taking the life. Many Christians cannot empathise with that. It is worth trying to understanding kosher slaughter. A Jewish shochet is not permitted to kill in anger. Thus if he gets out of bed on the wrong side he is not permitted slaughter that day. The whole process should be performed with a degree of solemnity.

If Jesus and his colleagues ate meat why would they have abandoned such practices? It is inconceivable.

I have seen a number of references to the possibility that the sect that Jesus joined was vegetarian. The Christian story most of us learn is that Jesus was the ultimate sacrifice.

Jill, Duchess of Hamilton wrote an article, “There is no role for animal sacrifice in Christianity”

Here is an excerpt:

Yet bloodless altars are a distinguishing feature of Christian churches. One of the tenets of the faith is that Jesus was the ultimate and final sacrifice. Christians atone for their sins without the shedding of blood. They look to Jesus as the lamb of God who made the ancient belief in sacrifice obsolete.

Sacrifice is how they prepared meat to eat in those days. Today’s word “slaughter” is a close synonym. The ancient skills were passed down by word of mouth, the oral tradition, from one generation of priests to the next. That is until the Second Temple was destroyed by the Romans the year 70CE. They could  no longer gather at The Temple to eat their meat. The practices were then written down or codified so that meat could be safely produced elsewhere. The skills of the priests were transferred to rabbis.

Now I pose the question, if Jesus and his associates ate meat would not all of today’s Christians have empathy with kosher practice and even try to follow it? On the other hand Jesus overthrew the money changers’ table in the Temple. The Temple authorities seemingly had monetized sacrifice and made it a business. Jesus challenged the establishment. This supports the concept that Jesus may have been vegetarian.

If this is so, why do Christians eat meat as they do?

I have just come across this:

Compassionate Eating

The writers drawn attention to the idea of “stewardship” of the planet:

Our Planet – Being the Best Steward You Can Be

In Genesis 2:15, God instructed Adam to “till” and “keep” the Garden of Eden, and by analogy we may see caring for God’s Creation as our sacred task. The typical meat eater’s diet requires up to 14 times more water and 20 times more energy than that of a vegetarian. Indeed, current use of land, water, and energy is not sustainable, and resource depletion threatens to cause great hardships for humankind this century.

A recent report concluded that worldwide livestock production contributes 51% of humanity’s greenhouse gasses. The most important thing people can do to reduce their contribution to global warming is to reduce their use of animal products.

In closing I eat meat but increasingly I look for vegetarian options on menus. I have written this because in my view Christians who oppose halal and kosher practices, especially the former, must seriously and robustly be challenged. Those who promote a vegetarian diet cannot be questioned but those who attack halal but eat meat themselves really do need to study their history.

For people who have no empathy with religion and who struggle with “religious slaughter” I can only say that our religious ancestors did not create ritual just for the hell of it. The academics and/or priests of the day would surely have clocked that there good and bad ways of prodcuing meat. Get it wrong and they were punished for the sin of taking a life in the form of food poisoning and other diseases that would have had a big impact on public health.

 

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