Blessing the animals?

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Two recent posts have been about a book written by William Wilberforce, the 18th century evangelical Christian who led the movement to abolish slavery in England. Did you know that Wilberforce was also a crusader for animals and started the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals? Yes! In light of this, I am re-blogging a post from 2013…

Blessing the Animals?

Last weekend my dog (a Newfoundland named Lizzie) received a blessing by the Episcopal clergy at “The Blessing of the Animals” at Christ Church Episcopal. I’m not Episcopalian and this is not my church, but the service was open to the public. I really enjoyed it, and so did Lizzie.

[A note of clarification from the original post: This service was NOT the Sunday morning service. It was a separate service on Sunday afternoon.]

In a brief sermon, the clergy remembered when a Baptist woman came up to him and said in a disparaging tone, “Baptists don’t bless animals, so why do you?” – It got a laugh out of the crowd but especially me. Once upon a time, I also looked in a disparaging way upon a service for blessing animals. I’ve always dearly loved animals (in 5th grade I wanted to be a veterinarian!), but I somehow associated such a thing with “liberal” churches and not a good use of a church’s time. But my views have changed since then.

God pronounced blessing on the animals – see Genesis 1:22. I remember being in a seminary class and the Professor reading through Genesis 1, and after verse 22 he paused for effect, re-read “God blessed them” and paused again. He did not digress on the subject, but he made a point that no one in the class missed.

God created animals, and blessed them. Surely we should care for the welfare of animals, and can pronounce blessing upon them too.

Proverbs 12:10 states that “a righteous man cares for the needs of his animal.” – I’ve always joked that I am a VERY righteous person based on that verse.

Isaiah 11 is generally considered a description of the Millennial Kingdom or the new earth after the return of Christ, and it provides a particularly stirring image (verses 6-9) that includes animals.

My point is that we can see in the Scriptures that animals matter. So, why not honor them with a service to pronounce blessing on them? C’mon Baptists – there is nothing heretical about it (said tongue-in-cheek). But more than that…

Did you know that William Wilberforce, a Christian best known for his work to abolish slavery in England, was also a crusader for animals and started the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals? I was surprised to learn that! Here is an article entitled: William Wilberforce: a Biblical View of Animals. I hope you’ll take a moment to read it.

It encourages us to look beyond our own backyards and consider animals who are suffering at the hand of tormentors. We should be concerned about dog fighting, puppy mills, mistreatment of farm animals at factory farms, etc. Animal cruelty should concern Christians, and we are doing God’s work as we seek to protect and help them.

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An additional note for anyone interested:

I attempt to eat mostly “humane certified” meat from the store, or purchase meat from a local hobby farmer, or eat venison that was hunted by my husband/friend. I also buy cage free/free range eggs. Why? Because of “factory farming.” On many of these farms the animals are not treated humanely, at all, and crammed into small spaces where they suffer terribly. It is possible to have a large scale production, yet implement standards to ensure the animals have a better life. This is where the official “humane certified” label is helpful. (I do not think all animals must be on small farms.)

I rarely eat pork anymore, as it is difficult to find humane certified pork. The situation with the factory pig farms in NC is horrible – not only for the pigs but the environmental and health problems that affect those in the community. Here is an article from National Geographic: What to Do About Pig Poop? North Carolina Fights a Rising Tide. The article is from 2014, but from a 2017 article I read in a print magazine, nothing has changed or improved since that time.

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