The Rusty Nail in the Velvet Glove: Aligning my Actions and Ethics: Part 2 800x530

In my last post, I talked about how our system of production is currently built upon cruelty, suffering, and exploitation, and how that suffering is intentionally hidden from us consumers. I call this the rusty nail in the velvet glove. Or, to borrow a phrase from Rich Mullins, “the mask of life I had placed upon the face of death.”

The Apostle Paul himself probably said it best (2 Corinthians 11:14-15)

14 And no wonder! Even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. 15 So it is not strange if his ministers also disguise themselves as ministers of righteousness. Their end will match their deeds. (NRSV)

Things that are otherwise or basically good can become elements of evil if they are corrupted, or if they become ends of themselves … which is what happens when you have massive corporate interests involved. Companies don’t generally make the Fortune 500 by caring about who they hurt on the way up.

Lawyer, theologian, and social activist William Stringfellow wrote an incredible book on this, Imposters of God. (I wrote about it a few years back). Bascially, Stringfellow considered idolatrous and twisted good things (patriotism, careerism, even church-ism) to be the current and active face of evil – of the devil – in the modern world.

I can’t argue against that, but I would add to that list of devils the hidden evils we participate in without really even knowing it.

So let me try in a small way to pull away the mask that has been “placed upon the face of death.” The videos about animal abuse are all pretty hard to watch.

This is the image Hershey’s chocolate likes to show you:

This is where the cocoa in that chocolate comes from:

This is what the pork industry wants you to see:

This is how those pigs spend their short lives:

This is Hormel’s “Spam America,” which attempts to link Spam to artistry and innovation

This is “The Unauthorized Spam Tour.” Be careful what you eat.

The “Bacon Brothers” singing about the “quality protein” of an egg breakfast

The life cycle of a battery-cage chicken

Oh, look. It’s a talking cow. Doesn’t she sound happy about milk?

Non-CGI dairy cows … not so happy milk

And it doesn’t stop at public relations. Industries have worked hard to influence congress and state legislatures: the livestock industry alone spends millions of dollars each year influencing elections.

That spending paid off, because just last December Congress and the President gave them a brand new, shiny present: relaxed labeling requirements that make it almost impossible for the consumer to know where the meat they buy comes from, how it was slaughtered, and so on.

Livestock industry political action groups have even attempted to pass “ag gag” laws across the US and around the world, which make it illegal to film animal abuses at processing centers.

They’ve succeeded in six states, including Idaho, whose law was inspired by a viral Mercy for Animals investigation of Bettencourt Dairies, which led to the arrests of multiple farm workers. Yup, the abuse was real and illegal, but rather than fix the problems, the response was make a law to hide them.

Rusty nails in a velvet glove. Mask of life over the face of death. Satan masquerading as an angel of light. Throwing the rock and hiding your hand.

A lot of money is riding on this. Real power is working night and day to make sure we don’t understand the damage we do.

The last thing I want to do is to make the average person reading this feel guilty. We’re not the ones perpetrating cruelty and exploitation, and we’re not the ones covering it up. We’re the ones being lied to, being brought into it deceitfully.

If you want to give up all chocolate you can’t be sure wasn’t harvested by slaves, do it. If you want to become a vegetarian, or even a vegan, do it. But in our culture, these are hard things to do. Because powerful people with lots of money have made them difficult.

The main reason I’m writing these posts isn’t to convince you, but to remind me. My biggest weakness is a lack of follow-through. I start things strong, but then fall away in time. But I’m making this public, so I can look back and remind myself why I’m doing all this … and so that y’all can call me out if I backslide.

Nobody should feel like I’m condemning them for what they have for supper. I’m not.

I’m condemning the Cattlemen’s Association, Hershey’s, Cadbury’s, Nestle’s, and Mars. I’m condemning lobbyists and the politicians they rent.
Sure, some people genuinely don’t care. But most don’t know. And of the ones who both know and care, some, maybe most, aren’t yet at a point where they’re ready to make major changes. Like I said, powerful people have spent a lot of money making us a part of this, hiding it from us, and making it hard to exit.
But if you’re feeling it, start by pushing back just a little.
Find a few vegan or vegetarian recipes (I’ll post some here, in time) and have one meatless day a week. Or, if you’ve got a family that wouldn’t be on board, give yourself one cruelty-free meal a day, like breakfast.
If you’re not at a point where you can walk away from the major chocolate companies (which all use slave labor), look in the chocolate aisle in your local grocery and or supermarket and see what they have. Maybe you could find something with a Fair Trade label, or a responsible company like Lindt, that would satisfy your sweet tooth.
If nothing else, you can pass the information along. Go to Stop the Traffik and see the little things you can do (email, petitions, etc.) to help end slavery in all industries.
If everybody did one little thing, it could make a big difference.

The Ends Don’t Justify the Means

You’ve probably all read about Representative Todd Akin’s comments about “legitimate rape.”  And while that phrase is troubling and awful, it isn’t the worst part of that interview.

The worst part is when he perpetuates the lie that women don’t get pregnant from rape.  This stems from a medieval superstition and has no basis in science and medicine.

The truth is, women do get pregnant from rape.  According to the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology (as reported on, roughly 5% of rapes result in pregnancy, or 31,000 per year in the U.S. alone.

31,000 per year.  That’s almost 85 per day.  That’s one every 17 minutes.  That’s not the number of women raped in the U.S.  That’s the number of women who get pregnant from being raped in the U.S.  31,000 per year.  85 per day.  One every 17 minutes.

Statistics are one thing, but stories are another.  A very brave woman named Shauna Prewitt wrote a response to Representative Akin, telling him that she was raped and became pregnant, and how that affected her.

The thing is, I’ve heard Akins’ lie before, from the pulpit.  I didn’t believe it, because when a visiting preacher says something that goes against common sense, medical science, and reality, learned early to blow it off.  There are a lot of false prophets out there.

I feel sympathy and compassion for those who didn’t learn that early, and were hurt by these hyenas-in-sheep’s-clothing (I won’t diginfy them by calling them wolves: at least wolves hunt strong, swift prey like deer.  Hyenas just kill the weak and chew carrion).

I’ve encountered a disturbing trend among evangelicals, especially among the more politicized side.  They’ve come to believe that the end justifies the means.  Defeating “ungodly” politicians justifies whatever misinformation they have to say, whatever worldly promises to power-brokers they have to make, whatever weak person or group they have to trample.

I’ve even encountered at tendency to believe that Christians are entitled, not just to our their opinions, but their own facts.  “Global warming is a secularist conspiracy.  Women don’t get pregnant if they’re raped.  Tax cuts for the rich won’t make things worse for the poor and working class, but will make things better.  Jesus was a free market capitalist.  Homosexuals are all secretly pedophiles, and marriage equality is just a stepping stone to eliminating all age of consent laws (thank the Family Resource Council for that one), etc.”

But as Christians, we cannot allow ourselves to be drawn in by power, by convenient “facts,” by misrepresentations, by worldly politics.

Especially not when the result is pain and offense to victims of that most raw and blatant crime of power: rape.