By David Briggs
Jesus is the lamb of God. The Holy Spirit is likened to a dove. The faithful are flocks tended by a loving shepherd. So why is it that when you walk into most churches today, human beings are the only living things inside?
Because Americans have gotten so caught up in their love of technology and human achievement that they have lost touch with the natural world, says Christopher Manes, author of "Other Creations: Rediscovering the Spirituality of Animals." In his new book from Doublday, Manes asks readers to see animals in a new theological light, one in which lambs and doves - and cats and dogs - are a source for discovering spiritual values and essential religious truths.
"Animal imagery doesn't decorate religion," Manes said in an interview. "It's central to understanding its message." From the first chapter of Genesis, when God creates "wild animals of the earth of every kind," and saw that it was good, animal imagery is pervasive throughout the Bible.
Balaam's ass, a talking animal precursor to "Mr. Ed," proves wiser than his master in their encounter in Numbers.
The biblical hope of a peaceful world expressed in Isaiah 10 is one where all God's creatures live in harmony:
"The wolf shall also dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them." In early Christian history, the relationship between the animal and human world for centuries invigorated the religious imagination of popular culture, man's rights.
Manes tells the story of how Paulinus, one of the first bishops on English soil, helped convert the pagan King Eadwin to Christianity with a tale about a sparrow briefly seeking shelter from a storm. "Lo, during the time the bird is within, he isn't touched by the storms of winter. But that lasts only a little while, a twinkling of an eye, before he soon returns to winter from winter. Just so this life of man appears only for a short time: what went on before and what follows, we know not." Paulinus tells the king in the story illustrating the transitory nature of life on earth. Until the 14th century, pets regularly accompany their owners to church services, according to Manes, a doctoral candidate in medieval literature at the University of Oregon.
The Renaissance and the Enlightenment started the theological move topiano coversd a more human-centered theology, a movement that continues in many churches today, where religion has become a monologue about humanity. "Our theology has marginalized animals and tried to point away from them," Manes said. "We need to emphasize how marvelous creation is, and point to it."
There are notable exceptions. Some churches, particularly in services remembering the ministry of St. Francis, will sponsor a Blessing of the Animals on their grounds and in their sanctuaries. He is not suggesting installing pens for farm animals outside churches or allowing people to bring their pets inside with them on Sunday. But he does recommend that people make it a point to interact with the animals other than through nature shows on television.
"If animals matter in your life, I think you have a deeper view of creation," he said. One way is by caring for pets. Manes said he talks to his cat, as other people do to their cats and dogs. This type of behavior is not odd, according to Manes. Rather, he said, it shows that pet caretakers consider the rest of the "non-human world" in a meaningful, conscious way. Spending time with nature, Manes said, also reveals another essential tenant of religion:
"You're not the center of things. Other people matter. Other things matter."
Mobile Press Register
Saturday, September 13
Editor: Balaam's Ass Speaks-- This is where the
Whore church gets its Gospel-- dogs and hogs. At least the prodigal sons
woke up and went home to Father. This scum of paganism is making doctrine
with the hogs. End times days are here for sure folks.