It’s no secret that I have a lot of views people find offensive. I’ll even say I have some views that actually ARE offensive. Offending people for the right reasons is sometimes not a vice, but a virtue. It’s quite offensive to tell someone that they are a wicked sinner, destined for hell, the intentions of their hearts continually on selfish and evil desires, and apart from the sheer grace and good-will of God they would not be able to take another breath. What could be more offensive than that?
I’ll tell you what many people find more offensive than that (for some very nonsensical reason I do not at all understand).
Your pet’s not your kid, and it’s not going to heaven.
I get so tired of people saying “I’m a dog mom,” “I’m a pet parent,” or worst of all “I’m a cat person.” (I actually think there’s a textual variant in Genesis 3, and it was really a cat that deceived Eve… but I digress.)
That’s right I’m taking on Puppy pappas and the cat couples.
According to research done by Growth From Knowledge that they released at the GlobalPetExpo2015, Millennials are 7% more likely to intentially “raise” a pet instead of a human than previous generations were. They are willing to forego actual parenthood in favor of a dog, and I do not have any trouble believing it myself, because the number of people my age I know who treat their dog like a child is, as Remus Lupin would say, riddikulus.
Biblical View of Humans and Animals
Here’s the problem with this trend. Biblical Christianity teaches that humans are the ones created in the image of God, with imperishable souls, who can be redeemed and saved from damnation. According to the Bible, the only eternal creatures in existence are humans and angels. (God is not a creature.) Animals are here for utilitarian and creative purposes, not salvific ones.
I fully admit and recognize that there are very many good things that animals, and pets, can accomplish. I actually do see a lot of value in emotional support dogs, the stability that being responsible for a pet brings to a household, the beauty and wonder of the diverse and complex creations of our God, AND the tastiness of animals when their bodies are prepared correctly. I believe there are great emotional and utilitarian reasons for valuing animals and pets. Humans were given dominion over animals, and it is our job to steward them well… but stop making them equal to humans!
The created order, and fall, laid out in Genesis 1-3 is the foundation upon which the Christian worldview is built. Those three chapters tell the Christian how the world was designed, who’s in charge of it, what’s gone wrong with it, and how it’s going to be fixed. In those three chapters one particular equation becomes crystal clear: Humans > Animals.
As is often the case, the reason I’m ranting about what seems like such a minor thing is not the thing itself. In reality, I realize that it is rather harmless to treat your dog somewhat like a child, when you know full-well that there is a big difference. Those of you who own a dog but actually do have a clear picture of the reality of that dog, I’m not talking to you. It’s not so much the thing itself, it’s the theology the thing reveals and encourages (aka: Where that trail leads). Those of you who really do think, however unconsciously or innocently, that your pet is “just as important” or “just as much responsibility” or “just as soul-having” as a baby, realize where that trail leads. By treating your dog like a child, you are innocently, unknowingly, dangerously, drawing an equivalency between humans and animals that subverts the created order that God ordained in Genesis 1 and 2. You begin to allow yourself to think that animals matter just as much, if not more, than humans, and they don’t. You may end up at the end of trail truly idolizing your pet, placing it on a pedestal not only above humans, but in the place of God himself.
There’s a good story on this subject that some good friends of mine told me about their great grandfather and their dad, Scott. As the story goes, when Scott was fairly young about 4 or 5 years old, he was at his grandfather’s house out in the country. His grandfather was the farmer type, worked with his hands, lived off his animals, land, and mechanical know-how. One day Scott and his grandfather were in the kitchen, with the family hunting dog lying there watching as well. At one point, Scott dropped something near the dog’s food dish and the dog grumbled. It didn’t snap, didn’t bark, didn’t snarl, just let out a low guttural “grrrrrrrrrr” clearly in response to the child.
As Scott tells the story, his grandfather merely looked at it, shook his head, said to himself, “That was such a good dog,” and whistled for the dog to follow him. A moment later two shotgun blasts sounded from the field out back. When Scott told me this story he shook his own head and said, “Papa was clearly sad over it, but it was just like… You don’t do that to my grandchild.”
Many are shocked by this story. This is not meant to revel in the harming of animals; far from it. It is to exemplify the main point that I am trying to drive home: there is absolutely no comparison between a human and a pet. It doesn’t matter how good your dog is, how much it “seems” human to you, the moral value hierarchy is clear.
This is the way farmers view their animals, and I would venture to say it is the CORRECT way to view your animals. They are things, not people. Contrary to the advice of Bruce the shark: fish are food, not friends. You do not birth a pet, you buy it. It fulfills a utilitarian purpose (to serve the needs of humans) but if an animal begins to go against that purpose, it is no longer needed and its life is rightly forfeit.
This is why most people who claim to love animals are perfectly willing to call their husband in to kill a spider in the house, for the very reason, “I’m aware of its existence, so it must die.”
Now I know what you’re thinking, and hold your hate mail. I’m not saying that this truth justifies humans abusing and mistreating animals. I get a little choked up when I hear Sarah McLoughlin crooning about the arms of the angels during those SPCA commercials, and when I hear about a guy who starves and batters a dog to death, I think moral outrage is correct and that guy is a scumbag. There are right ways and wrong ways to exercise our authority over, to be stewards of, animals. There is such a thing as respect for the thing we steward and I’m not pretending that doesn’t exist.
I think there are right purposes for animals to fulfill and wrong purposes, and an animal clearly designed for a certain purpose (such as a rooster for providing egg fertilization, protection of hens, and warning cries on farms that dawn approaches) being used for a different purpose (such as being placed in a ring and encouraged to fight) is morally wrong.
This issue is actually even more complex as we begin to sort through the progress of revelation from God about the eating of animals. In the garden, back in Genesis 3, it seems this was not one of the original purposes, but after the fall, it is clear in many passages (Genesis 4, 9, Leviticus 11, Acts 10) that God ordained a change in the purpose of animals. Where they were primarily for wonder and glorification of Him, they became a source of food. Another change worth noting is that instead of killing humans when they rightly deserve such a judgment, He allows the sacrifice of an animal to stay His wrath. The theology of agriculture, particularly throughout history, is actually quite a rich field that better theologians than myself have written on in the past.
All I’m saying with this post is that animals aren’t humans, so don’t treat them that way. It’s quite annoying… and all of your friends think so too, they’re just not insensitive enough to say it, and they definitely don’t want to see a viral video of you going into a restaurant, crying about “your little girl snow” and claiming that “it’s not food it’s violence.” #HerNameIsSnow #StillFunny
Questions for Further Contemplation
Why do you think good christian couples are trading in parenthood for pet adoption? I think there may be an aspect of laziness or self-centeredness at the root of it. Dogs are easy, and require very little in comparison to a child.
What do you think is the correct place of pets in a home?
What is the best way to train Christians to think about the theology of agriculture?