Fictional Hope

Science Fiction has spoiled me. It has taken me on journeys far far away, invited me into worlds I could have never imagined, and opened my eyes and heart to many hardships that the characters face. Science Fiction is like the world, but only in the sense that the world is full of the unexplained, the unimaginable. But there is always a solution, an ending. This is not like the world – there is an end to it all. When things are confusing in the world, I pull on my experience, whether it be with books or my faith. However, the world can be a discouraging place and less hopeful than say the Harry Potter (or any fantasy, dis/utopian) books. I am spoiled with the hope present in books, and perhaps why I am addicted to reading. Is it false hope? Is it actually realistic to hope for a better, more loving world? Do we have real live Frodos, Hermiones, Katnisses…? And if so, why don’t we know their names and faces? Why don’t we talk about them instead of our fantasy heroes/heroines?

I have to wonder if my addiction to hope is healthy. Is it realistic to hope for a leader that has completely pure motives? Is it possible to find someone that has all the characteristics of Gandalf without the subtle negative qualities of his own desire for the ring? Are we all destined to desire such power and evil? What makes us a Frodo, or a Harry that sees his family in the mirror of Erised instead of the Philosopher/Sorcerer’s Stone? Where can we find this purity? My Christian worldview wants so much to say that the answer is Scripture, is Jesus, is Tradition… but do I believe such hope is found there? I pray that the Lord brings hope, peace, love, and yet the world reminds me whether in the news of needless bombings, videos of fear and hate-filled murders, and conversations overheard in coffee shops that love is not rooted in us.

We are not pure. We do not love because humanity is good. Syrians are not killed because we actually love our neighbor/enemies. Persons of Color are not degraded and diminished as humans because righteousness exists in all of us. Women are not slandered by men who find all people worthy of respect. We do not possess the qualities of the heroes in my stories. We are not Ender Wiggin in Speaker for the Dead, we are Colonel Graff. We are mistaken, misled, misguided. Perhaps my addiction, if it were shared by the world, is good. Maybe we’d all try to be our favorite characters. And maybe, just maybe, the villains that we think are so far removed from us aren’t so different from us after all.

What makes the hero different than the villain? What makes the man whose conversation I overhear about the women he hates who left him for someone else any different than the me who has feelings of hate toward him? I’m really asking. None of these questions are rhetorical. I’m not sure of the answers. If I had to guess what makes me different, it would be seeing that I’m no different at all. I am both Voldemort and Harry, Saruman and Frodo, Graff and Ender, President Snow and Katniss. What makes me different is accepting and yet hoping just the same.

Sunday School Email – 4/6/16

Hey, Everyone! It’s Wednesday Again!
 
Here are our book suggestions on Evolution:
For Science

Sunday School Email (3/31/16)

Here is another edition of the weekly information we send to our Sunday School to look at over the week in regard to Creation Theology and Stewardship:
1. Tylor Standley (who attends our Sunday School class) posted a blog piece on Easter that will get you thinking –
2. A short video on Facebook –
3. An informative video on the ecological crisis Peru is currently facing –
4. A pretty cool video on…


6. On the topic on evolution, here we have an article written by Kirk Cameron –
7. And last, but certainly not least because of the impact the Great Barrier Reef has for aquatic ecosystems –

Are we living with the vengeance of the psalms?

– This blog post requires reader participation (both reading and listening) –

Psalm 35Psalm 137Matthew 6:5-15Matthew 13:24-30

There are many psalms that the Church uses in worship to sing. Psalms like Psalm 42 – As the deer pants, Psalm 30 – Joy comes in the morning, Psalm 23 – The Lord is my shepherd. Cardiphonia.org has a vast resource of psalms used in worship. Here’s an interview from seven years ago with Hillsong United about psalms influencing their music. And then there are psalms that I wouldn’t think the Church would want to put to music…  I found these – Psalm 35 and Psalm 137.

What does it mean to have enemies now? What does it mean to sing the song of YHWH now? How do we sing it? What is this song? Were these psalms written as prayers (not a totally out-there perception) and used by the community as prayers? Even now, I find it much easier to connect to the music of the psalms and to meditate on the psalms than connecting to G-d through books like Leviticus. But when I get to psalms such as Psalm 137 and read the end – “Happy shall be he who seizes 
and smashes your children
 against the rock” – I feel uneasy. My song is different than this song, and my prayer is different from this prayer. But why? Should it be?

Should I be praying that G-d would “fight against those who fight against me. Take up shield and armor; arise and come to my aid. Brandish spear and javelin against those who pursue me. Say to me, ‘I am your salvation’” (Psalm 35:2-3). Should I pray over my enemies that they “May… be like chaff before the wind,
 with the angel of the Lord driving them away; may their path be dark and slippery,
 with the angel of the Lord pursuing them” (Psalm 35: 5-6). No, I don’t think this is my call to prayer. I don’t think this is the song of YHWH anymore.

Matthew 13:24-30 contains the parable of the wheat and the darnel (chaff, tares, weeds) where the grain is not separated out from the darnel until the harvest.[1] The two grow together, taking the same nutrients from the soil, and the same care from the farmer. It isn’t until harvest that both are uprooted and the reapers gather the darnel to burn it. These reapers are not humans, they are not us burning our enemies. Verse 39 explains the parable (a rare occasion) explaining that the harvest is at the end of the age (not sure what that means) and the reapers are angels (which boggles my speculative mind). We grow next to our enemies, not desiring to keep them from the water of the farmer, from the nurturing of the soil, from the energy of the sun to keep growing alongside us. So when Psalm 35 says may they be chaff driven away by the wind and Psalm 137 says that children smashed against rocks makes for happiness, we know that Jesus changed this perception. Jesus both literally and figuratively flipped the tables.

How should we pray? What is the song of YHWH? Matthew 6:5-15 is helpful in answering these questions. Take a closer look at verses 12 and 14 – “and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors…. For if you forgive people their sins, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive people, neither will your Father forgive your sins.” Forgiveness: for taking the nutrients that we could use to grow, for more of the farmers attention, because we do not (should not) view ourselves as more important or more valuable to G-d than our enemies. We grow together, forgiving and loving along the way just as G-d forgives and loves us.

Are we living this way? Are we living in the love and forgiveness of G-d, or are we living in the vengeance of the psalms?

May we be a people of wheat growing alongside, and loving the darnel.

[1] This was intended to be a parable for people in the church – saved and unsaved. Since the analogy of saved and unsaved corresponds to the people of G-d vs. not the people of G-d (the explicit categories of the psalms), I’m broadening the message to the whole world rather than simply those inside the church.

Sunday School Email (3/13/16)

If you weren’t aware, my fiancé and I have been teaching a Creation Theology class at our church. We send out weekly emails with information pertaining to this field of thought. Many of my friends have expressed interest in the information within these emails, so I’ve decided to also post the information here:

This is a video on how to limit the amount of trash we produce.
Here is a short read on the ethics of fashion.
This is relevant (pun intended) to our class as we are Christians thinking about the environment.
And here is an article to spark thoughts about animals and entertainment.

As Easter approaches…
“Look at the new thing I am going to do. It is already happening. Don’t you see it? I will make a road in the desert and rivers in the dry land. Even the wild animals will be thankful to me – the wild dogs and owls. They will honor me when I put honor in the desert and rivers in the dry land to give water to my people, the ones I chose. The people I made will sing songs to praise me.”  – Isaiah 43:19-21

Blessings,
Kim

Praxis (Paper Portion 4/4)

Praxis

As Christians we are called to not only think but to act on our convictions. There is no such thing as a moral person that spouts off ideals but never enacts them. When we hold to a basic conviction that God has created every part of creation to be good and for God’s purpose, we are called to hold onto compassion, love, and nonviolence for every creature equally. God did not say in the creation account that fish were just okay or that birds were decent, but that all was good.

With our perfect example of Christ and how we are to act, we do not see much about animals, but we do read of how Christ associated himself with even the lepers,[1] the tax collectors,[2] a Samaritan woman,[3] and even stopped a stoning of a prostitute.[4] When we see such examples, we are not to simply sit idly by watching injustice, but show compassion to each and every creature that is struggling and in need of only the love that Christ can give. Are we not to be a light unto the world?[5] Are we not to act in a way that shows compassion and love above all else? God has taken care of everything else.[6] Yet we sit in our buildings, in our pews not even talking to the human that sits next to us. How are we ever to show compassion to the rest of God’s creation if we cannot even love our neighbor?[7] The greatest commandment is not met. How can we expect ourselves to go further, to expand and prepare for the Kingdom of God if we are not living the way God desires us to live?

We have to make a choice with each and every dilemma we face: will I serve God, or have I made the world my master? Have I given into the selfish desires of my heart when I go hunting or take my child to a zoo? How we treat animals is a reflection on how we treat humans. We are moral agents that are called to take care of each other as well as creatures that are not moral. When we exploit innocent creatures that have no say in what we choose for them, we show that morality is to be kept, not shared. Morality becomes something that is not for the rest of the world to take part in, and ethics are only important with what I decide to focus on. We need to stop exploiting creation, and we need to show the love and respect that God had for us when God gave us the responsibility to have dominion over everything.



[1]
Matthew 8:3.

[2] Luke 19:1-10.

[3] John 4:1-40.

[4] John 8:1-11.

[5] Matthew 5:14.

[6] Matthew 6:25-34.

[7] Mark 12:31

Norms (Paper Portion 3/4)

Norms

Our judgments are based on our perceptions of particular rules and principles. Those that attend zoos and circuses do not come to the same judgments as people who decide not to attend. Where we base our authority affects our moral norms. In the Christian tradition authority can be found in tradition, reason and experience, and in scripture.

Beginning with tradition, Kant and Aquinas believed it was wrong to cause pain.[1] Mill even went further to say that pain was intrinsically evil.[2] Descartes believed “Animals are like automata or machines: they have no mind (or incorporeal soul); they are unable to think; they are altogether lacking in consciousness. Like the motions of machines, animal behavior can be explained in purely mechanical terms”.[3]

In reason, we see, when discussing the rights of animals, they are limited to their consciousness or lack of abilities to speak.

“The severely mentally feeble, for example, lack the requisite powers to act morally; this, they cannot be expected to recognize our rights, nor can they be said to violate our rights, even if, for example, they should happen to cause us undeserved pain. For as they are not the kind of being that can be held responsible for what they do, neither can they be said to violate anyone’s rights by what they do”.[4]

Though animals lack the ability to communicate, this in no way lessons humanity’s need to respect and be responsible for animals’ well-being.

In Scripture, we can go to the first creation account in Genesis. From here we can begin to discuss our basic convictions. According to Gordon J. Wenham, “God’s purpose in creating [humans] was that [humanity] should rule over the animal world”.[5] A human made in God’s image implicates them as king over nature. A conviction based on this reading of scripture could lead to a misuse of animals, however, even Wenham agrees, “this is no license for the unbridled exploitation and subjugation of nature”.[6] A king does not have to be harsh, but can be full of love and compassion for his subjects. For in Genesis 1:31, God saw that all creation was very good.[7]

In Walter Brueggemann’s commentary, he emphasizes that the phrase “creator creates creation” affirms a powerful purpose for creation.[8] Along with this phrase, there is an affirmation that “the creator is not disinterested and the creation is not autonomous”.[9] Brurggemann holds to the conviction that humankind is the focus of creation and this can be seen by God speaking only with humans.[10] There is an intimacy here, a trust, and position in creation that God is enabling humanity to have.

The Broadman Bible Commentary echoes the importance of humankind in creation, but then focuses on the image of God instilled in humanity as opposed in the higher animals that were created in the same day.[11] An animal not having a soul is one conclusion that can be made, but the Hebrew word for soul[12] is mentioned for both humanity and animals.[13] The difference between humans and animals then becomes the ability for humans to be in fellowship with each other and God.[14]

Brunner and Barth would both echo that the Imago Dei is humanity’s “relationality and responsibility, rather than substance”.[15] It is humanity’s responsibility to God that is important rather than focusing on the factors that distinguish humanity from the rest of creation. God established all of creation.[16]

There is agreement in these commentaries that God created Humanity Imago Dei, but what this means based on a level of principles can be interpreted in many different ways. One of which is, “… the image of God in humans does not describe any specific capacities that we possess, but rather the character of our relationship with God and others which provides the cause for our possession of those capacities”.[17] The Imago Dei is both substantial and relational for humans.[18]

Looking at the image of God in creation, all was good and at the end it was very good. God saw good, God created good, so humanity should strive to keep creation good. Such a principle is easier said then done. There are many rules in the Hebrew Scriptures that mention how animals are to be treated, and when they are to be sacrificed and how. We were entrusted animals by God and given dominion over them, yet what we see today is a complete exploitation of God’s creation.

God created all of creation with a purpose, and even with the removal of creation from the Garden, God still spoke and trusted humanity with creation. Andrew Linzey makes a connection that animal suffering is equal to human suffering and calls for the same level of obligation from humanity.[19] He believes that animals are soulless and in need of the care that humanity is capable of giving. Animals are “innocent, blameless, defenseless, and vulnerable”,[20] and humanity’s responsibility of stewardship is greatly needed, as animals are incapable of becoming moral agents.[21]

In The Animal’s Manifesto the fact that animals show pain and are emotional creatures is discussed. Though there is a danger of anthropomorphisms, this is the only lens that humans can see through. It is how we relate to things and is only natural. A principle of compassion is the focus point for the rule that there should be justice for all of creation.[22]

What should we do? Can we see God’s character in the way we treat animals now? Peter Singer understands the Christian perspective of sanctity of life to mean that humanity is superior to creation, which is problematic because this principle leads to a devaluation of creation.[23] Aquinas and Barth believe otherwise that “God made creation, not for humanity, but for God’s own glory”.[24] Linzey would then emphasize that it is creation that belongs to God in every way.[25]

We are to be in fellowship with all of creation and God. God needs to be at the center of our dominion, for it was God who bestowed it upon us.[26] Our basic conviction should focus on the Imago Dei, and how God created animals as good.

Our principles of compassion, nonviolence, and love must be applied to all of creation, not only to humanity. There is not compassion in a circus that holds animals captive and travels with them regardless if they feel anxious or not on the journey. There is not compassion in the training that goes into a horse race with the whipping of animals and the occasional steroid to help them perform well. There is not compassion in a zoo that sells animals to hunters so they may fulfill their own selfish desires.[27] Where there is an absence of compassion, violence is present and love cannot take root.

The purpose of animals is not to be a part of an entertainment system. They are not to be harmed in movies and now have laws protecting them from all types of dangers, but not all species of animals are included under these laws. Singer is known for his concept of speciesism, which describes humanity’s disregard of animals based on their own basic convictions. Christians as problematic as any other human. Singer proposes a paradigm of utilitarianism to better describe his concept. Utilitarianism seeks to promote the good of all over the bad, and should not have animals distinguished on whether they are worthy enough.[28] “The utilitarian account recognizes the moral status of animals in their own right”[29] and “does not conflate the morality of an act with the mental state of the agent”.[30] Though Singer would not hold to a basic conviction rooted in Scripture, he would agree to a principle that all animals are to be treated equally.

How are we to do this as moral agents that find our basic convictions rooted in a Creator that cares for all of creation? We start by recognizing that our companion animals (pets) are not ours’ to own, but God’s. There is no difference between my cat and the zebra that was killed in Denmark or the family of lions that was euthanized to make room for a new, younger lion.[31] We start by shifting our paradigm that the world was not given for humanity, but humanity was placed on the world to take care of it. We are living on God’s gift to us, yet we so often ignore and pilfer through it to find the parts that we desire. We let selfish reasoning get in the way, not simply with how we treat animals but in all aspects of life.

The conditions of how and where animals are kept need to be as close to the natural habitat of animals. There is a reason why some types of animals live in the desert and others in the rain forest, and humanity was not given the right to take these animals away from where God destined for them to be. This rule is based on the basic conviction that God is in control of everything, including what we perceive to be mundane.

When animals have been taken from their environment and are bred into captivity, their nature has been changed. No matter the species, any part of creation with limited agency is not fulfilling God’s original purpose. As Christians, we must decide what role we play in God’s plan. If we decide creation is important, it must be in all aspects. All was created good.

The transforming initiative urges us to shift our perspective and to refocus our loyalties to compassion in every aspect of life. Compassion is not limited to what we desire to place our love and care. This is a faulty intent, and not one based on the basic conviction of God’s goodness. Our principle should mirror that of our conviction of God. It is necessary for us to seek to mirror God’s attributes, as we are moral agents.

All that dwell on earth includes humanity. We are a part of the solution and part of the problem because we are part of creation. We are part of everything, part of the system of God, and the sooner we recognize this the sooner we will be able to act as moral agents the way in which God intended.


 

[1] Regan and Singer, 10.

[2] Ibid, 10.

[3] Ibid, 4-5.

[4] Ibid, 18.

[5] Gordon J. Wenham, Word Biblical Commentary, s.v. “Genesis 1-21.” (Word Inc, 1987), 33.

[6] Ibid, 33.

[7] Ibid, 34.

[8] Walter Brueggemann, Interpretation, “Genesis.” (John Knox: Atlanta, 1982), 17.

[9] Ibid, 17.

[10] Ibid, 31.

[11] The Broadman Bible Commentary, “General Articles, Genesis-Exodus.” (Broadman Press, 1973), 125.

[12] Regan and Singer, 68. A concept that Voltaire discussed. Hebrew for soul: a living nephesh.

[13] Broadman, 125.

[14] Ibid, 125.

[15] Miller, 36.

[16] Ibid, 36, 38.

[17] Ibid, 33.

[18] Ibid, 34.

[19] Mark Bernstein, review of Why Animal Suffering Matters, by Andrew Linzey, The Expository Times 122, no. 228 (2009): 206, http://ext.sagepub.com/content/122/5/228.citation.

[20] Ibid, 122.

[21] Ibid, 122.

[22] Marc Bekoff, “Increasing Our Compassion Footprint: The Animal’s Manifesto”, Zygon 43, no. 4 (December 2008): 771-81.

[23] Charles Camosy, For Love of Animals (Cincinnati: Franciscan Media, 2013); 16, 27, Amazon Kindle edition.

[24] Ibid, 44.

[25] Ibid, 49.

[26] Matthew Scully, Dominion (New York: St. Martin’s Griffin, 2002), 10, Amazon Kindle Edition.

[27] http://www.examiner.com/article/where-do-surplus-zoo-animals-go.

[28] Regan, 89.

[29] Ibid, 86.

[30] Ibid, 86-7.

[31] Dan Bilefsky, “Danish Zoo, Reviled in the Death of a Giraffe, Kills 4 Lions,” New York Times, March 26, 2014, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/27/world/europe/lion-killing-at-danish-zoo-provokes-fresh-outrage.html?_r=0.

 

Character Dimensions (Paper portion 2/4)

Character Dimensions

Entertainment is a dimension in life that strives for success both in attention and wealth. The more rare or scandalous, the more people pay attention. Take the news for example; we see global disasters and downfalls more than the success of communities. Ratings are the loyalties of our culture, and society loves juicy gossip. In the movie industry, we decide what is entertaining with our money. In electronic stores, we pay for a device to entertain us. Perceptions of boredom come into play, and we escape that boredom with entertainment. What better way than with animals; cute and cuddly animals?

What we find entertaining illumines our characters, and “our character informs not only how we handle the decisions that we confront but also what decisions we confront”.[1] Humanity has decided that animals in cages are entertaining and good for education purposes, but this was not always the case. Zoos were not always around but started to take place in the private sector with rich owners that traded animals with other nations. Some of these trades occurred during wars or other conquests.[2] Obtaining animals through these ways does not lead to positive implications or outcomes.

The loyalties of the wealthy and kings were not for the well-being of animals, but to have a physical way of showing their worth. When this became a trend amongst class members of equal wealth, changes were made to continually show the worth and value of the owners. These animals were shown to other wealthy people, and then such wealth shifted and was shown to the public. The reasoning then changed to not only show wealth but to educate the public on such animals.

The perception of the wealthy zookeepers skewed their loyalties and the countries and people they were trading with, as well as the visitors that took part in viewing the animals. Loyalty no longer resided in the care of animals, but in how many animals could entertain within one location.

Character is able to been seen through perception and loyalty, but practice and virtue shapes character.[3] Virtue is not only in private morality[4] but enables perceptions in many choices and allows other choices to be overlooked.[5] Our vices get in the way of being part of a larger community. In the case of animals in zoos, our desires and actions of seeing them allows us to disregard and ignore the cruelty that is present for them. The perception of education has skewed our loyalties.

We are caught in a vicious cycle of constantly choosing what is entertaining based on our utmost wishes and desires. We have greatly diminished the value of animals, and have allowed for them to be part of a business without pay or reward. There is no consent in the removal of animals from their habitats to play the part in the system we have decided upon. We placed them in laboratories to test our cosmetics, we placed them in space to limit the danger for humans, and then we placed the largest of all of them in a bathtub-sized enclosure.[6] Is education virtuous when such actions are done?

Humanity is enjoying itself in the pain of animals, and the dominant culture of entertainment is not seeking for the well-being of its participants or members, but focusing on the success of the organization as a whole. Where we find value in animals is also where we find value in humanity.[7] Take for example a child that desires to do experiments on animals or see how they can affect how animals go about their day by pulling the tails of cats or sitting on dogs like a pony. They are looking for a reaction: “Is this okay? Are mom and dad okay with me doing this? They are letting me keep doing this, so it must be alright.” Animals become means of entertainment when we are young not only by how we react with them, but also how we see others treat them.

We are caught in a vicious cycle deciding whether animals deserve the same treatment as humans. We go back and forth in discussing how animals should be treated without overstepping the boundary of humanity. Killing an animal that has injured a human is common in our culture, and a decision has been made that this is acceptable. The perception is that humans deserve to be treated morally according to the laws that have been set in place and the loyalty lies on the well-being of the human. When we see police officers killing animals based on nothing but fear, we see animals held to a very high standard.

When a hungry bear attacks and kills a human that is camping in the woods, it is necessary to decide if the animal has done anything wrong. There was no agreement made between the bear and the human, no handshake, and no contract. Anger is still present though. Someone died because an animal attacked him or her, and the “hierarchical order of the universe” has been violated.[8] This brings up the question whether or not animals are capable of being moral at all.[9] “Many animals have desires, but they do not likely possess a concept of other minds. With such understanding, moral responsibility cannot occur. One cannot hold oneself responsible to others, much less others to oneself, if one does not understand that others have similar or competing interests”.[10]

What do we do when the value of animals has dropped to the point of exploitation and we have begun to have a perspective that animals owe us something, have faltered somehow in their actions, and must be punished? Placing animals within our own moral framework leads us to a dangerous anthropomorphism,[11] and keeps us from God’s level of loyalties and perspective.[12] We are obligated[13] to protect,[14] care for, and have dominion over animals, but something has gotten in the way of doing so.


 

[1] Joseph J. Kotva, On Moral Medicine, 3rd ed. (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 2012), 274.

[2] Stephen St C. Bostock, Zoos and Animal Rights. New York: Routledge, 1993), 7-36.

[3] Glen H. Stassen and David P. Gushee, Kingdom Ethics (Downers Grove: Intervarsity Press, 2003), 57.

[4] Ibid, 75.

[5] Kotva, 274.

[6] Editorial, “Free the Elephants and Orcas in Captivity,” Scientific American, March 1, 2014,  http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/free-elephants-orcas-captivity/.

[7] Ibid, 93.

[8] Daniel K. Miller, Animal Ethics and Theology (New York: Routledge, 2012), 22.

[9] Tom Regan and Peter Singer, Animal Rights and Human Obligations (Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, 1976), 183, 92.

[10] Miller, 26.

[11] Regan, 159.

[12] Stassen and Gushee, 64.

[13] Regan and Singer, 155.

[14] John P. Gluck, Tony DiPasquale, and F. Barbara Orlans, Applied Ethics in Animal Research (West Lafayette: Purdue University, 2002), 25.

 

Ethical Issues (Paper portion 1/4)

When going out for an enjoyable afternoon, families often frequent locations such as zoos and circuses (if they are in town). Kids flock to the cages of animals to watch what they will do, and parents stand watch as their children run from one animal to another. Animals have become such amazing spectacles and so conveniently placed in every large city for patrons to come spend their relaxing weekends. However, the conditions in which these animals find themselves are not ideal, and it is the responsibility of humanity to recognize the rights of animals.

Ethical Issues

There are many animals that do not belong in cages based on their size or demeanor, but there is an argument to be made for all animals not belonging in captivity. Captivity is a scary word, a word that implies something is wrong with the way things are. It is a necessary word to convey how animals’ rights are exploited. How often do we think of the negative side effects when we are at the zoo with our families discovering all the different ways that monkeys can jump from tree to tree?

The school I work for had recently had a field trip to the zoo, and I wonder if what the kids learned could have been taught with the use of picture books or coloring pages. Oh, but of course, that is not as fun. What is fun? What is entertaining? Fun is not concrete, but an experience that changes based on the time, context, and the people that are involved in deciding. Humanity has chosen to invest time and money into zoos, circuses, horse and dog races, and even buying animals or permits to hunt. Animals are entertaining, but not without our decision.

The birds in the large cage are corruptible, but all creatures are. The difficulty with corrupting animals as opposed to humans is that animals cannot speak for themselves and say they do not appreciate the way they are treated. Do the animals in the zoos and circuses look happy? Of course they do; just like a dog is trained through rewards and punishments before a competition, so that the judges do not see the disobedience that the owner has hidden.

Zoos are not all evil and exploitative of animals, and some do great things for the lives of animals that face extinction. Caretakers show compassion when endangered species are under their responsibility, or when animals are injured and must be taken out of their enclosures to rest and heal. Patron money is helpful with cases such as these, but there still exist the multiple other animals that live in conditions well beyond their natural habitats. Even farm sanctuaries, which contain rescued animals and allow them a place to live the remainder of their lives, are not as desirable in the comparison of open spaces that animals once roamed.

The well-being of animals must be a focus when discussing modes of entertainment. Circuses keep animals cooped up, and train them in skills they would never know how to do in the wild. Races work animals to death, literally, so bets can be won. Hunting is a sport in which the sole purpose is to end the life of an animal for resource and decor. Why have animals been put into these places? The perceptions and loyalties of humanity have not been helpful to the plight of animals.

Theological Ethics of Animals Used in Entertainment

In the Spring of 2014, I took what has since then been my favorite class I have taken at Truett:

Theological Ethics of Sports.

I was a second semester student full of passion towards veganism and what that practically looked like in the church. You may be asking yourself, “What does veganism have to do with a class over sports?” See, the world’s greatest professor taught this class (I admit my bias, especially since I’m his Graduate Assistant now), and let people who did not have a concentration in Sports Ministry to write on whatever they desired as long as it dealt with ethics. And so, my journey to proving veganism as the correct way of living began (I’m totally just kidding, and if you know me you know that I don’t preach veganism. I’m trying to fit a stereotype, okay?!).

My paper, Theological Ethics of Animals used in Entertainment, was the beginning of my love for practical theology and essentially led me to want to focus on Spiritual Formation – as I believe my vegan lifestyle helps form me spiritually.

I will be posting portions every week of this paper onto this here blog, and would love comments and engagement from those in the body of Christ to critique and help me grow in understanding.

Thanks in advance for reading.

Here are the links (to be updated as I post them):
Ethical Issues
Character Dimensions
Norms (A longer read)
Praxis

And the Bibliography:

Bekoff, Marc. “Increasing Our Compassion Footprint: The Animal’s Manifesto.” Zygon 43, no. 4 (December 2008): 771-81.

Bernstein, Mark. Review of Why Animal Suffering Matters, by Andrew Linzey, TheExpository Times 122, no. 228 (2009): 206, http://ext.sagepub.com/content/122/5/228.citation.

Bilefsky, Dan. “Danish Zoo, Reviled in the Death of a Giraffe, Kills 4 Lions,” New York Times, March 26, 2014, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/27/world/europe/lion-killing-at-danish-zoo-provokes-fresh-outrage.html?_r=0.

Bostock, Stephen St C. Zoos and Animal Rights. New York: Routledge, 1993.

Broadman Bible Commentary, The; “General Articles, Genesis-Exodus.” Broadman Press, 1973.

Brueggemann, Walter. Interpretation, “Genesis.” John Knox: Atlanta, 1982.

Camosy, Charles. For Love of Animals. Cincinnati: Franciscan Media, 2013. Amazon. Kindle edition.

Editorial. “Free the Elephants and Orcas in Captivity.” Scientific American, March 1, 2014. http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/free-elephants-orcas-captivity/.

Gluck, John P., Tony DiPasquale, and F. Barbara Orlans. Applied Ethics in Animal Research. West Lafayette: Purdue University, 2002.

Kotva, Joseph J. On Moral Medicine. 3rd ed. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 2012.

Miller, Daniel K. Animal Ethics and Theology. New York: Routledge, 2012.

Regan, Tom. All That Dwell Therein. 2 vols. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1982.

Regan, Tom, and Peter Singer. Animal Rights and Human Obligations. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, 1976.

Scully, Matthew. Dominion. New York: St. Martin’s Griffin, 2002. Amazon Kindle Edition.

Stassen, Glen H., and David P. Gushee. Kingdom Ethics. Downers Grove: Intervarsity Press, 2003.

Wenham, Gordon J., Word Biblical Commentary, “Genesis 1-21.” Word Inc, 1987.