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Justice

Does Meat Matter?

September 30, 2016 by

October 1 is World Vegetarian Day. But is what we eat all that really matters? How can we express concern for the sacrifice that animals make when we eat them without considering the sacrifices of other parts of God’s creation, and, ultimately, the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross? For a thoughtful perspective on this often contentious issue we went back into the Bruderhof archives to a sermon given by Eberhard Arnold in 1935, excerpts of which follow. No matter what diet or philosophy of eating you follow, it contains provoking insights and, dare we say it, food for thought.


I am convinced that not only animals have an emotional life feeling; I am convinced that plants, too, have their life‑feeling. It is unthinkable that the beauty of plants and their swaying in the wind, the moving upward and downward of the sap in their stems could exist without any life‑feeling.

kids posing with vegetables that they grew

How is it in the world of plants on this earth? Everywhere one plant displaces another. There is no doubt that animals live on plants which have a life‑feeling and are killed. And the animals in their turn kill each other and displace each other. And final­ly there is man, the greatest of all beasts of prey.

Is there a place on the earth where one could escape from these dreadful things? In the face of this, would it be a help if one were not to eat animals any longer, while continuing to eat living plants just as before? Do we even know what emotional life there might be hidden in bacteria and bacilli? What a terrible, dread-­inspiring earth is this on which we live? It would be a hopeless situation for all of us if there were no gospel of Jesus Christ.

In the face of such a terrible situation, we cannot believe that it would be of considerable or decisive help to give up eating meat. It is a hopeless situa­tion. We can have reverence for the vegetarian conscience. We can say, “Very well, if this is how you feel, then do it;” but you should also see clearly that plants have a sensitive soul too.

In the ultimate consequence, man on this way is like a lotus‑flower, which withers, dries out, and starves, because with every drink of water and with every breath it would have to commit a sin against living beings. With each glass of water we devour living beings.

This proves that one cannot live on the earth without sacrificing life. Therefore in the history of Jesus everything that happens is pointed toward his death. The Gospels are dramatically built up with a view to his death, from the first to the last chapter.

This sacrifice is the mystery of Jesus. The mutual service of giving one’s life, of one giving himself for the other, is sacrifice. Whether one sacrifices one hour of his life for another or gives his whole life as a sac­rifice for the other is only a relative difference. Ultimately, therefore, the question is this: Is there something so great and so powerful that we can accept sacrifices for it and also give our own life as a sacrifice for it?

Everything depends on this question; it is the cul­minating point. It is the question about the greatness of the cause for which one may accept and make sacrifices. It is not enough to answer this question by pointing toward the relative value of the sacrifices. Organisms live on organisms, plants live on minerals and their chemical components which are remnants of animal life, animals live on plants and on other animals.

All this is correct but it is not enough. Something else, something greater must become revealed; the ultimate meaning of all things is unity, unity and peace. This unity must include the world of stars and of planets just as much as the world of plants and of men. When God rules, animals and men will no longer kill one another, animals will not destroy plants, the stars will no longer carry death, and no dying will be brought about.

The agony of the earth is boundless, but if we live for the message which Jesus entrusted to his disciples, we can accept any sacrifice. From the beginning Jesus wanted to sacrifice himself. He did it on the cross. And I believe that through this last deed of being sacrificed, Jesus over­came the Satanic power of the earth spirit. Now at last the kingdom of God can come to the earth; for he dealt the decisive blow to death. For the kingdom of God he sacrificed his life!

When Jesus instituted the Meal of Remembrance, he pointed to his surrendered life as the sacrifice of his blood and of his body. The eating of the bread and the drinking of the wine, and his proclamation of forgiveness, of unity and of the future, belong together with the eating of the sacrificial lamb.

Jesus accepted the sacrifice of this animal in order to proclaim among those gathered around his table what the sacrifice for God’s kingdom is. Thus he pro­claimed his sacrificial death. Thus, in original Chris­tianity, all that we eat becomes a thanksgiving for a sacrifice. Every meal becomes a communal meal, a love meal, a thanksgiving sacrifice, a Meal of Remembrance.

This is as it should be: that we give great thanks to God each time we are permitted to gather for a meal. And we do not give our thanks for the satisfaction of our own interests, of our own appetites through the meal. We give thanks for the sacrifice of plants and animals which God gives us so that we may live in the unity which is the will of God; so that we may continue to live for the life witness of God’s kingdom in his community.

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  • Every animals kill its food for surviving. But we humankind sometimes kill animals for pleasure. Lets think , fishing or hunting ; we do fishing for also pleasure. What God gave us to our table is appreciated. We thank God for our Daily food. In my country there is feast of sacrifice. Muslim people cut cows, sheeps and camels for sacrificing God. And they share the food with poor people . It is good tradition. Poor people can have chance to eat meet once in their life. It is their pray for thanksgiving.

    Metin Erdem