there would be accounts of Jesusrneating lamb at Passover.rn—The multiplication miracle didrnnot include fish. The fish in thernstory are symbolic of Christians,rnthe multiplication a sign of thernburgeoning church.rn—Jesus calls for mercy and compassionrn—which are the opposite ofrntorturing, killing, and eating God’srncreatiires. In the U.S., more thanrneight billion animals are killed everyrnyear for food. The vast majorityrnof these animals are raised on “factoryrnfarms.” Every one of those animalsrnhas a capacity for pain andrnsuffering, just as our own cats,rndogs, and other companion animals,rnand in fact, just as we do.rnJESUS WAS NOT A BUTCHER;rnHE WAS THE PRINCE OFrnPEACE.rnAt other points in the site, various claimsrnare made: “in Genesis 1:28, God calls forrnhuman stewardship of animals, immediatelyrnafterward commanding a vegetarianrndiet”; “there is convincing evidencernthat Jesus was an Essene,” a sect of Judaismrnto which John the Baptist mayrnhave belonged and which avoided meat;rn”the Church, following Jesus’ lead, wasrnvegetarian for its first three centuries.”rnThe evidence for these claims is, however,rnsorely lacking.rnI called Bruce Friedrich, the VegetarianrnCampaign Coordinator for PETArnand a Roman Catholic. Eriedrich, whornhas been with PETA for two years, saysrnhe “converted to vegetarianism” (an interestingrnchoice of words) 12 years agornwhile a student at Grinnell College. Arncradle Catholic, he claims that his faithrn(and the writings of the Reverend AndrewrnLinzey, an Anglican theologianrnand author oi Christianity and the Rightsrnof Animals and Animal Theology) ledrnhim to vegetarianism. Eriedrich says thatrnPETA created the ]esus Online websiternfor both religious and animal rightsrnpurposes, although the site is aimed onlyrnat converting Christians (and Jews)rnto vegetarianism, not vegetarians tornChristianity.rnSince the Jesus Online site claims thatrnGod commanded a vegetarian dietrnin Genesis 1, I asked Eriedrich how hernexplains the story of Cain and Abel inrnGenesis 4;rnNow Abel became a shepherd andrnkept flocks, while Cain tilled thernsoil. Time passed and Cainrnbrought some of the produce ofrnthe soil as an offering for the Lord,rnwhile Abel for his part brought thernfirst-born of his flock and some ofrntheir fat as well. The Lord lookedrnwith favor on Abel and his offering.rnBut he did not look with favor onrnCain and his ofl^ering, and Cainrnwas very angry and downcast.rnAnd, of course, Cain went on to kill hisrnbrother. (When I asked my wife howrnone might reconcile PETA’s claim thatrnJesus was a vegetarian with Genesis 4,rnshe replied, “Well, God isn’t a vegetarian,rnbut you know kids.”) Eriedrieh’s response,rnhowever, was somewhat less satisfyingrnthan my wife’s, and it establishedrnthe pattern for our discussion. Genesis 4rnis a “parable,” you see, and the real pointrnis that Cain is his brother’s keeper. Werncan’t take specific references to animalrnsacrifice, or to God’s approval of suchrnsacrifice, literally because there are otherrnpassages (which Friedrich is willing torntake literally) in which God, through Hisrnprophets, states that He never asked forrnsacrifice. Likewise, Christ’s command tornPeter (in Matthew 17:27) to “cast a hookrn[and] take the first fish that rises” is arn”parable,” as is the story of Christ castingrnthe demons into a herd of swine, “and atrnthat the whole herd charged down therncliff into the lake and perished in the water”rn(Matthew 8:28-32).rnGranting Eriedrieh’s misuse of thernword “parable” (a technical term whichrnrefers to short stories used to illustrate arndeeper spiritiial point), are there any referencesrnto Christ approving of animalrnsacrifice or the eating of animals thatrnaren’t parables? Eriedrich claimed thatrnthere are none, not even Matthew 5:23-rn24:rnif you are bringing your offering tornthe altar and there remember thatrnyour brother has something againstrnyou, go and be reconciled withrnyour brother first, and then comernback and present your offering.rnNope, another parable, even thoughrnChrist did not have to tell his disciples torncontinue with the offering after the reconciliation.rnFriedrich argued that “most non-fundamentalistrnbiblical scholars do not believernthat the loaves and fishes miraclerntook place,” nor that any of the events afterrnthe Resurrection (such as Luke 24:42-rn43: “And they offered him a piece ofrngrilled fish, which he took and ate beforerntheir eyes”) actually occurred. ButrnFriedrich and his “non-fundamentalistrnbiblical scholars” share this with theirrnfundamentalist counterparts: a willingnessrnto distort the Scriptures in order tornmake them fit their own preconceptionsrnand agendas. Eriedrieh’s explainingrnaway of every biblical scene involvingrnmeat reminds me of the Maranatha FellowshiprnChristians-good teetotalingrnfundamentalists—who argue that therernare dozens of Greek words for wine, andrnthat the one used in the story of Christ’srnmiracle at the wedding in Cana (Johnrn2:1-12) refers to non-alcoholic grapernjuice! (“Everyone serves good grapernjuice first and the worse grape juicernwhen the guests are well juiced;rnbut you have kept the best grape juice tillrnnow.”)rnNot surprisingly, Eriedrieh’s understandingrnof Christianify is not very differentrnfrom conventional liberal theologyrn(he cites Rudolf Bultmann as a typicalrnexample of a “non-fundamentalist biblicalrnscholar”). When I asked him howrnproof that Christ was not a vegetarianrnwould affect his faith, he argued thatrnman has “evolved” since Christ’s time:rn”Jesus doesn’t condemn slavery or go asrnfar in inclusivity for women and childrenrnas he might have.” But Christ’s message,rnsays Friedrich, is “one of compassion,”rnand so even if Christ were not a vegetarian.rnChristians today —evolved as wernare —should be (just as Christians inrn1860 should have been Abolitionists,rnand should have campaigned for women’srnsuffrage in the early decades of thisrncentury).rnFriedrich’s emphasis on “compassion”rnpoints to an important differencernbetween, say, the Catholic abstentionrnfrom meat on Fridays (or even the SeventhrnDay Adventist abstention fromrnmeat altogether) and animal rights vegetarianism.rnCatholics abstain from meatrnas an act of sacrifice, the giving up ofrna positive good, for their own spiritualrndiscipline, not because it is immoral torneat meat. Orthodox Christians spendrnup to a third of the year in fasting andrnabstinence, but as Orthodox BishoprnKallistos Ware writes in The OrthodoxrnWay:rnWe do not fast because there isrnanything in itself unclean aboutrnAUGUST 1998/45rnrnrn