INTRODUCTION TO THEOLOGY AND ANIMALS
Despite the fact that all major religions teach compassion to animals people claiming to be religious often are guilty of the same inhumane treatment of animals as is everyone else. The institutionalized abuse to animals caused by modern factory farming methods and other treatments and exploitations of animals are so horrible that they simply cannot continue. As decent people, religious or otherwise, we must rectify this situation and treat animals with respect and compassion. This must be the norm for everyone.
One of the major problems has been that the human species is so anthropocentric. Humans have taken for granted that we are the center of the earth and all creation. However, neither from a scientific nor a biblical viewpoint, does this seem to be the case. Now some theologians are taking a new, unprejudiced look at the scriptures to discuss this issue. In these new studies many texts and themes of the scriptures are being shown to support compassion to animals. This is surely the proper role for theology and should be liberating for all.
Not only has Christianity been overly anthropocentric, to be
more exact, Christianity is androcentric. Whether
Christianity can be freed of this stereotypically overly masculine orientation
is a problem under much discussion these days in theological circles. But the
effects of religiously encouraged male domination has affected everything in
existence in both religion and culture. Violence, the oppression of women and
animals are all interconnected under a patriarchal ethic. Any study of theology
and animals should take this into consideration.
Also, what is needed is a new focus on eschatology from an
emphasis on individual salvation in the future to the redemption of the entire
universe starting in the here and now. The great prayer Jesus asks: “Thy
kingdom come; Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”. To live and work
to bring about the kingdom of God on earth here and now is the way of the
It is important to bring this information to the schools and
to the churches. In what could be a great breakthrough for the animals, for the
relationship between people and animals and for theology itself, Xavier University
in Cincinnati is opening its curriculum to the study of this new theological
development. Xavier University is inaugurating a course on theology and animals
in Catholic higher education. This is a progressive step on the part of the
Xavier theology department and it is to be hoped that such study will lead to
the eventual teaching and preaching of an improved attitude toward the
relationship between people and animals and to a new lifestyle for Christians.
Xavier already has a course on theology and ecology. It
would seem that the study on animals is a natural follow through. There are
many commonalities. But often environmental theory continues the
anthropocentric view of both the earth and the animals. Therefore a different
approach may be needed.
The problems of animals dig deep into the heart of theology. The problems are not peripheral; they are central for humankind and the Christian. Theology and Animals, raises issues about creation, redemption, the soul, evil, justice, and the divinity of Christ. Although many of these issues are raised in other areas of theology, some of these problems seem to stand out in an unique way regarding the animals. As an example: is it fitting for the one who is considered to be “the Christ”, the “Agnus Dei” to be eating a leg of lamb.
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