Archives For Animals

 

Love and Care for ALL God’s Creation

A Review of 

Every Living Thing, How Pope Francis, Evangelicals and Other Christian Leaders Are Inspiring All of Us to Care for Animals 
Christine Gutleben, Editor.

Paperback: Front Edge, 2015
Buy now: [ Amazon ]  [ Kindle ]

Review by Alexander Steward

 

As we look across the Christian landscape within the United States there are many denominations with varying degrees of theology which guide their doctrine and practices. It is the hope of many to be able to work on an ecumenical level with our sisters and brothers in Christ. We do not always have the pleasure of doing so as we let our differing opinions get in the way of what is better for our communities.

The collaboration of Every Living Thing brings many denominational statements and beliefs around creation care into one convenient resource. While at times we tend to get into a theological war of words, it is nice to be able to see where our common beliefs align and build a foundation to reach out in common care for all of creation. While there definitely are apparent differences when we discuss the specifics, it does not mean that we end up mostly at the same conclusion.

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Can we live toward a peaceable kingdom?

A Review of

The End of Captivity? A Primate’s Reflections on Zoos, Conservation, and Christian Ethics
Tripp York

Paperback: Cascade Books, 2015
Buy now:  [ Amazon ] [ Kindle ]

Reviewed by Marilyn Matevia

 

According to the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, more people visit zoos in the United States each year than attend games for all four major league sports, combined.[1] It’s an impressive number, especially considering that zoos in many parts of the US have lower attendance during winter months, while sports events draw crowds throughout the calendar year. For many, there is undeniable attraction and entertainment value in a zoo visit, or we wouldn’t be flocking to the gates in these numbers. What accounts for the attraction? Why do we find animals in zoos so enthralling?

These are among the questions Tripp York asks in his new book, The End of Captivity? A Primate’s Reflections on Zoos, Conservation, and Christian Ethics. He also poses the more fundamental questions behind them: what does our fascination with captive animals reveal about us, and about our views on our place – and their place – in creation? Why do we keep animals in captivity (especially in zoos and aquariums)? More importantly, when we keep animals in captivity, are we enabling, or thwarting, their God-given purpose? And what IS their God-given purpose?

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For the Love of Our Nonhuman Neighbors

 

A Review of

A Faith Embracing All Creatures: Addressing Commonly Asked Questions about Christian Care for Animals

Tripp York, Andy Alexis-Baker, eds.

Paperback: Cascade Books, 2012
Buy now:  [ Amazon ] [ Kindle ]

 

Reviewed by Meghan Pauline Florian

 

Editors Tripp York and Andy Alexis-Baker have brought together a diverse, intelligent, and helpful group of writers in A Faith Embracing All Creatures. The book is the second volume in the Peaceable Kingdom series, the first of which is called A Faith Not Worth Fighting For: Addressing Commonly Asked Questions about Christian Nonviolence. In this volume, York and Alexis-Baker have gathered essays that deal with scripture, church tradition, and theology from perspectives ranging from vegan to vegetarian to simply arguing against factory farming. As such, the collection provides a valuable resource to any teacher or person in general seeking to educate others about Christian perspectives on animal care.

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Browse the lovely pages of
(and trust me, it’s much more lovely to hold in your hands)

Brother Sun, Sister Moon:
Saint Francis of Assisi’s
Canticle of the Creatures
.
Reimagined by Katherine Paterson.
Hardback: Chronicle Books, 2011.
Buy now:  [ Amazon ]



 

“Humanity, Engaged in a
Tightly Knit, Interconnected Creation

A review of
Cloud of Ink: Poems
by L.S. Klatt.

Review by Chris Smith.

CLOUD OF INK - L.S. KlattCloud of Ink: Poems
by L.S. Klatt.
Paperback: U of Iowa Press, 2011.
Buy Now:
[ Amazon ] [ Amazon – Kindle ]

L.S. Klatt’s recent collection of poems Cloud of Ink, a winner of the 2010 Iowa Poetry Prize, is a delightful and far-ranging collection of poems that reflects on, and whimsically revels in, humanity’s place in the deeply-interconnected web of nature. Granted, the poems are rarely straightforward and at times plunge into the surreal.  Consider the lines from which the book’s title is drawn, from the poem “Andrew Wyeth, Painter, Dies at 91”:  “A giant squid rises out of the hayfield, &the barn/ is compassed in tentacles/ then a cloud of ink.”  The same poem is also a fine example of Klatt’s mastery at reappropriating lines and images from other work into his poems; Flannery O’Connor, Emerson, Darwin, Audubon, Picasso and Oliver L. Austin, Jr.’s Birds of the World all supply material with which Klatt deftly weaves together his own images, and the above poem’s title was drawn from Wyeth’s obituary in the New York Times.  I imagine, however, that most readers will – like myself – not be able to pinpoint these reused images until they come to the poet’s notes at the end of the volume.  Klatt excels at forging language into rich, multi-layered images that demand that the reader pause, re-read and reflect on their meanings.  It suffices then to say that these poems require some work, they are like paintings in a gallery, which the viewer might gaze upon for hours on end only to discover a minute detail tucked away in a corner that would escape notice of anyone who gave it a mere moment’s glance.

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“What Tigers and Tales Can Teach”

A review of

The Tiger’s Wife:
A Novel
.
By Téa Obreht.

Review by Alex Joyner.

The Tigers' Wife - Tea ObrehtThe Tiger’s Wife: A Novel.
Téa Obreht.
Hardback: Random House, 2011.
Buy now:
[ Amazon – Hardback ]
[ Amazon – Kindle ]

On bright moonlit nights I sometimes catch myself looking out the window for a headless dog running through the fields.  My father is responsible for this behavior.  Traveling through the tidewater plains of Virginia to visit my grandparents, he would tell me stories about his life growing up in these loamy lands.  Tales of Saturday matinees shown in tents during the Depression, of his father slowly dying from tuberculosis, and of a mysterious, headless dog who ran through peanut fields under a full moon to warn of an impending death.

To this day the county where he grew up remains the most fully-realized place I have ever been.  It has history, texture, memory, and wonder all woven together in equal measure.  These family stories delivered this land to me.  They also gave birth to my sense of self and my place in the world.

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582644: The Friends We Keep: Unleashing Christianity"s Compassion for Animals

A Review of
The Friends We Keep:
Unleashing Christianity’s Compassion for Animals

By Laura Hobgood-Oster
Paperback: Baylor University Press, 2010.

Buy now: [ ChristianBook.com ]

Reviewed by Marilyn Matevia.

For nonhuman animals, Christian teachings might seem to be anything but “good news.” Many forms of exploitation, neglect and abuse are tolerated and even justified by followers of a faith tradition that holds compassion and justice as core virtues – because the victims are other animals and not human beings. But that has not always been the case. The modern Christian tradition, says Laura Hobgood-Oster, suffers “collective amnesia about the role of the rest of God’s creatures in religion and in life as a whole.” Hobgood-Oster is Professor of Religion and Environmental Studies at Southwestern University, and a dedicated volunteer dog and cat rescuer. In her latest book, The Friends We Keep: Unleashing Christianity’s Compassion for Animals, she attempts to rescue and recover the “good news” for animals from stories, teachings and texts that have been forgotten, marginalized or conveniently overlooked for several hundred years.

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Stay Together. Learn the Flowers. Go Light

A review of
The Etiquette of Freedom.
By Gary Snyder and Jim Harrison.

Reviewed by R. Dean Hudgens.

The Etiquette of Freedom.
Gary Snyder and Jim Harrison.
Edited by Paul Ebenkamp.
Hardcover: Counterpoint, 2010.
Includes DVD “The Practice of the Wild”,
Directed by John J Healey.  San Simeon Films, 2010.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

Etiquette of Freedom - Gary SnyderIf Gary Snyder is not yet an elder and guide for the readers of ERB he should be.  A new DVD “The Practice of the Wild” and the accompanying book The Etiquette of Freedom provide an ideal introduction for those as yet unacquainted with the work of this significant American author.  In this documentary Snyder, still physically and intellectually vigorous in his eighties, comes across as the same engaging and insightful personality that his readers have met in his poems and essays these past fifty years.

Snyder grew up in the Pacific northwest (born in 1930) immersed in the natural world that shaped his personality and vision. He learned from his leftist, politically active mother that society was a mess.  But Snyder wanted something more than a life of protest and organizing.  It seems he was initially attracted to Native American culture as a repository for a lost human wisdom that might address society’s ills. But a short stint at Reed College studying anthropology and an even briefer time at Indiana University studying linguistics convinced him that Buddhism was the path he was looking for.  East Asian history revealed at least the possibility of “being highly civilized and still respecting the nonhuman” (29).

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“Returning to Our Senses

A review of
Becoming Animal:
An Earthly Cosmology.

by David Abram.


Reviewed by Marilyn Matevia.


Becoming Animal:
An Earthly Cosmology.

David Abram.

Hardback: Random House, 2010.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

BECOMING ANIMAL - David AbramIn his thought-provoking 1996 book, The Spell of the Sensuous, David Abram argued that the emergence of phonetic writing fundamentally changed the nature of human perception and human interaction with other beings and the earth.  In Western hands, written words were combined to    abstract, symbolize and ultimately sever contact and engagement with the rest of nature, leaving us disenchanted, disembodied and disconnected.  In his new book, Becoming Animal: An Earthly Cosmology, Abram combines words in rich, wild, sometimes surprising ways in an attempt to help us return to our senses.  Abram aims for “a new way of speaking, one that enacts our interbeing with the earth rather than blinding us to it. … A style of speech that opens our senses to the sensuous in all its multiform strangeness.”

Abram is an environmental philosopher, but Becoming Animal is an unconventional philosophy book.  If there is a thesis, it is a continuation of what he proposed in The Spell of the Sensuous: we deepen our alienation from the rest of the natural world when we mediate experience through the printed word, electronic/digital gadgets and other technological barriers and filters.  “Re-minding” (to borrow a particularly fitting phrase from Amory Lovins’ jacket blurb) ourselves of our connections to and dependence on other beings cannot help but have healing ramifications for the way we live on the planet.  But Abram spends very little time making that case, and much more on what he calls “a necessary work of recuperation:” enticing the reader back into touch with their animal capacities for sensation and perception through his lush descriptions of various settings and encounters.  For this book, the journey is indeed the destination.

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A Brief Review of

Ostriches, Dung Beetles, and Other Spiritual Masters:
A Book of Wisdom from the Wild.

Janice McLaughlin.

Paperback: Orbis Books, 2009.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

Reviewed by Marilyn Matevia.

Maryknoll Sister Janice McLaughlin has written a delightful devotional, the modern equivalent of a medieval bestiary – but without the zoological flights of fancy.  Drawing on knowledge gained in years of missionary and humanitarian work in Africa, and friendships with park rangers and guides, Sister McLaughlin profiles 26 representatives of the continent’s indigenous animals and plants.   She highlights the unique adaptations, characteristics and virtues of each, and then – through rich, thoughtful, and personal vignettes – shows how these same virtues enhance human lives and communities.  Each chapter concludes with a few short readings from Scripture, and suggestions for further reflection and action.  Illustrations by Charles Chazike or Justin Gope accompany each profile.

The book is charming, and yet not at all “fluffy.”  Her vignettes are often poignant and sensitive.  While the connections to the animal profiles and virtues could be strained and simplistic, in Sister McLaughlin’s hands, they are perceptive and thoughtful.  Reminiscent of the poet’s tactic in Job 38-41, Sister McLaughlin celebrates some of God’s less alluring but no less remarkable creatures – the Dung Beetle illustrates perseverance, the Hammerkop (a 1-pound bird that constructs 100-pound nests!) exemplifies ambition, the Porcupine illustrates justice, and Warthog resourcefulness – along with the more charismatic representatives, such as the Cheetah (solitude), Elephant (communication and community), Hippopotamus (humility and self-acceptance), Lion (playfulness and leisure), and Rhinoceros (stability).  Her suggestions for reflection are, at times, probing, and the suggested actions can be challenging.  These make the book useful both for personal meditation and for small group (adult or young adult) discussion.