I have a new essay up at Flourish, a wonderful organization that “inspires and equips churches to better love God by reviving human lives and the landscapes on which they depend.”
Although I had hoped that this essay would be about my experience observing a goat giving birth at our local Catapano Dairy Farm, it didn’t work out that way; goats, like people, refuse to birth on schedule.
Birth is messy. It’s bloody. (The birthing tub ends up looking like an abattoir! one Scottish friend had remarked.) And it is painful.
But it is a pain unlike any other. It is not the bloody pain of surgery or injury. It is the pain of a body giving–giving way, giving space, giving shape, giving life–to another. And at the climax of that giving, when it feels like your body will be split in two, great pain gives way to great love, as everything in the mother rushes toward the being that has just separated to bring it back again in a different kind of closeness.
I’ve never had the privilege of meeting Kendra Langdon Juskus in person, but I think of her as a friend. She was the managing editor at Flourish, where I did some of my first-ever writing for an audience wider than my immediate family. Kendra’s wisdom and guidance helped me refine my writing and to find the courage to submit articles (and book proposals!) to various magazines and publishers. Thank you, Kendra! I’m so very grateful.
Kendra recently won an important award from the Humane Society of the United States for an article she wrote for ESA’s Prism magazine entitled “A Call to Compassion From Our Brothers the Animals.” Here is an excerpt:
Although animal welfare is hardly a common sermon topic today, Christians throughout the centuries have taken these Biblical foundations for animal welfare concern seriously, often considering mercy toward animals indicative of submission to God’s will over our own and strong Christian character.
In the early centuries of Christianity, Basil of Caesarea and Irenaeus of Lyons encouraged mercy toward animals, Irenaeus writing, “These creatures minister to our needs every day: without them we could not live; and through them the human race greatly offends the Creator.” Francis of Assisi, the Catholic patron saint of animals, is renowned for his gentleness toward animals and his efforts to sometimes communicate with them and encourage them to worship God.
Even such unlikely figures as John Wesley and John Calvin insisted on the dignity of God’s creatures, the animals, as did the William Wilberforce, who passed a Parliamentary bill against bull-baiting. I love how Kendra shows that compassion for animals has deep roots in Christian and scriptural ethics.
Kendra points out that animal welfare is everyone’s business–
In one important respect, insisting that animals not be beaten, broken, and abandoned at our whim is distinct from other worthy calls to compassion.
“The one unique aspect of animal welfare,” says Rodgers, “is . . . that it touches most Americans.”
Pet ownership crosses racial, ethnic, religious, and socio-economic lines. Even those of us who don’t own pets still eat, and most of us eat meat.
But all of us can eat less meat; we can also eat better meat, refuse to buy fur, teach our children to respect animals, and help low-income community members (who sometimes go without food in order to feed their pets) care for the animals they love.