A recent news article was posted on the Shepherding All God’s Creatures Prayer Group that is rather disconcerting. It is unfortunate that this happened. The video has been removed. I tried in vain to find out if anything has been said by the pastor and his faith community to redeem the situation.
We live in a climate where everything that happens, whether to people or animals, is spread all over social media. It is easy to make judgments before and without looking deeper into the situation. This is dangerous and damaging. The whole story is rarely told, most readers are not a part of that faith community, are not in relationship with the people involved, and lack the inside scoop to the other side of the story. Only God knows this mans heart, as well.
There are a few things that do warrant being pointed out. How the earth and animal kingdom are treated is a topic of utmost concern by many and that number is growing rapidly. The church as a whole does need to get on board for several reasons:
- The world is watching, many are looking for the God that cares about all creation; what happened, though likely it was not meant to, reflects poorly on the Christian faith, it did not not put on display Christ’s character towards the animal kingdom or towards the people who care about them
- The News article itself is bad press for the church and further distances people from our beloved Jesus who should be at the heart and center of all we do to reach people
- The pastor perhaps did not think his behavior through to the ramifications given the times in which we live which puts on display the incredible need for Christian education on animal welfare issues that plague our world and alienate people groups because of them
- The Christian faith (no matter the denomination) needs to take seriously the very real abuses that take place and to stop ignoring and pushing against welfarists; faith based communities must take up these issues theologically or risk further harm being done to the overall mission of the church itself
In Genesis, we read God created us in his Image, to be the Image bearers of God over the creation as caretakers; not taking up the issues of animal welfare is
- The equivalent of denying who we were created to be while also denying the role the fall has played in destroying the relationship between humans and God’s creation
- Refuting the role the church has to act in accordance with the responsibility God placed in our hands to mend this broken relationship is jeopardizing the whole of the purpose of the church
What this pastor did is perhaps a statement of ignorance – animals all over the world today are the marginalized, forgotten, downtrodden, neglected, abused, and poor; they are misunderstood by the masses, people are not educated as to who they are or what they need in order to properly care for them; as a result, their place (and our own) in the ordering of the entirety of creation under the Lord’s reign remains misunderstood
- Christian leaders need an education in animal behavior, animal sentience, and to recognize that animals are more like us than not
- God created them and they share the same breath of life that we do
- God told us to be merciful and kind to them (scripture is filled with God’s concern over them; his desire is for us to care for them as he would himself)
The pastor uses an animal to display Christian discipline as a lesson for people to obey God; animals were created a little lower (this does NOT mean less important or of lesser value) than us; cognitively the dog is not going to understand what his caregiver is doing for the reason he is doing it, he is only going to know hunger, confusion, and perhaps fear; as sensitive as people are becoming to animal welfare issues, his choice can be construed to reflect the fore-stated ignorance, though he likely meant no harm
- Using the animal in this fashion may, for some, teach the wrong message about how to treat animals (particularly in the area of discipline); though this was being done as an object lesson for humans and not as a disciplinary action toward the animal, what it may teach (especially children who take things literally) about correcting an animals behavior could be harmful; any correction in the animals behavior must never be abusive but done with love and care through appropriate training (starving a dog is abusive)
- Animal welfarists who do not know Jesus may attack this pastor and the larger faith community as a whole (which the article itself does); this is not going to advance the animal welfare cause in any way shape or form – it will damage it in the long run not only for secularists but for Christians as well
- Animal welfarists who do know Jesus are likely going to feel conflicted, frustrated, angry; many will not know what to do or not do; they may lash out in the same fashion as some secularists do; the lack of leadership and of a theological foundation in which to address these express concerns within our own faith communities is becoming of great concern to Christians and will only continue to grow. Most Christian animal welfarists want to honor their pledge to the Lord to display his character toward their fellow Christian brothers and sisters while also portraying his great love for ALL of his creation. But what does that look like, how is that done? Where do we go for guidance?
A few suggestions:
- Seeking God in prayer is always recommended and to follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit. God asks us to be light and salt. He will show us how and the timing will be perfect
- Writing a compassionate, Christlike (non-judgmental and loving) letter to this pastor (or message on his website) would be appropriate. Perhaps take a look at the excellent letter written by Lois Wye from Dominion In The Image Of God as an example (posted on the SAGC blog here).
- Perhaps we can plant some seeds in this pastor’s heart by sharing our perspectives as Christian animal welfarists and point out scripture to show him the incredible love God has for all his creation!
- Prayer and forgiveness for him are essential; we all need prayer and forgiveness for we all fall short of God’s glory (character)
- We can insist our faith communities invest in developing creation care ministries relevant to God’s indivisible love spoken of throughout scripture for ALL creation that reflects the redeeming work of Christ’s work on the cross to restore the created order to all our relationships, including with animals
Lastly, it is likely this pastor has received hate mail from welfarists. In modeling the love of Christ among secular animal welfarists by not judging those who perpetrate, and by allowing the Holy Spirit to manifest his fruit in us, we invite the Lord into the animal welfare movement to transform lives as only he can do. When the Holy Spirit transforms hearts and lives, the church will be doing its work on behalf of the WHOLE creation and greatly move the animal welfare movement forward.
Anything less than loving as Christ loves will only harden hearts, further distancing them from understanding the truth of who animals are in God’s eyes as well as to what role they are suppose to play in manifesting God’s Kingdom upon the earth by directly working toward healing the relationship between man and animals.
Thank you for reading, following, and sharing our blog; God bless you and yours and we pray that our blog reflects truth in Christ, that what is not of God falls away, it is our heart of hearts, and that it is a blessing to all! ~Kathy