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Christianity
Christianity shares Judaism's creation story, which many Christians have interpreted as commanding respect for all of nature and its inhabitants. This sentiment was reflected in Jesus' ministry, which stressed love and peace. Recognizing this, many devout Christians have been leaders of pacifist, environmental, and animal advocacy movements. For example, St. Francis of Assisi and Albert Schweitzer encouraged respect and reverence for all life.

Pacifism
Jesus repeatedly urged pacifism. For example, Jesus' Sermon on the Mount included, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God" and, "You have heard that it is said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth,' But I say to you, Do not resist one who is evil" and, "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you." When soldiers arrested Jesus, he admonished a friend who drew a sword in his defense, saying, "All who take the sword shall perish by the sword."
The first Christians, following Jesus' example, were pacifists who preferred martyrdom to taking up arms against fellow humans, and all the early church fathers strongly opposed all warfare. When the Roman ruler Constantine declared Christianity as the empire's official religion, he sanctioned warfare in Jesus' name, credited Jesus with his military success. Constantine claimed that his conversion to Christianity was based on a vision, while historians note that it was also a very prudent political maneuver. Henceforth, Christian leaders disavowed earlier pacifism, arguing weakly that earlier Christians only opposed fighting for paganism, not bloodshed in general.

Environmentalism
Many Christians embrace environmentalism, primarily on the grounds that humans should be good stewards of God's creation. Jesus had little to say about environmental protection, perhaps because humans were not as capable of widespread environmental destruction in his day as they are today.

Animal Advocacy
The canonical Christian writings reflect primarily the beliefs of gentile Christians, who were not very sympathetic to animal protection concerns. We get more reliable clues about Jesus' attitudes towards animals from noncanonical early Christian documents written by church leaders. They strongly suggest that Jesus was very concerned about animal treatment, including strong opposition to animal sacrifice. Interestingly, multiple independent sources identify Jesus' first followers, who were all Jewish, as vegetarians who identified Jesus as the Messiah because he was so perfectly righteous. Acts and Paul's letters have several references to the conflicts between the vegetarian and meat-eating Christians. It is hard to imagine that the vegetarian Jewish Christians would have found Jesus righteous if he had refused to abstain from meat. Furthermore, James (Jesus' brother) was known to be vegetarian since birth, so one would expect James' parents to raise his brother Jesus with the same diet.
The Jewish Christian movement was ultimately destroyed, along with most (but not all) its literature. Many died as innocent bystanders during the unsuccessful Jewish revolts (with which they refused to participate) against the Romans, and the rest were later persecuted by the gentile Christian church, which labeled the Jewish Christians heretics. With their demise went living testimony to many important aspects of Jesus' ministry.

 

 

Pax Christi USA

National Religious Partnership for the Environment

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