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29 April 2007 Issue

1. Activist Report

2. Letters to National Catholic Reporter

3. Christianity and Violence: Liberal versus Conservative, part 2

1. Activist Report
The CVA had successful Earth Day events in College Station, TX; Sand Diego, CA; Nashville, TN; Richmond, VA; Atlanta, GA, St. Louis, MO, and Cleveland, OH. Patti in Nashville writes, We had a great turnout at this year's Earth Day. The table cover made our presentation look professional, and the framed photograph drew onlooker's attention. We were able to speak to many, many people. Quite a few were vegetarians, and some were "on the fence.” The pamphlets regarding other religions, the Jewish pamphlet and the "Bible's Teachings on Protecting Animals and Nature" went very quickly as did the other documents. We had a very successful and excellent day, complete with a vegetarian "restaurant" on site that was sitting next to a Honey Baked Ham stand that was pretty much ignored by the earth-friendly crowd.

Praise God from whom all blessings flow.


2. Letters to National Catholic Reporter 4/27/07
Chicken's lament

Regarding "Mepkin, PETA still at odds on eggs" (NCR, April 6):

When I was hatched, I expected to live my chicken life in comfort and peace being respected for the chicken that I am. I am driven by instinct as my bird brain is rather limited, but I do feel pain. I was shocked when my beak was mutilated and my feet hurt every day as I walked in very limited space on hard wire floors. I was not respected or honored as a creation of God. Maybe next time around, I'll be hatched on a free-range farm, not in this godforsaken abbey. MARTY KLEMENZ Elgin, Ill.

* * *
We know that we can be saved from our vices but who can save us from our virtues? I read with great interest Colman McCarthy's column, " 'Cloistered' chickens" (NCR, April 6). He confessed his past sins regarding treatment of animals while living in a monastery. I did not read his profession of faith that he is a vegetarian. He did not declare that he never eats meat.

This raises the question: Can Christians eat meat with a clean conscience given the horrific lifetime suffering all animals endure under the conditions of intensive factory farming and its enormous ecological impact? Paul McCartney wrote: "If slaughterhouses had glass walls, everyone would go vegetarian." Those who refuse to eat eggs of caged chickens can appear virtuous, but if they eat meat of any kind they may be hiding their vices behind their virtue. The question is what comes first: not to eat the chicken or the egg? (Fr.) RICH BRODERICK Cambridge, N.Y. Editor's note: Colman McCarthy eats a vegan diet.


Your story on the conflict between Mepkin Abbey and PETA mentioned the news from Burger King (NCR, April 6). The fast food giant has pledged to buy only eggs from free-range hens. The transition from factory-farmed hens will be gradual in order to give farmers time to change their ways.

My heart got sick when I read about the Trappist monks clipping their hens' beaks and caging them lifelong in egg factories (NCR, March 2). Have they no realization that God's life is one throughout his creation, in us, in beasts and yes, in chickens? To cause those helpless animals pain and deny them the sights and sounds and feels of God's good earth and world, is not just evil, it cuts off much of the perpetrators' sensitivities, turns them in some way from the one God of us all. Why do priests and bishops have to learn that child abuse is evil from the media? Why do monks, of all people, have to learn that animal abuse is evil from Burger King? The Gospel according to The New York Times, according to Burger King? It doesn't say much for Rome's claim to be the holy of holies.


3. Christianity and Violence: Liberal versus Conservative, part 2
[This series reflects my views and not "official" CVA positions. It is being archived at  http://www.christianveg.org/violence_view.htm.]

[From last week’s essay: . . .The conservative position, which points to individual failings as the cause of suffering, readily lends itself to scapegoating. . . . Liberals generally believe that institutions have been constructed to protect privilege, but few liberals regard all institutions as grounded in the scapegoating process.]

The problem, Rev. Britton Johnson has astutely observed, is that contemporary liberalism has been heavily influenced by certain dubious assumptions of postmodern thought.1

Postmodernists hold that customs and moral rules, and the institutions that derive from these rules, reflect human culture rather than divine plan. Postmodern liberals believe that they can improve social conditions by reforming or eliminating harmful customs, moral rules, or institutions. While postmodern liberals have identified human culture as the source of customs, moral rules, and institutions, they have not, as Girard has done, identified culture as the source of human desires. In contrast to Girardian thinking, postmodern liberals generally hold human desire as inherently innocent and good, but corrupted by social customs, rules, and institutions. Postmodern liberals generally believe that structuring society according to supposedly “good” human nature will result in general well-being, perhaps even a paradise on earth. Their expectation of a future paradise is often grounded in the belief that such a paradise once existed prior to the corrupting influences of evil institutions. However, people acting on the impulses of human nature have created our customs, moral rules, and institutions.

Can changing customs, moral rules, and institutions without addressing the human desires that created them in the first place lead to general well-being? In practice, many “progressive” campaigns, aiming to purge evil institutions, have done great evil themselves. People seeking to “return” the world to an ideal, mythic, age have instigated many killing sprees. The killers have often held that their violence has been an unfortunate but necessary means to the desirable end of returning their society to an earlier, purer state; they do not acknowledge the violence as an end in itself –violence designed to unite their societies at the expense of scapegoats. Examples of programs that used violent means purportedly to pursue “utopian” ends include the French Revolution, Russia’s communist revolution, the Hutu massacre of Tutsi in Rwanda, and the Nazis campaigns.2

Many people seem intuitively to understand that the more egalitarian ideals of liberals might threaten social order and peace, which can help explain why relatively poor people often support conservative politicians, even though conservatives’ policies often seem to favor rich people. Successful conservative candidates generally speak to the conscious and unconscious fears of social anarchy that might accompany the restructuring or dismantlement of institutions.

Mimetic theory sees all violence as grounded in the scapegoating process, but people tend to distinguish between “good violence” and “bad violence.” Conservatives fear “bad violence,” which directly relates to mimetic rivalries. They tend to endorse “good violence” (which they generally call “defense,” “national security,” or “justice”), such as state-sanctioned police activities to uphold “the law.” Sometimes, liberals assert, this “good violence” serves primarily to maintain an oppressive order. This is most obvious in dictatorships, but it can also occur in democracies, such as the pre-Civil Rights Act concerning segregation laws and violence against suffragettes.3

The “fight” by liberals against sanctioned violence can easily become a new form of sanctioned “good violence” that liberals call “justice,” even though it is actually a mirror image of the violence they had opposed.

Some people have used liberal or conservative platforms as vehicles for exploitation. Both Liberals and conservatives claim to work toward just and peaceful societies, but both ideologies can be manipulated to endorse violence and victimization. Jesus encouraged followers to generate community through love rather than by scapegoating and exclusion, and the depth of our Christian faith dictates the degree to which we are willing to trust that this is God’s will.

Stephen R. Kaufman, M.D.

1. Johnson, Britton W. A Proposal to Use Girardian Anthropology to Analyze and Resolve the Present Challenge to the "Peace, Unity and Purity of the Church". http://internet.cybermesa.com/~britton/
PeaceUnityPurityReflection.htm .

2. Ibid.

3. Schrader, Ginny. “Happy Women’s Equality Day!” http://casadelogo.typepad.com/factesque/
2004/08/happy_womens_eq.html  8/26/04.

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