Sacrifice

Two recent articles in a magazine I subscribe to have been highly critical of the Greenpeace organization, and in particular, its campaign against the gathering of furs by northern communities in Canada.

It was pointed out that the result of this campaigning has not only been to ruin the native fur-gathering economy, but also to give the result that the furs of seals killed for their meat, instead of being put to use in the form of clothing, are now completely wasted because of this boycott of natural furs. This, too, by people who quite possibly eat meat and wear leather shoes, and pollute the atmosphere with gasoline-powered automobiles, without a second thought about the hypocrisy of their position.

Is it perhaps that in the growing urbanization of our lives, we are beginning completely to lose touch with the cycle of birth and death in nature? If so, this has very serious implications for our religion. The essential theme of Christianity is not the avoidance of death. Rather, it is the creative use of sacrifice as the springboard to new life. The sacrifice of the vegetables, seeds and animals that go into our diet, is the price nature is asked to pay so that mankind can continue to live on the earth. In olden times, this sacrifice was made with religious reverence and a full appreciation of the blood and the suffering involved. Now, we can pick up a package of meat at Safeway, secretly killed in a packing plant, without a second thought that an animal gave its life that we might live. Our faith teaches us, however, and particularly teaches us through the Eucharist, that it is not wrong that such a sacrifice should be demanded and made. Rather, it challenges us ourselves to follow Christ in presenting our bodies as a “living sacrifice”—taking part with all of nature in an endless pattern of death and renewal, a pattern upon which our total ecology depends.

Abolish death on this earth, and we condemn ourselves to an unreal and overpopulated world, where children become a burden, because their elders never come to the point of ‘passing on’, where the animal and insect worlds multiply to the point of covering the earth, because they do not give up a substantial portion of their young to provide food for other species—in the end, to a point where an overburdened earth no longer can sustain all the demands made on it. Sacrifice gives the opportunity of death with a purpose: life laid down so that others can live more abundantly. Captain Oates, Sidney Carson, an abundance of Christian martyrs, Christ himself—are we really so without understanding that we are unable to get the message?

This, of course, leads on to the fact that there is a Christian case in favour of birth control and abortion. But I think I’d better quit while I’m ahead!

– Anglican Messenger, January 1991
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