Archive for the ‘Animals’ Category

In the Image

July 2, 2016

Often when we talk about what it is that makes us human, we talk about how we are different than other animals. We talk about upright posture, language, culture, self transcendence and so on. Our concern seems to be to articulate and establish our distance from animals.  Theologically speaking what makes us human, what makes us distinct is our responsibility for creation as bearers of God’s image and not whatever way we might be different than other animals.

It is interesting when God uses images and metaphors to describe God’s own self, God and the Biblical writers don’t have any problem comparing God to various animals.

Eagle

Bear

Lamb

Hen

God is even compared to plants and rocks. Apparently it doesn’t bother God to have some things, some attributes, in common with animals and even plants and rocks.God isn’t threatened or diminished by naming common ground with the animal world.

God appears to be perfectly comfortable saying, I have some characteristics in common with bears, and eagles, and lambs and even chickens.If God isn’t afraid to embrace a connection with the animal world, why are we?

Being part of the long process of evolution, sharing genetic material, sharing abilities and traits with the rest of the animal world simply doesn’t diminish us.  It does connect us in deep and wonderful ways. That animals make tools, teach their young, make lifelong friendships, play, mourn, and reason is a wonderful witness to the amazing creativity of God.

We don’t need to separate ourselves from the animal world. We can embrace our connection with other living creatures who are, like us, created and loved by God. We won’t be diminished. Our exploration of the interconnections in the animal world can be a way to enter into the creative mystery of God. It can be a pathway into a deeper relationship with God and the world where God continues to create and care and love.

Talking to the Animals on Christmas Eve

December 24, 2013

 

When you were young, did anyone ever tell you that animals can talk at midnight on Christmas? I don’t remember who told me, but I do remember looking expectantly at the family Dachshund for several years. For the record he never said anything, at least not in a human language.

A quick internet search didn’t find much about the origins of this legend. A little surprising and frustrating in this day of easy on-line research. But that does give us the space to speculate and theologize a bit.

There is a longing in children to talk with animals. What else explains the Doctor Dolittle stories? What else explains the long one sided talks with a patient dog or cat. ( Or horse or hamster)

I wonder if that longing isn’t the remnants of the memory of the way things were supposed to be. Somehow as children we know that our relationship with animals is not what is should be. A child should be able to put her hand near the asp. We should not flee from a bear or run from a lion. As children we long for the harmony that we know is missing from the world.

The missing harmony begins to be set right at Christmas. Long before we have the theological language to describe it we know that when Jesus is born, God come among us, the healing has begun. The Good News is here. At the birth of Jesus, the incarnation, heaven and earth are joined. Angels and shepherd sing. And legend suggests that the animals joined in praise. The world set right for a moment.

The underlying assumption of the legend is that the animals know God and are in relationship with God. Until we get talked out of it, many of us start with the very Biblical assumption that all of creation, everything and everyone, can praise God.   Animals in their animal way praise God and on Christmas we humans may be given a glimpse of the reality of animals.

I’m a grown person now, well past the age of childhood dreams. But yet, I catch myself each Christmas looking at my cats and hoping this is the Christmas they speak. Hoping that this is the Christmas that the world is set right.   May it be so…

First published on this blog in 2009.

Merry Christmas!


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