A Glimpse of the Peaceable Kingdom
Can anyone find the story behind this “Significant Otter” picture?
Editor’s Corner Essay:
“Eternal Consequences, That’s What!” Part I
In the June, 2011 PT we featured an essay by Carol J. Adams entitled “Under Her Wings: The Pollomorphic God,” meaning the chicken-shaped God, or the God who is like a chicken (see Pollomorphic ). The author describes several passages in the Hebrew scripture that represent God as similar to a bird sitting over her eggs, keeping them warm until they hatch, feeding and caring for the baby chicks, sheltering them under her wings. Jesus takes up this theme, presenting himself [or speaking, as a prophet, for God] as a compassionate mother hen who wants to shelter her scattered babies, the people of Jerusalem, under her wings.
Human beings, described in the Hebrew Scriptures as created in the image of God, often see God as like ourselves, having a voice that speaks to us, an outstretched arm that rescues us from trouble, and the like. There are a number of such anthropomorphic images in the Bible, and they are helpful to many. But in other ways, Adams points out, we humans are not like God, are aliens; humans are not the measure of all things as we tend to assume. Nevertheless, we are enjoined to love and to welcome all our neighbors, including the human aliens in our midst, and, by implication, other beings who seem alien as well. Like God symbolized as a mother chicken, Adams concludes, we, who are and are not made in God’s image, are to take the animals under our wings.
Because most people eat the flesh of chickens and other animals, they do not like to think of themselves as animals too--though of course we humans all are. Chickens, along with fish, are probably the “food” animals who seem most alien to flesh-eating humans. A certain percentage of meat-eaters have begun to get the sense that there’s something bad about killing and eating a cow or baby calf (which, indeed, there is). A little troubled by the message of the Animal Concern but not wanting to make uncomfortable changes in their lifestyle, they will say they have cut down on meat, and now eat just chicken (or fish). Bird-brained (and scaly) animals don’t really matter, right?
But what if we have a pollomorphic God? Carol Adams illustrated her message with a wonderful Calvin and Hobbes cartoon strip in which pint-sized Calvin, sitting at the dinner table and perhaps looking at a chicken’s leg or wing on his plate, ponders the implications of such a disturbing possibility.
If God can be symbolized by a chicken, perhaps a flesh-and-blood chicken has a special link to God? If so, what might the eternal consequences of killing and eating her be?
A Great Judgment?
I want to tease out some of the rich implications I see in Carol Adams’ “pollomorphic God,“ as illustrated by the Bill Watterson strip. To begin with, we need to ask what “eternal” might mean. Most people assume that “eternal consequences” refers to something happening after death; thus Calvin is perhaps imagining that after we die we will be confronted by the Great Chicken, who will be in a towering rage and attack us for the way we have treated all her chicken-people on earth. Calvin’s parents clearly find the whole idea too silly and naive to take seriously, and it seems likely most readers of the strip agreed, finding it amusing for that very reason.
Why should we take Calvin’s consequences seriously? The idea of the Great Judgment after death of our deeds, derived from traditions in the three Abrahamic religions Judaism, Christianity, and Islam (and appearing in other religions as well) is one that most educated people, both secular and religious ones, have dismissed as hopelessly unrealistic and outdated, for a number of reasons.
Some of them are sound. For a long time religious authorities, especially in Christian religious establishments, have painted horrifying images of the Judgment resulting in hell as blackmail to tighten their control over the faithful. (I think of the odious clergyman Mr. Brocklehurst in Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, who sadistically tries to terrify the ten-year-old Jane with such images.) But even when the intent was not primarily control but to motivate people to have faith and/or live good lives in order to attain to paradise (surprisingly, even strands of Buddhism takes this line), the concept is rather suspect. For one thing, the heaven/hell either/ or doesn’t fit the facts of human motivations; humans are not divided between fiends and saints. Most people have varying degrees of both good and evil in them. And the idea of a great divide between saints and sinners too often goes along with a self-congratulating attitude that God is with Us, and against You.
Secular thinkers have also condemned the reward-and-retribution idea, primarily the reward. As Karl Marx (pictured) made memorably clear, the concept is used by people with economic power to help them exploit vulnerable workers: they can pay abysmally low wages, meanwhile supporting religion’s God as a kindly parent-substitute that offers the sufferers solace in heaven. Thus, in his famous “opium of the people” passage, he described religion (borrowing from Ludwig Feuerbach), as “the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, the soul of soulless conditions.” He is saying that in a class-divided society, people are alienated from their own hearts, projecting heart-values outward onto God and heaven, rather than rightly claiming their own hearts--finding fulfillment, and working toward a fair and compassionate society, here and now. Marx was of course thinking of laborers exploited by capitalists--farmed animals confined in their heartless and soulless world were, unsurprisingly, left out of the picture altogether.
There is truth to Marx’s accusation--many religious people have in fact abandoned any concern for the well-being of the world: the have-nots because they are trapped in misery and see no choice, the haves because it is easier and seems more rewarding to keep taking what they can get, as their colleagues are doing, than to awaken their hearts to injustice, change their ways, and work to remedy it on earth. But, as so often, generalizations such as this show too simple a picture. Religion has many dimensions; Marx’s prophetic thunder itself reverberates from the outraged cries of the great prophets of justice among his distant Hebrew forebears.
--To Be Continued
Calvin and Hobbes comic strip © 1992 by Bill Watterson. Permission to reproduce sought.
“Nothing more strongly arouses our disgust than cannibalism, yet we make the same impression on vegetarians, for we feed on babies, though not our own.”RobertLouisStevenson.jpg
--Robert Louis Stevenson (pictured)
“[God] said “What have you done? Listen! The voice of your brother’s blood cries to me from the ground.’”--Gen. 4:10
--Contributed by Franceen Neufeld
Brussels Bans Foie Gras Procedures
The monstrous practice of forcing huge amounts of food down a duck’s or goose’s throat with an iron pipe--cruelly violent, sometimes fatal--to produce swollen, diseased livers relished as a delicacy by humans, will soon end in the Belgian capital. See No Foie Gras
US House Betrays Wild Beings
The House of Representatives has passed a measure allowing trapping and hunting of bears and wolves in Alaskan wild life preserves. So preserves aren’t meant to preserve live wild beings? Will the Senate pass it too? See Bears, Wolves
Scotland Bans Snaring Mountain Hares
After long agitation by animal concerns group OneKind, Scottish authorities have declared they will no longer issue licenses to snare mountain hares because of the “unnecessary cruelty” of the practice. This good news also sets up a precedent; e.g., no one can claim that snaring foxes is kind. See Mountain Hares
--Contributed by Marian Hussenbux
Macaques Enslaved by Coconut Growers
Some companies that grow coconuts for human consumption use chained macaques to pick the fruit. If you use coconut products, you will want to be sure your source is on the list of slave-free companies. See Fair Trade Coconuts
Pilgrimage: Cory Anthony Booker, 1969 -
We do not expect to find idealistic and well-informed vegans in the US Congress, but we need to rub our eyes and look again. Junior Senator Cory Booker, born in Washington, D.C. and raised in New Jersey, is a statesman with a history of taking action on behalf of underprivileged humans. Both his parents were high-achievers, among the first Black executives at IBM; the family were devout members of an African Methodist Episcopal Church. Excelling at Stanford, Cory attended Oxford on a Rhodes scholarship and later received a JD degree from Yale Law School. While working on his doctorate there he operated free legal clinics for low-income residents.Cory-BookerSmile.jpg
His early political career included the Newark (N.J.) City Council, and later mayor. He worked to reduce crime and illegal drug sales, make policing more effective, make it easier for former offenders to get city jobs. He personally helped patrol high-crime area streets at night; he has lived for periods of time in low-income apartments. (However, his anti-drug actions did not include supporting the government’s War on Drugs, which he later denounced.) He believes in individual contact with constituents; once when a woman appealed to him for help about her aged father who intended to shovel snow from his driveway, Mayor Booker went out himself, with another volunteer, and did the job. His anti-crime campaign resulted in an assassination plot by Bloods gang leaders, which was investigated and thwarted. He reduced his own salary as part of a program to balance the city’s budget. He showed particular concern for education, fairness in employment, affordable housing, hunger, and reducing gun violence.
In a 2013 special election he became first African-American to become a New Jersey senator (succeeding a man who had died in office). A Democrat, he was re-elected in 2014. He describes himself as socially progressive and fiscally conservative. Among other issues, he co-sponsored a bill entitled the Respect for Marriage Act (it was passed), which undermined the anti-gay-marriage Defense of Marriage Act, so that states can no longer prohibit same-gender marriages. He has also been involved in, among other things, consumer protection, environmental preservation, and promoting small-business entrepreneurship. Concerned about the acute divisiveness in both our population and government, he has met individually with a number of his Republican counterparts to establish human contact and search for common ground. There has been talk of him as a future presidential candidate.
Booker became an ovo-lacto vegetarian in 1992 while studying at Oxford. By 2014, he had found that stance inadequate. He was quoted as saying “When you find yourself trying to avoid the truth about something because it's inconvenient, because you know [your practice] doesn't align with your values and your moral compass … I wasn't living my truth.” He announced that he would become vegan for the rest of that year. When the year ended, Cory&Bert.png
he continued the regime, and two years later he declared he was Selfie with Sesame Street’s Bert
pleased with the effects of his dietary commitment on his health.
Over time he learned that there are a number of issues involved in the question of how we eat. In a 2014 interview in the Philadelphia Inquirer, he was asked about his outlook on animal agribusiness. He replied “I'm very concerned about U.S. food policy. I posted a graphic yesterday comparing what our government says we should be eating--the My Plate, you know--and then you look at how we apply our subsidies. It's dramatically out of whack. We're subsidizing the very thing we tell people they should be eating less of.
“If we're concerned about climate change as a country, we should have policies that make sure our great-grandchildren have a planet that's healthy and strong.
“If we're concerned about high medical costs, we should have a government that's making sound investments with taxpayer dollars that don't contribute to the problem but actually help [solve] the problem. Food is at the core of our lives in ways we don't always think about--how it affects our environment, how it affects our health and well-being, how it affects the expense of society, the expense of government.”
Compassion is a strong element in Booker’s stance regarding animals. As mayor of Newark, he heard a story of a tortured pit bull that moved him so much he sparked the building of a no-kill animal shelter in the city. He is also hands-on with his compassion. He rescued a dog from exposure to freezing temperatures, and another dog that had been abandoned in a cage, both in 2013.
At forty-eight, Cory Booker is considered one of Washington’s most eligible bachelors. When rumors that he was gay were circulating, he refused on principle to affirm or deny them, declaring that it should make no difference. However, in another context he said that he was straight. He also says he is trying to find more time for dating, as he hopes to find the right person with whom to settle down.
Book Review: Animals in Religion
Barbara Allen. Animals in Religion: Devotion, Symbol and Ritual. London: Reaktion Books, 2016. Distributed by the University of Chicago Press. Cloth $65.00. 553 pages.
This substantial, almost encyclopedic book will undoubtedly long be a standard reference for basic information on the myths and beliefs involving animals of the major world religions past and present. The author, a minister in the Uniting Church of Australia as well as Australia's first chaplain in an animal hospital, has assembled a wonderful collection of stories and judicious statements by respected religious spokespersons from around the world. The inquirer into this field will also be assisted by the extensive bibliography and notes at the back of the volume. Chapters cover Animals in Tribal and First Peoples' Religions, Ancient Egypt, Celtic and Viking Myth and Ritual, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, China and Japan.
No book is perfect, and the "ritual" parts of the coverage seem to this reviewer less adequate than the myths and lore. In particular, animal sacrifice is not dealt with in a way proportionate to its importance in the traditional religious world. One can understand Allen's reluctance to approach this unpleasant topic, but regrettably, it cannot be avoided. To be sure, sacrifice is mentioned in several places, especially in connection with the Judaism of the temple, some wings of Hinduism, and Islam.
Many narratives in the first chapter on Tribal and First Peoples' Religion offer examples of the beautiful ways in which they understand the equation of humans and animals, including apologies to their prey for the need to kill them. However, despite the distressing portrayal on the book's jacket of a lamb bound up for ritual death, more might have been said of how the invention of agriculture affected this relationship. In fact, myths around the world interpret the coming of agriculture as a kind of fall, a murder which incited more of the same.
Nearly all neolithic or early agricultural societies, including as is well known those of the Aztecs and Maya, of ancient Greece and Rome, and the Hebrews until the destruction of the Temple, regularly sacrificed animals (if not humans) for the sake of fertility and atonement for sin: life for life. Allen presents the Jerusalem Temple sacrifice and also offers a good discussion of kosher or fit animal food, while pointing out that the prophets sometimes railed against such sacrifices. She states rightly that many Jews now embrace vegetarianism, both as the easiest way to keep kosher and as the end-days way of life: "The wolf shall live with the lamb. . . They will not hurt nor destroy on all my holy mountain." (Isa 11:6-9)
Moving on to Christianity, one finds that the world's numerically largest religion contains immense paradoxes on the animal issue. There was sensitivity toward our animal kin on the part of Jesus, early Christianity (despite certain insensitive passages in Paul's writing), and saints such as Melangell, Isaac of Nineveh, and Francis of Assisi. Yet there is also tremendous callousness in the hunting and farming practices of Christian countries, the near-universal consumption of flesh, and the horrific medieval European association of cats with Satan. There is much here to support the overall negative attitude of many Animal-Concerns people toward that faith. Yet one must also question why modern animal rights and anti-cruelty movements originated, not in an Eastern religion such as Buddhism, but within Judaism and Christianity, specifically in England on the part of Anglican clergymen like John Wesley, principled vegetarian and founder of Methodism, and Arthur Broome, as well as Jewish scholar/activist Lewis Gompertz (the latter two co-founders of the first Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in 1824. See Broome )
Among the other religions, Jainism, as the only traditional faith thoroughly and consistently committed to ahimsa and vegetarianism, and which influenced Mohandas K. Gandhi, comes out very well. However, its numbers are small, and it may be too embedded in its own profoundly Indian culture to become a world religion. Hinduism and Buddhism have much to say that is good and highly quotable on animals, though as with Christianity and most of the others it cannot be said that practice across their vast areas of cultural influence is greatly in accordance with their loftiest aspirations. Confucianism, Taoism, and Shinto in China and Japan come out as traditional sacrificing agricultural societies. (Allen does not mention animal sacrifices in Shinto, apparently because fish (see PT 12) are rarely mentioned in this book, as though not really animals. But just as traditional Japan consumed little red meat but lots of sea creatures, so Shinto offerings shinto-offerings.jpg
Shinto Offerings characteristically include rice, sake, vegetables, and fish, but not land-based meat.)
The chapter of Islam is exceptionally balanced, treating of the kind words about animals of its sages, the Prophet Muhammad's love for animals, the animal sacrifices associated with the hajj or pilgrimage to Mecca, the traditional negative attitude toward dogs (like that of medieval Christendom toward cats), and much else, up to the view of the distinguished commentator on the Qur'an Al-Mawardi (972-1058) who, referencing the passage in which the holy book states that all animals are nations or communities like humans, opines that animals will be resurrected together with humans at the Judgment in order to be compensated for any injustice or suffering inflicted on them in this life (as did Methodist co-founder John Wesley; see Pioneer, PT 131 ). Those of us involved in animal concerns today know how great that deficit is, and can only be in awe at the scale of such a resurrection to life, and life abundant, for all beings.
Let these sentiments indicate the great riches, as well as the occasional limitations, of Animals in Religion. It is highly recommended to workers on behalf of animal concerns, especially those who have inter-religious interests or contacts. Those in a position to do so may consider recommending it to libraries as well.
Let the last word go to a hadith, or saying traditionally attributed to the Prophet Muhammad, herein quoted: "A good deed done to a beast is as good as doing good to a human being; while an act of cruelty to a beast is as bad as an act of cruelty to a human being." Perhaps when this is fully realized throughout the worlds of faith the aspirations implicit in the world's religions will be come close to being actualized.
Professor Emeritus of History of Religions, USC
Recipe: Veggie Cutlets and Gravy
1 cup chopped purple or yellow onion
1 cup cubed potato
1 cup thinly sliced carrots
1 cup peas
⅓ cup (brown) lentils
1 T. ground flaxseed, 3 T. warm water
2 cups whole-grain breadcrumbs
¼ cup chopped green onions
1 T. soy sauce
Stir the flaxseed into the warm water in a teacup; set aside.
Sauté the yellow onion; steam the potatoes, carrots, and peas together; cook lentils in ¾ cup water or broth for 15-20 minutes over low heat. When potato-carrot-pea mixture is soft, mash, but mixture shouldn’t become homogeneous. Stir the mash, gelled flaxseed, yellow and green onions, breadcrumbs, and soy sauce together; taste for seasoning. Form into fairly thin patties on nonstick cookie sheet and bake at 400 for 20 minutes. Serve with mushroom gravy (below).
--Modified from Ivan Baker, The Complete Vegetarian Recipe Book, 1967 This dish has been much enjoyed in the Ellwood household, especially for our Sunday Emmaus Feast.
1 cube vegetable bouillon
(Edward & Sons low-salt is recommended)
1 1/3 cup water or vegetable broth
1/4 onion, finely chopped
3 T. whole grain flour
1 teas. canola or olive oil (optional)
1 T. soy sauce or Bragg’s Amino Acids
4-5 medium mushrooms, chopped
In a small pan, dissolve the bouillon cube in the 1 1/3 cups water or broth, heated to boiling. Meanwhile, in a medium size nonstick pan, place 2 T. of bouillon broth and oil, and shake in a little of the flour from a teacup; stir. Continue to alternate broth and flour and stir until smooth. Add the sliced mushrooms and onions, and continue to simmer until gravy reaches desired thickness.
This low-fat gravy is really scrumptious. It appeared earlier in PT.
Poetry: William Butler Yeats, 1865 - 1939CatMoon.jpg
The Cat and the Moon
The cat went here and there
And the moon spun round like a top,
And the nearest kin of the moon,
The creeping cat, looked up.
Black Minnaloushe stared at the moon,
For, wander and wail as he would,
The pure cold light in the sky
Troubled his animal blood.
Minnaloushe runs in the grass
Lifting his delicate feet.
Do you dance, Minnaloushe, do you dance?
When two close kindred meet.
What better than call a dance?
Maybe the moon may learn,
Tired of that courtly fashion,
A new dance turn.
Minnaloushe creeps through the grass
From moonlit place to place,
The sacred moon overhead
Has taken a new phase.
Does Minnaloushe know that his pupils
Will pass from change to change,
And that from round to crescent,
From crescent to round they range?
Minnaloushe creeps through the grass
Alone, important, and wise,
And lifts to the changing moon
His changing eyes.
Painting by Jessica Allain