Book Review: A Faith Embracing All Creatures
Edited by Tripp York and Andy Alexis-Baker (Cascade Books, 2013)
Reviewed by Sarah Withrow King
When I was pregnant with my son, I joked about wanting to wear a sign around my neck that said "Boy. __Weeks Along. End of July" because of course every time I had a conversation about my pregnancy, those were the first three questionseveryone asked.
For more than 10 years, I have had a similar experience when I tell folks I don't eat animals. There are often questions, and they usually follow the same pattern: "Where do you get your protein?" "Wasn't it hard to give up [insert favorite animal food of questioner]?" and "What about the screaming broccoli?" Church people have these questions and more, including "But doesn't God give us animals to eat?"
A Faith Embracing All Creatures: Addressing Commonly Asked Questions about Christian Care for Animals deftly addresses many of the biblically based questions posed to Christian vegetarians, from the Creation story to Jesus' diet to the eschatological hope for a peaceful future. Presented as a series of essays from diverse theologians (including Carol J. Adams, who wrote the first book on vegetarianism I ever read), with a foreword by noted ethologist Marc Bekoff and an afterword by Brian McLaren, each chapter tackles one common question, like "What's the Point of Animals?" and "What about Animal Sacrifice in the Hebrew Scriptures?" Each answer is grounded firmly in the rich soil of Scripture, and for readers who may still eat animals, the authors include a few details about the horrors of factory farming—including chopping the tails off of pigs and cows and the beaks off of chickens without any painkillers—without traumatizing readers who are already familiar with these standard agricultural practices.
Here are my (relatively minor) beefs (get it?) with A Faith Embracing All Creatures. First, I would have really liked an index, or at least a list of Scripture references for the inevitable conversations when my conversation partner cherry picks a verse to support her position. Second, the title and subtitle imply a broad conversation about the place of animals in a Christian's life, but the majority of the essays really focus on using animals for food. That's great! We need more books like that, but go ahead and call it like it is, you know? And finally, I would have liked to see an essay addressing Peter's vision (Acts 10:9-16) and Paul's exhortation in 1st Corinthians 10.
All in all, though, I dug this book. It was easy to read and the arguments were strong. It is a good handbook for someone new to the theological issues that surround our choice to eat animals and a solid introduction to many of the (still too few) folks in the Christian realm who are wrestling with and writing about this important issue.
This review originally appeared at PRISMMagazine.org.