Let no one say that Christians lack seriousness
Church Times informs us that there has just been a conference of Christians in Waterloo about the place of animals in the church’s faith. The discussion was organised by a society calling itself Sarx – which might be considered rather inappropriate as sarx is the Greek word for flesh; specifically it is the derogatory term used by St Paul to refer to the sins of the flesh or the bondage of the flesh. These sarky Christians proclaim their love for animals and complain that the church generally does not regard the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air sufficiently highly. But if these folk insist on a Greek tag, I suggest they might think of renaming themselves Soma – the respectful word for body.
Christians still don’t love animals passionately enough, but we are getting better. David Clough, Professor of Theological Ethics at the University of Chester, argued that “Things are changing in the Church” which was now at a “tipping point”. Those in attendance could be “at the vanguard for providing a new understanding about the place of animals in Christianity.”
He alleged that our concern for animals had been “disenfranchised. . . It is there, but we do not think we have permission for it from our faith or the Church we belong to. For some animal lovers, that puts them on the fringes of the church, or makes them give up on the church altogether.” This was “odd,” he said, as there were “strong biblical and theological reasons” to care.
I really don’t recognise my fellow Christians in Professor Clough’s description. And I have always welcomed well-behaved dogs at our services. Usually the dogs are better behaved than those children encouraged to run around, shout and generally “express their personalities” by modern parents.
Professor Clough complains that Christian animal lovers are often thought to be “cookie” or “weirdoes.” Professor Clough is no weirdo and he can prove it, citing his hero St Werburgh “…who raised a goose from the dead.”
When Professor Clough had sat down, up marched the keynote speaker Dr Tony Campolo, a Baptist minister and Professor Emeritus of Sociology at Eastern University, Philadelphia. He demonstrated he was no weirdo either as he spoke movingly of “…something sacramental” in his wife’s “spiritual connectedness to our poodle, Jamie.” He added. “Whales have been heard singing a new song every year, which is more than you can say for most Evangelical churches..”
I’m with him on that one!
I’m no cookie weirdo either. I once had a budgie called Steve that could sing the Hallelujah Chorus and Snowball, a lady hamster that could play Beethoven’s Opus 111.
O brave new church that hath such people in it!
I shouldn’t wonder if they ended their conference with the hymn Nearer my dog to thee.