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Jesus Saves...Animals?
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Jesus Saves...Animals?

As a recovering Catholic, I have been on a quest to find a new spirituality that somewhat resembles my own belief system that cherishes the creations as much as the creator. This journey has taken me to some weird and wonderful places, but some of the material I came across was dark and disturbing.

I am an avid reader and devour just about any book that’s non-fiction, political, biographical, true crime, legal thriller or part of the Skinny Bitch series. I’m also a muscle car fanatic, but that’s for another blog.

I just finished the book Zealot, The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth by Reza Aslan. Zealot strips away all the religion from the life and times of Jesus Christ, and discusses only what is known about the history of the time. In other words, he writes about how an average person such as Jesus would have lived and socialized in that time period. It’s based on historical facts, and he didn't do his research in the Bible. In fact, he has a lot to say about how the Bible has more than a few things wrong, but that’s for another blog too. (Please, no nasty comments, I'm just the messenger). 

So why does this belong in an animal rights blogging community? Well, there is a lot of talk in this book about animal sacrifice. The temple in Jerusalem was the site of unimaginable carnage and bloodshed. Millions of animals were slaughtered there in the name of sacrifice, so much so that the river ran red with their blood. At least six animals were killed every day and on special holidays the temple would be packed with people purchasing animals for slaughter. This must have been a very difficult time to be a lamb, ram, goat, bull, bullock, dove or just about any other species of non-human. The stench of death and blood was so overpowering, incense had to be burned around the clock to mask the smell. That’s where the tradition of burning incense in the church came from. Recent archaeological findings suggest that these animals were mostly juveniles; raised solely for slaughter.

Not only did the blood sacrifice atone for sins, but the sale of these animals to the masses and the money given to the rabbis to do the grisly murders was an enormous part of the economy of the day. The archaeologists that worked at the site where the temple once stood were blown away by the sheer number of bones, skulls and other evidence of animal slaughter, some 2,000 years later.

But only 70 years after the death of Jesus, the temple was destroyed and the sacrifices stopped suddenly. They resumed about 500 years later, but not for long. Today’s Jews do not sacrifice animals due to a law in the Torah that gives strict instructions on where it can be done and no such place has been shown to them. Some Orthodox Jews are itchin' for the tradition, but they're not much of a threat right now. They believe animal sacrifice is not related in any way, shape or form to animal cruelty since the animals are slaughtered much like they are in the average abattoir, and the flesh is consumed. Naturally, this argument doesn't fly in a country where the majority of people have companion animals and are self-proclaimed "animal lovers." Hopefully the laws in America would prevent such a travesty. But you never know, the Supreme Court of Florida upheld a lower court's decision that the Santeria people in Miami-Dade County could sacrifice animals because it was part of their religion.

Yeah, I think that's a bunch of hooey too.

I don’t think the stopping of animal cruelty just 70 years after the death of Christ was just a coincidence, because Christianity spread after like wildfire in the days, weeks and months after the crucifixion and that’s what caused the Romans to go bat shit on the temple and destroy it; thus destroying the only place where animal sacrifice could take place according to Jewish law.

There’s a passage in Zealot that discusses the famous hissy fit Jesus threw in the temple. You know the one, where he tells them they have turned his father’s house into a den of thieves. In describing this scene, the author makes a point to tell us that Jesus opened all the cages, released all the birds, and watched the temple’s economy stampede or fly away. Later, he discusses how Jesus, a few years later and dying on the cross, must have been able to hear the lambs screaming from the Mount of Olives as they were led to their slaughter. It was Passover, after all, a time when hundreds and hundreds of animals were killed within a few days. 

Now I’m not saying Jesus came and stopped animal sacrifice bada-bing bada-bang, case closed. I'm not saying that was God's plan all along. I’m only saying that there might be a connection there, and it gives us something to ponder when we're staring at the ceiling cursing our insomnia. 




*Image courtesy Flickr creative commons.

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Michelle A. Rivera is the author of several books including HOSPICE HOUNDS, Animals and Healing at the Borders of Death (Lantern Books); CANINES IN THE CLASSROOM, Raising Humane Children through Interactions with Animals;(Lantern Books) DO DOGS HAVE BELLY BUTTONS? 100 Questions and Answers about Dogs(Adams Media); THE SIMPLE LITTLE VEGAN SLOW COOKER and THE SIMPLE LITTLE VEGAN DOG BOOK(Book Publishers, Inc.) and ON DOGS AND DYING (Purdue University Press). She is also an essayist and has been published in the vegetarian essay book “Voices from the Garden.” She is a freelance writer/editor and along with her Certified Therapy Dogs, a Humane Educator and R.E.A.D tutor. Michelle is a past blogger for and a writer for several online publications including eHow, Livestrong, Rachel Ray, The Daily Puppy, USA Today, Cracked and others. She has two Certified Delta Society Therapy Dogs: Murphy, a Golden Retriever, and Tabitha, a Standard Poodle; and two cats. All are rescued animals. Michelle lives in South Florida with her husband, John, an attorney, and is the proud grandmother of three lovely children, Austin, Alexander and Adrienne.

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  1. Andrew Knighton
    Andrew Knighton
    A fascinating take on something I'd not considered. My parents are Christian and environmentally conscious, so I've seen some links drawn there in the past, but never seen a connection made to animal rights. If you're looking for other books that put the Bible in context, a couple of people I know have recommended 'Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes' by Kenneth E Bailey. I've only read odd bits of it, but it puts many of the stories in a different and interesting light.


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