Loving All Our Neighbors
by Sarah Withrow King
In that day I will make a covenant for them with the beasts of the field, the birds in the sky and the creatures that move along the ground. Bow and sword and battle I will abolish from the land, so that all may lie down in safety. I will betroth you to me forever; I will betroth you in righteousness and justice, in love and compassion. I will betroth you in faithfulness, and you will acknowledge the Lord. “In that day I will respond,” declares the Lord—“I will respond to the skies, and they will respond to the earth; and the earth will respond to the grain, the new wine and the olive oil, and they will respond to [God plants]. I will plant her for myself in the land; I will show my love to the one I called ‘Not my loved one.’ I will say to those called ‘Not my people,’ ‘You are my people’; and they will say, ‘You are my God.’ Hosea 2: 18-23
The death of Cecil, a lion killed in Zimbabwe by a dentist from Minnesota, has clarified the aching need for a comprehensive pro-life ethic in our church and communities. #BlackLivesMatter and First Nations activists are rightfully angry that the death of one lion in Africa seemed to elicit more righteous anger than the death of Sandra Bland, Samuel Dubose, Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin, Sarah Lee Circle Bear, Rexdale Henry, Clementa Pinckney, and the many other people of color whose violent and early deaths demand communal repentance, lamentation, and action. Pro-life activists wonder why a recent undercover investigation that shed light on Planned Parenthood’s methods and practice of selling parts of aborted humans for medical research was met with less corporate and mainstream media horror than the death of one lion. And ethical vegans suggest outfitting the 27 billion land animals killed for food in the U.S. every year with lion costumes, to encourage those who mourn the death of one animal body to consider not eating the bodies of other animals.
These aren’t separate issues, and continuing to treat them as if they are will only delay our ability to repent, reform, and restore the community of creation. Senseless killing, violent oppression, systemic abuse of bodies are all symptoms of the same spiritual sickness, the same sin. The evil that whispers “might makes right” into our open ears is the same evil that tells us those who are “like us” are in and deserve our love and protection while those who are “not like us” are out, alone. Oppression begets oppression.
We at ESA want to begin to talk about how the everyday choices we make that impact animals—what we eat, wear, how we educate and entertain ourselves—also impact our relationships with God, with other people, and with the whole created community. The Spirit of God is moving towards the reconciliation described by the prophets in Hosea and elsewhere. Let’s move with the Spirit of God towards a world “on earth, as it is in heaven.”
Some Christians may balk at the inclusion of animals in a completely pro-life worldview, but as part of God’s creation, as beings created and cared for by God, and as people made in the image of that creative God, it is our responsibility and honor to ensure that animals flourish. The articles below will help catalyze your thinking about how Jesus followers ought to behave towards our animal neighbors. Have a question? Feel free to