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Monday, January 03, 2011

Does TYPE of worldview influence the adherents' approach to the personhood of other species?

A popular discussion (and I think a poorly-developed idea) that is wending its way through vegetarian e-mail discussion venues asks:

Does worldview condition our likelihood of reverencing the personhood of other species?

This idea has been made into books (as in An Unnatural Order: Why We Are Destroying The Planet and Each Other by Jim Mason and Peter Singer, 2005), where (in 'feminist' style, Mason and Singer claim that theism is hierarchical, while naturalism is not; hierarchical approaches to nature oppress animals and women; therefore, justice must abolish both in one fell swoop.

The issue has been approached a number of ways critically. In The Spectre of Speciesism, Paul Waldau asks whether Buddhism has a better historical record on animals than the monotheistic Abrahamic religions; he concludes that they do not.

In one blog, it was asked (somewhat 'inelegantly'):

Is there a connection with atheists and being for animal rights because if you do not believe in God then you feel that humans and animals are on the same level?

VeggieTart (one of the early respondents) offered a succinct and excellent response, demonstrating that worldview, while possibly correlated in individuals, is not an automatic determinant of one's understanding of the ethical issues that make one an ethical vegan.

A secular approach that is not antagonist to religious or theistic worldviews is Ethical Culture (inspired and founded by Kantian Felix Adler in the 19th century), which teaches (www.AEU.org) that ethics is autonomous (independent of religious worldview) - that is, one does have enough rational capacity (natural reason, inner 'light', etc.) to reach stable and sustainable moral conclusions without reaching agreement or final understanding of religious truth (or error).

Ethical vegans should be as astute as Adler and his followers.

So, on the question of whether the TYPE of worldview influences the adherents' approach to the personhood of other species, surely it does, but not always in black-and-white, either-or ways. A better approach, I suggest, would be that of comparative religionists that asks each student to explore this question in depth; if only superficial analyses are offered, lower grades are assigned.

So, look deep, dig deeply, and ask the question of whether or not there could be insight and justice for animals in EACH of the intellectual outlook options on ultimate questions. That's precisely my long-term point. And again, ethical vegans who really DO NOT KNOW one way or the other on ultimate questions should be as astute as Adler and his followers. Otherwise, THEIR ethical insights are only topical advances, not wholesale advances in ethical analysis.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

NOT an endorsement

Krister Stendahl, Lutheran Bishop of Sweden and past Dean of Harvard Divinity School, is credited with creating "Stendahl's three rules of religious understanding", which he presented in a 1985 press conference in Stockholm, Sweden, in response to vocal opposition to the building of a temple there by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

His rules are as follows:

(1) When you are trying to understand another religion, you should ask the adherents of that religion and not its enemies.

(2) Don't compare your best to their worst.

(3) Leave room for "holy envy." (By this Stendahl meant that you should be willing to recognize elements in the other religious tradition or faith that you admire and wish could, in some way, be reflected in your own religious tradition or faith.)

I think that we who aspire to religious understanding have reason to sometimes think that THEIR religion is bettern than OUR own PRACTICE in the following areas (and I remember my own mother's comment about the unitarian Fellowship movement as being a community of caring folks who aspire to simple values, and there is much continuity between some of the BEST values THOSE unitarians practiced and TRUE Christian faith as Baptists understand their faith in Christ. That was not an endorsement of unitarianism or unitarian theology, but rather a critical observation about how SOME of the local people did find some moral legitimacy in realities they observed and how they had attempted to put those values into practice.

It took me years to put her observations into a better frame of reference; it was not an endorsement; it was a religious look at another group's 'moment' of religious searching and insight.

Krister Stendahl - Professor of New Testament (and Dean) at Harvard Divinity School

Krister Stendahl (1921-April 15, 2008) was a Swedish theologian and New Testament scholar, Emeritus Bishop of Stockholm (Lutheran); Professor Emeritus, Harvard Divinity School.

Stendahl received his doctorate in New Testament studies from Uppsala University with his dissertation The school of St. Matthew and its use of the Old Testament (1954). He was later Professor at the Divinity School at Harvard University, where he also served as dean, before being elected Bishop of Stockholm in 1984. Stendahl was the second director of the Center for Religious Pluralism at the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem. After retiring in 1989, he returned to the United States, and was Mellon Professor of Divinity Emeritus at the Harvard Divinity School. He also taught at Brandeis University. Bishop Stendahl is an honorary fellow of the Graduate Theological Foundation.

Stendahl is perhaps most famous for his publication of the article "The Apostle Paul and the Introspective Conscience of the West." This article, along with the later publication of the book Paul Among Jews and Gentiles, conveys a new idea in Pauline studies suggesting that scholarship dating all the way back to Augustine may miss the context and thesis of Paul. His main point revolves around the early tension in Christianity between Jewish Christians and Gentile converts. He specifically argues that later interpreters of Paul have assumed a hyper-active conscience when they have begun exegesis of his works. As a result, they have suggested an overly psychological interpretation of the apostle Paul, that Paul himself would most likely not have understood at all for himself.[1]

Through his interest in the Jewish context of the New Testament, Stendahl developed an interest in Jewish Studies and was active in Jewish-Christian dialogue.

Stendahl is credited with creating Stendahl's three rules of religious understanding, which he presented in a 1985 press conference in Stockholm, Sweden, in response to vocal opposition to the building of a temple there by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. His rules are as follows:

(1) When you are trying to understand another religion, you should ask the adherents of that religion and not its enemies.

(2) Don't compare your best to their worst.

(3) Leave room for "holy envy." (By this Stendahl meant that you should be willing to recognize elements in the other religious tradition or faith that you admire and wish could, in some way, be reflected in your own religious tradition or faith.)

Selected bibliography

  • Stendahl, Krister. The school of St. Matthew, and its use of the Old Testament. Uppsala: C. W. K. Gleerup, Lund, 1954; 2nd ed. 1968.
  • Stendahl, Krister. Scrolls and the New Testament. NY: Harper, 1967; SCM Press, 1958. Reprint ISBN 0-8371-7171-7
  • Stendahl, Krister. The Bible and the Role of Women. Fortress Press, 1966.
  • Runyon, Theodore and Krister Stendahl. What the Spirit is Saying to the Churches: Essays. Hawthorn Books, 1975. ISBN 0-8015-8546-5
  • Stendahl, Krister. Paul Among Jews and Gentiles and Other Essays. Augsburg Fortress, 1977. ISBN 0-8006-1224-8
  • Stendahl, Krister. Meanings: The Bible As Document and As Guide. Fortress Press, 1984. ISBN 0-8006-1752-5
  • Stendahl, Krister. Holy Week Preaching. Philadelphia : Fortress Press, 1985. ISBN 0-8006-1851-3
  • Stendahl, Krister. Final Account: Paul's Letter to the Romans. Augsburg Fortress, 1995. ISBN 0-8006-2922-1
  • Stendahl, Krister. Energy for Life: Reflections on a Theme: "Come Holy Spirit, Renew the Whole Creation". Paraclete Press, 1999. ISBN 2-8254-0986-3 ISBN 1-55725-233-5
  • Nickelsburg, George and George Macrae, eds. Christians Among Jews and Gentiles: Essays in Honor of Krister Stendahl on His 65th Birthday. Fortress Press, 1986. ISBN 0-8006-1943-9
  • Horsley, Richard A., ed. Paul and Politics: Ekklesia, Israel, Imperium, Interpretation. Essays in Honor of Krister Stendahl.Trinity Press, 2000. ISBN 1-56338-323-3

[edit]References

  1. ^ Krister Stendahl, Paul among Jews and Gentiles Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1976.


External links