While some within the emerging movement have renounced infant cannibalism, I think it’s time to reconsider the arguments being presented in light of the differences between the culture of our day and the cultures that existed in Bible times.
It has long been assumed in the "civilized" West that infant cannibalism is wrong. Of course, a healthy child should not be eaten except under the most extreme circumstances (e.g. Irish potatoe famine, as our friends at Addison Road point out). But is it really fair to continue to assume and assert that eating the very young is wrong under all circumstances?
The Old Testament is quite clear on this matter - the ancient Hebrews were not to sacrifice, and thus eat, their young (2 Kings 16:2-3, Jer. 7:30-31, Jer. 32:35, Ps. 106:37-39). However, the language used is not specific enough to condemn all child-eating, particularly that done in the right context, and with the right motives.
God’s primary concern in prohibiting child sacrifice was to discourage the adoption of pagan practices, which would distract the Israelites from their worship of the one true God. We can also safely assume that the widespread consumption of infants would lead to the murder of infants, since the number that died naturally would not be sufficient to meet the demand. So, God’s prohibition against consuming infant flesh was founded on two very sensible premises:
1. Infant cannibalism would lead Israel into idolatry
2. Infant cannibalism would result in harm to living infants
Are these premises valid today, and should we still abstain from infant cannibalism? First, let me say that I’m not talking about gratuitous, pig-out infant cannibalism, just as I don’t advocate eating a whole bag of chips at one sitting. I’m talking about moderate, civilized infant cannibalism (which I prefer to call fetal consumption), much as one might eat caviar - occasionally, responsibly, and with the utmost tact and taste.
The Bible may condemn child sacrifice and pagan cannibalism, but those are quite different from modern fetal consumption, which was not known in the days of Moses or Paul. Today, we have a steady supply of deceased infant flesh, from a variety of legitimate sources, which I need not enumerate. Suffice it to say that, if prices were fixed at a fairly high level, say, $10 per ounce, the demand could be met without difficulty, and there would be no risk to living children. The same medical technology that allows organs to be "kept on ice" until transplantation allows the flesh of our young to be preserved until it reaches the marketplace.
But why bother defending fetal consumption? Who is interested in it? The fact is, the Christians who are in favor of infant cannibalism have been ostracized from our churches. They have been forced to seek refuge and community elsewhere. There is tolerance for all other types of behavior with in the church, it seems, except infant cannibalism.
How long can we allow this hypocrisy to continue, while our alienated brothers and sisters in the faith are left outside in the cold, picking their teeth and longing to be let inside to warm their feet by the fire? Here and now, I am calling for an end to the outdated, judgmental taboo against infant cannibalism. Will you join me?
I originally posted this on my blog without further comment, and I got a few positive remarks, but we didn’t really get into discussing the point of the post.
Obviously, this is a satirical post intended to elicit discussion about the process we use to determine whether a moral prohibition in the bible is applicable today. In the discussion on "A New Way to Dialogue About Homosexuality," I again encountered the argument that loving, monogamous homosexual relationships were not an extant category in Paul’s day, nor was homosexuality recognized as a biologically influenced trait, therefore biblical injunctions against it are irrelevant.
I don’t mean to dismiss these arguments entirely, because I’m sure we’ve used similar arguments in other areas without realizing it. But I do want to call this line of reasoning into question. I will agree that the practice of monogamous homosexuals today is vastly more preferable in every way than the idol-worshipping, prostitution-based, commitment-free version familiar to Paul.
But how far can we take the argument that our culture has created a new version of some particular practice that falls outside of scripture’s jurisdiction? Is adultery OK if your spouse doesn’t mind? Watch TV today, and you see that this is more than a theoretical argument. We could easily argue that "consensual adultery" didn’t exist in Paul’s day, due to the level of stigma and shame surrounding extramarital relations; today, this stigma is largely absent in many cultures, so the bible’s statements on adultery are not relevant, because they’re addressing a different set of circumstances entirely.
I should point out that I am not attempting to articulate another argument against homosexuality. In far too many of the discussions on the subject, homosexual activity is treated as a sin different from all others. I am attempting to frame the debate in the same terms in which we discuss other topics of morality. I don’t think the argument I’ve described above (with infant cannibalism, monogamous homosexuality, and consensual adultery as examples) is a very good one. What do you think?