People think Vegans have no sense of humor.
On June 14th, in a kind of poetic irony, lightning struck the 62-foot-tall statue of Jesus at the Solid Rock Church in Monroe, Ohio. The resulting fire destroyed the “King of Kings” statue, as well as damaged adjacent structures. The story caught the attention of PETA and they extended an offer to the church to build a new statue in its place — with a distinct twist, of course. The statue PETA proposes to build, with the money donated from a Christian member of the organization, would depict Jesus holding a lamb over his shoulder, with an inscription at the base of the statue reading “Blessed are the Merciful. Go Vegan.”
Of course the church outright rejected the proposal, saying that it wouldn’t accept a statue that promoted an “agenda” of any sort. Pastor Lawrence Bishop called the offer “amusing”.
It is often hard to tell when PETA is bluffing — when their actions are a publicity stunt or when they’re being serious. This particular offer is a bit hard to believe, and part of me wishes the church had called their bluff. Regardless of whether the offer from PETA was conceived seriously or in jest, I agree with Pastor Bishop. It’s an amusing situation for sure.
On a personal level, I am an atheist. But I was Christian when I went vegetarian and then vegan. At the time I felt that any action that reduced the suffering of any living creature — as well as improved the environment of the planet — was a very Christian action. I embraced veganism as one of the most Christian lifestyle choices I could make. I agree with the ideas expressed in PETA’s letter to the church — that Jesus would be horrified by the treatment of animals in modern agriculture. And PETA’s “Christianity and Vegetarianism” pamphlets truly helped me explain my dietary choices to members of my church when I was younger.
The more we learn about the cruelty inflicted on animals for food and the more we learn about the effects of animal agriculture on our environment, the more likely it is that congregations will have to adapt to a younger parishioner with more modern moral concerns. The more parishioners are concerned with social justice approaches to diet, climate change and global poverty, the more churches will have to begin to address dietary choices and lifestyles as important spiritual issues.
Maybe someday PETA will get their 50-foot-tall “Go Vegan” Jesus statue at a mainstream church. And if they do, I think I’ll stop by for a service one Sunday morning.