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18 Nov 2009 Issue

1. Activist Feedback

2. Weekly Reflection: Implications of the question: What happens to me when I die?

3. November Peaceable Table

4. This week’s sermon from Rev. Frank and Mary Hoffman

1. Activist Feedback

Leslie writes:

The Veg Fest was wonderful! I met so many people who were interested in Christian vegetarianism. I have several sign-up sheets for people who to become members of the CVA, and a few of them checked off that they want to volunteer. I handed out a box of CVA pamphlets (300) and the 2nd box of materials with the miscellaneous information.

People were so happy to see that we were Christian and vegetarian. I was asked a lot of questions, from “Am I a Christian?” to “Did Jesus eat meat or fish?” I answered questions and I also referred a lot of people to the CVA website.

2. Weekly Reflection: Implications of the question: What happens to me when I die?

Last week I discussed how attempting to answer the universal existential question “Where did I come from?” lends itself to answers that favor empathy and compassion with other people and animals. This week, I explore the implications of our attempts to address the question “What happens to me when I die?”

Perhaps because of an innate survival instinct, our knowledge of the inevitability of our death can cause great anxiety. We naturally want to know what will happen to our sense of self after we die, and for many people the prospect that the self might be totally obliterated is terrifying.

Our own mortality is a personal concern, and consequently reflections about our mortality tend to turn our thoughts inward. As we contemplate our mortality, we feel separated from other beings, who cannot experience our own death with us. Though having loved ones nearby as one approaches death may ease the pain and fear, ultimately each of us dies alone.

In addressing the question of what happens to us when we die, religions generally offer egocentric answers. For example, many religions offer promises of eternal bliss to those who either do the right things (such as good actions or proper rituals) or who believe the right things. The focus is on the individual rather than the wider community or the world at large.

Because many religions relate post-mortem destiny to the individual’s actions or beliefs during life, many people wonder whether they are worthy of a contented everlasting existence. I suspect that widespread concerns about worthiness derive in part from a lifetime of having rewards and punishments tied to performance, from behaving properly in childhood to being an effective employee in adulthood. With this lifetime of experiences, it seems natural that any eternal rewards would relate to activities during our lives.

Related to concerns about worthiness is a commonplace deep-seated sense of guilt derived from our failures and feelings of inadequacy. To the degree that people internalize this guilt, they run the risk of feeling unworthy of eternal reward – an unpleasant prospect. Often, in an attempt to relieve their guilt and increase their perceived prospects of eternal reward, people try to project their sense of guilt onto others. They blame others for their own shortcomings and failures, and this is the hallmark of scapegoating.

So, addressing the question of our origins tends to encourage empathy with others, while thinking about our mortality prompts us to look inward for answers. Next week, I will consider how this tension influences our response to the third universal question: What is the purpose of my life? I will also explore how does Christianity address this tension.

3. November Peaceable Table

Contents include:

* The best way to communicate to some people the message of compassion for farmed animals is via their love for their animal companions. The November Guest Editorial, by Connecticut radio show host Bruce Zeman, describes the Guardian Campaign of In Defense of Animals, for which he and his dog friend Nathan are working. The campaign seeks to change people's perception of animals as property, and themselves as owners, replacing it with the language of guardianship.

* Novelist Alice Walker provides another Unset Gem, urging justice to every living thing.

* NewsNote: Michigan becomes the seventh state to pass a law that will ban confining cages for certain farmed animals.

* The animal themes of the animated movie UP, which comes out on DVD this month, are presented in a Film Review.

* One of Angela Suarez' Recipes is a Sweet Potato Bake for a delicious Thanksgiving feast.

* In a wry Pilgrimage narrative, Keith M. Folino describes how he has become a hopeless "wacko" on behalf of the environment.

To read this issue, go to http://www.vegetarianfriends.net/issue59.html

4. This week’s sermon from Rev. Frank and Mary Hoffman

How Do We Express True Thankfulness?
http://www.all-creatures.org/sermons97/s18nov90.html  .

Your question and comments are welcome

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