Why Should Christians Care About Animals?
Post originally written for CreatureKind and reprinted here with permission.
- God does.
God's care of and provision for creation is clear from the opening verses of the Bible to the end. And creation responds with praise and adoration.
"God said, 'See, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.' And it was so. God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good." Genesis 1:29-31
"Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, singing, 'To the one seated on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might, forever and ever!'" Revelation 5:13
- Jesus served those on the margins.
Jesus clearly cared for and about those who suffer. He was "a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief." To be Christocentric, to shape our lives by Christ's example, we have to go to the places of pain, the places where suffering is taking place. We have to get close to the places where sin is hacking at the fabric of justice and, with those who have been pushed to the side, knit justice, mercy, righteousness, and shalom. Our fellow creatures the animals are marginalized and brutalized in astonishingly cruel ways. As Christians, we're called to enter into the slaughterhouse with a mother cow whose abused body can no longer produce milk; walk with a human worker into the choked air of a barn filled with the fumes and feathers of 10,000 chickens; ask how we can bring aid to the mother pig, forced to spend her life in a crate where she can't turn around or lie down; weep with the human father whose son has been sickened by the toxic fumes from a nearby manure pit, and so much more.
- Animals are fellow creatures, creaturekind, and we ought to treat them as such.
In the words of David Clough, "There are two kinds of things: God and God's creatures. We're one of the second kind: we're creaturekind. Like every other creature, we are made by God. Like every other creature, we have a beginning and end. Like every other creature, we exist in a particular time and place. Like every other creature, we glorify God in our existence. Like every other creature, we are called to offer praise in our particular creaturely way."
- Caring about animals and caring about humans are not mutually exclusive acts.
Read this compelling account of how one man's psychiatric-ward encounter with a former slaughterhouse worker changed his view on the use of animals for food. "I thought a vegetarian was someone who didn't have enough regard for human suffering. In fact, the opposite is true."
- God's work is towards reconciliation and wholeness.
Sin has fractured the world and the shalom of God's creation, there's no doubt about that. And where animals are concerned, we humans (particularly those of us in industrialized and wealthy nations) have devised astonishingly cruel ways to extract monetary value from God's living, feeling, creaturely beings. But God's work is towards reconciliation: the reconciliation of humans to one another, the rest of creation, and the Creator. Knowing that sin divides us, and the God unites, can we make choices that repair, instead of rend?
These are just a few of the many good reasons for Christians to care about animals? Can you think of others? What does it mean for you, as a Christian, to care for God's creatures? How do you practice this care in your day-to-day life? Let us hear from you!
Sarah Withrow King is the Deputy Director of the Sider Center, the co-founder of CreatureKind, and the author of two books, Animals Are Not Ours (No Really, They're Not): An Evangelical Animal Liberation Theology. (Wipf & Stock) and Vegangelical: How Caring for Animals Can Shape Your Faith (Zondervan).