Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Animal Rights & Christians

Unless you are in a cave, you cannot avoid it. You see the commercials. One airs regularly, with a spokesperson who speaks slowly and somberly, telling you something like, "Hunger, suffering, pain and abuse is all that she has ever known." You see the picture of a helpless, pitiful, dog with a bloody nose and who appeared to have been crying. She is pleading silently for you help. The spokesperson continues, "These precious, helpless animals need your help. For just nineteen dollars a month, you can rescue one of these animals from a life of torture and pain." In the background, a mournful, sad song plays, intended to stir your emotions and, together with the words you are hearing, stir you to action. You are being challenged.

The Rise of Animal Rights Advocacy

When I was growing up, in the 1960s and 1970s, I don't remember all the awareness and passion that surrounds animal rights and animal cruelty, today. I certainly understand why. Abuse of animals, just like abuse of humans, has probably not increased. We are just much more aware of it because of social media and cable TV. Animals are defenseless and cannot speak up for themselves. So when they are subjected to abuse or cruelty, what can they do? I do remember, years ago, reading a book by the Temple Grandin, ANIMALS IN TRANSLATION, written from the perspective of an autistic person who is extremely bright. She fills that book with many examples of animal cruelty during the process of slaughtering them for our meat and especially, carrying out scientific experiments on them. She does not call for the end of slaughtering animals for meat or conducting scientific experiments on animals. This book raised my awareness then. But that was still before the rise of social media. Today, there are quite of a few nonprofits, many causes, and petitions surrounding animal rights and animal cruelty. Now, because of lobbying, animal cruelty is now a felony all all 50 states in the US. Recently, a case made headlines. It was about a four-year-old boy who was horribly injured and scarred, probably for life, but a pet pit bull. There were calls for the pit bull to be "put to sleep,", as it now posed a danger. This case generated a lavish show of support and thousands of online petition signatures. Who was this tremendous show of support for? It was not for the badly injured child, but for the pit bull! I have seen many animal rights causes and petitions gather thousands of signatures and more passionate support, than many human rights causes or petitions! How this would frustrate me. What should be the Christian perspective on this be?

Scripture and Animals

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we have to know how we are to deal with this, as Christians. In the Old Testament book of Genesis, God told Adam, the first man, that man was to rule all the rest of creation. This includes plants and animals. It seems that many people have misused these verses and have felt free to treat animals any way they want. But those verses about authority over all creation, including creation, in no way okay any form of animal cruelty or misuses of the environment. It's true that the Bible seems to assume that people will take care of their pets and animals in general. I know that many animal rights advocates are turned off by God's Old Covenant system of using blood sacrifices of animals as temporary atonement for His people's sins. But that was His idea, not mine. God's holy, righteous nature is such that He demands the shedding of blood for forgiveness and without forgiveness we cannot access Him. We can thank Christ that these animal sacrifices are obsolete as He made that one-time sacrifice of Himself on the cross for us! In the story of Noah, when he and his family were spared in the Ark when all others died, two pairs of every animal species were also spared. In Leviticus, readers are told to show kindness to the pets of their enemies. At the end of Jonah, God rebukes the prophet for begrudging His kindness to the city's citizens AND their pets. I don't think much is said in the New Testament or by Jesus, about animals or the environment. I know that many people will find it politically incorrect that while God values the life of all His creation, He clearly values people most of all. Why? AS my stepbrother said, many years ago, "I like animals better than people. They don't start wars." One popular talk show host responded to a guest, who called a violent kidnapper an "animal," "Don't call him that. I love animals! Animals do not do these kind of things." But despite the inability of animals to sin because God made them without self-consciousness, His inexplicable grace moves Him to value human life even more than animal life.

Then What Should We Do?

We most certainly should uphold all life, including animal life. I know that many people believe that we should uphold it to the point that we consume no animal foods or use animal products. I certainly respect their position and fully understand it as a reaction to rampant animal rights abuses. I do not see any calls to such lifestyles in Scripture. I see more practical ways to combat animal cruelty and uphold animal rights. Beside signing petitions and donating to nonprofits like The Humane Society, most of us can adopt a shelter animal. Pet adoption as much easier than adopting a child. Report animal cruelty if you see it and treat your pets well. We can appreciate the qualities of God by studying animals. Maybe you can add to this?

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