Another Pastor Shells Soapbox Sermon
Rev Shelley Griffiths
27th December 2023
Christmas is meant to be a time of giving and celebration. I will admit that hanging twinkling lights on a tree that dies in the corner of your front room is not my first recommendation for achieving enlightenment, but I do always hope that people will open their hearts more at this time of year.
Sadly, I have watched over the years as Christmas has become a consumerist nightmare devoid of spirituality where people are prepared to put themselves deeply in debt for gifts they can’t afford, most of which will be obsolete and added to landfill within a year or two in this never-ending cycle of destruction our species seems hell-bent on.
I wonder how many of us were a bit too generous because our egos believe we can buy affection? How many think that if we keep ourselves busy, we can fool ourselves into never holding ourselves accountable for our actions? Or holding others accountable of theirs? Whether it’s because we’d rather not consider the longer term ecological consequences of a cheap flight to the Alps for a ski weekend or how the animal on our plate died for a quick snack, it’s easier to doomscroll on our mobiles, watch TikTok videos and avoid people who dare to challenge the narrative. The lie is easier to digest than the truth.
I wonder how many of us suffered family gatherings that left us feeling mentally exhausted or even traumatised this year because we have been fed the lie that ‘blood is thicker than water’ and that we should accept abusive behaviour because otherwise we are just ‘holding a grudge’ or not moving on. How many people chose to quietly people-please to keep the peace, not rock the boat and not speak up about how they feel because they are operating from a place of fear rather than love? Isn't it time we started sharing our thoughts and setting boundaries that make it a safe place to be our true selves?
The idea that we can all just do our own thing and it bears no consequences to others has to be challenged. I believe it’s time to call ‘bullshit!’ on the ‘live and let live’ narrative shouted from people who pay for animals to literally be killed for their milk and snack preferences. For all you vegetarians out there, know this: the egg and dairy industry IS the meat industry. Know what you are supporting.
It's time to tell the truth; not just with our food choices but who we mix with. Considering what we consume must also include looking at the influence of those we choose to spend time with. Making better choices for our well-being might entail making some tough decisions and letting people go that do not want to embrace the truth. It might include stepping away from family that just want to brush all issues under the carpet and pretend to like each other for the sake of a get-together.
Tragically, those speaking the ugly truth are often shot down with arrows of ‘toxic negativity’. Quick apologies for past mistakes without any understanding of what is required to make real amends beyond the shallowness of words alone has been normalised. Our flippant, dismissive readiness to ‘forget about it’ means we are fast losing the ability to undertake critical thinking when it comes to reflecting on our actions.
For those determined to shy away from the truth, they will make accusations that the truth tellers are trying to control them with their unwelcome honesty about how they might feel. They can smell the desperation of those of us who are aware of the truth and they don’t want to be infected by it. It’s easier to pretend everything is fine, and to make sure the biggest thing we need to worry about is the whether little Emily will love her new plastic toys on Christmas Day. Those people spouting on about truth and accountability and ‘doing our bit to help save the planet need to jog on’ because ‘we are all entitled to put ourselves first’ is the general mantra of the mass population.
Could it be that the ‘why should I’ selfie culture is killing our ability to empathise? Could modern carnism also be fooling people into thinking it is perfectly normal to send wonderfully intelligent, sentient beings such as pigs into gas chambers because bacon tastes nice? Is that really who we are?
Leo Tolstoy said that ‘As long as there are slaughterhouses there will be battlefields’. He knew then what we all need to know now and that is that the time has come, as Leonardo Da Vinci predicted, that we will look upon the murder of animals as we look upon the murder of men.
How many of you have been fooled into thinking that there is nothing wrong with laying a table full of dead babies in the name of celebration? Babies! Yes, all the meat we buy is from slaughtered babies; they are denied the opportunity to mature into full grown adults because it’s not only economically unviable but because baby flesh is more tender. Most of us look away if someone tries to show us a video, or tell us the truth about what really happens in animal agriculture because it's best we don't know.
If we look away we can pretend we don't pay for that to happen.
If we just focus on ourselves and our own happiness, then what does it matter if our carbon footprint is double what it could be if we were just a little bit more mindful? What does it matter is billions of lives are taken year on year in the biggest genocide in history because we prefer eating animals than protecting them? What does it matter if we ignore the needs of our loved ones?
For someone like me, it is like I'm looking in from the outside and I cannot understand the madness. I often feel like an alien from another planet, and I'm looking at the human species and not only wondering how it came to be this bad, but despairing at the levels of denial. This is a common trait of being autistic; of not fitting in, but you do not have to be neurodiverse to share this despair. Just paying attention is enough.
If you can, just for a moment, imagine that there exists an alien species that is more advanced, more intelligent, and more knowledgeable than us. What if I also suggested that because the advanced species has dominion over us that it therefore gives them the right to eat us?
What if their superiority gave them the right to enslave our females and impregnate them using devices called rape machines and then when our babies are born they get to take them away so that they can pump our mother’s milk into bottles to pour over their breakfast cereal? What if we tried to argue that there were other perfectly good food sources where none of us had to suffer or die, and they just laughed, and said ‘Mmmm human bacon”? Would you not try harder to reason with them and beg them to change? Would you not try to instill in them the idea that all life matters and if their survival can manage perfectly well without killing us or enslaving our females - that we should choose a kinder way to live?
What if our cooked flesh gave them varying cancers and heart diseases - would that be enough incentive to get them to give up eating us? I'm sure you can see where I'm going with this, and I do hope and pray that I am reaching you on a level that helps you to make the connection as to what kind of being you are. Are you benevolent in your dominion over animals or do you choose the violent options?
Let me try to put it in another way. If you were given a choice at birth between two different lives; both of which would have all your nutritional needs met: one choice meant hundreds upon thousands of animals would die for your existence, but the other choice meant no animals were bred into captivity and slavery then slaughtered, what would you choose? For me, it’s the injustice of the needlessness of it all that most upsets me. Why would anyone choose so much death?
Every day you wake up, you are presented with the option to choose kindness, so let me ask you, what do you choose?
For those of us that are trying to tackle the speciesism of meat eating, anyone that eats another sentient being is really not that much different to a cannibal. If animals are my friends and you eat my friends, are we friends? I’m sorry to tell you this, but we are not. But you are not my enemy either. I can tell you the truth and you can ignore it, but I refuse to hate you for it. I will simply label you as one of the great sleepwalkers and will try again another time to wake you from this false illusion where what you do doesn’t matter. Everything you do matters. Choosing to think differently literally alters your DNA so I urge you to alter yours into a more empathic species before it’s too late.
For those of you ready to reflect on the true cost of your choices, to own them, to be held accountable for them and to do your best to be a better person then I extend the hand of friendship. To those of you not ready to do better, I will be here ready to celebrate the coming home of your soul when you do eventually choose kindness.
I implore you to listen to your conscience and join the millions of people waking up on a mass scale to help us evolve into a more compassionate species that protects our planet and all her inhabitants.
You are free to choose; that’s the gift of free will so choose well. Your actions and your choices define who you are. So. Who are you and would I want to be friends with you?