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Archive for February, 2009

The Beatitudes 3

It is time to once again reflect upon that most ‘powerful’ of scriptures, the beatitudes.  Despite their ability to inspire world change throughout the ages, it seems many find that their mysterious beauty often transcends into incomprehensible confusion. 

There have been many different ways to interpret these words of Jesus.  Interpretations which have been common over the years when studying the beatitudes (and indeed, the whole ‘sermon on the mount’) have been ‘means of attainment’, ‘high idealism’ and ‘future realisation’. 

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Continuing on with the vegetarian theme, I thought I’d post a provocative quote by John Dear (Catholic priest, peace activist, writer, and vegetarian).  He begins his booklet Christianity and Vegetarianism with the following thoughts:

 

I agree with Mahatma Ghandi, Dorothy Day of the Catholic Worker movement, and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. that the only way out of this culture of violence is through the ancient wisdom of nonviolence.  I remember what Dr. King said the night before he was assassinated: “The choice before us is no longer violence or nonviolence; it’s nonviolence or nonexistence.”  That’s where we stand today, on the brink of a new culture of nonviolence or on the brink of nonexistence.

Nonviolence begins with the insights that all life is sacred, that all human beings are children of the God of peace, and that as God’s children, we are under certain obligations.  Of course, we should never hurt or kill another human being, wage war, build nuclear weapons, or sit idly by while millions of human beings starve to death each year.  Nonviolence invites us, also, to reevaluate the way we treat animals in our society.  Whiel we resist violence, injustice, and war and while we practice nonviolence, seek peace, and struggle for justice for the poor, we are also invited to break down the species barrier, extending our belief in Christian compassion to the animal kingdom by, among other things, adopting a vegetarian diet.

 

Whether you agree with the depths of John Dear’s dietary convictions regarding vegetarianism (including his Christian basis for it), it is hard not to be impressed and challenged by his ethical consistency in matters of life, compassion, and Christ’s cosmic gospel of peace.

Over the coming months i will explore the option of vegetarianism from the varied perspectives of health, animal rights, ecology, world poverty and hunger, consumerism, Christian discipleship and spirituality, as well as a historical-global snapshot of vegetarianism.

Some reading about this topic will find it boring, ridiculous or even an assault on their deeply held convictions.  For others it is an interesting and compelling alternative perspective.  While i am passionate about my choice i don’t want to figuratively (if not literally!) shove it down people’s throats.  If it’s not your ‘cup of tea’ (or lentil soup) then don’t read them!

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Food For Thought?

Whenever people discover i am a Vegetarian i am usually met with incredulous responses such as “why the hell don’t you eat meat?”, “you don’t look pale”, “you are not a tree-huggin’ hippie are you?”, “i could never give up meat” and “you didn’t tell me you were gay”.  Some of the more blokey blokes can barely murmur a response with looks of horror and forlorn grief sweeping across their face as if another mighty oak of masculinity has fallen.

 

vegetarian

 

Next comes the inevitable question of ‘why’?

I have often resisted the urge to prosletyse the ‘vegetarian faith’ as i find for most people food is far more than a physical necessity for survival.  Food choices are bound up in much familial, cultural, historical and economic symbolism.  The mere mention of food evokes a passionate response akin to religious conviction.  I have learned to tread lightly, though if somebody asks, i am happy to discuss it further.  

Excellent reasons for the vegetarian option include health benefits (the initial reason i was attracted), ecological responsibility and sustainability, potential reduction of poverty and world hunger through better food resourcing, and prevention of animal cruelty (most apparent now ‘food’ animals are mere commodities).  Personally, i also find vegetarianism consistent with my Christian faith which aims to extend peace not simply to humankind but throughout the whole of creation (though i certainly do not believe Christianity mandates vegetarianism in every culture and every situation).

 

lisa_the_vegetarian

 

I may expand upon these reasons in the future but for now I’ll leave you with this provocative documentary highlighting the plight of animals in todays intensive farming economies.  It’s not an enjoyable watch but an important one to consider.

Eating Mercifully

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Food of the Month 1

As a long time Vegetarian i often delve into foods that others wont go near…tofu anyone?!

 

powered_by_tofu

 

The best vego diets are centred around a variety of veggies, fruits, wholegrains, other high protein foods such as legumes of various sorts, and a few healthy fats.  Non-vegan vegetarians also consume animal products such as dairy and eggs, though i try to make these a small part of my diet (still weaning myself of cheese and chocolate!)

While i subscribe to the fact that we do not need to eat meat (or specific meat replacements), there are now many faux-meat/chicken/fish/cheese products on the market that provide options to those vegetarians who like a simple substitute for their old meat dishes, who have not yet built a repertoire of new recipes based upon the hundreds of foods they have rarely used (vego diets actually have greater diversity in my experience), or who simply like their cultural and practical simplicity (i.e “throw a veggie burger on the barbie for me mate”).

 

Over the years i have tried all manner of wierd and wonderful vego creations.  I’d generally place them into 3 broad categories, from worst to best:

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In 7 short weeks i will be ‘celebrating’ my 32nd birthday. 

In todays youth obsessed culture, many try to think, act and dress like young people until they are 50 (and beyond).  Once upon a time, people actually wanted to grow up and be adults at least by the time they hit 30 (or even before).  Conversely, the deep seated fear of losing our youth means that while 50 was once seen as the age in which people started traversing the other side of the ‘hill of life’, now the terror of being ‘past it’ strikes by the time we are 30.

Consequently, those years which traditionally have been the most enjoyable and productive, are now in danger of being riddled with an existential angst causing exaggerated regrets, stunted hope and desperate decisions as we cling to the false promises of eternal youth.  While i don’t subscribe to the fallacy of youth culture superiority as the locus of true meaning in our lives, it is hard not to be affected in some way by the cultural currents in which we swim.

  Check out this great video from Mark Sayers on similar themes

 

 

And so it is that as a 31 year old at the start of this 20 year period of conflicting societal pressures, i am staring down the barrel of another 20 mid-life crises as each birthday inorexably approaches!  No longer is one mid-life crisis the norm in this ever-changing world, it can become an almost constant state if we let it.

 

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A friend of mine on his new blog (see previous post!) recently wrote:

 

My theory is that all of us long for peace. Peace in our world, peace in our hearts, peace in our relationships and peace in our minds.

 

It is a theory i like!  I also believe it to be true. 

Embedded in the deep consciousness of humanity is a shared desire for peace.  Peace in all the fullness of the word.  It is the condition we were created for.  While i also believe that humanity also suffers from a shared corruption, it does not detract from the inspiring vision outlined in the quote above. 

The good news is the longing for peace that we search for, despite the fact we have never fully experienced it, is no less than the imprint of the divine creator!  The great news is that this peace we desire, indeed the peace all of creation is groaning for, is available through the ‘Prince of Peace’, Jesus himself.  He lived a message of peace and proclaimed a Kingdom of Shalom, now inviting all humankind to fulfill their deepest searchings in him.  He has defeated the various powers of ‘sin and death’ and now invites us to join his mission of peace for the good of the world.

 

This is the positive message of future hope brought into the present that is often missing, or even downright contradicted, in some ‘presentations’ of Christianity reliant on force, judgementality, exclusion and fear.  Without negating the truth of human inadequacy, we must first begin with the original vision of our God-given capability for grace, creativity, beauty and love and embrace those gifts where we find them.

I fear this has not been my pattern. 

In my thoughts and writings i have concentrated too strongly on a ‘prophetic critique’ of myself, others, church and society rather than seeing the glimpses of God found in all those areas.  While critique of injustice, corruption and violence is valid, a stronger focus on acts of mercy, compassion and justice may better inspire true change.  Indeed, it seems counterproductive to ‘force’ people away from injustice and war?!  Rather, gently drawing people toward the beauty of peace is a more consistent ethic matching the medium to the message.  As people much wiser than me have said ‘the best critique of the bad is the practice of the good’. 

 

Speaking of those much wiser than me, my thoughts today were both clarified and challenged by this profound quote from Mother Theresa:

 

I was once asked why I don’t participate in anti-war demonstrations. I said that I will never do that, but as soon as you have a pro-peace rally, I’ll be there.

 

As i am not as righteous and faithful as Mother Theresa, i cannot promise to withdraw from all ‘prophetic critique’!  (Indeed, i still feel there is a place to call to account those aspects of society that stand against the vision of peace that Christ calls us to).  But i heed her gentle corrective to primarily fan the flame of those sparks of God’s peacable kingdom infiltrating our world which stir the longing for peace mentioned by my friend above. 

As the old sage Jeremiah (on God’s behalf) instructed the exiled Hebrews, we should “seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which i have carried you.  Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper”.  Let us live out the type of peace and prosperity that God offers for the good of our world!

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Check It Out!

My mate Andrew has started blogging at ‘the FMB review’. 

Check it out here

 for some great reviews of films, music and books from a unique, emerging voice!

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