Loving All of God’s Creatures

by Mark Rodgers Picture1Wednesday, October 1, 2008ON SATURDAY, the Humane Society of the United States will kick-off All Creatures Great and Small, a campaign to increase awareness about our responsibilities to all animals, including those raised for food. In honor of the feast of Saint Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals and the environment, Christians across America will take a pledge to eat fewer eggs and only eggs that come from cage-free or free-range poultry farms.This campaign is timely, since in recent decades, agriculture has taken a harsh turn and animals on factory farms are treated like mere objects. The ethical treatment of animals is often overlooked, as expediency becomes the norm for grocer, producer and consumer alike. Animals are slaughtered and abused, oftentimes not even making it to your grocery shelf. But eating is an activity that has moral and spiritual significance. This is often forgotten in our fast-food nation. All Creatures Great and Small reminds us of the moral responsibility we have to animals that are raised for human consumption and to make more humane food choices. For October, Christians will join together in support of God’s bounteous creation and stand against the inhumane treatment of egg-laying hens.As a committed Christian, I am challenged by this campaign to expand my understanding of what it means to care for the vulnerable and for God’s creatures. My professional life testifies to my desire to support all that is good, true and beautiful. During my years working with former Sen. Rick Santorum (R.-Pa.), we successfully fought for the legislative ban on partial-birth abortion and championed marriage as a sacred union between one man and one woman. Our compassion for God’s creation extended beyond our country’s borders, as we tried to help our brothers and sisters in Africa plagued with AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. These are all extremely important social-justice issues. But now, it is time for Christians to extend their social platform to include the welfare of animals.Over the years, I have been inspired by the work of William Wilberforce (1759-1833), an evangelical member of Britain’s Parliament, best known for championing the equal rights of all human beings through the passage of the Foreign Slave Trade Act (1806-07). Most people, however, do not know that Wilberforce also passionately fought for the welfare of animals. Wilberforce saw a direct link between the manner by which humans treat animals and how humans treat their neighbors. Other Christian leaders also recognized this same link. St. Francis of Assisi (1181-1226) said that if anyone “exclude any of God’s creatures from the shelter of compassion” that the same person would also treat human beings the same way. C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) shared a similar concern that the slicing of vulnerable “beasts” might lead to the cruel treatment of vulnerable “imbeciles, criminals, enemies, or capitalists.”[1][1]Wilberforce understood that by loving animals and treating them humanely, humans are respecting and caring for God’s creation. Although animals are not made in the image and likeness of God as human beings are, God has made us stewards of all creation, including animals. Part of that stewardship, according to the Hebrew Scriptures, is to treat our animals with care (Exod. 23:5; Deut. 22:6–7, 25:4). John Wesley (1703-1791) understood this theology of creation when he said:“Faith in Jesus Christ can and will lead us beyond an exclusive concern for the well-being of other human beings to the broader concern for the well-being of the birds in our backyards, the fish in our rivers, and every living creature on the face of the Earth.”As Christians, it is time that we recognize our great noblesse oblige as recipients of God’s gift of creation. Let us not be sidetracked by environmental activists and zealots who argue animals have equal human rights. Rather, let us come together as a faith community in support of compassion for animals.All Creatures Great and Small gives Christians the opportunity to find a unified voice. Let us embrace this voice and become a public witness for all of God’s creation.Mark Rodgers is principal of the Clapham Group, a public-policy consulting firm.Link: http://www.esa-online.org/Article.asp?RecordKey=44FBB2E9-5276-4C20-A289-383995C664CA