August 21, 2022
In March, Seekers Church entered into a partnership with CreatureKind, and the Stewards affirmed the call of our CreatureKind Ministry Team, which is supporting different initiatives to strengthen the part of our community commitment to caring for all of Creation.
CreatureKind is a nationwide ministry whose mission is to encourage Christians to recognize faith-based reasons for caring about the wellbeing of fellow animal creatures used for food, and to take practical action in response.
This morning, Aline Silva joined worship at Seekers Church to bring the Word. Aline serves as the co-Director of CreatureKind, Prior to coming to CreatureKind, Aline served for over a decade as a local parish pastor of rural and farming populations in Kansas, Missouri, and Colorado.
First of all, I want to thank you, Seekers, for the invitation to share a word with you today. A very special thanks to your lay leaders for not only inviting me to be in worship with you today, but especially, asking me to share more about my work and how my journey as a farmed animal advocate connects with Christianity and the values we hold as a community.
But before I go there, and for those of you who do not know or are unable to see me, I am a Mixed Latinx woman born and raised in Brazil. I have light brown skin, and wavy black and purple hair. I am wearing a black blouse and I am at home seated next to plants and art which is displayed on my walls …. in the unceded lands of the Tequesta, Taino, and Seminole peoples also known as South Florida.
You may have already heard of CreatureKind before today. Many of your lay leaders have been in prayer with you and you all have discerned and outlined commitments, becoming a partner community in this work with us. The work is plentiful indeed, and for partners such as yourselves, we are grateful. Before I share a bit more about my work and journey, I also want to assure you: I am not here to make vegetarians, vegans, or plant-based persons out of you. We don’t believe in guilting anyone to change what they eat and how they consume it. And we certainly do not believe in telling folks how they should set their tables.
After all, according to the National School Lunch Program, in the next school year, there will be at least 2 million children that we know of who will depend on free or reduced-price lunch in the United States.
After all, the all-items Consumer Price Index (CPI), a measure of economy-wide inflation, reports a 9.1% increase from last year.USDA: Economic Research Service: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
After all, we live in a world where disordered eating is a reality and where shame about what we eat and how we eat it lurks at every corner.
And so how could I come here and tell you how to set your tables? How dare I touch one the most personable, most judged aspects of our society?
Since the Colonization of the Americas, folks have been touching our plates, changing our diets, using forced labor to produce our food, and hiding their severely unethical practices from the masses.
They have changed the landscape. In Australia and New Zealand, for example, sheep were imported to clear fields and displacing indigenous peoples off their land. A demand for lamb was thus invented and now, centuries later, their fields burn wildly each year and they are unable to restore the landscape. This is not to mention the sheep are shipped live in shipping containers without food or water across the world to the Middle East.
They brought in pandemics. We can look at history and name the earliest to the latest: diseases such as smallpox, measles and bubonic plague that were passed along to the native populations by the Europeans. This happened each time large amounts of animals were transported from one region to another. They brought new diseases to the land, the peoples, and other animals. Whole ethnic groups were killed and an estimated 90% indigenous people from the north and south continents died from such diseases for the sake of tilling the soil and stolen agricultural practices.
They changed our food habits, consumption, and therefore our cultural behaviors. And so, rather than colonizing your plate, rather than telling you what to do, CreatureKind meets each person and organization we encounter where they are and through invitation and conversation ask, “Does God care about the wellbeing of animals farmed for food?” and if so, “Is it possible for me/and my community to eat according to those values?”
“A 2008 report produced by the Pew Commission found that over the past seventy years industrialized production has replaced the traditional, decentralized family farm system as the dominant reality of animal farming in the U.S. today. In this concentrated system, there are far fewer farm operations, and each is enormous in scale, holding large numbers of animals of the same species in enclosed, crowded conditions that restrict the movement of the animals. In addition, this model of industrial farm animal production employs far fewer workers than the decentralized system.”https://www.becreaturekind.org/blog-posts/2022/8/1/the-cost-of-pot-roast#fn9
Animal production on this scale is driven by corporations. If a person eats meat, eggs, or dairy products without being intentional about sourcing from either ethical farms or markets, animals have been factory-farmed and processed by a few incredible powerful corporations that are politically powerful who continue to shape our land, change our diets, and be responsible for our lack of public health. They are in an adulterous relationship with Mamom as they invest in state legislatures and in the lobbying halls of Washington D.C. for laws that do not have God’s beloved creatures in mind. Rather they have dominated animal agriculture, making small farms a near extinction. Today in the US less than 1% of all farms are owned by Black families. The number is smaller for indigenous and other persons of color. And since the US seems to be the modern-day colonizer, many other countries around the world have adopted this production model.
There is no way around it, folks. Colonizers and Corporations exploit Creation rather than stewarding it with love and compassion. They make decisions about the welfare of people, animals, the earth, and the environment impacted by their industries without ever consulting the animals or peoples living, working, and dying within their systems. They base their decision on profit. They do everything in their power to maximize it, leaving workers in deplorable conditions, animals in worse conditions yet, and the earth around the operations desecrated, leaving the industry as the lead cause of climate change.
And I think, this is truly just my personal opinion, that the way we have been eating and consuming has had too grave a cost, a cost that is much greater than the high inflation. All we got to do is pay little attention around to see that.
Our Biblical texts for today remind us that God sees our suffering and God cares to the point of doing something about it. Thankfully, we can learn new ways to support food systems that proclaim the good news of liberation to all Creation, including animals, peoples, and the earth itself.
Jeremiah 1:4-10– reminds us that God knows us intimately, beyond time and God has called for such time as these. Challenging times.
Hebrews 12:18-29– reminds us that though others may tremble, we inherited an unshakable kin-dom. We inherited a rule-breaking response for the benefit and flourishing of others. We have inherited “a thoughtful response as a kind of world order that is wholly (and holy) different from our own.” Ada Maria Isasi-Diaz understood that the fullness of life as God intends and promises cannot be attained through the oppression of others, and that a biblical paradise brings all into the fold of God’s family.”
Luke 13:10-17– reminds that even when we’re busy, going about our holy mission, we can afford to be interrupted. We can be stopped. We can notice the suffering around us and do something extraordinarily liberative about it. We can touch, even if our plates, and the systems that supply it, and together, we can proclaim: “You are set free from your ailment. No longer shall you be crippled by the oppressions contained in our food systems.” Hallelujah!
This summer you’ve been engaging the question, “How are you growing in these hard times?” And these are hard times, indeed. Times that call for radical rest, abundant care of community, and growth.
In the ways that you eat and the ways that we gather, can we expand our minds and our hearts even if just a little? Can we dare to expand our definition of loving neighbor to not only those at the table, but those who serve the table and are on the table themselves? Is it possible for us to participate in systems that bring healing to animals, peoples, and the earth?
We sure hope so! Amen.