PETA creates a real red meat of a religious dispute |

PETA creates a real red meat of a religious dispute

Unlike television commercials that can be emasculated by a mute button or radio spots that disappear with a quick spin of the dial, billboards have a presence that cannot be denied.

They appear as a mere speck on the horizon and slowly grow in significance until they dominate your line of sight. Closing your eyes at the first sign of their appearance is a really risky response and trying to avoid them altogether means never leaving the confines of your home.

Billboards, much like rap music and telemarketers, are simply something we must learn to cohabitate with peacefully.

Which makes it particularly difficult for those good folks in Pensacola, Fla., who have found that a particularly difficult billboard makes for particularly difficult cohabitating.

The billboard in question portrays a rather pleasant, if decidedly Anglo-Saxon Jesus. His countenance is highlighted by an orange halo that, upon closer inspection, is indeed an orange slice. The message reads: JESUS WAS THE PRINCE OF PEAS. FOLLOW HIM – GO VEGETARIAN.

For those of you paying attention, this billboard is reminiscent of the bumper sticker of recent years that proclaimed: IMAGINE WHIRRLED PEAS.

Both billboard and bumper sticker reveal a certain irreverence that some of us Colorado Christians may find humorous although, rest assured, there are a number of the faithful who are fuming in Florida.

The sponsor of the billboard is an organization that goes by the acronym PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals). Christians who find this Florida billboard offensive should count their blessings.

In Wilmington, N.C., the same organization displayed another billboard with a huge pig staring down at passers-by. The message underneath: HE DIED FOR YOUR SINS. GO VEGETARIAN.

I imagine that didn’t go over real well with the pork-eating Baptists in the Tar Heel State.

I have a number of friends who are vegetarians, and although they can be slightly sanctimonious at times, I can’t imagine any of them being as verbally violent as the folks at PETA.

There are a host of interesting links on the PETA Web site, but I was especially drawn to that makes the rather bold claim that Jesus was a vegetarian. 

Although I find myself sympathetic to the cause, my own Biblical scholarship would have to admit such an assumption is a scholastic stretch. As much as I appreciate Jesus as the Good Shepherd, I have to admit that those sheep lying down in green pastures weren’t just being kept as models for stained-glass windows.

The folks at PETA haven’t just irritated Christians, by the way. There is a host of anti-anti-meat-eating Web sites that have responded to PETA in anything but Christ-like ways.

The site offers a less than polite anti-PETA polemic. They are convinced that “PETA has stated repeatedly that their goal is “total animal liberation.’

“This means no pets, no meat, no milk, no zoos, no circuses, no fishing, no leather and no animal testing for lifesaving medicines.” Whew. Judging from the rhetoric of both organizations, you’d hate to find yourself in the middle of a meeting between these groups. One could wind up a sitting duck or flat as a pancake.

Nevertheless, a case can be made the PETA people are not without compassion for Christians. They eventually replaced the pig sign with a question: WWJE (WHAT WOULD JESUS EAT?) NOT ANIMALS FROM TODAY’S FACTORY FARMS!

Which is certainly true S unless, of course, those farms were kosher.

Rich Mayfield is a Lutheran pastor. When he’s not surfing the Net or ministering to his flock, he writes a regular Saturday column for the Summit Daily News.

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