This week, we share with the Shepherding All God’s Creature’s audience an article by Timothy James Verret, Faith Outreach Volunteer for The Humane Society of the United States. Timothy is a guest writer – we welcome him as a contributor on the SAGC blog, and are glad to have him share his wonderful penmanship!
Timothy loves the Lord Jesus and animals. I love the cover photo he has on his Facebook page, which is the photo we will include here for his article! We hope you enjoy his piece as much as all of us have, and will share it widely with others!
“You care for people and animals alike, O Lord.”
Psalm 36.6 (New Living Translation or NLT)
I am a Christian and, in fact, very recently accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior and every morning (sometimes, every second of every day), I turn over my life and will to Jesus’ Care and Control. I also love God and I love humans. And I love animals, sometimes referred to as nonhuman animals. I have a great passion for animals, always have, and when I became a Christian, I had to ask myself the question: “Should Christians care about animal welfare and do Christians, under the authority of Jesus whose mission is Love, Compassion, and Mercy to our neighbors, have a moral and humane responsibility to steward ‘creatures of the same God,’ i.e., animals?” (Creatures of the Same God is the title of Reverend Andrew Linzey’s book which details compassionate explorations in animal theology). I thought to myself, “I just gotta’ know the answers to my question(s). I’m on it!” I knew the only way I was going to find out the truth was to go to the source of God’s Word, The Holy Bible, and seek the opinions of at least one pastor in Lafayette and well-respected theologians; I had already searched my heart purified by God and knew the answer to the question for myself.
So, starting with the Word of God, what does it say in the scriptures about animal welfare? Ecclesiastes 3:19 (King James Bible or KJV) says, “For that which befalleth the sons of men befalleth beasts; even one thing befalleth them: as the one dieth, so dieth the other; yea, they have all one breath; so that a man hath no preeminence above a beast: for all is vanity. Today (06/18/17), after Sunday’s sermon at Our Savior’s Church in Lafayette, I went up to Pastor Tim Dilena to ask him the question, “Should Christians care about animal welfare?” Pastor Tim said to me, “Yes, we have a responsibility to animals and should respect them. He also added, though, that in his opinion, humans are superior to animals. At www.dictionary.com, the definition for the word, preeminence, is ‘superior, surpassing,” yet the above scripture states “a man hath no preeminence above a beast: for all is vanity.” The Bible also says, “A righteous man regardeth the life of his beast: but the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel. (Proverbs 12:10 [KJV]). If we are to have dominion over the animals (Genesis 1:26 [KJV], then doesn’t that mean “his beast” is “our beast?” The scripture, Genesis 1:26 (KJV), specifically says, “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.”The word, “dominion,” as defined by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, means “supreme authority.” Do you hear the word, “cruelty” anywhere in that definition? Now, “domination,” in the same dictionary, specifies the word as “supremacy or preeminence over another; exercise of mastery or ruling power; exercise of preponderant, governing, or controlling influence.”
I also asked Pastor Tim that since the Bible does say we (humans) have dominion over animals, in his opinion, did he feel that we were practicing dominion or domination regarding animals? His answer was simple and short, and he said “domination,” and that is not how the Bible says we should treat God’s animals. When you read the below examples, you may respond, “Well, why bring this stuff up? This column is supposed to be about what Christians should do about animal welfare, not ‘regular folks.’” I understand and you have a point but maybe you or not you but someone you know is considering becoming a Christian. If that be the case, they need to know the facts. So, for example, when a cowboy in a rodeo lassos a calf and pulls the rope tight around the calf’s neck and throws the calf to the ground and “ties him up,” that’s domination, not dominion. When two dogs are put in a ring and forced to fight for their lives (dogfighting), that’s domination, not dominion. When factory farm animals raised for food are kept in filthy, crowded, windlowless warehouses, never feeling the sun or wind on their bodies, whipped and tortured daily, that’s domination, not dominion. These same factory farms can’t be seen in the city; you have to go far out to see them. You know why? Because the smell and screams of the animals tortured is the “dirty little secret” factory farms don’t want anyone to uncover.
I have a two-fold challenge for the reader. First is an easy one: Google “factory farming” and read about it and judge for yourself if it’s God’s Will for animals to be treated as they are in these “farms” (it’s a fact that 99% of meat raised and purchased in grocery stores comes from factory farms, so you should “meet your meat.”) Secondly, contact a factory farm worker and say you are interested in taking a tour of a factory farm. If they allow you a tour (I’m going to even say a prayer that they do), I will personally send you the biggest “thank you card” I can find with a personal note of gratitude for your courageous actions. Factory farms, which practice the furthest thing from Christian’s responsibility to animal welfare, don’t get it when the Bible says, “Be thou diligent to know the state of thy flocks, and look well to thy herds (Proverbs 27:23 [KJV]). Factory farms, of course, don’t even name their animals, something the Bible instructed Adam to do, i.e., “and Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field (Genesis 2:20 [KJV]).
Notable followers of Christ have also made their case known for the support of animal welfare. Albert Schweitzer, a French-German theologian, was quoted as saying, “Until he extends the circle of compassion to all living things, Man will not himself find peace.” American Christian evangelist, Billy Graham, was asked the question, “my pets mean a lot to me, and I hate to see people neglect animals or treat them cruelly. Does the Bible say anything about how we should treat animals? God made them also, didn’t He?” Reverend Graham responded, “the Bible commands us to take care of the animals under our care. The Bible says we must never treat any part of God’s creation with contempt. When we do, we are indirectly treating our Creator with contempt. Instead, God calls us to be stewards or trustees of His creation.” Matt Slick, President and Founder of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry, says, “The Bible tells us that we are to take care of them (animals) and not abuse them…the common denominator is that animals are to be used compassionately and properly…we are to treat the animals properly and responsibly.”
In conclusion, I would like to relate a real life story that happened to me here in Lafayette in regards to reaching out to churches for an answer on the relationship of Christianity and animal welfare. As a Faith Outreach Volunteer for the Faith Outreach Program of The Humane Society the United States (HSUS), whose mission statement is to “seek to engage people and institutions of faith with animal protection issues, on the premise that religious values call upon us all to act in a kind and merciful way towards all creatures,” I contacted Catholic churches in the Lafayette area (I was originally raised a Catholic). I had written a Faith Outreach Presentation wherein I talked about the subject matter of this column and because I was reaching out to the religion of Catholicism, I made many references to St. Francis of Assisi, the Patron Saint Animals, a Godly man who called animals his “brothers” and “sisters.” I thought I stood a great chance of acceptance for my presentation, and I contacted some 20-25 Catholic churches. I received only one response. One response from a church lady who said, “we’re not interested in that right now.” “Right now” is all these animals have who are suffering at the hands of cruel, ungodly men and women, some even calling themselves Christians. My response to her, and Christians and non-Christians alike, is “if not ‘right now,’ when?”