[easyazon-image align=”none” asin=”1610977017″ locale=”us” height=”333″ src=”http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51nhDq81-mL.jpg” width=”222″ alt=”A Faith Embracing All Creatures” ]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
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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.
The questions highlighted in these fourteen essays are probably very familiar to Christian vegetarian readers. In Nekeisha Alexis-Baker’s piece, “Doesn’t the Bible Say that Humans Are More Important than Animals?” she calls out the tendency toward human-centric interpretations of scripture, revisiting the creation narratives of Genesis 1-2 and offering a challenging meditation on Job. She illustrates a vision of mutuality and kinship in scripture. In addition, Alexis-Baker points out a shared essence between humans and nonhuman animals as creatures made from dust, who return to dust, and are animated by God’s breath. Ultimately, she concludes that “Scripture contains multiple perspectives on differences in value between people and other animals, all of which elevate nonhuman animals far above the status they currently have in our society” (52).
Another highlight from the book is Laura Hobgood-Oster’s essay, “Does Christian Hospitality Require that We Eat Meat?” In her response to this question, she reframes the relationship between hospitality and animal care. Hobgood-Oster begins with a narrative describing her own small corner of creation and the creatures she shares it with, giving a sense of immediacy and purpose to her discussion. Her consideration of Jesus’ words about animals, as well as her retelling of stories of saints throughout church history highlight animal care as an issue not only about whether we eat animals, but how we feed, care for, and welcome them in our shared space. Finally, she flips the question of vegetarians and hospitality on its head by describing it not as about whether a Christian is obliged to eat meat when it is served in another person’s home, but about whether it is hospitable for a Christian to serve it to her guests. This challenges those who consider receiving hospitality from others (i.e. meat-eaters) as more important than their own commitment to a vegetarian lifestyle. For Hobgood-Oster, the burden is on the host, not the guest, and we should approach the question from that end. Am I being hospital to animals in my food choices? Am I serving my guest a meal that required inhumane treatment of animals? These are the practical questions the reader is challenged to confront.
In “Can the Wolf Lie Down with the Lamb without Killing It? Confronting the Not-So-Practical Politics of the Peaceable Kingdom,” Tripp York takes on the observed reality of violence in the world around us, both between different animals and between animals and people. In considering observable instances of violence, York puts forth an eschatological perspective on animal care. Isaiah 11:6-9, which speaks of the lion lying down with the lamb, prompt him to ask what it might mean for Christians “to live in a peaceable-kingdom-world that does not match up with the so-called real world” (154). Christianity is eschatological, meaning that it looks prophetically toward the fulfillment of God’s good future. It is not content with the world as is, but seeks to be part of God’s reconciling work, imagining the world as it will be.
A Faith Embracing All Creatures provides different perspectives and challenging questions for anyone interested in thinking more deeply about their own animal care practices, or anyone who has ever been asked a difficult question about their choices and stumbled while searching for an answer. The book creates space for a wider conversation beyond whether one ought to eat meat or not, offering the resources for a more broad consideration of how to love our nonhuman neighbors.
C. Christopher Smith is the founding editor of The Englewood Review of Books. He is also author of a number of books, including most recently How the Body of Christ Talks: Recovering the Practice of Conversation in the Church (Brazos Press, 2019). Connect with him online at: C-Christopher-Smith.com
Reading for the Common Good
From ERB Editor Christopher Smith
"This book will inspire, motivate and challenge anyone who cares a whit about the written word, the world of ideas, the shape of our communities and the life of the church."
-Karen Swallow Prior
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