Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Good Friday Reading

Why the cross? Of course, there are myriads of ways to answer this question. But I have not found a more articulate response to my own feelings on the subject than this article by Anglican theologian Charles Hefling. I hope it challenges and frees you as you approach the thought of God bearing the cross this week.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

A Veggie Tale

Early in my appointment at Trinity, an elderly woman came up to me after worship and (quite randomly) asked me, "Why do we have to kill to eat?" Usually, I have some kind of packaged answer for theological questions posed to me by laity. But I had no answer for this one. First, it caught me off guard because the question seemed out of context to the worship service we just had. But second, as a Christian pacifist and lover of meat, I had no packaged answer for this one. In fact, I had no answer at all.

So I asked a lot of my preacher and div school friends. Many of them were stumped as well. Even those who are vegetarian told me they were simply protesting the inhumane manner with which animals are slaughtered. The best answer, however, came from one of my div school roommates who, oddly enough, is no longer a Christian. He told me that the early church fathers, and later Augustine, said the answer to that question was that killing animals for food was an act necessary only after the Fall of Genesis 3. 

Now I know the naturalist answers: we were born with incisors, the need for protein and iron, and the simple fact that these animals are born and raised for our consumption. But none of that from a Christian perspective means that meat-consuming was part of God's intention for humankind. And, don't get me wrong: I love meat. I fancy myself a connoisseur of North Carolina barbecue. When someone else is paying, I always go for the New York strip. And, after my doctor predictably told me that my cholesterol was too high, chicken became a staple of the dinner table at my house. But my love for meat, like most things I "love", is trumped by my love for Christ and willingness to explore other routes of growth in Christ.

So I have given up meat for Lent in order to live into my exploration of this question posed to me years ago. What I have found is that I do not miss meat nearly as much as I thought I would. I have found excellent substitutes that people always told me were excellent substitutes, but I never believed them (come on, certainly a Big Mac and tofu are not in the same league). But I have learned that I can survive quite well on pasta, grits, portobellos, and greens. I have even enjoyed odd foods like quinoa and polenta. The experiment has been a bigger success than I suggested. In fact, I worry that my Lenten devotion has been easier on me than it should be. After all, I have not understood the temptation and suffering that I am supposed to know during this season of repentance. But, well, it's too late to go back now and do something more painful, right?!

One of my vegetarian pastor friends said, "It seems ridiculous to me that we feel like we need meat with every meal." At first, I thought it was just "hippie talk", but now I get it. In our super-sized nation, we can afford to keep our meals a little leaner. Plus, we are fortunate people in our world today. For most of the history of the world, and even in several places today, meat has been, and is, considered a luxury item on the  menu. If anything, this Lenten devotion has placed me in slight solidarity (they didn't have access to the fancy meat substitutes I do) with those who have gone before me, and I understand a little bit more about the resilience of God's creation without the comforts of the Western world. But, like most people who try a Lenten devotional practice, I realize I have a long way to go to fully understand these things. Thanks be to the perfect God of grace, who guides us as we grow to understand God's love for all of creation.