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20 April 2011 Issue

1. Activist Feedback

2. Book Notice: Call to Compassion: Religious Perspectives on Animal Advocacy

3. Christianity and Animal Rights, part 5

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

1. Activist Feedback

Rick Hershey, who leafleted at Winter Jam in St. Louis on April 1, writes:

Susan and I leafleted this event. She handed out 135 and I handed out 650 for a total of 785 booklets to mostly receptive teens and preteens. I think that we had a productive evening.

Contact Paris at christian_vegetarian@yahoo.com if you can 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. Book Notice:

Call to Compassion: Religious Perspectives on Animal Advocacy, edited by Lisa Kemmerer and Anthony J. Nocella II, Lantern Books, 2011, 303 pp, $40.

This collection of essays looks at animal issues from a broad range of Eastern and Western religious perspectives. Chapters that might be of greatest interest to Christians include one on Christian mysticism by Andrew Fitz-Gibbon, “A Society of Friends View” by CVA member Gracia Fay Bouwman Ellwood, and “Christianity and Scapegoating: Understanding and Responding to Oppression” by me. As a contributor, for a limited time I can purchase copies at a reduced rate. For more information, contact me at cva@christianveg.org .

Stephen R. Kaufman, M.D.

3. Christianity and Animal Rights, part 5

Previous essays have argued that secular knowledge invariably influences how we interpret the Bible. The notion of rights – which are central to contemporary conversations about justice – is not found in the Bible. Human rights, environmental rights, animal rights, and other rights are secular concepts. I think that rights are crucial for applying the ancient, biblical principles of justice in our contemporary society.

In our pluralist, secular society, justice is meted out by judges, guided by laws rather than by religious authorities guided by their interpretations of religious texts. In secular societies, rights codified by laws are essential for protecting the weak against strong. Without laws to protect rights, basic rights such as freedom of religion, freedom of speech, the right to a fair trial, and protection against the whims of powerful individuals or institutions would be in great peril. For example, without rights, a majority of people of a certain religion could force minorities to abide by their faith. Similarly, those with power could silence those with whom they disagree, sometimes silencing the truth.

One might argue against rights in favor of majority rule. For example, if the majority wishes to criminalize belonging to a certain religion or political party, that is “the will of the people.” I see at least four fundamental problems with majority rule trumping individual rights. First, with majority rule, the whim of the majority could overrule essential needs of a minority. For example, if the majority wished to enslave a minority, the modest benefits to the majority would likely pale compared to the substantial suffering of the minority. Second, it is difficult to enfranchise everyone, such as children, people who are mentally impaired, or nonhuman beings, who have a strong interest in social justice issues but who don’t understand the issues at hand. In majority rule, those without a vote often don’t count, and indeed when it comes to animal issues, a minority of humans has “out-voted” a far greater number of non-humans. Third, in a large society, such as the United States with over 300 million people, it is logistically difficult to make policy decisions democratically. Instead, we have a representative democracy, but elected officials often have their own personal agendas that could easily lead to injustice and abuse.

A fourth reason that rights are essential is that humans are mimetic creatures, as I’ve discussed in past essays. Because people tend to be heavily influenced by the attitudes and convictions of other people, an irrational consensus can readily develop. This makes the general populace prone to error, particularly when emotions are aroused. Rights help protect weak and vulnerable individuals against the passions of the crowd. Further, we need unpopular prophets who speak truth during times of confusion, and without these prophets injustice more readily flourishes. In many respects, those of us who decry animal abuse are prophets speaking truth to power, and without freedom of speech the cause for animals would be nearly hopeless.

Protected animal rights with laws is an effective way to apply the biblical principles in our secular, pluralistic society. Next week, I will elaborate on my claim that animals need rights in order to receive meaningful protection against abuse.

Stephen R. Kaufman, M.D.

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

Am I Able to Drink His Cup
http://www.all-creatures.org/sermons97/s27mar88.html .

Your question and comments are welcome

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