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July 12, 2005

The Call to Mercy

I remember reading about Matthew Scully's book Dominion not too long after it came out. (see this interview at National Review) At the time I was already interested in organic farming and I knew the health benefits of avoiding fast food and other less-than-savory aspects of our consumerist culture. I started buying health food when I could, and I spend a fair amount of time and money at the health food store not far from my apartment.

A month or so ago I gave a close friend a copy of Dominion as a birthday present. I recently ordered a copy for myself; it is now making its way to my mailbox. Scully is a vegetarian and while not an orthodox Christian, he makes a plea for Christian mercy upon animals. His premise is simple: God created the earth, He has given man the responsibility to care for it and that care must exhibit some level of compassion for all living things. Priorities must be granted, of course, and Scully acknowledges that compassion for the unborn and elderly takes a greater precedence over compassion for the cow and the chicken. His challenge extends beyond human care, however, in detailing the great abuses to which we subject animals, all in the name of comfort and convenience. A starving family of sharecroppers needed to kill a deer, but no American needs a Happy Meal full of chicken nuggets.

I would not argue that vegetarianism is a moral imperative. Scripture is quite clear that it is not. Yet I would argue that our current culture of greed and impatience has drawn our focus away from the mercy and respect that we should grant to the earth. I am not sure what diet changes I will make in my own life. I have been without meat for a little while now (and I do mean little), but I look around me and I am disturbed. God's creatures - less than human, but His creation nonetheless - has been abused, mistreated, genetically manipulated and commodified as though it were ours to commodify. I have no principled moral opposition to the consumption of meat, but I look around our world of fast food, barbecue and super-sized value meals and I know, as sure as I know it is a sin to lie, to lust and to steal, that we are doing something very, very wrong.

I realize these thoughts are jumbled. Grant me time to read, to think, to pray further and I hope that I can coalesce these ideas into something stronger. It is in no way my intention to be preachy, legalistic or judgmental on the matter of animals rights, and I know there are far graver concerns (terrorism, poverty, disease, etc). I still refuse to believe that this is an area wherein we can be indifferent, to think that our own comfort and convenience can justify the abuse of our Lord's creation.

Posted by Matt at July 12, 2005 04:06 PM

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What on earth makes you say Scully is not an "Orthodox Christian"? He is a very devout, and *Orthodox*, Roman Catholic. Unless you consider Catholics "un-Christian", you may want to re-evaluate your statement.

I hope you enjoy Dominion. It is a marvelous book.

Posted by: tito at July 13, 2005 11:24 PM