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!