Why does animal suffering hurts so much?

 

I’ve encountered a lot of sad animal stories — in books, on the web, and in real life — recently, and I’ve mused over why I find them so distressing in a recent post for Religion News Service.

A friend, commenting there, noted that one of the reasons animal suffering may break our hearts so much is because animals are so very innocent; so very dependent. It reminded me of This American Life host Ira Glass’s rationale for why he cares for his incredibly high-maintenance dog, Piney.

Graeme&Molly

Here is a bit of my RNS post:

“The peaceable kingdom of God includes a vision of animals living happily with and among people:

The wolf also shall 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. (Isaiah 11:6)

and

And in that day will I make a covenant for them with the beasts of the field, and with the fowls of heaven, and with the creeping things of the ground: and I will break the bow and the sword and the battle out of the earth, and will make them to lie down safely. (Hosea 2:18)

Part of human longing for home — a longing that often looks a lot like faith — seems to include the hope that not just we, but our animals, too, will find a place beyond suffering, beyond fear, beyond death itself.”

{Read more here.}

 

Maybe there shouldn’t be a religious exemption to vaccinations.

I’ve written on vaccination before, and, no surprise, raised no small amount of ire each time. Recently, I’ve been wondering about the “religious exemption” that many parents abuse in order to excuse their kids from vaccines. Aside from the casual abuse of the idea of religious freedom (here expanded to “something I don’t believe in”), avoiding vaccinations means essentially drafting off of those who have them. Why doesn’t your unvaccinated kid get measles, mumps, rubella, diptheria, pertussis, or polio? Because those diseases have been largely eradicated through vaccination.

But that’s not the same as the disease being gone altogether. I can tell you that the polio virus is a plane ride away. Measles and pertussis are even closer than that.

I’m only kind of jesting when I say that those who vehemently oppose vaccines ought to test their convictions by spending a few weeks with their kids in a remote village in, oh, Rwanda, where polio, measles, rubella, typhoid, meningitis, and yellow fever — all vaccine-preventable — are still endemic.

As I wrote in a recent post at Religion News Service,

Someone may object that the government has no right to tell anyone to get an injection at all. To which I can only say, if that’s the kind of society you’d like to have, you can certainly find places in this world that will accommodate you, such as the country in which I currently live. The only problem? Without the herd immunity afforded you by living in a population that’s mostly vaccinated, you’d be at significant risk for contracting measles, typhoid, polio, yellow fever and other diseases largely conquered in the US…thanks, in no small part, to vaccines.

That might be the truer test of faith and convictions.

{see also my friend Ellen’s piece on the “fetal cell” objection to vaccinations}

Why Barbie Belongs on the Cover of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit

Barbie longingly eyes a barbecued chicken. Photo courtesy Bugeater via Flickr Creative Commons.

Barbie longingly eyes a barbecued chicken. Photo courtesy Bugeater via Flickr Creative Commons.

As the Eberhart family finishes packing the contents of their Manhattan apartment in the opening scenes of the 1975 version of The Stepford Wives, a man carrying a naked female mannequin passes by. “Daddy, I just saw a man carrying a naked lady!” reports the young daughter. “Well, that’s why we’re moving to Stepford,” her father replies.

The irony is delicious: while his remark seems to indicate his disgust (“We’re getting out of this evil city with its naked plastic women!”) it in fact portends his hope for the move to Stepford, where he’ll be surrounded by women who are literally plastic and utterly compliant.

Barbie, the iconic plastic doll, is appearing on cover wraps of 1,000 copies of this year’s Sport’s Illustrated Swimsuit Issue and also in a four-page advertising spread photographed by Walter Iooss, Jr., who has been shooting the Swimsuit Issue for 40 of its 50 years. A limited edition Swimsuit Issue Barbie will also be available exclusively at Target, dressed in a suit inspired by the black-and-white striped swimsuit Barbie wore at her first appearance at the New York Toy Fair in 1959.

I believe there’s more than a taste of some Stepford irony here.

{Continue reading at OnFaith!}

The Valentine’s Gift That Costs Everything

Saint Valentine of Terni oversees the construction of his basilica at Terni, from a 14th-century French manuscript. Photo via Wikimedia Commons (public domain.)

Saint Valentine of Terni oversees the construction of his basilica at Terni, from a 14th-century French manuscript. Photo via Wikimedia Commons (public domain.)

I spent a fair bit of my teen years reading Focus on the Family’s Brio, a now-defunct magazine aimed at teen girls as an alternative to Seventeen, YM, and other glossy periodicals whose vision of female adolescence involved the consumption of a great deal of clothes and makeup and the pursuit of the perfect prom dress–and perfect date to go with it.

While Brio was far more wholesome than the options available at every grocery checkout–on balance, I’m glad my parents kept my subscription active until I left for college–now that I’m grown I can see the ways in which Brio, and sources like it, filled my head with notions of romance that weren’t exactly biblical.

One feature article in Brio presented the biblical book of Ruth as a model of godly romance. Ruth waited for Boaz to take notice of her, so that particular interpretation went, and kept herself busy in the meantime, and God rewarded her by giving her a wealthy new husband and, not long after, a baby.

But later–after I’d finished a degree in biblical studies and married a man with several degrees in biblical studies–I realized that this reading of Ruth was all wrong. Ruth wasn’t waiting around for Boaz to notice her. She was busy taking care of her mother-in-law, Naomi. And when the time seemed right, Ruth proposed to Boaz.

This certainly wasn’t like anything I’d read in my Christian teen magazines.

{This is the beginning of my most recent post — on the history and meaning of Valentine’s Day — for iBelieve. Please go there to read the rest!}

Your reading group needs this. And you can even get it for free.

As Lorraine Caulton writes on the IVP website:

Reading is a solitary act. For many of us it is a form of retreat—a welcomed silence and deserved rest from our demanding routines. We have our favorite spot in the house: the unmade bed, the couch long enough to doze on, or maybe the off-limits living room. Wherever it is, when we are there with book in hand and maybe our favorite cup of tea (my favorite is anything peach) all who encounter us know to “shush.” It’s reading time.

But when you read a really good book, aren’t you just dying to talk about it? Halfway through or maybe even in the introduction, who comes to mind? There’s always someone we can’t wait to share our newfound knowledge with, or tell of our disbelief of an author’s opinion. We can agree or disagree with the author, and he or she is none the wiser. But our dear fellow reader is always eager to hear our perspective. Or at least we hope so.

In reading groups we don’t have to hope someone wants to hear our opinions—it’s expected! And even better, the idea or concept that we missed in our reading is often what our fellow readers will discover and share with us. Our “aha” moments are multiplied in conversation. Even in disagreement—maybe especially when we disagree—there is opportunity to learn from one another as we seek to understand different points of view.

"Book Club Discussion," by Alpert Cugun. Photo courtesy Alpert Cugun via Flickr Creative Commons.

“Book Club Discussion,” by Alpert Cugun. Photo courtesy Alpert Cugun via Flickr Creative Commons.

In the end, our shared conversation becomes another welcomed respite as we glean wisdom and receive understanding from one another. My hope is that the diverse assortment of titles in this first volume of Read Up will provide you and your group with books that lead to both stimulating reading and meaningful conversation.

Whether you’re looking to read contemporary issues, history, fiction, memoirs or even humor, Read Up has you covered, with descriptions, discussion questions, author conversations or excerpts for more than 30 thoughtful books. Bring Read Up to your next book club and get the conversation started.

I’m thrilled to announce that my book, Eat With Joy, is one of the books featured in Read Up. Order your paperback copy (or enough for your whole book group!) here (and you can get the paperback free when you order, oh, say, MY BOOK from IVP!)– or download your FREE e-version here.