"Poll: Do Animals Go To Heaven When They Die?
Only if they are 'good'.
I don't believe in Heaven and Hell.
Karma effects animals as it does humans.
About our polls: Because AnimalChaplains.com is an interfaith ministry, we do not claim to know the answers to these important religious questions..." (1)
Many attitudes in the West about animals derive from Judaeo-Christian sources and are deeply human centred. Two common fundamental religious beliefs held for centuries are that God made animals for human use and that humans in every way are more important than animals. People manipulate these ideas to justify exploiting animals while denying animals moral and welfare obligations.
How can you transform this view? Perhaps you are gifted for delivering religious teachings or spiritual exhortations? Then no matter what your religion or religious tradition you can speak up and spread respect for God's creation and preach God's word for animal rights. (If you want to teach but not preach, see Teaching, Chapter 4.)
Anyone Can Preach
Your goal as a preacher is to articulate to people the expression of God as you understand it. You do not need to be ordained as clergy or be a member of a religious group to do this. Anyone can do it anywhere they like on their own initiative. But if you are a member of a religious group and wish to preach within its congregation, then the first step is to talk with your minister to explore opportunities. Some religious orders use lay preachers: non-ordained, part-time volunteers. It is said that because lay preachers live among the ordinary people that they are able to relate to the lives of common people and bring a freshness of interpretation to the scriptures that ordained clergy cannot.
Although you may be able to find some clergy who will take general services for animals, they are the rare exceptions. Clergy preachers for animal rights
are even more rare (see Andrew Linzey, Chapter 7). Possibly the closest vocation to animal preacher as such is an animal chaplain. Animal chaplains serve animals and the people who are close to their animals. Animal chaplains are unpaid, often have another job to sustain their worldly needs and offer their chaplaincy part-time. Animal chaplains may be affiliated to a religious body and preach in collaboration with ordained clergy; alternatively, they may preach independently of any religious organisation and set up their own ministry.
Being an animal chaplain is a fairly new calling and one that has been developing over the last few years. Among your duties as an animal chaplain you would:
- Conduct religious services in which animals are welcome.
- Perform animal blessings and memorial ceremonies.
- Provide pet-loss consolation and counselling.
- Pray for sick or injured animals.
- Support pet owners during animal surgery or euthanasia.
Animal chaplains also deliver sermons on the relationship between animals and humans and advance spiritual education and guidance about the responsibilities of humans to animals. From here it is a tiny step to preach animal rights and there is no reason why you should not do so as part of your work as an animal chaplain. Broadly, you will be promoting compassion, respect and rights for God's creatures and the sharing of the environment with all creation in peace and harmony.
Qualities You Need for Animal Rights Preaching
A sense of calling and a will and commitment to preach.
Be able to articulate your feelings to other people, project your voice with confidence and express yourself well to deliver your sermons effectively.
Be a spiritual person, without necessarily being religious, with a love for animals.
If you are religious you should know your religion, especially by studying and interpreting its holy books to apply them when preaching and answering people's questions.
Develop your faculties as an acute observer of life and discern links between the scriptures and modern everyday living.
Enjoy serving others, be a good listener, reliable, mature and emotionally stable.
Be willing to learn the art of preaching. Study the style and delivery of practising preachers and develop your own technique.
Be willing to spend time publicising your services in your community (people must know you exist).
Animal Preachers Past & Present
Francis of Assisi (1181 - 1226) is one of the best known religious preachers from history. He lived in present day Italy and was first a soldier then a traveller and finally a Catholic friar who started his preaching career without being ordained. Frances was made a saint and as the patron saint of animals he demonstrates the positive side of Christianity to the animal world.
People are quick to depreciate and exterminate some animals without knowing their true nature. This applies to wolves in particular (2, 3). So the fable of Francis and the wolf has special interest. Francis was visiting Gubbio village when the community was terrorised by a wolf consuming their livestock. The people tried to kill the wolf, but he fought back and they were afraid to leave their houses. Francis met the wolf and explained to him that he must not harm the people or their livestock, in which case past errors would be forgiven and the villagers would not try to kill him. To the surprise of the people the wolf agreed and shook hands with Francis as a pledge. From then on the wolf stopped harming the people and their livestock and in return the villagers fed the wolf. We should each draw our own moral from this story, but one moral could be that destructiveness in man and beast can be redeemed by offering animals understanding and respect.
However, you do not need to rely on legend for inspiration to preach about animals. Andrew Linzey (b1952) is a real-life British Anglican priest, theologian, academic and a champion for animal rights within Christianity. Widely considered an authority on Christianity and animals, Linzey has been preaching and writing about Christianity and animal rights since the 1970's. Linzey says that his vocation is to change Christian attitudes to animals for the better. Linzey says (4):
"Anglicans, like most Christians, haven't really woken up to the moral issue of our exploitation of animals."
"All the stuff about animals not having language, not having rational souls, not having culture, not being persons - all of these are human constructions."
"In God's eyes, all creatures have value whether we find them cuddly, affectionate, beautiful or otherwise."
Linzey is distinguished for his accomplishments relating to theology and animals. At Oxford University he held the world's first fellowship in Ethics, Theology and Animal Welfare, the first university position to unite ethics, religion and animals. In 2001 the Archbishop of Canterbury presented him with an honorary degree of Doctor of Divinity, the highest distinction he could make to a theologian. The distinction was granted with particular reference to Linzey's work on the rights and welfare of 'God's sentient creatures' and is the first time it has been conferred for work embracing Christianity and animals. Linzey says:
"Animals make a special moral claim upon us because, interalia, they are morally innocent, unable to give or withhold their consent, or vocalise their needs, and because they are wholly vulnerable to human exploitation. These considerations make the infliction of suffering upon them not easier - but harder to justify." (5)
The sermon is a valuable primary tool. The typical sermon has a clear cohesive union of introduction, body and conclusion. The introduction grabs your listeners' attention, the body of the sermon makes the points you wish to get across to your audience, and the conclusion is a definite and resounding finale, like an exhortation. There are different kinds of sermon:
- Topical: follows a subject of current concern via the scriptures.
- Expository: explains passages from the scriptures.
- Biographical: pursues the life and meaning of a personality in the scriptures.
- Evangelistic: spells out how members of the audience can save themselves.
As well as preaching that animals and humans are morally equal and deserving of rights, another major theme is that people should show respect for animals by taking up vegetarianism. Humanity kills billions of food animals annually (Chapter 6) and therefore meat-eating is at the forefront of animal rights issues and has moral and spiritual significance for animal rights preachers. Some Christian vegetarians cite parts of the Bible as evidence that Jesus was a vegetarian animal activist. They explain that Jesus' act of expelling animal traders from the temple on the eve of a big feast day (6) was to stop a huge slaughter of animals. Furthermore, they claim, that the New Testament only once describes Jesus as eating meat - and then only a small morsel of fish to make a point to his disciples. However, there are endless topics to choose from for sermons.
A good technique is to phrase the titles of sermons as questions so that you can build up your audience's curiosity and bring each sermon to a decisive answer. Titles for sermons could be:
- What do the scriptures say about the moral standing of animals in relation to humans?
- Can we reconcile discrepancies between being God's 'stewards of creation' and setting up factory farms?
- What can we make of God loving all his creatures and of the suffering imposed on animals by humanity?
- Does not God say the strong should protect the weak and therefore should not humanity protect animality?
- Is human dominion over animalkind a trust by God, for which we shall be called to account, and not an exploitative absolute right?
- Eating animals is not associated with a pure state of humanity - Eden was a vegetarian garden - so should we all be vegetarians?
- Do the scriptures illuminate the meaning of equal consideration of God's creatures in a modern world?
You may be able to publicise yourself as an animal rights preacher by way of your house of worship. Another route to publicise your services is through your own web site or blog (Chapter 3: Internet). As well as preaching sermons out loud you can write them for display; your web site is an extension of your pulpit, so post your sermons there. Hand out your literature in public places and at religious services and meetings. Teach compassion to animals in school classrooms (see Chapter 4: Public & School Speaker).
Some churches offer training and accreditation to lay preachers. The training may take the form of writing essays, meeting in study groups, periodic homework and associated reading for group discussion. Some training courses may last more than a year and could involve residential weekends. There are no officially approved training courses to qualify candidates as animal chaplains (writing in 2008), although there are a handful of web sites that offer distant learning opportunities, and there are certainly no courses for animal rights preachers. So be an animal rights preacher now - the field is open and may be calling you.
(1) www.AnimalChaplains.com. (Accessed October 2007; now defunct.)
(2) Linnell, John D C, et al. The fear of wolves: a review of wolf attacks on humans
. NINA Oppdragsmelding, 731. 2002:1 - 65. (Accessed online May 2004.)
(3) McNay, Mark E. A Case History of wolf-human encounters in Alaska and Canada
. Alaska Department of Fish and Game. Wildlife Technical Bulletin 13. 2002. (Accessed online May 2004.)
(4) Linzey, Andrew. Christianity and Animals
. Rynn Berry interviews. 1996. www.satyamag.com. (Accessed May 2006.)
(5) Linzey, Andrew. The Ethical Case Against Fur Farming. A statement by an international group of academics, including ethicists, philosophers and theologians
. (Accessed online May 2006 at Respect for Animals and other web sites.)
(6) Matthew 21:12; Mark 11:15-16; Luke 19:45.
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