Friday, October 05, 2007

Thanksgiving Thought..Meat Isn't Murder When Cooked To Perfection

Bear with me here...The first part of this post is "top heavy", but perhaps you will find this interesting..On occasion I've read books by Alan Watts. I'm an evangelical Reformed Christian, so I obviously don't agree with his eastern philosophy/religion. However, he was one of the most skilled Western teachers of Eastern religion, and I've found familiarizing myself with his material very helpful in understanding Eastern religion. I've felt a great deal of ignorance regarding eastern religion and philosophy, and reading Watts has helped in a small measure. The clarity of Watts' presentation is very condusive to the sort of understanding that a Christian apologist would need to have. Part of this is due to his sharp wit and and clear communication skills that he utilizes to explain Eastern philosophy to people brought up in a Western world.

Alan parts ways with many many Eastern religionists over the acceptability of killing animals. I found this particular gem in a book of his entitled "Does It Matter?" It is a response to the predicament of humans killing animals. Certainly I'm opposed to the underlining world view he is continuing to develop through this book, but it is sure interesting to see Watts take the "don't hurt a fly" advocates to task from an Eastern philosophy perspective. And Watts is actually thinking more consistently than the other Eastern religionists who claim we shouldn't hurt a fly. That is because from a consistent Eastern perspective, there is no category to describe what taking life really is. From an Eastern perspective it is just part of the game, the "grand play", the great facade of the Universal.

Here is the quote where he discusses his comfort with killing animals for food in a humane sense:

"The first is we admit that deciding to live is deciding to kill, and make no bones about it. For if I have really made up my mind to kill I can do it expertly. Consider the agony of being halfway decapitated by a reluctant executioner. Death must be a swift as possible, and the hand that holds the rifle or wields the knife must be sure...

The second is that every form of life killed for food must be husbanded and cherished on the principle of 'I love you so much I could eat you,' from which it should follow that 'I eat you so much that I love you.'...Whatever is unloveable on the plate was unloved in the kitchen or on the farm...

The third has been expressed by Lin Yutang as follows: 'If a chicken has been killed, and it is not cooked properly, that chicken has died in vain.' The very least I can do for a creature that died for me is to honor it, not with an empty ritual, but by cooking it to perfection and relishing it to the full.

To the Eastern religionist who deals consistently with his own ideas, eating meat isn't murder, but rather the absorption of one part of the facade into another. This is why Watts can say of his eating meat, "Any animal that becomes me should enjoy itself as me". Kudos to Watts for dealing consistently with his own philosophy. Too bad his worldview isn't true, though!

Watts' justification for eating meat comes both from three basic sources: 1. the inevitability of causing animal death (even if we were vegetarians), 2. The fact that from an Eastern philosophy, one can't strictly deliniate between plant and animal life, and 3. If all is part of the Universal, as the Eastern religionist holds, you can't hold "IT" culpable for swallowing up itself.

I, on the other hand, justify eating meat in a different way, but come to a similar conclusion..that it is OK to kill animals for food if it is done with a sense of good stewardship and not excessively torturous. Part of this arises from my belief in the distinction between humans and animals. Another part of it arises from my belief in a dominion mandate. But, in the New Testament, I have additional guidance when the Apostle Paul says:

"every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving" (I Timothy 4:4)

So, now, on this thanksgiving weekend, I can enjoy turkey and thank God for such a creature. Lo, is its body shape not particularly suited to being edible? The provision of it for food is not murder, and if cooked well, it isn't even a waste. I can eat it with a good conscience toward God, knowing that if I am a good steward and do it all to the honor and glory of God, I am honoring the turkey's proper purpose, and more importantly the wonderful triune God who created the turkey.

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