Friday, April 22, 2011

Easter, Animal Rights, and The Cycle of Life

Today, is "Good Friday". The day Christians celebrate the death (crucifixion) of Jesus Christ. In two days we will celebrate the Resurrection (rebirth/new life) of the same man. This is the Easter story in part.

I believe that all created things carry with them a message about their creator. I have been reading a book that attempts to discover who Wm. Shakespeare was as a person from his writings. A trained musician can learn something of the personal nature of the performer and the writer by examining the music they create. We learn something about a property owner by looking at their property and how it is cared for. "Talking Heads" try to define politicians by their actions. And on and on it goes.

We learn something about our Creator as we interact with those things He has Created. All of creation carries with it the imprint of the one who made it. Scripture tells us that if God's people will not praise Him then the rocks of the field will. The incredible order and complexity of life tells us something about God. Even evolutional theory suggests that things are moving from the simple to the complex, exactly the opposite direction you would expect. In attempting to explain away the Creator they end up pointing straight at Him. So I see all things carrying with them the stamp of the Creator.

Adam and Eve are told by God in the earliest part of their relationship, do not eat the apple or you will die. They ate the apple any way and now we see death and dying all around us. They traded life for death. And in doing so, caused the reordering of creation by God. This reordering is most clearly stated in the story of Noah.

Now all around me I see life and death. We call it the "life cycle" or now as popularized by Disney in "The Lion King" the "Circle of Life". The world we live in is set around this paradox, something has to die for something else to live. Scripture describes this cycle of life many ways but the one that comes to mind is that of a seed falling to the ground must "die" before a plant can be "born". Scripture teaches that if you want to live you must die. Ever since Adam and Eve the creation has been pointing out this truth about the Creator, He holds "life" in his hand. He is "Life".

We have arrived back now at my opening description of the Easter Story. Death brings forth Life. The Easter Story is addressing spititual matters but it is through this story we learn something of the Creator and how He values his Creation. The president, Barrack Obama, recently said, "There is something about the (Easter Story) death, burial, and resurrection of our Savior that puts everything into perspective." I believe he speaks correctly on this matter.

What then do we make of those who are repulsed by the killing of animals as expressed through the  animal rights and vegan movements? Are they trying to deny the "Cycle of Life"? Are they somehow more or less Christian because of their belief that animals should not be used to promote human life? I choose not to see any of this.

I see a group of people responding, either knowingly or otherwise, to the situation created by Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden. They are attempting to choose "life" over "death" and return our world to its fundemental harmony with its Creator. (Note: if you listen carefully you will hear the sound of the environmental movement in the background.) I see a group of people that is well intentioned in that regard and they are, either knowingly or otherwise, pointing us back to the character of the One who created us.

My concern is that I don't believe that we as human's can reorder creation. That order is set by our Creator and has spiritual implications that we cannot possibly affect. We have arrived back at my opening description of the Easter Story. Death brings forth life, and in the person of Jesus Christ, that transformation is spiritual and fundemental to our human experience. It is through the work of Christ on the cross and in the grave that our spiritual lives can be reborn (given new life) and our personal world reordered to be in harmony with the Creator. It is through Christ's work not ours (animal rights, veganism, earthday, etc.) that the world is reordered.

Happy Easter!!!!

He has risen!!!!  

 Thanks for thinking with me.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

A Voice for the Voiceless

We want to give a "Voice to the Voiceless" seems to be a common rallying cry for movements great and small. From abortion opponents to death row inmates, from abused women to starving children, and in many other places these words are used to tug at heart strings and elevate the speaker's moral standing. These words are meant to suggest unselfish concern on the part of the speaker for those that cannot defend themselves.

I recently heard this phrase used by self proclaimed animal rights advocates connected to the veal issues in front the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board and started thinking. What are those who use this phrase really saying? How exactly does someone know what the voiceless want said? Where do you go to be appointed as a spokesperson for the "voiceless"?

How can we know what the voiceless want said?

I think of my son, Simon. He is eleven years old and struggles with the challenges presented by Down's Syndrome. Not the least of these challenges is a near total lose of the ability to speak clearly enough to be understood. The only people that seem to understand what he says at all are his mother and sister. Because they have spent endless hours caring for him some level of communication exists. They are experts at piecing together the mix of hand signals, sign language, environmental observations, and what passes for Simon's speech because they have immersed themselves in Simon's world. If you don't immerse yourself in his world you will have NO clue what he is talking about. The way mother and sister give a "voice to the voiceless" is to be an expert in "Simon speak". There is no school for this language. Rosetta Stone won't help. You have to dive in and swim. It is the only way.

So, then I extended that thought to being a "voice for the voiceless" livestock. Animals have no known conversational language with humans that I am aware. Dr. Doolittle was an imaginary person with imaginary skills as best I know. With time and attention, we can learn the signals that livestock give off. Our family dog is an example. He signals when he is hungry, wants to go out, someone is at the door and several other things. There is communication at that level. But I at know time could presume to know what that animal is thinking or even if he is thinking. Without language I simply don't know how to tell what he wants said. I can project my ideas and feelings onto him, but there is no assurance I am correct.

The best we can do in being a "voice for the voiceless" livestock is to be an expert in that particular animal. Rosetta Stone won't help. The Ohio State language department doesn't offer a class. To become such an expert we must immerse ourselves in the animal's world to the extent we can figure out from the signals of the environment, body language, and noises are communicating about the animals. This communication becomes very subjective as it is impossible not to project our human emotions onto these animals. But we simply have no way of knowing, that I am aware of, if these projections are correct. Just like with Simon, we must be immersion experts to have any hope of an idea of what is going on in an animal's head but we will never know for sure if we are right.

After I pondered this for a while it hit me. The Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board is a collection of just that sort of experts, and they have reached out to experts around the globe to broaden their experience base even further. If there is anyone in Ohio qualified to claim the title a "Voice for the Voiceless" it would be the members of the Care Board.

Many people and groups have submitted their thoughts and "interpretations" of what the livestock want said. These groups include farmers, academics, animal lovers, pet owners, politicians, and on and on. At the end of it all the Care Board is the one that has been appointed by the people of Ohio to ultimately be that "Voice of the Voiceless". In Ohio, 2,020,851 citizens voted to create the Care Board and, in effect, be the real modern day Dr. Doolittle and talk to the animals.

All of this is not to overlook the fact that the farmers of the State of Ohio are the ones that are immersed in the daily lives of the livestock and as such are the experts in this field. I have full confidence in their accumulated experience to properly interpret what they see and use that communication to care for the animals well.

Just as I must give extra wieght to my wife and daughter when they interpret for Simon because they are the best expert available. It is my hope that the Care Board will give special wieght to the statements from the experienced farmers who have been commenting. Extra wieght, simply, because the farmer is the greatest immersion expert in these matters that is available.

Thank you for your thoughts