God loves plants and animals too

Vegetarianism in ChristianityCan Christians Eat Animals?

For many people, vegetarianism and veganism, i.e. the renunciation of all animal products, is a phenomenon of secular modernity. Nowadays you can find tofu burgers in hip restaurants, soy milk in dozens of flavors, vegan gummy bears. Very few associate this with the Bible. But right at the beginning of the Old Testament, meatless nutrition is preached, says the Catholic theologian Rainer Hagencord:

"The Bible begins with the seven-day work, and then comes the wonderful story from the Garden of Eden. And vegetarianism is clearly recommended in both parts."

Adam and Eve do not eat animals in Paradise, they only feed on plants and fruits. The head of the Institute for Theological Zoology in Münster does not eat meat either. He says that the vegetarian motif is also present in the prophets' descriptions of paradise.

"The famous Isaiah word according to which bear and calf befriend each other and the lion also eats straw. These are visionary, utopian images that make it clear: Ultimately, it's about avoiding violence."

In the USA in particular, various Christian groups claim that meat is a religious duty. The Mormons and Seventh-day Adventists, for example, with a total of around 30 million members, call for people to eat meat only infrequently. They argue that the body is a gift from God and that it should be kept as pure and healthy as possible. Meat is seen by many Adventists as impure and harmful to the body. According to a study, more than a third of Adventists are strictly vegetarian.

However, according to the Methodist Sebastian Moll, there is no justification for renouncing meat from the Bible. He is a lecturer at a theological academy in Bingen in the Rhineland. He emphasizes that the New Testament explicitly allows various types of meat to be consumed. Moll wrote a book about this: "Jesus was not a vegetarian".

"Whenever he talks about food, and he does that relatively often, then he talks about the Jewish dietary laws. That is, clean and unclean food. And he vehemently opposes it."

In Judaism, many animals are forbidden for consumption, and Islam also has special prohibitions and regulations for eating meat. It is different in Christianity. In Mark 7.15 Jesus is quoted as saying:

"There is nothing that goes into a person from outside that could make him unclean. What comes out of a person is what makes a person unclean."

A duty to renounce meat can therefore hardly be justified religiously from Christianity, says theologian Sebastian Moll.

"I would say that this freedom is still one of the most important characteristics of Christianity today, and as a Christian one should confidently represent it."

Pastor Friedrich Laker from Dortmund takes a completely different Protestant position. He is vegan. Because animals are also spiritual beings.

"The animal has just as much dignity as the human being. The animal is animated like the human being. From God's point of view, from the point of view of the Creator, everything is initially of equal value. Are there different abilities and talents that the ways of life have and contribute to life . "

His greater intellectual abilities do not give a person any higher spiritual value. Thus, the central Christian motive of love for one's neighbor and the commandment "You shall not kill" also apply to animals.

"The question is: Who is actually our next? In the Bible, of course, this is related to humans. But we have long been living in a time where we know that humans endanger life as a whole, ultimately also themselves, because they are living exterminates. "

One has to move from a human idea of ​​domination over the animal world, which leads to a threat to all of creation, to a parallel, equal existence. From such a spiritual parallelism, vegetarianism almost inevitably emerges as the protection of equal life. Theologian Sebastian Moll sees no foundation in the Christian faith for such a parallelism of humans and animals - rather the opposite. Minor:

"In Psalm Eight. This is a wonderful creation psalm, where the creation is sung about, and it says: 'You created man wonderfully. There wasn't much missing, and he would be like you'. Your name is: Like God. So man has a special position within the framework of creation. "
There is nothing wrong with vegetarianism as such. But it is worrying that some Christians show more charity for animals than for humans.

"The best example of this is always when we are in the shopping street and see beggars there. We know that when a beggar has a dog with him, the donations from passers-by are much higher to be bigger with animals than with humans, and I see that with concern, yes. "

Rainer Hagencord from the Institute for Theological Zoology sees it very differently. Those who respect the God-given dignity of animals also respect the dignity of people. Because anyone who is sensitized to creatures that can only articulate their will to a limited extent towards people will listen even more closely to other people. He also points out that meat consumption is problematic in our society for other reasons:

"Anyone who eats meat today is taking part in a system of industrial animal husbandry. 98 percent of the meat comes from that.

From his point of view, humans and animals are inspired by God. In order to respect this, a vegetarian lifestyle is not necessarily the only way, but it is a plausible way, my Hagencord. By renouncing meat you not only reduce the suffering of animals, but also spare the planet the side effects of meat production: wasting water, cutting down rainforests and emitting greenhouse gases. But what about the biblical sentence "Subdue the earth!"? Isn't the Creator giving man the right to rule over the planet and the animals? This is a misinterpretation, contradicts Hagencord.

"Animals are soulless automatons, says Descartes, and that is why we can do what we want with them. And that is supposedly justified with the Bible and is also established as dogma in some supposedly Christian circles. But we urgently have to say goodbye to that the Pope does, by the way, in his encyclical, he says the Bible does not justify a despotic anthropocentrism. "

So no longer place man alone in the center of creation - this is how one could summarize the theological position of Hagencord and Laker on a vegetarian diet. Whether vegetarianism is a duty for Christians remains controversial - both in Protestant and Catholic church circles. The religious argument in favor of avoiding meat finds echo in a society in which there are more and more vegetarians and vegans.