The Breath of Life


The idea that we must be as good as we can be to this damaged world is essential, as is the idea that it is damaged and that until it is restored in God's time, we can't think of it in any other way. Reading the Bible one recent morning, I saw both this need for a close-to-impossible level of compassion toward a wounded creation, and the fact that Jesus really is in deep trouble with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. Some years ago, PETA sponsored billboards claiming “Jesus was a vegetarian.” Come again? He said, among other “speciesist” things, “You are worth more than many sparrows.” (Peter Singer would disagree.) Jesus has the merciful father of the prodigal son call for the slaughter of a fatted calf. And as proof of his bodily Resurrection, Jesus ate a piece of broiled fish.

For Christians, our relationship to nature as stewards is very important and can't be relegated to the sidelines. The fact of our embeddedness in nature, our embodiment, relates us to nature in a complicated way. Evolution shows that we are related not only to other primates (and if you don't believe that, take a good look at your bare feet), but to every living creature. Like all other animals, we are radically contingent on God's calling us into being. We depend in large part—not to put too fine a point on it—on our ability to eat other animals. Some vegetarians have a hard time with this, but most of us don't. In the case of Aleuts, Inuits, Yupiks, and Tibetans, the...

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About the Author

John Garvey is an Orthodox priest and columnist for Commonweal. His most recent book is Seeds of the Word: Orthodox Thinking on Other Religions.