Animal slaughter and the ancestors

02 November 2006


From Mrs Alison M. Lewis
Sir, - I was appalled and sickened to learn that some Anglicans and Roman Catholics are agreeable to animal slaughter as a Christian rite in southern Africa ( Features, 3 June).

Surely, this is "inculturation" gone too far? Did not Jesus put an end to all that by his once-for-all sacrificial and substitutional death?

As well as being barbarous, such a practice is, in my view, anti-Christian in all senses of the word: there is no justification whatever for tolerating this ceremony on the pretext that it is "a liturgical function which connects the living with the dead", or that it may help to arrest the current drift of worshippers towards "more indigenous forms of religion".

Moreover, I fail to see how the blood of a slaughtered goat can possibly help a lay African - or anyone else for that matter - "come to a nearer understanding of what it means for Jesus Christ to be alive".

I fully support the adoption of local practices and customs in Christian worship, but only if appropriate and conducive to the gospel message: my claim is that animal slaughter is neither, and should be banned.
Tweendykes, 74 Tweendykes Road, Sutton-on-Hull, Yorkshire HU7 4XG

From Isobel Hodgson
Sir, - I expect you will receive many protests in response to the article "Bringing new blood into church", but I would still like to record mine, having considerable African experience.

Anyone who has lived and worshipped in Africa is familiar with the use of African languages, cloth, vessels, song, dance, musical instruments, etc., at a church service. And I recall, especially, a grand funeral mass for a bishop when, at the end, family members were allowed to come to the open coffin and make "traditional" offerings, gifts etc., "for the journey". Church leaders said: "It does not hurt us, but it might cause them distress if they felt necessary rites had been neglected, and we must not cause them unhappiness and fear."

Doctrinal adaptation by Christian leaders is a different matter. Animal sacrifice, shedding of blood, etc., is not just African: it is recorded in the Old Testament, and found in other pre-Christian religions. It is a part of these old religions which is discarded when people become Christian.

They may respect the old religion and those who follow it, but must choose one way or the other, because the two ways are not the same: respect (or fear) of ancestors is not identical with Christian teaching about resurrection and eternal life.

A Christian conversion in Africa usually brings great joy and release. Christians respect and understand the old beliefs, but do not any more live by them.

My appeal to these Christians is: Please, do not go back, but forward, and have joy in believing.
6 Scrutton Close, Oxford OX3 8JP


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