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8465animal liberation theology

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  • vasumurti@netscape.net
    Oct 3, 2011
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      The International Network for Religion and Animals (INRA) was founded in 1985 by Virginia Bouraquardez. Its educational and religious programs are meant to "bring religious principles to bear upon humanity's attitude towards the treatment of our animal kin...and, through leadership, materials, and programs, to successfully interact with clergy and laity from many religious traditions."
      According to INRA:
      "Religion counsels the powerful to be merciful and kind to those weaker than themselves, and most of humankind is at least nominally religious. But there is a ghastly paradox. Far from showing mercy, humanity uses its dominion over other animal species to pen them in cruel close confinement; to trap, club, and harpoon them; to poison, mutilate, and shock them in the name of science; to kill them by the billions; and even to blind them in excruciating pain to test cosmetics.
      "Some of these abuses are due to mistaken understandings of religious principles; others, to a failure to apply those principles. Scriptures need to be fully researched concerning the relationship of humans to nonhuman animals, and to the entire ecological structure of Nature. Misinterpretations of scripture taken out of context, or based upon questionable theological assumptions need to be re-examined."
      In the winter of 1990, INRA's Executive Director, the Reverend Dr. Marc A. Wessels of the United Church of Christ wrote: "As a Christian clergyman who speaks of having compassion for other creatures and who actively declares the need for humans to develop an ethic that gives reverence for all of life, I hope that others will open their eyes, hearts and minds to the responsibility of loving care for God's creatures."
      In a pamphlet entitled "The Spiritual Link Between Humans and Animals," Reverend Wessels writes: "We recognize that many animal rights activists and ecologists are highly critical of Christians because of our relative failure thus far adequately to defend animals and to preserve the natural environment. Yet there are positive signs of a growing movement of Christian activists and theologians who are committed to the process of ecological stewardship and animal liberation."
      According to Reverend Wessels, "The most important teaching which Jesus shared was the need for people to love God with their whole self and to love their neighbor as they loved themselves. Jesus expanded the concept of neighbor to include those who were normally excluded, and it is therefore not too farfetched for us to consider the animals as our neighbors.
      "To think about animals as our brothers and sisters is not a new or radical idea. By extending the idea of neighbor, the love of neighbor includes love of, compassion for, and advocacy of animals. There are many historical examples of Christians who thought along those lines, besides the familiar illustration of St. Francis. An abbreviated listing of some of those individuals worthy of study and emulation includes Saint Blaise, Saint Comgall, Saint Cuthbert, Saint Gerasimus, Saint Giles, and Saint Jerome, to name but a few...
      "Jesus' life was one of compassion and liberation;" concludes Reverend Wessels, "his ministry was one which understood and expressed the needs of the oppressed. Especially in the past decade, Christians have been reminded that their faith requires them to take seriously the cries of the oppressed.
      "Theologians such as Gutierrez, Miranda, and Hinkelammert have defined the Christian message as one which liberates lives and transforms social patterns of oppression. That concept of Christianity which sees God as the creator of the universe and the One who seeks justice is not exclusive; immunity from cruelty and injustice is not only a human desire or need--the animal kingdom also needs liberation."
      A growing number of Christian theologians, clergy and activists are beginning to take a stand in favor of animal rights. In a pamphlet entitled Christian Considerations on Laboratory Animals Reverend Marc Wessels notes that in laboratories animals cease to be persons and become "tools of research." He cites William French of Loyala University as having made the same observation at a gathering of Christian ethicists at Duke University--a conference entitled "Good News for Animals?"
      "With God, all things are possible." (Matthew 19:26; Mark 10:27; Luke 18:27) Anglican priest Reverend Andrew Linzey urges Christian readers to think in terms of future possibilities. "For to be committed to Jesus involves being committed not only to his earthly ministry in the past but also to his living Spirit in whose power new possibilities are continually opened up for us in the present. All things have yet to be made new in Christ and we have yet to become perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect. Making peace is a dynamic possibility through the Spirit."
      Clive Hollands of the St. Andrew Animal Fund in England, wrote in a 1987 paper entitled "The Animal Kingdom and the Kingdom of God" that animal rights "is an issue of strict justice," and one that calls for Christian compassion:
      "As Christians we believe that God gave us dominion over His Creation and we used that authority, not to protect and safeguard the natural world, but to destroy and pollute the environment and, worse, we have deprived animals of the dignity and respect which is due to all that has life.
      "Let us then thank God for the unending wonder of the created world, for the oneness of all life--for the Integrity of Creation. Let us pray for all living creatures, those in the wild that may never even see man and in whose very being worship their Creator.
      "Let us think and pray especially for all those animals who do know man, who are in the service of man, and who suffer at the hands of man. Let us pray to the God who knows of the fall of a single sparrow, that the suffering, pain and fear of all animals may be eased.
      "Finally, let us pray for all those who work to protect animals that their efforts may be rewarded and the time may come when animals are granted the dignity and respect which is their due as living beings created by the same hand that fashioned you and me."
      The Glauberg Confession is a theological statement of faith made before a God whose love extends to all His creatures. It reads as follows:
      "We confess before God, the Creator of the Animals, and before our fellow Men; We have failed as Christians, because we forgot the animals in our faith.
      "As theologians we were not prepared to stand up against scientific and philosophical trends inimical to life with the Theology of Creation.
      "We have betrayed the diaconical mission of Jesus, and not served our least brethren, the animals.
      "As pastors we were scared to give room to animals in our churches and parishes.
      "As the Church, we were deaf to the 'groaning in travail' of our mistreated and exploited fellow-creatures.
      "We justify the Glauberg Confession theologically.
      "We read the statements in the Bible about Creation and regard for our fellow-creatures with new eyes and new interest. We know how tied up we are with Nature, linked with every living thing--and under the same threat.
      "The rediscovery of the theology of Creation has also turned our regard upon the animals, our poorest brothers and sisters. We perceive that as theologically thinking and working Christians we owe them a change of attitude.
      "We justify our Confession pastorally.
      "For years many people actively engaged in animal welfare have been waiting for us ministers of religion to take up the cause of animal rights. Many of them have quit the Church in disappointment because no clear witness was given for the animals in the field of theology, in the Church's social work or in the parishes, either in word or in deed. The task of winning back the trust of these people who dedicate their time, money, energy and sometimes their health to reconciliation with the animals, is a pastoral challenge to us."
      Reverend Marc Wessels says of The Glauberg Confession:
      "It speaks simply but eloquently on behalf of those who have determined that they will no longer support a theology of human dictatorship that is against God's other creatures...
      "This brief statement was written during the spring of 1988 and was signed by both Roman Catholic and Protestant clergy who participated in its framing.
      "It was signed by men and women of religious orders, as well as by laity. Both academics and average church members have indicated their support for the document by signing it.
      "Growing numbers of people around the globe are also adding their own personal declaration of support by forwarding their names to the covenors of the confession."
      "Increasingly, during this century Christians have come to understand the gospel, the Good News, in terms of freedom, both freedom from oppression and freedom for life with God and others. Too often, however, this freedom has been limited to human beings, excluding most other creatures, as well as the earth.
      "This freedom cannot be so limited because if we destroy other species and the ecosystem, human beings cannot live. This freedom should not be so limited because other creatures, both species and individuals, deserve to live in and for themselves and for God. Therefore, we call on Christians as well as other people of good will to work towards the liberation of life, all life."
      ---World Council of Churches
      "The Liberation of Life," 1988
      In "The Liberation of Life," the World Council of Churches, a politically left-liberal organization with worldwide influence, has taken the strongest animal protection position of any Christian body.
      This document urges parishioners to avoid cosmetics and household items that have been tested on animals; to buy "cruelty-free" products, instead. This document urges parishioners to boycott animal furs and skins, and purchase "cruelty-free" clothing as a humane alternative. This document asks that meat, eggs and dairy products be purchased from sources where the animals have not been subject to overcrowding, confinement and abuse, and reminds parishioners they are free to avoid such products altogether. Parishioners are also asked not to patronize any form of entertainment that treats animals as mere objects of human usage.
      In a paper presented before the Conference on Creation Theology and Environmental Ethics at the World Council of Churches in Annecy, France in September, 1988, American philosopher Dr. Tom Regan (the foremost intellectual leader of the animal rights movement), expressed opposition to discrimination based upon genetic differences:
      "...biological differences inside the species Homo sapiens do not justify radically different treatment among those individual humans who differ biologically (for example, in terms of sex, or skin color, or chromosome count). Why, then, should biological differences outside our species count morally? If having one eye or deformed limbs do not disqualify a human being from moral consideration equal to that given to those humans who are more fortunate, how can it be rational to disqualify a rat or a wolf from equal moral consideration because, unlike us, they have paws and a tail?"
      Dr. Regan concluded:
      "...the whole fabric of Christian agape is woven from the threads of sacrificial acts. To abstain, on principle, from eating animals, therefore, although it is not the end-all, can be the begin-all of our conscientious effort to journey back to (or toward) Eden, can be one way (among others) to re-establish or create that relationship to the earth which, if Genesis 1 is to be trusted, was part of God's original hopes for and plans in creation.
      "It is the integrity of this creation we seek to understand and aspire to honor. In the choice of our food, I believe, we see, not in a glass darkly, but face to face, a small but not unimportant part of both the challenge and the promise of Christianity and animal rights."
      In a 1989 interview with the Animals' Agenda, Reverend Linzey insisted, "...my primary loyalty is to God, and not to the church. You see, I don't think the claims of the church and the claims of God are identical...The church is a very human institution, a frail human institution, and it often gets things wrong. Indeed, it's worse than that. It's often a stumbling block and often a scandal."
      Linzey expressed optimism from a study of history: "Let's take your issue of slavery. If you go back in history, say 200 years, you'll find intelligent, conscientious, loving Christians defending slavery, because they hardly gave it two thoughts. If they were pressed, they might have said, 'Slavery is part of progress, part of the Christianization of the dark races.'
      "A hundred or perhaps as little as 50 years later, what you suddenly find is that the very same Christian community that provided one of the major ideological defenses of slavery had begun to change its mind...here is a classic example of where the Christian tradition has been a force for slavery and a force for liberation.
      "Now, just think of the difficulties that those early Christian abolitionists had to face. Scripture defended slavery. For instance, in Leviticus 25, you're commanded to take the child of a stranger as a slave...St. Paul simply said that those who were Christian slaves should be better Christians. Almost unanimously, apart from St. Gregory, the church fathers defended slavery, and for almost 1800 years, Christians defended and supported slavery. So, in other words, the change that took place within the Christian community on slavery is not just significant, it is historically astounding.
      "Now, I give that example because I believe the case of animals is in many ways entirely analogous. We treat animals today precisely as we treated slaves, and the theological arguments are often entirely the same or have the same root. I believe the movement for animal rights is the most significant movement in Christianity, morally, since the emancipation of the slaves. And it provides just as many difficulties for the institutional church..."
      Christians have found themselves unable to agree upon many pressing moral issues--including abortion. Exodus 21:22-24 says if two men are fighting and one injures a pregnant woman and the child is killed, he shall repay her according to the degree of injury inflicted upon her, and not the fetus. On the other hand, the Didache (Apostolic Church teaching) forbade abortion.
      "There has to be a frank recognition that the Christian church is divided on every moral issue under the sun: nuclear weapons, divorce, homosexuality, capital punishment, animals, etc.," says Reverend Linzey. "I don't think it's desirable or possible for Christians to agree upon every moral issue. And, therefore, I think within the church we have no alternative but to work within diversity."
      "Every year," says Dr. Linzey, "I receive hundreds of anguished letters from Christians who are so distressed by the insensitivity to animals shown by mainstream churches that they have left them or on the verge of doing so. Of course, I understand why they have left the churches and in this matter, as in all else, conscience can be the only guide. But if all the Christians committed to animal rights leave the church, where will that leave the churches?
      "The time is long overdue to take the issue of animal rights to the churches with renewed vigor. I don't pretend it's easy but I do think it's essential--not, I add, because the churches are some of the best institutions in society but rather because they are some of the worst. The more the churches are allowed to be left to one side in the struggle for animal rights, the more they will remain forever on the other side.
      "I derive hope from the Gospel preaching," Linzey concludes, "that the same God who draws us to such affinity and intimacy with suffering creatures declared that reality on a Cross in Calvary. Unless all Christian preaching has been utterly mistaken, the God who becomes incarnate and crucified is the one who has taken the side of the oppressed and the suffering of the world--however the churches may actually behave."
      Jared Warth, bass for blessthefall: "I think that protecting animals is a big part of Christianity. Animal abuse is a big problem in the world today, especially in animal fighting and animal testing. I feel animals shouldn't be used for these things. God did not intend for it to be this way, and humans should not take advantage of God's gift...get involved with Action for Animals. From what I've heard it's a very informative program and will give anyone any information they need on preserving animal rights."
      Patrick Meadows, guitar for Gwen Stacy: "I first became aware of PETA while I was in high school. I remember going to the Warped Tour every summer and seeing their tents, though I never really put much thought into it until I went to college.  [T]he idea of factory farming has always disgusted me."
      Eric Gregson, guitar for Sleeping Giant: "I have been vegan for about 12 years now. I became aware of PETA in the late '90s as a result of my passion to end animal cruelty.  Yes, I would consider Sleeping Giant a Christian band.  Along with Sleeping Giant, I also pastor a church in Redlands, California. As I have studied the Bible, the nature and character of God has become more apparent to me. 
      "In Genesis, we see that God created a perfect world, and in that world animals were not mistreated, abused, or used for human consumption. That being said, I believe that God cares about all of His creation (including animals), and it was never in His heart or will for them to be mistreated. Jesus died to regain what was lost in that perfect world. Christians have much to learn about the heart of God.  
      "Factory farming is the issue that I feel most strongly about. Out of all the animal rights issues, I believe factory farming causes the most pain and does the most damage to animals and people. Millions of animals are mistreated and destroyed every year for the sake of our comfort. It is appalling."
      Joe Lengson, bass for MyChildren MyBride: "I first heard about peta2 at, I think, Warped Tour in Pomona, California. I saw the tents and the people trying to get signatures and I signed up. They gave me the DVD and all the booklets. … Then I started meeting people, and they started sending me stuff. Over the years I became aware of animal rights and turned veg[etarian] and vegan for a while.
      "I first heard about peta2 at, I think, Warped Tour in Pomona, California. I saw the tents and the people trying to get signatures and I signed up. They gave me the DVD and all the booklets...Then I started meeting people, and they started sending me stuff. Over the years I became aware of animal rights and turned veg[etarian] and vegan for a while.  
       "[A]t least try out being a vegetarian—that even makes a difference…[E]ducate yourself about the topic and learn what to give a crap about...Millions of animals are mistreated and destroyed every year for the sake of our comfort. It is appalling.
      "Probably animal testing and the fur issue. Maybe about two years ago, a friend of mine from PETA sent me a bunch of stuff when you guys were doing the "Fur [Is] Dead" campaign...I looked into it and I was like, "That is so messed up." There are so many other things you can wear that are just the same [as fur]. I ended up wearing [that Fur Is Dead shirt] for a whole tour on stage..."


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