A while ago I went to a talk about animal rights at a Christian college. It was an interesting evening with a Biblically conservative crowd. Most of the people in the audience appeared to be folks who sincerely and wholeheartedly believe Adam and Eve were two real people.
They were also people who are, for the most part, vegetarians or vegans. They believe to treat the earth and animals carefully and respectfully is an important part of being faithful Christians.
Before this night, I would have thought it difficult to fill an auditorium with what one might call Bible believing animal rights activists. Just goes to show how unhelpful labels and stereotypes can be.
This group of people had a difficult time and honestly struggled with the text in Genesis where, after expelling Adam and Eve from the garden, God makes them clothes out of hides. (Genesis 3:21) If you are a vegan, this passage, where God apparently kills an animal for its hide, is a problem. The action of God recorded here, is not consistent with their understanding of who God is and how God acts. How could they resolve this?
As the group talked about this passage someone suggested, perhaps God used the hide of an already dead animal. Someone else proposed that “garments of skin” meant that previously Adam and Eve didn’t have skin as we know it and this is when humans received skin. Yes, someone really said that, and quite seriously too.
My point isn’t to be critical of Biblical literalists or this group of Bible believing animal rights people. My point is just the opposite. Liberal or conservative, Biblical literalist or not, we are all in the same boat. We all have a concept of who God is and how God acts. When Scripture or experiences in real life don’t easily fit into our concept, we have to attempt to reconcile them. We use our culture, our history and our experience to help us do this. The discussion that took place at the talk that night was a perfect example of this. It’s alright, we can’t help it and it’s a necessary activity. But we do need to be aware of what we are doing.
When we disagree about the meaning of a passage of the Bible, it’s a difference of opinion. Certainly some opinions are more worthy of listening to than others. Some are more scholarly, some more educated in the school of life. But no matter who we are, no one, no human can interpret perfectly from God’s point of view.
So good for you Bible believing animal rights people. Continue to think and to talk and to wrestle with what it means to be a faithful Christian. We may arrive at different conclusions but we can respect and encourage each other’s journey.