Dysfunction: Exception or the Norm?

My friend Sue said...

As someone who grew up in Iowa and whose uncles and cousins "factory farmed," I'm a little cynical about the cruelty to animals folks. It's a little like the media portraying Christians. The media, of course, finds and amplifies the worst of the worst pastors and congregations, and completely ignores the vast majority of pastors who are giving of themselves daily to the "health" of their "flocks." The TRUTH is, it is much more profitable to raise animals that are healthy than to treat them with cruelty. And there are many farmers who continually learn how to better care for their herds. In fact, the Christian college (in Iowa) that I graduated from studies methods of farming that align with a "Christian world and life view." So you can see a news report about emaciated horses and believe "all horse-owners are abusers" or you can believe that, while many, if not most, people who make their living from raising animals do all they can to give them the best care they can, there are some folks out there that are just plain jerks...

Sue, I'm really glad for your post! It's good to hear from an "insider" that things aren't as bad - overall - as some of the propoganda I read, suggests. I was especially interested to hear about your college teaching farming practices that "align with a Christian world and life view." Very cool.

I also realize that it is very easy for me - with little direct perspective on the industry - to "judge" from the outside. One of the reasons I got a few angry comments on my last few posts about vegetarianism. And I can validate that frustration - there are plenty of talking heads - far too many in the blogosphere - so the "glut of opinions" builds to a ridiculous mass. I am no-doubt part of that problem.

But where you and I probably differ on Christendom is where I might still argue on inhumane farming. I don't think the bad Christian culture on TV is the exception. And I mean no offense. But I have probably visited or attended 30-40 churches in the last ten years, and find the same systemic and cultural unhealthiness in most of them. That does not mean their pastors are not wholeheartedly trying to do good and speak truth, and it doesn't mean their congregations aren't working hard to be the body of Christ. But intentions and reality are separate. I believe there is deep and far-reaching disease within Christianity. Sometimes harsh chemical infusions can kill the cancer. And sometimes the patient dies. Post-Christendom in the West seems to be the hospice of Christianity. In the US, we just won't read the doctor's prognosis.

I realize that sounds very judgmental - but it's this specific topic that drives most of my thinking, prayer, study, and motivates my personal ministry. And the mirror is held in front of me regularly. I'm a part of the problem as much as I see it outside myself.

What gives me hope is faith that God has something better in store on the other side. The other side of this mess. This dysfunction. These good intentions. I confess I don't know what that "better" is. And I could be wrong. But I'm betting on God's redemption, so I'm not afraid of the consequences as long as the fruits of the Spirit remain intact.

Yes, that means longsuffering, gentleness, self-control... I have a lot of personal work to do.

Coming back to the issue of humane treatment of animals: I have no "beef" with farms that are humane. If they are the majority - as you say - then that's a wonderful relief. But there is little debate over where the meat from most fast-food restaurants comes to us from, or how it is raised. If fast food made up only 10% of the American diet (I'm sure it's much more - anyone know?) then that's still plenty of reason to speak against it.

And at the same time, we speak prophetically against human rights violations, poverty, disease, inequality, pollution - all of the things we are convicted of through the Holy Spirit and personal conscience.

Ultimately, this is nothing more or less than an issue of conscience for me. As I have said before, I may end up eating meat from verifiably humane sources. I'm just not there yet - taking my own journey, one step at a time (and not demanding anyone else follow suit). In the same way, I do continue to attend and serve in an organized, denominational church. That, I may not always continue to do.

Thanks again Sue, I appreciate you and miss you in classes!


RickNiekLikeBikes said...

One doesn't work hard to be the body of Christ. We already are. A child of God can't not be the body of Christ because He said His children would forever be the body of Christ. If that is true, then the healthy blood of the body works to heal the parts of the body that are hurting...at least it should anyway. We're sometimes more willing to shoot a bad leg off the body than we are to tend the leg. Save the trees, save the whales, save the cows, but go ahead and shoot the leg off the body of Christ?

I've been the guy with the gun on the leg and I didn't like myself there. I would encourage all of us not to be that guy.

Peter said...

Agreed - don't want to shoot off appendages.

But Matthew 7:15-20 reads:
“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them."

RickNiekLikeBikes said...

The definition of good and bad fruit isn't necessarily our common definition. The fact is that all who know God through Christ are saved...whether that word is over-ripe or not doesn't change its meaning. "Saved" doesn't free us from mistakes or consequences for them (Jail Time etc.) on this side of eternal life.

One might determine that one who acts cruelly toward animals does not know God, but that isn't necessarily true. However, allowing scripture to interpret Scripture--John 10:27-39
27 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand..

Peter said...

Rick, good points. Enjoying the pushback - and we could probably go on like this for ever.

I agree - no one but God determines something like "salvation." But does Scripture limit God's capacity to act? For instance, do you believe God could NOT save someone outside of Christianity because your interpretation of Scripture limits that? Or could God choose to do something not stipulated in the Bible? Basically: "are God's hands tied by the Bible?"

Second point I'll admit to as a personal bias, and one to which I have little (if any) biblical support. I don't LIKE the idea that "just anyone" can be the "Body of Christ" (in reality, there is one Body and many parts, I know). But I don't like giving that kind of validation to 2-or-3 assholes who happen to say they love Jesus and, as such, inherit membership in the Body. I realize that doesn't sound very inclusive or gracious at all. And I'm supposed to be an inclusivist.

But just as I don't believe we are saved or not saved, according to our "fruits," we are still judged according to our fruits. Not by humankind but by God. There is a judgment seat - I accept that.

1 Peter says, "you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood" which suggests to me a PROCESS rather than a point in time. We are "becoming" like Christ. We are "becoming" the Body. We could stop or stall, very early in that process.

Forgive the ramble...

RickNiekLikeBikes said...

The rambling rocks my friend, nothing to forgive. My mind hasn't been pushed like this in quite some time I'm afraid to say...well, actually one of my friends...actually he’s my Father-in-law who happens to be my great friend pushes me all the time. But too few engage in the conversation. Therefore I think this is great.

Speaking of rambling...I’m a motormouth of the keyboard sometimes. Anyway, I don’t think that God is limited by the bible to tell you the truth. The truth is the truth. If I may attempt to have you take one tiny step to your side you might see this from a different angle. I think God saves men (in a humankind kind of way not to exclude the women-folk), and when He does that makes them saved. If you want to call it "Christian" or not that's fine, but they will know God through Christ by the Holy Spirit. At that "conversion" moment the statement “My Sheep Know My Voice” in no way limits God or His sovereignty, there’s no consensus to be garnered--”My Sheep Know My Voice” is simple fact. Again, (redundancy is good right?) the title one gives it such as “Christianity” or something else doesn’t change the facts about the Shepherd and the Sheep. But you’re absolutely right, sanctification (how about that for Christianese?!?) takes a lifetime. My story happens over a lifetime and I’m glad that I can say “Grace Happens” instead of that other somewhat unsavory bumper sticker. So we all practice our sin unfortunately and if this is true than no one’s story is finished here at 6:02 p.m. Wednesday night. And if you and I are given time, we ought to give plenty of time for everyone else too?

Peter said...

Rick, you're a cool dude. Enjoyed that whole comment. Particularly:

"I don’t think that God is limited by the bible to tell you the truth. The truth is the truth. If I may attempt to have you take one tiny step to your side you might see this from a different angle. I think God saves men (in a humankind kind of way not to exclude the women-folk), and when He does that makes them saved. If you want to call it "Christian" or not that's fine, but they will know God through Christ by the Holy Spirit."

Good "Christianese" shoutout too. I raise my ebenezer to you!

And you're right about grace: I'm GLAD I'm not the one who calls the "in-vs.-out" shots. I'd do a terrible job. My idealism wants to let everyone in - but my kneejerk judgmentalism wants to keep people like ME (overchurched, loudmouthed, and self-satisfied) out. Still trying to repent...

Speaking of bumper stickers, my favorite reads: "WWJD? He would probably smack the sh*t out of you."

He did it to me.

And I'll end there ;)

RickNiekLikeBikes said...

who says he hasn't already given me a smack-down? He told me not to ask "WWJD?" as if He's dead. He's still doing. I said, "Ok".

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