1. CVA Sustaining
2. Treating Diabetes
3. Getting Our Message
4. Recipe Requests
5. "Animals Matter to Me"
6. Prayer Request -- Lebanon's Animals
7. Christianity and Violence:
Christianity and the Roman Empire
1. The CVA
offers Sustaining Membership to those paying our $25 annual
subscription. In addition to the weekly e-newsletter available to all
members, Sustaining Members receive daily messages that consist of
inspirational comments, biblical commentary, health tips, an advice
column, and recipes.
To become a Sustaining Member, go to our membership page and fill out
the form, which will take you to the dues-paying section. Or, you can
send a check to CVA, PO Box 201791, Cleveland, OH 44120. Donations to
the CVA are tax-deductible.
2. Treating Diabetes
People who ate a low-fat vegan diet did a better job of lowering
their blood sugar and cholesterol, lost more weight, and ended up with
better kidney function than those on a standard American Diabetes
Association diet. This was the finding of a study by the Physician’s
Committee for Responsibility, published in Diabetes Care, a journal
published by the American Diabetes Association. Participants said the
vegan diet was easier to follow because they did not have to measure
portions or count calories. While eight dieters dropped off the standard
diet, all but three stayed on the vegan diet.
A study by the Physician’s Committee for Responsibility found that
people who ate a low-fat vegan diet did a better job lowering their
blood sugar and cholesterol, lost more weight and ended up with better
kidney function than those on a standard American Diabetes Association
diet. In the report, published in Diabetes Care, a journal published by
the American Diabetes Association, participants said the vegan diet was
easier to follow because they did not have to measure portions or count
While eight dieters dropped off the standard diet, all but three
stayed on the vegan diet. This news could be helpful to the estimated 18
million Americans have type-2 diabetes. According to the Mayo Clinic,
some research shows a vegetarian diet makes your body more responsive to
insulin and could reduce the risk of diabetes-associated complications
such as cardiovascular disease and kidney disease.
3. Getting Our
Message into Churches
CVA board member DeRonda Elliott writes: I've been trying to do
AR/Vegetarian presentations in churches for many years. I know this
seems obvious, but I've found the best way to do it is 1) Go to
Christian churches that are known to be liberal-- they are usually very
open to this. It's a good place to start at least. 2) Find a vegetarian/
AR sympathizer who is a member of a church-- any church. If they present
the idea and then you follow up with the minister/priest/pastor this
sometimes works, also.
4. Recipe Requests
The CVA is collecting members' favorite recipes, to include with this
e-newsletter, put on our web site, and perhaps make into a book. Please
send your favorite recipe to
[email protected]. Comments about how to adjust the recipes to
taste are helpful.
Ron Long recommends the cashew chili (with raisons), on page 81 of A
Beautiful Bowl of Soup by Paulette Mitchell (SF: Chronicle Books, 2004).
5. "Animals Matter to
Don Gwillam, of CVAUK, encourages CVA members to sign the Animals
Matter to Me petition at
www.animalsmatter.org, hoping to collect 100,00 signatures to
present to the United Nations at the end of August.
6. Prayer Request
Gracia Fay Ellwood asks for prayers for animals rescued after the
bombings in Lebanon, where many animals were abandoned. The
International Fund for Animals, is going door-to-door in Beirut to
rescue companion animals who couldn't be taken along by refugees, and
prayer is certainly needed there, too.
7. Christianity and Violence
[This series reflects my views and not "official" CVA positions. It
is being archived at
Christianity and the Roman Empire
Christianity's historical development from a small Jewish movement to
a major world religion played an important role in the evolution of
Christian theology, and the history of Christian theology heavily
influenced contemporary Christian thought and belief. Soon after Jesus'
death, the Roman authorities started to persecute the Christians.
Constantine legalized Christianity in 313, and a series of decrees
starting in 381 made Christianity the official religion of the Empire.
With these changes, the Church became a powerful political force.
Among other things, these political changes profoundly influenced
Christians' understanding of personal and political freedom. Elaine
Pagels has noted that "the majority of Christian converts of the first
four centuries regarded the proclamation of moral freedom, grounded in
Genesis 1-3, as effective synonymous with 'the gospel.'"1
The Genesis account described God giving Adam and Eve dominion over
themselves as well as the rest of creation.
Although God had expelled Adam and Eve from Eden after they misused
their freedom, God did not strip people of their power to choose for
themselves. The early Christians held that moral freedom empowered them
to control their internal passions, such as greed and sexual desire, and
to resist external authorities, such as the oppressive Roman government.
Gregory of Nyssa wrote, "Preeminent among all is the fact that we are
free from any necessity, and not in bondage to any power, but have
decision in our own power as we please; for virtue is a voluntary thing,
subject to no dominion. Whatever is the result of compulsion and force
cannot be virtue."2 The Romans could torture and kill
Christians, but the Romans could not strip Christians of their freedom
to practice and believe as they chose.3
As the Church gained political power, Christianity's emphasis on moral
freedom gradually faded. In its place, Christian doctrine focused on
eradicating sin, by force if necessary. Augustine's concept of Original
Sin, which manifested itself in uncontrollable sexual desires, accorded
well with this new outlook. If humans were slaves to sin, then salvation
could only come from external forces that prevented people from
condemning themselves. In other words, Augustine's formulation of
Original Sin provided a theological basis for a Church/Empire alliance.
Although Jesus did not oppose Roman authority (Jesus said, "Render
unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's" [Mark 12:17; Luke 20:25; see
also Matthew 22:21]), he did not endorse earthly church authority,
particularly when it was bereft of love, compassion, and mercy.
Nevertheless, the Church asserted that it was the vehicle through which
Christians obtained salvation, and Church authorities found Original Sin
helpful as part of a framework that justified Church repression and
violence "in the name of God."
The alignment of the orthodox Christian church with the Roman Empire
significantly modified Christianity's understanding of Jesus' ministry
and death. As John Douglas Hall has written, ". . . a religion that was
ready to become the official cultus of imperial Rome . . . simply had to
have a theology that matched its status. A glorious church could not
have an inglorious theology. The very idea of a faith whose central
image and symbol was a crucified Jew as the official (and after
Theodosius) only legal religion of the empire that crucified him - such
an idea is absurd and to a temporal power unthinkable."4
The central figure of the official religion of the Roman Empire could
not be a Jew who taught love and peace and who suffered an ignominious
death. Early Christians saw Jesus as a triumphant hero reigning at God's
right hand (Matthew 26:64; Mark 16:19; Luke 22:69; Acts 2:33, 7:56;
Romans 8:34), but the view promulgated by the Romans and their church
allies was Jesus as a stern and forceful ruler rather than as a moral
authority who showed followers how to live peacefully and righteously.
While Christians have always struggled to understand the meaning of
Jesus' death, Christendom's alliance with the Roman Empire favored
theologies in which God and/or Jesus vanquished the forces of evil
rather than theologies that described Jesus teaching followers how to
avoid those evil forces. In other words, the Church/Roman alliance
encouraged theologies that regarded Jesus' death as part of a divine
plan to physically conquer the forces of evil, just as the Roman Empire
strove to conquer and control "evil" forces threatening the Empire.
"Orthodox" church leaders, including Irenaeus (c. 130-202), Tertullian
(c. 155-230), and Epiphanius (c. 315-403), had condemned as "evil" and
"heresy" alternative understandings of Jesus' ministry; during the
fourth century, the Church gained the power and authority to persecute
"heretical" Christian communities and to destroy their literature.
There are many possible ways to understand the meaning of Jesus'
death and resurrection, and numerous "atonement theories" have competed
with each other for the hearts and minds of Christians. I think that
Christian history helps explain why certain atonement theologies
prevailed during the period of the Church/Roman Empire alliance as well
as later periods, when church authorities remained aligned with reigning
political forces. As we will see in subsequent essays, Girardian mimetic
theory may offer helpful insights into the meaning of Jesus' death.
1. Pagels, Elaine. Adam, Eve, and the Serpent. New York: Random
House, 1988, p. 73; Webb, Eugene. "Augustine's New Trinity: The Anxious
Circle of Metaphor", in Williams, Michael A., Cox, Collett, and Jaffee,
Martin S. Religious Innovation: Essays in Interpretation of Religious
Change. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter, 1992, pp. 191-214.
2. Pagels, pp. 98-99.
3. Pagels, p. 73.
4. Douglas John Hall, The Cross in Our Context: Jesus and the Suffering
World. Minneapolis,: Fortress Press, 2003, pp. 171-172 [primary source
located in Pagels, note 5].
Stephen R. Kaufman, M.D.