Generally theology includes the search for answers to such difficult questions as: What will happen to us when we die? Will there will be rewards and punishments? Does god exist? What is the nature of god? How should we worship god?
I am not particularly interested in any of the above aspects of theology. They are completely speculative. There is no way for us to know answers to such questions, except to wait until we die. We should study such questions only as part of the history of theology and philosophy. We should not judge people based on whether they agree with us regarding the answers to such unknowable questions.
However, there is another aspect of theology I do find interesting. It is one which is given little coverage in sermons or seminaries. It’s the one attribute of god that we can know something about while we are still alive, before we die. It is the “how we should behave” attribute of god, the ethics attribute.
If we focus on this ethics aspect of theology, we can make the world a more ethical and lawful place. And, if god is paying attention to what we do down here, SHE will be pleased. God turned the world over to us. It’s our duty to civilize it.
I am not sure what god is. Although I fervently hope god exists, I am not certain god exists. However, I choose to presume that god exists and to commit myself to living as if god exists. I am confident that whatever god is, god would want us to do unto others as we would have them do to us, to do unsolicited good deeds for those in need, to strive for the moral improvement of our species, and not to focus only preparing for the next life.
Do we believe we can civilize the world? Why don’t we make a more focused effort to do so? Why do religions generally neglect the “how we should behave” attribute of god?
Whatever god is, god is inseparable from the concept of ethics and justice. We should make a concerted study of how to make “justice roll down like waters.” (Amos 5:24.) In doing so we will learn all we can know of god with any certainty during this incarnation. And maybe in doing so we will civilize the world.
The other preliminary question is how theology or the study of a god of ethics relates to food. There are many ethical issues that involve food: whether the food we eat strengthens or weakens us and increases or decreases our ability to complete our calling, whether the way we get food protects or degrades our physical environment, and whether the way we get food wipes out species and involves the mistreatment of sensitive beings.
I was born Catholic but raised in the Lutheran Church and then in the Church of Christ, a Southern fundamentalist denomination which teaches that the New Testament is a comprehensive manual of doctrine and practice. No musical instruments are allowed in worship because the New Testament says “sing” and never says “play.”
When I was a first grader, Dad accepted a calling to preach in the Arkansas farming village of Aubrey, not too far from Memphis. Baptism was by immersion. Dad took converts down to the lake and dunked them. In summer he used an oar to kill water moccasins; in winter he used it to break ice.
In the Church of Christ you get to know the Bible extremely well. I read it repeatedly from cover to cover. I memorized the names of all the books of the Old Testament and the New Testament, the Twelve Apostles, and the Twelve Tribes of Israel. Even today I can recite them all–Old and New, apostles and tribes–in one breath.
I don’t know why, but as a teen I came to several realizations. First, this is a violent and absurd world. Second, everyone I knew seemed to regard this as unchangeable. Third, I did not agree.
I felt a calling to “search for truth and follow it where ever it might lead me and not to fear the truth I might discover.” I attended seminary. I studied Latin, Greek, and Hebrew. I assumed seminary to be the best place to go to search for truth. But the seminary focus was too much on the abstract nature of god, on what god wants us to believe, on theories about how to prepare for the next world, and too little about how to right the wrongs of this world.
I studied psychology to try to figure myself out and then law and environmental law as a new way to fulfill my calling. I explored Buddhism and the kabbalah extensively. For a time I studied with the Chasidim of Seattle’s University District and was part of the minyan on Friday nights.
To pay the overhead and be able to afford lots of books, I became a real estate lawyer and later a mortgage broker. However, the broad study of ethical, environmental, economic, psychological, legal, and theological issues and how they might all be addressed jointly has remained my real calling. My hope is to create, or at least inspire others more qualified to create, a unified theory that would identify what is wrong with our reality and calculate a way to make it better. I refuse to believe that this world represents the best that humans can do.
In 1979 friend Paul opened my eyes to the merciless cruelty meted out to animals in factory farms. I immediately quit eating meat–I had already cut down for health reasons. Soon I came to realize that milk and egg production are intertwined with meat production, just as cruel, and just as bad for the environment. By 1981 I was committed to eating a strictly green diet.
Fifteen years passed before I happened to attend an EarthSave potluck where “my eyes bugged out” at the book table when I saw the title of Charles Vaclavik’s book, “The Vegetarianism of Jesus Christ.” In all my years of studying theology, it had never once occurred to me until that moment that Jesus might have eaten a green diet. It was never mentioned in all those lectures I had attended and all those theology books I had read. It is a glaring omission and a testimonial to how theologians and others avoid truths they find inconvenient.