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Posts Tagged ‘fish’

2048. The End of the Line. Oceans Without Fish

June 18th, 2009 No comments

To quote Brian McLaren, “Everything Must Change“.  No but seriously,  Everything.

for theological reference … The Belly and the Body in the Pauline Epistles.

Soulful Savages

October 20th, 2008 No comments

Today I’d like to work through something that comes up a lot when I try to talk to my church friends about the concept of ethical vegetarianism.  I usually hear something about how Jesus fed fish to the masses and God killed an animal to clothe Adam and Eve in leather.   I guess the implication is that if you read these passages this way it’s somehow justification for the idea that God doesn’t care about animals, he kills them so we can … etc. the logic of which I disagreed with in the Slippery Fish post.  So, onto the miracles …

Jesus turned water into wine.  That was a miracle – he isn’t bound by the usual laws of time and matter.

Jesus multiplied bread to feed thousands.  That was a miracle – he isn’t bound by the usual laws of time and matter.

Jesus multiplied fish to feed thousands.  That was a miracle – he isn’t bound by the usual laws of time and matter.

So how then do the feeding/multiplication miracles have anything to do with whether or not we have a moral obligation to not cause suffering to sentient beings when we have the ability to do otherwise?   Did Jesus have to go through the usual processes to make wine?  Not that we know of.  Poof, it’s wine.  Did Jesus have to go through the usual processes to feed fish to thousands … no, poof there’s enough for everybody.  Even taking a literal reading of this miracle story, I don’t see how this supports a  rejection of the argument for ethical vegetarianism today.  At its most literal … Jesus multiplied dead fish … he personally didn’t do any killing in this story.  At another level it’s about him actually being concerned with (literally) hungry  people. If we’re concerned about feeding hungry people in the world we should know that given a limited amount of agricultural land we can feed more people with plants than we can with flesh.  At another level it’s a spiritual metaphor which isn’t about literal food but spiritual nourishment.  (Which brings up another point that I’ll talk about in a separate post … that when you mix the imagery of physical and spiritual nourishment … you still get more support for a less violent trajectory through Jesus.  Wow that’s pretty bad wording, huh.)

The other example of this kind of thinking comes up with Adam and Eve getting kicked out of the garden. Even if you take this to mean literal skins, as in animal skins, like leather … how is it that the Creator God who just got finished speaking the universe into existence is somehow not given credit for being able to “clothe them in skins” without going through the usual processes of killing an animal?  He created the entire universe with a word but he can’t create an outfit without slaughtering an animal?  If anything this looks to me like a commentary on our natures outside of our intended relationship with God.  In my opinion the writer is describing God giving us over to our lesser natures, describing us becoming like animals.   You don’t even have to read it as implying we weren’t corporeal before that. The point to me is that when we exist outside of what God wants for us we are clothed in our animal nature.

The point though isn’t about how I interpret this passage.  The point is that the passage itself doesn’t go any further than it does and is therefore open to interpretation. The passage simply does not say that God killed the first animal. Proponents of penal substitution interpret it this way because it fits with the idea that “something has to die” and God was the one who started / institutionalized animal killing for us.  I think much theological discourse has been approached from a position of assuming the right and/or necessity of killing animals and that has lead to concepts like penal substitution.  Once you get out of that paradigm, out from under the idea that killing animals is a necessity, then scripture looks very different, start to finish.

Slippery Fish

October 17th, 2008 No comments

I’m often asked how I reconcile my concept of ethical vegetarianism with the fact that the Protestant canon describes Jesus actually eating fish (albeit only once).   Let me throw out some thoughts and see where it leads …

It seems to me that the implication behind the question is that Jesus was fully God therefore the scriptural depiction of Jesus eating fish means that God eats fish and if God does it, it’s certainly ok for me to do it.  If you go with the reasoning that ‘God does it therefore I can do it’ … well, that’s just a mess … most of the death and destruction in the Bible is attributed to God.  I don’t think the idea that ‘God did it’ translates in any meaningful way into a blanket assertion that ‘therefore it’s ok for me to do it’.  Depending on how you interpret the cross you might also be in a position to say that God killed Jesus therefore it would be ok for me to kill Jesus.

What about the other side … Jesus as God incarnate was fully human.  What about the fully human aspects of Jesus am I supposed to follow?   If we’re taking the physical fact of Jesus eating fish as our example, by what reasoning do we stop at that one physical, worldly act?  Jesus ate fish therefore it’s ok for me to eat fish …. Jesus walked on water … it’s ok for me to step out of a boat and … and what – walk on water?  Surely identifying ourselves as Jesus followers does not mean we are merely extracting and following an historical biography –  wearing what Jesus wore, speaking the language Jesus spoke, wearing my hair the way Jesus wore it.  The historical Jesus was supposedly an unmarried man – how do I extract meaning from that as a married woman?  There’s obviously more to it than that.  The quest for the Jesus of history is valuable, but I think it’s misplaced to limit our understanding of what it means to follow Christ to what can be harvested from that line of inquiry.

So to answer the question … I don’t reconcile it.  It’s not something that needs reconciling to me.  Personally, I think the one time we actually have a description of Jesus eating fish, if you read it non-metaphorically, it’s in the context of proving he’s resurrected in the flesh.  I think the point was about the reality, the physicality of the resurrection … not about ethical vegetarianism.  I’ll close with some comments from Richard Young in response to the so-called dilemma of a Jesus who ate fish.

… divine activity among humans invariably involves accommodation to human life and customs.  Said another way, divine activity in a disordered world saturated with evil and violence must inevitably be less than ideal.  The way things are is the context for God to evoke change.  God participates in human history through a process of accommodation, a process in which God allows human freedom and then works through that freedom and the customs which it spawns (such as wars, sacrifice, and meat eating) to achieve the divine goal.  The God who cannot look upon evil (Hab 1:13) became incarnate in Christ and mingled with tax collectors and sinners.

… Jesus came to give his life a ransom for many (Mark 10:45) and to call sinners to repentance before a holy God (Luke 5:32). He did not come to legislate vegetarianism, animal rights, health reform, or end slavery.    ~“Is God a Vegetarian?”, p 10-11.