God's Politics

God's Politics


Diana Butler Bass: Michael Vick Versus Gregory of Nyssa

posted by God's Politics

While the rest of the world buried its collective nose in Harry Potter last weekend, I spent my time reading early Christianity. It proved a tough call: The fate of Hogwarts or the Roman Empire? I chose Constantine over Voldemort.
I am not a total geek, but I am writing a new book on church history for progressives. One problem of classical liberalism was its rejection of tradition and the inability to ground its vision in Christian history. The past was seen as imperfect, full of injustice and mistakes, and incomplete understandings of nature, humanity, and God. Thus, liberal Christians embraced the future as the major arena of God’s activity—tending to privilege what is new over what was old.
The past? What does that have to do with pressing issues today?
Well, take the allegations against Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick for animal abuse and dog fighting, for instance.
One of the texts I re-read this week was On the Soul and the Resurrection (c. 380 C.E.) by Gregory of Nyssa, a theologian in the Eastern Christian tradition. The manuscript takes the form of a dialogue between Gregory and his sister, Macrina. In it, she instructs her brother on the nature of creation. Macrina argues that human beings and “irrational animals” share common gifts from God, the ability to perceive and passions. What separates human animals from “irrational” ones is the capacity of free will, part of human ability to discern and choose. Thus, humans are given the responsibility to care for animals, as irrational animals are subject to human free will.
Gregory, quoting his sister, goes on to say: “For when reason does not control the impulse which naturally lies in them, the fierce animals are destroyed by anger because they fight among themselves.” Likewise, human beings who fail to discern and act upon what is good will be consumed by irrational sin. Gregory directly links human treatment and care for animals to acts of human violence, and implicitly develops a Christian theology of creation care.
The dialogue between Gregory and Macrina is one of the gossamer threads in Christian tradition. Unlike Soul, much of Christian theology emphasized distinctions between humans and animals, rather than stitching connections between aspects of creation (indeed, Macrina even develops a connection between humanity and plant life). Dividing creation into superior and inferior ranks served as an excuse for rampant injustice on the part of Christians toward the rest of creation—and, sadly enough, toward other human beings (for example, women denied the priesthood or race-based slavery). What if instead of organizing humans and animals into hierarchical ranks, Christians had theologically developed the commonality of creation so tantalizingly suggested in the fourth century?
In her recent book, The Frontiers of Justice, philosopher Martha Nussbaum points out that Jews and Christians practice ethics of compassion for animals, but that these ethics are incomplete—that “cruel and oppressive treatment of animals raises issues of justice.” Nussbaum insists, “not only that it is wrong of us to treat them that way, but also that they have a right, a moral entitlement, not to be treated in that way. It is unfair to them.” (Emphasis hers.)
The Michael Vick allegations revolt good people, those who believe it is wrong for a person to treat animals viciously. If proved true, Vick failed to meet even the basic Christian requirement to employ reason and free will to care for his dogs. But this case pushes further: What of the animals? What are the fundamental rights of the dogs to happiness and life? How can those rights be guaranteed and protected? (Interestingly enough, India’s highest court recommended a course for the construction of animal rights in 2000.) And how do religious people generate a vision for animal justice from their theological traditions?
Some Christians may think that we have fallen so short on practices of human justice that to consider justice for animals is beyond our capabilities. But Nussbaum insists that “truly global justice” requires constructing a decent life for “other sentient beings with whose lives our own are inextricably and complexly intertwined.”
Of course, that is pretty much what Macrina pointed out to her brother, Gregory of Nyssa, in 380. Maybe the doing of justice just requires going back and paying attention to gossamer threads.
Diana Butler Bass (www.dianabutlerbass.com) holds a Ph.D. in church history from Duke University and is the author of the award-winning Christianity for the Rest of Us: How the Neighborhood Church is Transforming the Faith (Harper, 2006).



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Moderatelad

posted July 25, 2007 at 2:42 pm


Good article –
What Vick has been accused of needs to be delt with in a court of law. If convicted, he deserves to be punished to the full extent of the law. To bread animals just for the joy of watching them attack and kill each other is wrong. (I can not even use the word ‘sport’ in this context)
Now I am a person that loves to hunt. The people that gave me my love of hunting also taught me that you only shoot if you know that it can be a ‘clean kill’. (death is immediate) Wheather hunting or fishing and I love to eat what I bag. I was always taught that you cause the least amount of stress to the game. These are not animals that were bread for pets. Now – so that you don’t think too badly of the card carring NRA member. The last time I went deer hunting I had the cross hairs on a 14 point buck that would have looked great on my wall. I could have made the shot and in target shooting have hit the center of the target at twice the range. I lower my 30-30 and took my 35MM and got the shot. It is hanging on my office wall. I still would like the real things someday but I have to assure myself that it could be one shot one kill. ( bet some of you are glad I do not work for the Post office – just kidding)
Blessings on all –
.



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Anna S.

posted July 25, 2007 at 2:59 pm


I’m glad that you’re interested in developing medieval theology from a progressive perspective: the progressive movement has long a needed thoughtful analysis of the older texts. I certainly have the sense that a dialogue with the classic theology of the faith can only be healthy for progressives (particularly since I have a feeling that it might vindicate the movement more that people might expect; when I did a philosophy class on Augustine many of his ideas dovetailed more interestingly with a progressive understanding of theology than with the current Church line).
As far as animal rights and early theology goes, I think that there is an interesting question of whether animals have ‘free will’ in the sense of personal agency. The argument against their having agency, as far as I can tell, would be easy in animals like squirrels, but might get interesting for animals like Chimps or gorillas, in which we’ve observed systems that seem to resemble the human concept of honor (which is a distinctly moral idea). I rather think that some primates have at least a measure of agency.
The early writings that you mention suggest a system of creation care based on a human responsibility towards creatures without agency, but the Nussbaum that you mention seems to rely on the opposite principle. For Nussbaum to conclude that we have an obligation towards animals is unproblematic and contingent on our own agency, but for her to conclude that the matter is fully a question of justice – that animals can be morally entitled – seems to require that animals also must have agency. Obligation (our moral obligation towards animals) does not necessitate entitlement, so I’m curious here she’s getting the entitlement from if not from an idea that animals themselves are moral agents (that would give entitlement easily, I’m not sure how she would get entitlement and avoid that conclusion).
I haven’t read the Nussbaum directly, but perhaps I should put it on my list, because from what you’ve quoted here of her ideas on moral agency, she seems to suggest that animals can perhaps be morally obligated (if animals are moral agents, then the possibility arises that they can be obligated), which is a line I’d like to see her argue more fully.



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Charlie Talbert

posted July 25, 2007 at 3:19 pm


Humans routinely cause other beings to suffer horribly for our discretionary entertainment and food choices.Why then is this form of cruelty so wrong in comparison?
Dog fighting is growing increasingly popular among rap culture devotees. Is the condemnation of the alleged activities of Michael Vick, a black man, only thinly disguised prejudice against a minority who just chooses to brutalize nonhumans differently than the dominant culture brutalizes them?



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Moderatelad

posted July 25, 2007 at 3:43 pm


Posted by: Charlie Talbert | July 25, 2007 3:19 PM
I do hope you are talking ‘tongue-in-cheek’.
You can’t be serious – and right now I am going to not comment until I know wheather you are serious or not.
Later –
.



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Diana Butler Bass

posted July 25, 2007 at 3:50 pm


Anna,
I hoped someone might bring up the difference between the ancient source and Nussbaum. Yes, Gregory of Nyssa and Nussbaum differ on the issue of agency. In the 4th century, many Christians (not only the Cappadocians) argued for reason and will (agency) being that which separated human animals from “irrational” ones. Many, unlike Gregory, used the distinction to completely disconnect humans from other animals. That marks the Cappadocians as unique in the discussion, and holds out the possibility for commonality–a possibility not typically explored by Christian theology (notable exceptions: Celtic traditions and St. Francis).
Nussbaum does, indeed, suggest that animals have some capacity of agency–around those lines her argument is one of the 21st century–not the 4th. But Gregory is to be valued, for he and Macrina went further toward this possibility than did their learned colleagues.
Nussbaum’s “Frontiers of Justice” is one of the most provocative books I read this year. It is tough going–but a very sophisticated and smart discussion of justice from both philosophy and religion.



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kevin s.

posted July 25, 2007 at 4:35 pm


“Is the condemnation of the alleged activities of Michael Vick, a black man, only thinly disguised prejudice against a minority who just chooses to brutalize nonhumans differently than the dominant culture brutalizes them?”
Nope.



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Eric

posted July 25, 2007 at 4:36 pm


I think there’s a big difference between “animal rights” and God’s desire for us to care for his creation, including animals. Animals have no rights, but we, as humans, have a duty and responsibility to care for them. There is a difference though and you can’t simply jump from one to the other as Diana did in her comments.
As for Vick, prosecute him and others who use dogs for fighting purposes. It’s an outrage.



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Mick Sheldon

posted July 25, 2007 at 5:23 pm


Vick situation has brought out into the light much , the fact there has been an underground culture , even glamorized in music doing this has shocked all of us . From what I have heard it was up to this point a dirty little secret not legally prosecuted or really investigated . Hope this causes it to be stopped .
Have always been curious and interested of the relationship between the animal world and the Human world Bibically also . Even from my own experiences of bonding with my own animals and their unlimited devotion to us that brings out our concern and care for them .
From what I have heard the Orthodox Jewish tradition and writings has always taken a stand against mis treatment .
To bring up morally entitled is another dimension . I have heard PETA for example believe fishing is morally wrong , that fish have nervous systems , there for fishing is cruel .
The problem I see with Nussbaums claims is are you not setting ourself up to make choices say in feeding people or the moral obligation of treatment of animals if taken to its furthest extent ?



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carl copas

posted July 25, 2007 at 6:04 pm


“Is the condemnation of the alleged activities of Michael Vick, a black man, only thinly disguised prejudice against a minority who just chooses to brutalize nonhumans differently than the dominant culture brutalizes them?”
Dog fighting is popular in parts of California among segments of the Mexican-American population. It’s also popular in the upper Midwest among rural whites. Vick’s color has little or nothing to do, so far as I can tell, with the outrage over this incident.
Moreover, I’ve seen and read plenty of African American condemnation of Vick. Surely, they are not all “self-hating” blacks.



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James

posted July 25, 2007 at 10:45 pm


I’m not sure why what Vick does is more cruel than, say, bowhunting. At least the dog has a chance. Most evangelical Christians support hunting as part of the stewardship of the earth. Why should we condemn dogfighting if we don’t condemn sport hunting?



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kevin s.

posted July 26, 2007 at 3:17 am


“I’m not sure why what Vick does is more cruel than, say, bowhunting. At least the dog has a chance”
According to reports, dogs that didn’t make the cut were watered down and shocked to death with a wire. How do you define chance?
“Why should we condemn dogfighting if we don’t condemn sport hunting?”
Because God gave us brains. A person takes delight in watching animals die is not someone I am interested in having walk amongst us. A sportsman kills an animal for multiple purposes: sustenance, accomplishment, animal control, sport. None of these speak to the level of pathology necessary to derive joy from pitting animals against each other.



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Moderatelad

posted July 26, 2007 at 8:03 am


“Why should we condemn dogfighting if we don’t condemn sport hunting?”
Like kevin s. said – there is a difference. A hunter will make every atempt to assure that the animal is killed instantly so that there is no suffering. Which is a more humaine way than seeing / enjoying watching an animal being ripped to shreads in a fight.
There are no simularities between fighting and hunting. Anyone that would enjoy watching one animal trained to fight tear in to another animal – I do not want to asssociate with.
Later –
.



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James

posted July 26, 2007 at 9:27 am


Bowhunting involves shooting a deer in the lungs or heart and then letting it walk away to die. Then you follow the blood trail to the body some hours later. How is that humane?
How is electrocuting a dog more cruel that putting out bait for a bear and then shooting it with multiple arrows? I bet a lot of bear baiters would electrocute the bear if it was legal and simple. How are Dick Cheney’s canned hunts any less effective than a wire and some water?
The dog owners talk about how much they love their animals and I’m sure they believe their dogs enjoy what they’re doing. I’m sure they say things like “It’s part of the natural order.” They might even justify the dogs’ deaths by saying “We just need to preserve nature’s balance.”
Incidentally, there are many guys who hunt because they do, in fact, like to watch animals die. Would you be willing to support a program to deny a license to those men who hunt for that reason? Would you be willing to support psychological testing for hunters as part of a hunter training program?
Find me a Scripture that’s used in defense of bowhunting, and I’ll bet that same Scripture is used in defense of dogfighting.



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Moderatelad

posted July 26, 2007 at 9:51 am


Posted by: James | July 26, 2007 9:27 AM
You know James – I am not going to have this discussion with you. Comparing the breeding and training of dogs to fight and all that they do to them to get them to that point – the most humaine thing they do to the animal is kill it.
If Vick in convicted – he should do the time regradless of his career.
Have a great life –
by the way, a good bow hunter drops an animal with one shot. That is the goal of all good serious hunters.



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Moderatelad

posted July 26, 2007 at 9:55 am


By the way –
Hunting for sport or fishing, you have to have a licence, it is regulated as to how many you can bag. There are stiff penalities for those who break the laws of the state.
Tell me – what laws and regulations are there in support of Dog Fighting.
Later –
.



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kevin s.

posted July 26, 2007 at 10:38 am


“Find me a Scripture that’s used in defense of bowhunting, and I’ll bet that same Scripture is used in defense of dogfighting.”
Perhaps you could. I am less concerned for the welfare of an animal than I am with what mistreatment says about a persons character. As Modlad notes, hunting is a licensed affair, with ground rules and a predictable end result. Those who participate in it are obedient to those rules , which due account for animal cruelty.
Nothing in bowhunting suggests a disturbed pathology. Everything about dogfighting does. That is why it raises our ire, why we have laws against it, and why we are prosecuting Michael Vick.



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Don

posted July 26, 2007 at 12:09 pm


I have to go with Moderatelad on this one. I’m not a hunter, but trying compare legal, regulated hunting with dogfighting is like comparing NASCAR with driving 120 mph on the Interstate.
Sure there are unethical hunters. Some aren’t as conscientious as Moderatelad. But there are unethical people involved in every human activity. That doesn’t make the activity itself unethical.
And for scripture support for hunting, just turn to all the passages where God gives approval for using animals for food, like the passage that follows the flood narrative, or Peter’s vision in Acts (though, of course, eating meat wasn’t the main point of Peter’s vision; it was the analogue). There’s nothing unethical (from a biblical standpoint) about the act of killing an animal for food in and of itself.
Interestingly, many Native American communities engaged in special hunting rituals designed to honor and thank the animals they took in the hunt. Some indigenous communities even had legends that back in the dawn of time, the animals themselves had given permission to the community to hunt them. So treating the animals taken with respect was an important part of the hunting culture.
We also shouldn’t forget that the hunting and fishing organizations among us have always been in the forefront of environmental conservation, in particular habitat maintenance and restoration. (That’s something a number of anti-hunting environmentalists tend to forget.) Loss of habitat is one of the major causes of the recent decline in biodiversity throughout the world.
Peace,



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Theo

posted July 26, 2007 at 3:51 pm


“What are the fundamental rights of the dogs to happiness and life? How can those rights be guaranteed and protected?”
Such a question can only make sense with respect to animals to which human beings relate directly, either through domestication or hunting. It can make no sense in the wild in so far as it pretends to cover the relationships of animal to animal, especially predators and prey.
In fact, I believe the use of the term “rights” here is wrongheaded, at least partly because of our affection for equal rights. Human beings raise animals for meat, leather, fur, milk, eggs, etc. We do not treat nonhuman creatures as we treat humans. Bass may wish to avoid ranking humans and nonhuman creatures into hierarchical ranks, but the Decalogue’s very command not to murder presupposes that God’s image-bearers are to be treated in a fashion that cannot apply to animals or plants.
That said, I do think the relationship between man and animals necessarily has a jural element to it. We can rightly affirm that we have an obligation to treat animals justly without assuming, with Peter Singer and PETA, that animals are rights-bearing agents.



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James

posted July 26, 2007 at 4:21 pm


Fox hunting is dogs trained to kill other dogs, or at least canines. While this isn’t popular in America, it is a form of hunting which seems the same as dogfighting. Having dogs chase a bear up a tree so you can shoot it seems the same. Having a dog tear up a rabbit seems the same.
Bowhunting is shooting an animal close up so it can die a slow, painful death. If it escapes, it is crippled for life. I just don’t see the difference, and I do think there should be psychological tests for the pathology of those who enjoy such an activity.
What would St. Francis do?



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Mick Sheldon

posted July 26, 2007 at 4:54 pm


James I think what you done has substantiated my original concern .Treating morally with treatment of animals with those groups like PETA who see animals as equally morally with equal rights almost . They even believe fishing is immoral . This consept will have many people choosing starvation because of what I consider a cultish morality . It is not Christian based , PETA has no problem with killing unborn human babies,are you pro choice by the way ?
I am glad to see the Christians supporting Mr Wallis state ” what are you crazy” more or less of your assertions . You do realize when you make the kind of arguements you make , they gain more notoriety of real concerns in regards of the humane treatment of animals .
I am not a hunter , I don’t like guns . It has nothing to do with my Evangelical Faith , it has to do with my culture . Growing up on the East Coast , my Father used baseball and sports such as football for our bonding rituals . I notice here in the North West Hunting , hunting is popular , Church and non church goers . Even safety courses offered in many circles . But the tradition is passed down from most5ly the Father to Son and daughter out here . I see it as a good thing because of the family bonding going on , the hunting , I rather go to the supermarket myself .
I took my kids to baseball games and golf now that I can afford it . Actaully golf is cheaper then base ball now . And you get 4 hours or so to talk to your kid and laugh at his lousy shots .
As far as Christian Based Theology goes James . your off base . No problem have a persoanal opinion about this , but yours is not Bibically based .
.



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kevin s.

posted July 26, 2007 at 5:56 pm


James,
At best you are making a principalled argument for legal dogfighting.



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e-dubya

posted July 26, 2007 at 6:44 pm


Thanks for this article. I am so sickened by this guy (and not only him but all who participate in any way to animal cruelty). I think for me cruelty to domesticated animals… especially ones you have raised yourself… shows quite a bit about your character in general. He is a person who lacks empathy for other living creatures. I have met farmers and hunters, and while I am neither, they at least show RESPECT for God’s creation (I mean technically any of us who eat meat have a problem here because slaughter houses are not the most cruelty-free places)… but we do have REGULATIONS. And we should. I am so upset by this… Part of me wishes he punishment was to be hosed down in liver and thrown into a gage with some of the dogs he has mistreated…



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e-duby

posted July 26, 2007 at 6:52 pm


OK. I was so worked up (because some of you mentioned what specifcially was done to the dogs and I have been avoiding reading that for the last few weeks)… that I misspelled the last bit… Part of me wishes HIS punishment was to be hosed down in liver and thrown into a CAGE with some of the dogs he has mistreated…



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Matthew

posted July 26, 2007 at 7:57 pm


Posted by: Charlie Talbert | July 25, 2007 3:19 PM
“Humans routinely cause other beings to suffer horribly for our discretionary entertainment and food choices.Why then is this form of cruelty so wrong in comparison?”
—————
Amen, Charlie. In one hour, American factory farms torture and kill more animals — and generate more horrifying suffering — than every dog fight in the history of the world. Reasonable people can disagree about the ethics of eating animals who have been raised and slaughtered humanely. But choosing to eat animals who have been brutalized and tortured is morally heinous, no matter how routine it may be in this country.
Condemning Michael Vick over a plateful of tortured pig, cow or chicken is like lecturing someone on the virtues of nonviolence while writing a check to the Ku Klux Klan.



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Matthew

posted July 26, 2007 at 8:30 pm


p.s.
Equally ridiculous and hypocritical are factory-meat eaters who impugn the morality of hunting. Hunting is the most honest and responsible form of acquiring meat.
And one last thought: if Michael Vick were to choose between giving up factory-meat (which I’m guessing he eats) and giving up his disgusting hobby, animal welfare would be much better served by him sticking with the dog-fighting.



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Steve

posted July 26, 2007 at 9:56 pm


>>… “cruel and oppressive treatment of animals raises issues of justice.” Nussbaum insists, “not only that it is wrong of us to treat them that way, but also that they have a right, a moral entitlement, not to be treated in that way. It is unfair to them.”
I have a hard time with this line of thinking. Surely it is wrong for a human being to treat dogs (or frogs or rats) in the manner described, but I can’t see how that emanates from the rights of animals. Does a deer have the right not to be eaten? How does that right compare with a wolf’s right not to starve to death? Does a deer care whether it is shot with a bow versus torn apart by a pack of wolves? What about the rights of the herd? Have you ever seen a population of deer that has been completely “protected” from predators? Those poor starving and diseased wretches are every bit as pitiable as nastiest things you see on Animal Planet.
I do read that God cares about sparrows and I take that more seriously than just some sort of metaphor. However, as far as I can tell, animal rights can only apply to human beings, and therefore fall under the category of morals that God expects of human beings and not “a moral entitlement” that animals have a right to expect from the world.
By the way, I don’t hunt, and cried when a read about the Bad Newz kennel. I eat meat, though, so have at me.



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kevin s.

posted July 27, 2007 at 1:29 am


“And one last thought: if Michael Vick were to choose between giving up factory-meat (which I’m guessing he eats) and giving up his disgusting hobby, animal welfare would be much better served by him sticking with the dog-fighting.”
So, eating meat is akin to defending dog-fighting. Care to explain why this is so? Care to deal with any of the arguments presented here? Give it a whirl.



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Payshun

posted July 27, 2007 at 4:08 am


Chris Rock said something funny. We are the only society that hunts on a full stomach. It’s so true. I see nothing wrong w/ hunting when a person honors the hunt but what Vick and others allegedly did is wrong.
p



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Mick Sheldon

posted July 27, 2007 at 6:13 am


Matt said
And one last thought: if Michael Vick were to choose between giving up factory-meat (which I’m guessing he eats) and giving up his disgusting hobby, animal welfare would be much better served by him sticking with the dog-fighting.
What kind of shoes do you wear ? Where were they made ? Ever go out to eat ? wear a belt ?
Live in America? Must be nice to live off what the world has survived on and still be able to call what Vick does better then what the rest of us do to survive ,.
Your just a saint .



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bookdragon

posted July 27, 2007 at 9:09 am


I’m puzzled that people have a problem with the idea that animals have an inherent right not to be tortured and that this might be simply because they themselves are created by God rather than because we humans have a responsibility to behave humanely.
This isn’t a modern notion as some have asserted. Saint Basil of Caesarea prayed:
“O God, grant us a deeper sense of fellowship with all living things, our little brothers and sisters
to whom in common with us you have given this earth as home… May we realize that all these creatures also live for themselves and for you – not for us
alone. They too love the goodness of life, as we do, and serve you better in their way than we
do in ours. Amen.”
Perhaps this is not a statement of ‘rights’ as we use the term, but it surely expresses what I think any decent person knows on a gut level – that animals are not like inanimate objects and so do not exists solely in relation to *us* but ‘live for themselves and for God’. Surely the fact that a creature is beloved by it’s Creator gives it some measure of inherent value and some claim to respect.
.



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Matthew

posted July 27, 2007 at 11:45 am


Posted by: kevin s. | July 27, 2007 1:29 AM
“So, eating meat is akin to defending dog-fighting. Care to explain why this is so? Care to deal with any of the arguments presented here? Give it a whirl.”
—————–
No, I didn’t say that eating meat is akin to dogfighting. I’ll repeat: reasonable people can disagree about the ethics of eating (or making wallets and belts out of) animals who have been humanely raised and slaughtered. I’m not about to tell an Eskimo not to fish or a family farmer not to raise and kill chickens.
What I said is that choosing to eat *factory-farmed* meat is morally worse than dogfighting. Unless you are too poor to avoid it (and there are many people, particularly among the abandoned urban poor, for whom this is true), you simply don’t have to eat it. Liking to eat meat and being unwilling to change your habits are not a legitimate moral excuse for supporting an industry of immense greed and cruelty to animals and workers alike.
Check out http://www.farmsanctuary.org if you’d like to learn more about why. I hate dog fighting as much as the next guy, but this stuff makes Michael Vick look like a choir boy. But of course it’s more fun for all of us to judge a football player than to take an honest look into our own fridge. Then we might have to actually give something up.
On a different note, I think the whole question of rights is as artificial for animals as it is for people. Rights only “exist” as social constructs, based on commonly held moral values. Despite the best efforts of liberal theorists to give them some kind of ultimately rational basis, all assertions of rights ultimately depend on our consensus of right an wrong. Or, in other words, all supposedly natural rights are in fact religious.



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Matthew

posted July 27, 2007 at 12:37 pm


Posted by: Mick Sheldon | July 27, 2007 6:13 AM
“Your just a saint .”
———————–
No, Mick, I’m no saint. I’m not a vegan; I wear clothes produced in sweat-shops; I drive my car when I could walk or take public transportation; I pay taxes that support an imperial war machine; I take pleasure in the suffering of NY Yankee fans.
And I really like meat. Love it. From the cheapest hot dog to the finest filet mignon. But when I finally had to face the unimaginable animal suffering behind my factory-farmed food, I had to give it up. I won’t go into the awful details, since people can’t absorb the magnitude of the horror until they’re really ready to, but when and if you are, check out the Farm Sanctuary link I posted above.
Being such a big time sinner myself, I’m not in a position to judge anyone for eating meat. All I’m saying is that instead of patting ourselves on the back for being better than Michael Vick, we ought to take a look at our own behavior and make every effort — however small — to reduce the suffering we cause other sentient creatures.



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kevin s.

posted July 27, 2007 at 1:41 pm


“animals who have been humanely raised and slaughtered.”
On what level are cows entitled to be treated humanely? If we imbue animals with the right to be treated as human on any level, then it is inherently dissonant to suggest that we may slaughter them at all.
Factory farmed animals are not killed for sport. While the efficiency of the process may add to their suffering, no pleasure is taken in their suffering. The same can be said for hunting. Dogfighting, wherein delight is taken in the injury of animals, represents a social transgression.
It is not illegal out of any concern for dogs who, again, have no rights. Rather, we want to curtail wanton cruelty that wells within a person, lest that cruelty manifest itself in injury to another person.
Cats and dogs are singled out not for their superiority, but because of their compatibility with humans. They are able to coalesce with our families. We interract with them.
If one is able, then, to perpetrate violence upon such an animal, it is reasonable to legally intervene in order to curtail the behavior. If you can set fire to a cat, it is not a leap to imagine you doing the same to a human baby.
So the law relates to intent, far more than outcome.



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e-dubya

posted July 27, 2007 at 1:51 pm


People have been hunting, killing and eating animals for meat and using their skin & fur for clothing since the beginning of creation. I don’t think that was how it was “intended” to be but that is how it is. I agree that much of the mass-factory farming is horrible. However, I have met farmers who do treat their livestock with dignity. I realize this is not always the case. What Vick did is not a “social” taboo as one of you so lightly puts it. He ENJOYED the torture of innocent animals. That is sick and wrong. It says a LOT about his character and none of that is GOOD. And, yes, how the meat we eat is processed and how the animals are treated needs to be reformed and I hope many of you are encouraging that process since you feel so strongly about it.
And I am an ANIMAL LOVER (I have house-rabbits) and even I can see the difference between animals killed for meat and animals tortured for the simple pleasure of it. One is a tragically sad fact: we don’t treat livestock well in our greedy, consumeristic society. The other is a disgusting, reprehensible and degrading fact: people enjoy torturing innocent animals for PLEASURE. You do realize that MOST serial killers tortured animals for pleasure as children, don’t you? That this is not JUST about Vick mistreating dogs. This is human beings being inhumane towards God’s creation. And I will say it again: it is DISGUSTING and Vick makes me SICK.
I cannot believe there are people here that don’t think what Vick did was morally wrong. Wow. I go on this blog a lot and am rarely shocked…



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Moderatelad

posted July 27, 2007 at 2:01 pm


I know that there are some slaughter houses that should be closed down or forced to upgrade. They are few and far between. Most meat packing plants understand that stress on the animal prior to slaughter tains the meat. Most make every atempt to assure that the animal is either dead or unconscince within a fraction of a second prior to being processed. Can we do better – yes. Should we do better – yes! But let us not taint a whole industry because of a few bad processing plants.
Have a great weekend!
.



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Anonymous

posted July 27, 2007 at 2:26 pm


Posted by: kevin s. | July 27, 2007 1:41 PM
“So the law relates to intent, far more than outcome.”
———————
Thanks, Kevin, for stating the point so clearly. You’ve highlighted a big divide in *why* we object to what Michael Vick did. I agree with you that torturing animals in an active way, for pleasure, is a big warning sign for possible violence toward people. And you’re absolutely right that the law should reflect this concern and protect public safety by treating dogfighting as a serious crime.
I also, however, think that dogfighting and other forms of animal torture, like factory-farming, are wrong because of their effects on the animals themselves. Take a veal calf who is immobilized for its entire life in a cage in which it can’t even turn around, with no access to the light of day and in the midst of the worst stench and misery. This calf doesn’t care whether its torturers are enjoying its suffering or not. All it knows is agony, fear and death. I see this unnecessary and sickening suffering as a very serious moral issue in and of itself, independent of the legitimate social concerns you’ve highlighted about animal abusers. I think most people would agree with me.
And while I don’t think society needs to be protected from people who just don’t care about animal suffering in the same way as it needs to be protected from people who actively enjoy it, I also don’t think the former group has any right to morally judge the latter. If you see unnecessarily suffering animals as victims (which I do and you don’t), then indifference and sadism produce the same results from the perspective of those victims.



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Matthew

posted July 27, 2007 at 2:26 pm


Posted by: kevin s. | July 27, 2007 1:41 PM
“So the law relates to intent, far more than outcome.”
———————
Thanks, Kevin, for stating the point so clearly. You’ve highlighted a big divide in *why* we object to what Michael Vick did. I agree with you that torturing animals in an active way, for pleasure, is a big warning sign for possible violence toward people. And you’re absolutely right that the law should reflect this concern and protect public safety by treating dogfighting as a serious crime.
I also, however, think that dogfighting and other forms of animal torture, like factory-farming, are wrong because of their effects on the animals themselves. Take a veal calf who is immobilized for its entire life in a cage in which it can’t even turn around, with no access to the light of day and in the midst of the worst stench and misery. This calf doesn’t care whether its torturers are enjoying its suffering or not. All it knows is agony, fear and death. I see this unnecessary and sickening suffering as a very serious moral issue in and of itself, independent of the legitimate social concerns you’ve highlighted about animal abusers. I think most people would agree with me.
And while I don’t think society needs to be protected from people who just don’t care about animal suffering in the same way as it needs to be protected from people who actively enjoy it, I also don’t think the former group has any right to morally judge the latter. If you see unnecessarily suffering animals as victims (which I do and you don’t), then indifference and sadism produce the same results from the perspective of those victims.



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Matthew

posted July 27, 2007 at 2:28 pm


Posted by: e-dubya | July 27, 2007 1:51 PM
“I cannot believe there are people here that don’t think what Vick did was morally wrong.”
——————-
Who said that?



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Matthew

posted July 27, 2007 at 2:33 pm


“Most make every atempt to assure that the animal is either dead or unconscince within a fraction of a second prior to being processed.”
Posted by: Moderatelad | July 27, 2007 2:01 PM
—————–
Hi, Moderatelad — while slaughterhouses are pretty awful places for human and animal alike, they’re actually just the end of a very, very long and bad line. Far worse misery takes place in the *lives* (if they can really be called that) of the factory-farmed animals, not in their deaths. Check out:
http://www.farmsanctuary.org/publications/LBB_new_booklet2.pdf
And you have a great weekend, too.



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Moderatelad

posted July 27, 2007 at 3:23 pm


Posted by: Matthew | July 27, 2007 2:33 PM
Thanks – I will check out the link. For the most part I purchase chicken, beef and pork that is raised on farms and processed in small town packing plants. Not only is it cheeper in the long run – it tastes better and most of these farmers are ‘hormone free’. I have nothing against people that by Tyson Chicken in the store – just like the taste better on mine from the farm.
Have a great weekend –
.



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Mick Sheldon

posted July 27, 2007 at 4:13 pm


No, Mick, I’m no saint
Thanks Matt ,
being on my level you make more sense by the way.



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Matthew

posted July 27, 2007 at 4:19 pm


Posted by: Moderatelad | July 27, 2007 3:23 PM
For the most part I purchase chicken, beef and pork that is raised on farms and processed in small town packing plants.
—————-
That’s great, moderatelad. The most important thing, I think, is that we take an interest in where your food is coming from and the conditions in which it’s produced. The fact that more humanely treated animals taste better is a nice bonus incentive!
I also don’t have anything against people who buy Tyson’s chicken. In fact, the bottom line for me with this stuff is I think we should heed the Lord and let God judge others — so we can free up more time for removing those endless logs from our own eyes, log by painful log. Otherwise, we can be absolutely sure we’ll watch a parade of quarterbacks and (gasp!) dog-fighters entering the Kingdom before us….
Peace, and a good weekend to you.



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Matthew

posted July 27, 2007 at 4:32 pm


Posted by: Mick Sheldon | July 27, 2007 4:13 PM
Thanks Matt ,
being on my level you make more sense by the way.
—————–
Thanks, Mick. Making a little bit of sense once in a while is about the most I can hope for — or at least, so my wife tells me!



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Paul

posted July 28, 2007 at 1:09 pm


I consider myself moderate/liberal. I don’t believe what you state about liberals in general – “rejection of tradition and the inability to ground its vision in Christian history.” You may be speaking of the historical liberal, but overall I don’t believe that the modern liberal rejects tradition or history. Far be it, at least for me that we can learn from earlier historical mistakes and be able to put it into perspective as to what is happening today.
I wonder if you could do a survey of those who claim to be liberal and really determine how they view history and tradition?



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Anonymous

posted July 28, 2007 at 5:46 pm


Paul ,
I agree with you .
I was brought up in an Episcopal church. Our values were very traditional . I always recall a very strong respect for being in the Sanctuary , In God’s house . I miss that sometimes in my denomination . We are not as reverent I guess you would say . I am quite conservative , but I agree with you from my experience . I did not realize Episcopal would be put in the liberal category till just a few a years ago , but the strong respect for church traditions is still is apart of it from what I see.



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Mick Sheldon

posted July 28, 2007 at 5:49 pm


That was me Paul , sorry I forgot to put in my name .



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jerry

posted July 30, 2007 at 2:32 pm


play the race card charley – cool man.



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Chaplain Nancy

posted August 23, 2007 at 1:37 pm


Hi Jim,
In light of the Michael Vick crimes, I am especially pleased to share this with others! As personally satisfying as it would be to spay and neuter Michael Vick (with no anesthesia), our goal is not to dwell on Vick and the evils of dog fighting, but to teach people how animals SHOULD BE TREATED, and what a blessing they are. Thanks for reading it and passing it on if it interests you. If it doesn’t, I apologize. ~ Nancy Cronk at http://www.Animal Chaplains.com.
Press Release August 22, 2007
“Animal Chaplains To Honor and Bless All Creatures on World Animal Day”
~ from the Interfaith Association of Animal Clergy
In what will look like a scene from the popular family movie, “Evan Almighty”, scores of Animal Chaplains around the world will bless hundreds, perhaps thousands of animals in many different settings on October 4th 2007. At a pet cemetery on the east coast, to a city park in the desert, to a sandy beach on the west coast, they will walk in on a leash, fly in on a harness, and slither in their cages. Barking, mewing, bleating, mooing, whinnying and purring will join human voices in hymns of praise and worship.
That day is World Animal Day, a day dedicated to honoring, blessing, and protecting animals all over the world. World Animal Day was founded at an ecologist’s convention in Florence, Italy in 1931 as a way of highlighting the plight of endangered species. October 4th was chosen as World Animal Day because it is also the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi, a Catholic Church holiday which is often celebrated with an annual “blessing of the pets”. Since then, it has grown to encompass all kinds of animal life and has been widely celebrated around the world. Churches and synagogues in many faiths traditions have adopted “Pet Blessing Day” or “World Animal Day” in increasing numbers every year.
The Interfaith Association of Animal Chaplains prepares for World Animal Day by referring its members and visitors to the official World Animal Day website. The site provides ideas and resources to individuals, families, community groups and congregations everywhere. People can post their pledge for volunteering at a World Animal Day event. In addition to blessing pets, volunteers will work at animal shelters, zoos, rescues, and other nonprofit organizations. Dogs will be walked, cats will be brushed, horses will be groomed, and fish will benefit from freshly cleaned tanks. Donations will be given to animal welfare agencies, and pets will be adopted. School children will collect pet food to be donated to charities, and bake sales and car washes will be held as fundraising events. Veterinary clinics will hold free spay and neuter days, or may offer to vaccinate pets at no charge. All over the world, on the very same day, the well-being of animals will be on the minds of millions of people.
Interfaith Chaplain Nancy Cronk feels a day honoring animals is very important at a time when the headlines speak of animal cruelty such as athlete Michael Vick’s alleged ties to illegal dog fighting. Animal Chaplains would like everyone to know that every major faith endorses the responsible stewardship of the earth and all of its creatures. “Deliberate harming of animals is in direct opposition to teachings in all of the major world faiths. Caring for animals is our global spiritual responsibility. If we can teach this ethic to all of our children, animal abuse and suffering will someday become a distant memory”.
To find out how to get involved on World Animal Day, go to http://www.WorldAnimalDay.org.uk. To find out more about Animal Chaplains, go to http://www.AnimalChaplains.com.
(This article may be reprinted.)
Nancy J. Cronk
Founder, Chair and Chaplain
Interfaith Association of Animal Chaplains
http://www.AnimalChaplains.com
Email: AnimalClergy@aol.com



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Chaplain Nancy

posted August 23, 2007 at 1:38 pm


Hi Jim,
In light of the Michael Vick crimes, I am especially pleased to share this with others! As personally satisfying as it would be to spay and neuter Michael Vick (with no anesthesia), our goal is not to dwell on Vick and the evils of dog fighting, but to teach people how animals SHOULD BE TREATED, and what a blessing they are. Thanks for reading it and passing it on if it interests you. If it doesn’t, I apologize. ~ Nancy Cronk at http://www.Animal Chaplains.com.
Press Release August 22, 2007
“Animal Chaplains To Honor and Bless All Creatures on World Animal Day”
~ from the Interfaith Association of Animal Clergy
In what will look like a scene from the popular family movie, “Evan Almighty”, scores of Animal Chaplains around the world will bless hundreds, perhaps thousands of animals in many different settings on October 4th 2007. At a pet cemetery on the east coast, to a city park in the desert, to a sandy beach on the west coast, they will walk in on a leash, fly in on a harness, and slither in their cages. Barking, mewing, bleating, mooing, whinnying and purring will join human voices in hymns of praise and worship.
That day is World Animal Day, a day dedicated to honoring, blessing, and protecting animals all over the world. World Animal Day was founded at an ecologist’s convention in Florence, Italy in 1931 as a way of highlighting the plight of endangered species. October 4th was chosen as World Animal Day because it is also the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi, a Catholic Church holiday which is often celebrated with an annual “blessing of the pets”. Since then, it has grown to encompass all kinds of animal life and has been widely celebrated around the world. Churches and synagogues in many faiths traditions have adopted “Pet Blessing Day” or “World Animal Day” in increasing numbers every year.
The Interfaith Association of Animal Chaplains prepares for World Animal Day by referring its members and visitors to the official World Animal Day website. The site provides ideas and resources to individuals, families, community groups and congregations everywhere. People can post their pledge for volunteering at a World Animal Day event. In addition to blessing pets, volunteers will work at animal shelters, zoos, rescues, and other nonprofit organizations. Dogs will be walked, cats will be brushed, horses will be groomed, and fish will benefit from freshly cleaned tanks. Donations will be given to animal welfare agencies, and pets will be adopted. School children will collect pet food to be donated to charities, and bake sales and car washes will be held as fundraising events. Veterinary clinics will hold free spay and neuter days, or may offer to vaccinate pets at no charge. All over the world, on the very same day, the well-being of animals will be on the minds of millions of people.
Interfaith Chaplain Nancy Cronk feels a day honoring animals is very important at a time when the headlines speak of animal cruelty such as athlete Michael Vick’s alleged ties to illegal dog fighting. Animal Chaplains would like everyone to know that every major faith endorses the responsible stewardship of the earth and all of its creatures. “Deliberate harming of animals is in direct opposition to teachings in all of the major world faiths. Caring for animals is our global spiritual responsibility. If we can teach this ethic to all of our children, animal abuse and suffering will someday become a distant memory”.
To find out how to get involved on World Animal Day, go to http://www.WorldAnimalDay.org.uk. To find out more about Animal Chaplains, go to http://www.AnimalChaplains.com.
(This article may be reprinted.)
Nancy J. Cronk
Founder, Chair and Chaplain
Interfaith Association of Animal Chaplains
http://www.AnimalChaplains.com
Email: AnimalClergy@aol.com



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