Ok, just to be a little awkward – what do we mean by “care” in this context? It can sound like a woolly, fluffy, “nice” word that doesn’t really mean much. What happens when one animal gets sick? Is it ok to kill one life-form to save another? Do bacteria, viruses, predatory animals, etc. need caring for by us? Can caring for God’s world sometimes necessitate doing something that for one particular life-form is unpleasant or even terminal?
I’m not saying that we shouldn’t love God’s creatures – I personally do care about God’s creatures. But, perhaps we need to be more realistic about what we mean and the realities of life in this world and not risk sounding a bit “hippy” or “tree-huggy”. The simple fact is that for this world to work properly things have to die. Doesn’t sound nice or caring, but if we tried to stop anything from dying then everything would die… This sombre reality should make us value the death of any creature, not stop caring.
Ok, just to be a little bit of the devil’s advocate. Yes “care” is a very subjective word, but wouldn’t you agree it has some basic themes/principles that are almost universal? Could we agree that care encompasses some level of providing for? For example, I “care” for my dog. He sleeps inside and eats well. I make sure he is healthy as within in my financial means. My farmer neighbor also “cares” for his dogs but they live outside and are free to roam so they aren’t as spoiled and pampered as my own animal. We may care for our animal in different ways, but in the end it comes down to choosing to be responsible for something, and looking after it as best as possible.
What happens when one animal gets sick? Well then you do your best to care for that animal. If for you caring means, and you can afford to, spend money working to get the animal well so be it. For those of us who can’t afford it, it can mean making sure the animal’s final days are at least comfortable.
Is it ok to kill one life-form to save another? To be honest, I have no clue what you could be asking here. In what context would you need to kill one life form to save another? Could you be refering to animal testing? If so, that is another long argument for another day!
Do bacteria, viruses, predatory animals, etc. need caring for by us? Again, forgive my possible ignorance and the difference in definitions but bacteria and viruses are not ANIMALS to me. They are bacteria and viruses. They may reside within the animal but they are a separate thing all together, and as far as my few college science classes taught me, viruses and bacteria do not feel anything. They do not yelp in pain or cower in learned fear, like neglected or abused animals do (please note I tried to stay away from assigning very human like emotions to animals, like saying “the dog is happy to see me” but poke any animal with a sharp stick and tell me you won’t get a yelp/growl/unhappy reaction). And predatory animals do need protecting/caring from us. Just take a look at the endangered species list. I assure you that they are not all as cute and cuddly as the manatees.
And what’s wrong with sounding “hippy” or “tree-huggy”? After all, we learn about and admire John the Baptist who wandered around the dessert eating honey and preaching and was sort of known for looking like a wild man. He was like the ancient one-man Burning Man festival. And Jesus did have a rather Woodstock approach of “Love everyone one. Offer the other cheek. Don’t judge (or cast stones)”. What I’m trying to say is that there will be hippy sounding Christians, and that’s ok. There will also be Christians who have the tendancy to sound blunt, and that is okay too.
Of course things have to die. That is life (anyone else breaking out in “The Circle of Life” from the Lion King? Just me?). Not everyone can afford exploratory surgery on their cat, but it doesn’t mean that the owners didn’t care for it during its decline. No one is saying “We must save ALL THE ANIMALS!”. That’s not only unrealistic, it’s not environmentally sound. There is a food chain, and part of that caring animals for includes respecting that chain. We are simply talking about something that I feel you over-complicated: caring.
I’ll end with this, the reason behind why I probably got a little defensive when I read your reply. Growing up I had a Dalmatian. When I got the dog my parents made it very clear that if she were ever to get very sick that we would let her pass away comfortably, my parents couldn’t afford major surgeries on a dog. It was also made clear to me that if they ever felt we couldn’t properly provide for the dog (as in buying her food, giving her enough room to exercise, regular vet visits and vaccines etc), we would find a more suitable environment and owners for her. After all, she’d been a gift from a friend who realized that he could not care for both his older Rottweiler and a hyper Dalmatian, so he found a family with an equally hyper child to take her. In her later years, she started having hip trouble and her last few weeks of life she could barely stand up. There was a surgery we could do, but it would be a financial strain and wasn’t guaranteed to help. But in those last few weeks I cared for my dog as best as I could, I helped my mom carry the dog into the yard so she could feel the sun. I massaged her legs hoping it would alleviate some pain. She died peacefully and I know that I cared for her as I could. I couldn’t spend large sums of money on her but I loved and looked after that dog until the end. So, for me, to read about “caring for your animals”, it isn’t some abstract or super expensive concept or one that would lead me to slap a label on myself or others. It’s as simple as putting food in the bowl each morning or taking a moment to learn about what you can do to help endangered animals. It’s realizing that eventually all things do die but that death shouldn’t be because someone decided that fighting dogs or roosters was a great way to spend a Friday night. And if that makes me a hippie tree hugger, then so be it.
I’d agree with you in these ideas about expressing care. I think what I was trying to say is that it is too easy to associate “animals” with those that we might think of as pets or just mammals, for example. God’s covenant with “animals” is actually normally with “every living creature” (e.g. Genesis 9:12). What then is a living creature? Do we count the worms that might infest our cats and dogs? If so, is it ok to kill them to spare our pets from suffering? (I think it is). Similarly, we must notice that God provides food for predatory animals, which involves the death of others (Psalm 104:21). In fact, all food involves the death of some other living creature. So, I’m just suggesting we consider a bit of the complexities of how our world works. I certainly do not advocate cruelty to animals. I try to “care” for them as best I can, yet I personally find it useful not to make a broad brush approach that assumes that basically we care for the “nice” or “cute” animals and not about the overall balance and well-being of God’s creation. We also, as I think I’ve illustrated with Genesis 9:12, must be careful how we use scripture to back our case – is it actually saying precisely what we think it is, or is it doing something a little different? Point taken with regard to flippant labelling, I shall attempt to be more careful in future.
Is the “Woodstock” Jesus the same Jesus on those “Homeboy” t-shirts?
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