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Update Newsletters
25 November 2009 Issue

1. Activist Feedback

2. Reflection: Does Christianity Teach Compassion?

3. This Week’s Sermon from Rev. Frank and Mary Hoffman

1. Activist Feedback

We discourage leafleting on church property unless we have permission, because our leafleting on church property gives the impression that the church endorses our materials. We also discourage leaving booklets on windshield wipers and other places where they will likely be discarded as trash. We do strongly support leafleting on public property, including near churches, and Jan did just that recently. She wrote:

Fremont [Church] is happily situated on a very busy traffic corner. I station myself on the opposite corner, where churchgoers must use the traffic light to cross the street to get to church. Location is ideal since I am very visible and very much on public property. I wear my poster art, smile, wave to passersby, and leaflet members between first and second services. I've only done this twice, but both times felt very positive (except for the two or three rude remarks that somehow seem to stick in my brain). I have been told that my approach is "sweet" and "good-natured." I hope this is true. Last week, a very elderly gentleman approached me and I feared a reproach. Instead, with tears welling in his eyes, he told me how, in his youth, he had worked at a slaughter facility. He said it broke his heart and that he could never do such a thing again. He said he was glad for the work I was doing. That memory must replace the negative ones. I will leaflet on my corner again this Sunday and the next.

Upcoming Leaf-letting Opportunities   

11/26 CA Anaheim SwitchFoot Christian Rock Concert

11/28 CA Ventura SwitchFoot Christian Rock Concert

11/28 LA Bossier City Anberlin Christian Rock Concert

11/28 CA Anaheim Kutless Christian Rock Concert

11/29 TX Dallas Anberlin Christian Rock Concert

11/30 TX Houston Anberlin Christian Rock Concert

12/1 TX Corpus Christi Anberlin Christian Rock Concert

12/2 TX San Antonio Anberlin Christian Rock Concert

12/2 PA Breezewood The Hoppers Gospel

12/3 NC Charlotte SwitchFoot Christian Rock Concert

12/3 AL Mobile Casting Crowns Until the Whole World Hears Tour

12/4 CA Sacramento Women of Faith Conference

12/4 IA Cedar Falls Winter Wonder Slam Tour

12/4 FL Fort Walton Beach Anberlin Christian Rock Concert

12/4 NC Asheville SwitchFoot Christian Rock Concert

12/4-5 CA Long Beach Fire Conference - Benny Hinn

12/5 VA Richmond SwitchFoot Christian Rock Concert

12/5 FL West Palm Beach Anberlin Christian Rock Concert

12/6 CA Long Beach Miracle Service - Benny Hinn

12/6 FL Tampa Anberlin Christian Rock Concert

12/6 ND Bismarck Kutless Christian Winter Wonder Slam Tour

12/7 MD Baltimore SwitchFoot Christian Rock Concert

12/8 NY New York SwitchFoot Christian Concert

12/9 MA Boston SwitchFoot Christian Concert

12/11 PA Philadelphia SwitchFoot Christian Rock Concert

12/13 DC Washington Switchfoot Christian Rock Concert

12/14 VT South Burlington Switchfoot Christian Rock Concert

12/19 TX Tyler Kutless Christian Rock Concert

12/27-29 MO Branson Xtreme Winter Christian Rock Festival

12/27-1/2/ TN Gatlinburg Xtreme Winter Christian Rock Festival

12/29-31 TN Pigeon Forge Xtreme Winter Christian Rock Festival

12/31 PA East Earl The Hoppers Gospel      

Contact Paris at christian_vegetarian@yahoo.com  if you can to help. To find out about all upcoming leafleting and tabling opportunities in your area, join the CVA Calendar Group at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/christian_vegetarian/  

2. Reflection: Does Christianity Teach Compassion?

Previously, I discussed how the religious quest includes an effort to address three fundamental existential questions. The quest to answer the first two questions, where did I come from? and what will happen to me when I die? encourages different ways of looking at the world that are often in conflict. Attempts to address the first question tend to encourage concern, compassion, and empathy for others, while the second question promotes an egocentric, inward focus. This tension between perspectives influences how we respond to the third existential question: What is the purpose of my life?

It is not surprising to find diverse answers to this third question from the broad Judeo-Christian biblical tradition, which spans about 1000 years and features the thoughts, insights, and wisdom of many writers. However divinely inspired these writers were, their written words reflected truths as they understood them. Their varied experiences, perspectives, and concerns have contributed to a rich, but sometimes apparently conflicting, tradition.

There are many passages in both the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament that teach compassion and concern for those who are weak and vulnerable, including women, children, and animals, but there are also passages that endorse victimization, perhaps most notably the injunction for Joshua and his army to kill many of the inhabitants of Canaan. There are many passages that condemn cruelty to animals, but Leviticus describes God’s endorsement of animal sacrifices. Sometimes it is possible to reconcile seemingly contradictory messages, though doing so frequently appears to require considerable mental contortions. An alternative approach is to assert that the Bible contains conflicting teachings, and we faithful Christians have no choice but to choose which teachings to emphasize. Perhaps with the assistance of the Holy Spirit, we can discern the direction God calls us.

While the Bible can be used to justify harming other individuals in order to serve our egocentric desires, I don’t regard a Christian faith that excuses cruelty for the sake of selfishness as much of a faith at all. If religion is to help us develop peace, justice, and communal well-being, it must transcend the human tendency to victimize other individuals. That being said, a religion that taught pure altruism and selflessness would be inadequate, because it would fail to account for natural human selfishness, and its exclusive focus on the well-being of other individuals would leave little room for the inward focus needed to address the question: What will happen to me when I die? A religion that taught selflessness might promise to make the world a better place to live, but it would likely attract few followers and would therefore be unlikely to fulfill its goal to better the world.

As I discuss in my book Guided by the Faith of Christ, an important theme (though not an unambiguous, unequivocal theme) of the Judeo-Christian tradition is that scape-goating is wrong. One can find this teaching in many places of the Hebrew Scriptures and the Pauline epistles, and it is perhaps most clearly and emphatically articulated in the Gospels. Next week, I will consider the question: How do we address the human need for a sense of self worth with the biblical teaching that we should not scapegoat, i.e., how do we resist the temptation to transfer our sense of shame and guilt onto others?

Next week, I will further explore the question: What kind of Christian faith holds the most promise for making the world a better place to live?

Stephen R. Kaufman, M.D.

3. This Week’s Sermon from Rev. Frank and Mary Hoffman

We Have the Free Will to Choose Life or Death
http://www.all-creatures.org/sermons97/s25nov90.html .

Your question and comments are welcome

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