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Update Newsletters
13 August 2006 Issue

1. New CVA Bumper Sticker

2. CVA Podcasts

3. Getting Our Message into Churches

4. Christianity and Violence - Original Sin, part 2

1. New CVA Bumper Sticker

Thanks to positive feedback, we've added a new bumper sticker at www.christianveg.com/materials.htm. It says "Eden Was Vegan" and it has a picture of a pear as well as "Genesis 1:29-30." This is sure to get people thinking, which is the first step towards seeing things differently.

2. CVA Podcasts

Thanks to Kathy and Chris Vander Kaay, the CVA now has a weekly podcast, using material from the weekly e-newsletter and other CVA materials. To hear the podcast, go to www.christianveg.com and use the link on the bottom left of the home page.

3. Getting Our Message into Churches

Kim Hammond writes: We have to rely on every individual church-going vegetarian to plant the seeds of change. I do the following:

1. Take my very best vegetarian food to every potluck (with a few copies of the recipes, because someone always asks for it).

2. Encourage my priest to do a blessing of the animals service and/or do a blessing of the animals at an animal shelter.

3. Volunteer to cook large scale parish meals (our church does Wednesday night dinners every week, and they're always desperate for volunteers!). . . and remember to bring copies of those recipes again!

4. Enter any cooking contest the church hosts (I have copies of recipes ready!)

5. Speak with the pastor/priest about your objections to petting zoos at church fairs or live animals in nativity plays.

4. Christianity and Violence - Original Sin, part 2

[This series reflects my views and not "official" CVA positions. It is being archived at http://www.christianveg.com/violence_view.htm.]

Last week, we explored Augustine’s dubious theory about how humans transmit Original Sin. Another difficulty with Augustine's ideas relates to the translation of a passage that was critical to Augustine’s formulation of Original Sin. In expounding his theory, Augustine frequently referred to Romans 5:12, which the KJV1 translates as, “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.” The key phrase is “for that all have sinned.” Many other translations are similar, and the RSV has “because all men sinned” and the NIV has “because all sinned.”

Augustine acknowledged that he had not mastered Greek, and some scholars have argued that Augustine made two errors in translating the Greek into Latin.2

First, misunderstanding the Greek eph hō as equivalent to en hō, his Latin translation in quo translates into English as “in which all have sinned” unlike the Greek, which translates into English as “for that all have sinned.”

Second, he thought the pronoun “which” referred to Adam rather than to death. Consequently, Augustine concluded that humankind’s sinfulness directly derives from Adam’s sin.

Many translators have understood eph hō to indicate a causal connection between death and “all have sinned”, and therefore, for example, the RSV reads “because all have sinned.” Despite regarding eph hō differently from Augustine, many theologians have retained Augustine’s theological conclusions, arguing that “all have sinned” refers to solidarity with Adam when he sinned. A Girardian reading suggests a different understanding. The sin that Adam introduced to the world was acquisitive mimetic desire (i.e., Adam desired the forbidden fruit that God seemed to desire above all else), and acquisitive mimetic desire has always given rise to dissatisfaction with what we have, conflicts, and violence.

Our unending quest to satisfy unquenchable desires and our conflicts with each other, God’s animals, and God’s earth alienate us from God’s love and from each other, causing us to experience both spiritual and physical death. As long as acquisitive mimetic desire motivates us, we will continue to sin (i.e., stray from God’s path of love) and to experience spiritual death. If our lives focus on our acquisitive mimetic desires than rather God’s desires, our lives jump from trying to satisfy one desire to trying to satisfy the next, without ultimate direction or meaning.

Furthermore, acquisitive mimetic desires do not provide a concept of a spiritual realm in which we can find peace and contentment apart from this world. In this state of spiritual death, our thoughts about our own physical death are terrifying. If we feel spiritually dead, we physically experience the decay of our bodies with fear and loathing, and we mentally experience thoughts about our eventual physical decline and death (i.e., our departure from this world) as the end of our existence.3 There is no way to know with certainty what happens to the self when the body finally expires, but an important consequence of spiritual death is that it causes us to experience death, in our imaginations and in the relentless decline of our bodies, as final and complete. Since humans innately fear death, experiencing death tends to be psychologically terrifying.

This correlation of spiritual death with the experience of death accounts for Roman 5:12, which relates sin to death. There are two ways to avoid experiencing death. One way involves repression, but repressed thoughts and feelings always emerge eventually, often in distorted ways and often in ways that prove harmful. The other way is to faithfully follow God while regarding God as about life and not about death. One would then celebrate life as a gift from God and trust that the death of the body is not the final word. In dedicating one’s life to God, one’s desire to sin fades away. With such a perspective, one would naturally align one’s desires with God’s loving desire for all creation. Since God is remote and details about faithful living can be difficult to discern, Christians look to the Bible and to Jesus in order to understand God’s desires.

1. KJV: King James Version; RSV: Revised Standard Version; NIV: New International Version.

2. A. B. Caneday, “Comments on Romans 5:12-14” http://crosstalking.blogspot.com/2006/03/comments-on-romans-512-14.html.

3. Many people envision a life-after-death in Heaven, in which all our desires are met. However, mimetic theory tells us that it is not reasonable to view of Heaven as a place of unlimited resources that satisfies all our desires, because much of the reason we derive satisfaction from gaining the objects of desire is that they are scarce. Because so many of our terrestrial desires remain unsatisfied, a Heaven in which all our desires were fulfilled sounds appealing, but a moment’s reflection reveals that such a place would rapidly become intolerably boring.

Stephen R. Kaufman, M.D.

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