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Our Differences:
How Do We Deal With Then?
A Discussion - Posted 13 October 1999

By Maynard S. Clark (10 Oct 1999):

I'd be interested to hear your outlook on personal DIFFERENCES and how we RIGHTFULLY distinguish ourselves from others, and what kind of interface with those others is appropriate when we DO RIGHTFULLY DISTINGUISH ourselves from others.

By Stephen Kaufman (10 Oct 1999):

I am doubtful that people differ from each other much in basic psychological constitution. We have similar drives and similar fundamental, spiritual challenges in life. Nevertheless, our actions can diverge widely, because there are many different ways to approach the problems of human existence. As advocates for change, I think it is important to understand human nature, because we are trying to change human hearts and minds. However, in our task to change the status quo, we must insist that people be held accountable for their actions. The important issue is not whether or not animal abusers have good, although misguided, souls. Our goal is protect the victims, not judge the victimizers.

So, in our own reflections, trying to become better activists, we might wonder why we have chosen nonviolent lifestyles while most do not. But, in our public advocacy, we should focus on the victims and denounce the institutions that promote their victimization.

By Maynard S. Clark (11 Oct 1999):

Let's say more here about the various slants, sides, angles, spins on protecting the victims and not judging the victimizers or perpetrators.

By Frank L. Hoffman (12 Oct 1999):

In my opinion, there are three ways to protect the victims:

1) We can kill the victimizers and perpetrators, which is the ultimate in judgmentalism and to some extent was the Liberation Theological approach. The result of this approach is that all too often the victims then become victimizers when they get into power. This isn't an Animal Farm approach, but it does show that violent means doesn't really solve any problem.

2) We can stand in the gulf between the victims and the victimizers, and protect them from harm. This is a peaceful means of judging, or more accurately discerning the victimizers and perpetrators, or those who we suspect as one of them. This may work, but it only is effective as long as we are in the gulf.

3) We can work at changing the heart of those who we discern or suspect as being victimizers and perpetrators. But if we single them out, they usually fight our attempts. Thus, we need to treat them as ourselves and speak to them as we would want spoken to, and in a way that includes all of us. This is a Christian approach.

From a practical point of view, we need to do both the second and third options, together.

By Deb Carpenter (12 Oct 1999):

I believe that it is more important to focus on our commonality than our differences. It is too easy to feel “righteous” or “better” than others because we have made choices that we feel are the correct ones. From there, it is too easy to judge others, something we are Biblically and repeatedly told not to do. Even if we superficially read the passage in Romans 14 as pertaining to vegetarians and non-vegetarians, which is not, I think, Paul’s real meaning, the overall message is to welcome each other, not to judge or criticize each other.

When we focus on our own righteousness, we quit seeking and searching for the means to emulate Christ. Once we can distinguish ourselves from others, rather than recognizing ourselves in others, we can justify treating them as less than Christ’s brothers and sisters. By categorizing people as “welfare mothers”, we don’t have to give them our time or money to help feed their families; if we see someone as a convicted sex offender, we can justifiably cut them off from community contact or drum them out of their homes, we don’t have to visit them or share our time. We don’t have to do anything if we believe that we have made right choices and others have not. But Christ’s message was that we are to accept His body and blood; we are to visit those in prison, feed the hungry, nurture the sick and sick of heart, comfort the suffering.

I heard the story of the pastor who went to help share in the ministry of Mother Theresa for a time. They worked day in and out with the poorest of the poor, the sick, the dying. One day, Mother Theresa placed a dying, emaciated man in the pastor’s arms to carry to the hospital. She said to the pastor as she passed his slight weight to the pastor’s waiting arms, “behold the body of Christ”.

That story profoundly moved me. God’s creation is in all of us. We cannot turn our backs on any part of it just because it is uncomfortable for us, or unpalatable to understand. That was the problem for the Pharisees, to see Jesus eating with tax collectors and prostitutes and other unsavory folk.

That is the same trap that so many people fall into with other of God’s creatures. We are ALL in this together; both human and not, both vegetarian and not, both Christian and not. Jesus came as an EARTHLY being, a “son of man” to share this world experience with us, not to set himself apart from us. That is an incredible miracle, that He chose to be with us instead of “over” us. The Jews of Jesus’ day were torn apart because they wanted to believe that Jesus came as the (vindicating) savior of the Jews, and had no concept that He came for us all, Jews and Gentiles alike, humans and non-humans alike. The promise made to Noah after the flood was also made to the animals. They have as much rights as we do to share in the kingdom. And in the perfection of the kingdom of heaven, as in the perfection of the original creation, none shall need to devour or destroy or diminish another. The lion shall lay down with the lamb, and we shall see the fulfillment of the Glory of God!

There are no real differences among us, since God chose us as His own. God prepared the wedding feast for His Son in the parable of the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 22: 1-14) When the invited guests did not bother to attend, He sent his servants to grab people off the streets, it didn’t matter who they were, “both good and bad”. It points to the fact that God is the one who chooses us, not the other way around. When the lone guest does not choose to wear the robe prepared for him and the other guests off the street (rejects God’s gift and tries to achieve Heaven through his own efforts), he is forcibly ejected from the banquet. It is spurning God’s gifts and His Son that is the sin.

For myself, I cannot imagine anymore causing an animal to suffer or die so that I can eat. That would be like spurning His gifts by desecrating His creation. But some people don’t know better. I didn’t know better, since I was not raised a vegetarian. Some people don’t yet know the message about Christ. It is my responsibility to live my life as a model for others of my beliefs about what Christ’s death and resurrection were all about, and sometimes it can be a struggle. I think it is important to reach out to people, not pull away from them. That is difficult to do if I am creating separations and distinctions and differences and judging them for their choices. It is easier for me to witness to others by understanding that we are all in this together. They are also more receptive to my message if I don’t denounce them for their beliefs, but instead tell them why I think it is God’s plan for us to be vegetarians.

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