Cognitive dissonance from the pulpit.
I will not be sharing where I was this morning. Well, that’s not entirely true. I will say that I was at a church service, though I will refrain from saying who was preaching and what church it was to protect the identities of these entities, for reasons that will become quite clear. I was listening to a sermon on the topic of showing kindness the beings in our vicinity, and providing for the most disadvantaged in our communities, for this is the call that disciples of Christ must answer. The pastor was deep into the intricacies of the text, and I was (admittedly) following a bit of a mental rabbit trail when he said something that caught my attention, although I cannot provide the appropriate context for the statement. His words were (and here I provide a direct quote): “Bacon is proof that God wants us to be happy”. While somewhat bewildering (at least to my ears), the quip gained the desired laughter from the congregation. Admittedly, I do not believe that the pastor truly meant this, in all sincerity; I’m quite sure he was being a bit facetious, for whatever reason. That being said, I cannot say that I was truly surprised by such a cruel statement: being in the southern part of the nation, I’m quite accustomed to being confronted by carnistic attitudes on a regular basis, which is mildly annoying but certainly par for the course.
Yet, what truly caused me a great deal of concern was the pastors following statements. After the unfortunate bacon comment, he went on to speak on the considerations we must make as compassionate people. As people who are called to be kind, and to show mercy. I almost could not believe what I was hearing: here was a leader of a congregation who is calling upon his members to be vessels of compassion, but he finds it amusing to precede these statements with comments involving the destruction of animals; sentient beings who were certainly given no compassion or mercy.
Here, I must make a disclaimer: I am not naive in regards to this type of disconnect. This is certainly not the first time (nor will it be the last) that I hear from people who claim to be pro-compassion, and very much in support of merciful actions, yet support inhumane and cruel practices without even realizing it. Admittedly, there are a whole host of cultural norms that allow most of us to avoid addressing the egregious acts of cruelty that take place against defenseless creatures who are no different than the dogs and cats that we share our homes and hearts with.
I’m quite certain that this pastor hasn’t the slightest idea how bacon is procured. If he did, I’m fairly sure that he wouldn’t be gleefully proclaiming how it provides him with happiness from the pulpit. Furthermore, we must address the issue of keeping the realities hidden. I’m going to be a bit graphic, for a brief moment, to provide context for his statements (TRIGGER WARNING): If the pastor were to adhere to the industry standards of pig production, he would take one of the runts from the litter (as they are commonly turned into pork early on, due to their inability to develop appropriately for the production line), and proceed to smack it on the ground repeatedly in order to hasten death, before it was hacked to pieces and turned into bacon. If this act was committed on stage at the church, the vast majority of the congregation would be rightly horrified, and greatly troubled, perhaps even calling for the resignation of a man who quite obviously shows no compassion to innocent young animals who have done no harm.
That being said, most of us are unaware that these acts are being committed, and when we do discover this truth, we quite often refuse to support animal agriculture any longer by going vegan. Reverend Andrew Linzey is fond of saying that yes, while humans certainly need salvation and that we should help guide people to this understanding, animals most certainly need a critical rescue from the hands of violent and cruel humans.
I left the church service feeling a bit uneasy, yet introspective. I reached some conclusions derived from this experience: If we as Christians really mean what we say in regards to showing compassion to all beings, with regards to the complete and total redemption of Creation, we cannot draw this line between showing kindness to all humans and only some animals (namely, our companion animals). If we insist upon doing so, we are setting ourselves up for a dangerous idolatry, wherein we make ourselves the harbingers of death for some, where we spare the lives of others. To make oneself into a judge over life is to assume a place of arrogance, according to the words of Reverend Linzey, and I’m inclined to agree with him.
As Christians, we are often reminded to be thoughtful of our actions, and to be considerate of how our choices have lasting effects on those around us. I’ll take this opportunity to respectfully urge all members of faith to explore their own choices with regards to eating animals, and ask themselves if they are truly being compassionate individuals in regards to the choices they make at breakfast, lunch, and dinner.