Monday, March 20, 2023

 Loving Our Neighbors

The Intersection of Faith, Human Well-being, and Our Relationships with Animals

    It has been some time since I have posted anything here, but I do hope to get back to it before too long.  In the meantime, I wanted to share some links to a series of talks I did in February at St. Alban's Church in Washington, DC.  In these talks, I hoped to introduce the idea that our own well-being is inexorably bound with the well-being of our fellow creatures, and that our mistreatment of animals has led to significant human harms, including being a major contributor to climate change, air and water pollution, environmental justice, worker exploitation, personal and public health concerns, and confronting us with serious ethical and theological challenges.  To me, none of this should be surprising.  If you have read any of the earlier posts in this blog, then you likely know that it is my view that our creation God's image is a job description, imposing on humans the obligation to reflect God's loving kindness and mercy outward toward the rest of creation, and in particular to our fellow creatures of God.  We should not be surprised if, when we fail so utterly at this first commission given to us - a commission thoroughly enmeshed with what it means to be human - that things do not go well for us.   

    This four-part series touches only briefly on so many important topics, with the hope of encouraging wider discussion within the parish about things that we might do differently - as individuals and as a parish.  Part One introduces how human relations to animals, in particular the animals raised for food, has caused so many problems for humans.  Part Two considers what scripture has to say about animals and their place in God's creation.  Part Three looks at animal sentience, and Part Four looks at how we are actually treating the animals and what we can do differently.  

    Each part occasioned good and thoughtful discussion.  Most gratifying to me were comments after part one, from folks grateful to finally be hearing these issues raised in the church.  

    Here are the links.  I hope you find them useful, and I would be delighted to hear you comments.  

Thank you. 

Part One: How Our Treatment of Animals Impacts Us

Part Two: Animals and Scripture 

Part Three: Who Are the Animals?  

Part Four: How Do We Treat The Animals? And What Can We Do Differently?

Friday, January 18, 2019

Favorite Quotes Update

I hope you have taken the opportunity to check out my Favorite Quotes page, which collects quotes from a variety of people ranging from St. Francis of Assisi, to Albert Schweitzer, to Desmond Tutu, to Immanuel Kant and many more on the issue of Christianity or ethics and our treatment of animals.  I have just updated the page with some quotes from the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams.  The quotes are from the Operation Noah Annual Lecture in 2009 regarding climate change.  The full text of his remarks, which are well worth reading, is here

My hope with the Favorite Quotes page is not only to provide inspiration, but to illustrate that this connection between faith and care for the animals is one that has been shared by a wide range of writers, theologians, and clergy.  In raising these issues, we stand in august company. 

In the meantime, here are quotes I have added to my page:

The creation stories of Genesis 1 and 2 see the creation of humanity as quite specifically the creation of an agent, a person, who can care for and protect the animal world, reflecting the care of God himself who enjoys the goodness of what he has made.


The image of Noah summoning the creatures to the ark may also be meant to recall God bringing the animals to Adam so that they can be named (Gen.2.19): once on the scene, humanity has to establish its relationship with the animal world, a relationship in which meaning is given to the whole world of living things through the human reflection of God’s sustaining care. 


The one thing we should not imagine is that God’s covenant means that we have a blank cheque where the created world is concerned. The text points up that God’s promise has immediate and specific implications about how we behave towards all living beings, human and non-human. It is not a recipe for complacency or passivity.

Photo copied from Operation Noah page linked above

Friday, January 11, 2019

Admin Note

It was brought to my attention that my comment function was not working.  I believe I have fixed the issue.  If you tried to comment earlier and were not able to, or thought you commented and did not receive a reply (because I didn't see your comment), my apologies.  I am always eager to hear readers' thoughts. 

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Praying For Pets - Part Two

       My cat is dying.  Puck is 17 years old.  We brought him home when he was 8.  I adopted him from a friend who simply didn’t want him anymore and I was afraid of what might have happened to him if I didn’t take him.  I didn’t want to him be left in a shelter.  It was, sadly, the end of the friendship because I couldn’t understand how anyone could be so genuinely happy to “get rid of him,” like a broken old bookcase that cluttered the basement.  No harsh words were spoken; there was no “break,” I just found myself less interested in spending time with her.
Puck when we first brought him home

      Puck is a great cat.  He is cuddly and affectionate and purrs a lot.  I like to think that he is as happy that he came to live with us as we are to have him.  He knows how to stand his ground, though. When we brought home our 50-pound dog (also 8 at the time we brought him home), Puck wasted no time in telling Patrick (the dog) who was boss.  Patrick, who had cat siblings in a previous home, understood this going in, and we’ve had no trouble.  Last year, a neighbor’s dog wandered into our weekend place when we left a door open.  That dog is probably 60 pounds, young, and full of energy (and as sweet as he can be).  Puck followed him around the house meowing, cornered him, and smacked him a couple of times.  The poor dog fled the house and has not even ventured into our yard again (which we are sorry about).  Puck is also very jealous.  If you are paying attention to Jasmine (our other cat) or Patrick or electronics or reading material of any kind, Puck will be sure to head butt his way into the action, making sure that he is the center of attention.  Then he purrs.
Puck enjoys some lap time

      The day before Thanksgiving, Puck was diagnosed with large cell granular lymphoma. He was yellow with jaundice and his liver was severely compromised. The prognosis was bleak indeed, and we were told that without treatment, he might live 2-4 weeks; with treatment, maybe 4-8 weeks.  We wrestled with the options, but decided to try the first dose of the recommended treatment to see how he responded, then go from there.  I also reached out to many of my animal and theology friends and asked them to pray for Puck, and to pray that my husband and I would know how to make the right decisions for him.  We could not bring ourselves to think about celebrating Christmas, because we expected it would be a very sad time. 
       But Puck surprised us all, especially the vets. 

Friday, January 4, 2019

David Clough North American Speaking Tour - A Must Attend!

If you have followed this blog at all, you know that David Clough is one of my heroes.  His On Animals, Vol. I: Systematic Theology formed the basis of several posts on this blog.  Now he is on tour to discuss On Animals Vol II: Christian Ethics.  I am so exited that I’m going to hear him twice! At Christ Church Rockville, MD on Sunday, Feb 3, at the adult forum and at the Dean’s forum at my alma mater, Wesley Theological Seminary in DC on Tuesday, Feb 5 at noon. Both events are free and open to the public. 

If you are not in DC, his North American tour schedule can be found at

If you have any interest in what Christian ethics have to say about our relationships with animals, please find a speaking engagement near you to attend! You will be leave enlightened, informed, and perhaps even inspired.
David Clough

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Animals, Advent, and the O Antiphons

There are at least two things I love to do in Advent.  One is to pray the O Antiphons, and the other is to visit at least one of venues near me that has an international nativity display.  The O Antiphons always help to ground me through the close of Advent.  They keep me focused on the true meaning of Christmas - the coming of Christ - through the hubbub of preparations and celebrations that, while wonderful and rewarding in their own ways, are nevertheless a distraction from the hope of the season.

The international nativity displays always fascinate me.  I love to see how different cultures around the world have interpreted the nativity story.  I especially love the ones that are set, not in the ancient middle east, but in the culture that created the nativity.  It reminds us, I think, that Christ came not just once, long ago, but comes to each of us every day, right where and as we are, if only we will let Him.  I love to see the different materials used, the different levels of detail included, the differing degrees of reverence and whimsy, and - of course - the different animals that show up in the manger!  Christ is the savior of the world, near and far, with all its creatures.  No one culture or species can make an exclusive claim on God's all-encompassing saving grace. 

This year, with the animals in mind, I posted daily reflections on the O Antiphons on the Dominion In The Image of God Facebook Page.  I've collected them here and added some photos of nativity scenes from around the world.  Some of the nativity scenes are mine but most are from an exhibit at the Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints near Washington, DC.  While Advent is over and the "official" time for praying the O Antiphons is over for this holiday season, it is still Christmas until January 6, and there is never a wrong time to remind ourselves of our need for God's saving mercy.

Friday, October 5, 2018

Why Caring About Animals Is Central To What It Means To Follow Christ

Recently, I was invited to speak at the adult forum at Christ Episcopal Church in Rockville, MD.  I was, of course, delighted to accept.  I very much enjoyed the hour, and hope that the congregation did, as well.  I'm sharing below a copy of my remarks.  
Christ Episcopal Church, Rockville, MD
Dominion In The Image Of God –
Why Caring About Animals Is Central To What It Means To Follow Christ
Remarks at Christ Episcopal Church, Rockville, MD
September 30, 2018

Good morning.  Thank you for inviting me here to talk with you, and thank you for the work the St. Francis Flock is doing in raising the issue of animal welfare as a Christian concern, and thank you for your support of this important work, Rev. Simpson.  There is a lot that I could talk about today, but given our limited time, I thought I would try to lay out what I think are the foundational concepts for a theology of animal welfare, and then answer any questions the group may have. 
I want to start with what might strike you as a fairly startling proposition:  that caring for animals is not just an appropriate Christian concern, I believe it is fundamental to what it means to be human, what it means to be created in God’s image, and what it means to carry out God’s will on earth.  To support that idea, I want to focus on the creation stories, which form the foundation of our understanding of our place as humans in God’s creation.  Specifically, I want to focus on the idea that we are created in God’s image and given dominion over the animals. That’s an idea that traditionally has been used to excuse exploitation of animals, but I think it is telling something very different indeed – and something that goes beyond what many mean when they use the word “stewardship” in place of dominion.