I recently finished a very basic composition class. The focus has required writing research papers, which, formally speaking, I mostly loathe. I enjoy sounding academic. I enjoy citing sources of my knowledge. I like challenging myself -especially at things I do often, like writing, and am likely to slack on.
I do not like research papers.
My topic was vegertarianism, which you may recall me mentioning a few posts ago. In a class prior to this one, I’d written briefly about exercise and diet, that was also a research paper, and for this class I was concerned that choosing vegetarianism would be too much of the same. Gladly, I took this paper in a different direction. I decided to speak a little (and only a little) about the cultural, environmental, and religious implications of vegetarianism. The limit on word count really hampered how much I was able to touch on anything.
You may also recall mention of the very Christian (a minister) member of my university’s faculty who was/is teaching this class. Truly, this man mostly awed me. I love everything that has anything to do with languages. In fact, one of my favorite websites is for omniglots. I go there often to study con-scripts and study foreign alphabets as well as hear pronunciation examples. Any time I encounter someone who can pick apart a language, I love them. I think I can’t help it. Truly, a person’s language and religious background influence the course of their life and shape how they see the world more than anything else. You can imagine the bliss I’ve experienced throughout the duration of this class and the last-both of which were taught by this same person. It might be noted that I was about the only student who grew goosebumps and swooned when, as an aside, sentence diagramming was demonstrated on the dry erase board. <dreamy sigh> That stuff is art, for me.
So… I struggled with this paper, simple as it was. Between word limit and references being limited and kind of wanting to slant my writing in a way that would appeal the most to my Christian teacher (yes, I’m manipulative), I was almost stuck. With a paper I’d written before now, he confided to me in his feedback that he’d been so impressed with the paper’s content and structure that it not only kept him awake at midnight while he graded it, but that he later shared it with his family at the dinner table. I’m thinking this paper didn’t sit the same with him. Here’s why.
Although I tried, somewhat, to appeal to his Christian senses, I’m thinking this may well have backfired on me.
My paper’s introduction actually wasn’t too bad, and I feel it pulled at some Christian strings in the ways I had hoped, while remaining professional/academic. The rest of the body of the paper I pretty much just stayed on topic and got through it, with the exception of when I spoke on the religious/moral aspects of vegetarianism. I only mentioned Hinduism, Islam, and Christianity-focusing almost entirely on Hindu and Christian views. I cited the Qur’an, a youtube video by Sri Dharma Pravartaka Acharya and quoted a few Christian sources, including the King James Version of the Bible. To say the least, as with the rest of my points of discussion, I was unable to dive as deeply as I wanted. My conclusion was rather weak, but did the job I think.
The problem? I should have known better. With the exception of some Jews, most of those adhering to the Abrahamic Faiths think they are experts at their own dharmas. Either not realizing, or choosing to ignore, the convoluted histories of these paths, they ascribe a number of fancies to their religions … which basically amounts to serious cases of denial.
What kills me, is that this highlights a terrible tendency among Christians (in particular). Picking and choosing, in addition to selective interpreting when it comes to their own holy writings. If you realize and accept the notion of deeper, perhaps more abstract truths, then even if your starting place is in taking the words literally you still recognize there’s more than the black and white of the page. If you limit your own religion, however, you end up relying on the black and white of the page, only, and through the ages spend more time arguing over where periods and commas go than what the Truth conveyed might be.
Through the ages, virtually since their Scriptures were first written and then compiled, Christians have engaged in selective interpretation in order to achieve their personal wills, at the expense not only of the divine Will, but many many human lives. Depending on who they’re trying to conquer or convert, certain Scriptures hold more or less weight than others. Whether it’s burning “witches,” keeping blacks as slaves, women as property, or gays from marrying, Christians are notorious for manipulating their own Scriptures according to what they want to accomplish or prevent.
The same actually applies to vegetarianism. 1500 years ago Christian kings would put their clergy to “taste tests” that involved eating meats. The fear was that Manacheaenism had infiltrate the clergy and corrupted them. Any Christian priest or minister who refused or was even reluctant to eat meat was severly punished. Hatred for vegetarianism was a major player in beginning the Inquisition as well.
The funny thing? Of all the things that are “literally” spelled out in the Bible, few things are clearer than the mandate for human vegetarianism. There are lots of instances mentioned in the Bible about animal sacrifice or meals that were had, unclean versus clean and all that jazz. The New Testament tells us that what we put into our bodies doesn’t corrupt our soul (Gospel of Mark). However, if we’re to take the Bible as literally as Christians have historically insisted, Genesis should be no different. (I realize that, increasingly, some Christian denominations are recognizing a more broad was of viewing Scripture, but historically and even today this is not the norm. The same is to be said of Islam.) I understand that a reason often cited for why certain portions of the Old Testament are ignored, is that Jesus came to put an end to the Law. And that’s fine, but for two loopholes: Vegetarianism was mandated before The Law applied and is the way things ought to be- it was spoken directly by G/god to humans instead of to humans through another human, and vegetarianism isn’t a part of The Law at all.
According to some, there are two creation accounts in Genesis. The first, is the one most are familiar with and this is the one I’ll be referring to the most. In this account of the beginning of life, God apparently tells the first humans, “Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat” (verse 29). A verse or so later, the very same is said about what animals are to eat.
(As an interesting aside, two chapters later documents the apparent fall of mankind. This represents the beginning of the flawed world as we know it. The Devil assumed the form of a snake. The snake tricked the first woman and the first woman got the first man to disobey along with her. God finds out, and punishes all of creation. During this episode, while the Almighty is flexing his moody muscles, he tells the snake, the woman, and the man exactly what their respective punishments are to be. It’s because of this part of the story that I’m inclined to go out on a limb and say that even arguing that vegetarianism no longer applies because we live in a fallen world is a weak arguement. It’s in chapter 3 that Adam’s punishment is made clear to him, and that punishment affirms the continuation of vegetarian sustenance. Gensis 3: 17-19, “And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.” One can see here that nowhere does God punish Adam by saying, “You’ve messed up and now you have to kill animals and eat them.” I think the text suggests that He still meant for humans to be sustained on plants, and this is clear not only by G/god cursing the ground and telling Adam that he’ll eat from it in sorrow, but also by the introduction of thorns and repetition (from earlier Genesis) that herbs are to be eaten. What the heck kind of punishment would the introduction of thorns and cursing of the ground be, if we’re not concerned with plants?)
I’m not a Bible scholar in any way. Admitted. I’ll never claim to be, and truthfully, at this point in my life I’m thankful that I’ll never be. Never mind that, though, because that’s not the point. The point is that if the Christian Word of God is supposed to be taken literally, then let’s take all of it literally. Agreed? In that context, nearly all Christians are disobeying their own God, and for those Christians who are familiar with their own scriptures, they should be afraid because not much deeper into their holy writings it is made abundantly clear that their God is a jealous God and is also vindictive and fond of severe punishments, often exceeding what is warranted by any specific offense.
Beyond this, there are only two alternatives: Don’t take the Word of God literally, or, as happens mostly, conveniently pick and choose what you want to literally apply and what you don’t. If we’re not to take the Word literally then slavery should never have happened, nor half the wars ever fought between humans, and gays would already be afford the same rights as heteros. If we’re to opt for the pick-n-choose-as-is-convenient method, we soon find ourselves in the predicament we know today. Regardless of which route we choose, it’s obvious that things have only worsened along the way – but that’s a whole other post altogether.
Backing up eight crazy paragraphs, we return to the topic of my paper and how my approach to it may end up biting me in the butt. Precisely because of the convoluted and twisted nature of Christianity, today and through out most of it’s very young lifespan, I suspect that my minister-professor will likely be unimpressed or feel somehow challenged, if not outright offended, and that it may show in my grade. Truly, I’ll be very surprised if the oppossite occurs. As I’ve composed this post, it’s come to my mind that (knowing the exact content of my paper) my paper wasn’t written as slanted as I had originally hoped. In fact, it couldn’t have been because I didn’t have the space to go deep enough to slant much at all, let alone in a manner that would appeal to my target. <sigh> Who knows? My grade still isn’t posted and I’m sure by the time it is, I won’t have the time or energy or care to argue it.