February 20, 2013
Book Review: "A Faith Embracing All Creatures"
Byron Borger reviews this 2012 book and discusses other animals and faith titles
by Byron Borger
In our 30 years of book-selling at our small town bookstore, we have noticed trends, trends silly and significant. Significantly, in the general culture there has been a notable interest in recent years in books about animals—sweet tales, inspirational stories, and serious stuff, including an interest in animal welfare.
In the religious publishing world (I am most familiar with Christian publishers) there is trending interest in faith-based creation-care, with wonderful authors writing about sustainable living, exploring the delights and ethics of food, and, more specifically, books about animals.
While there is considerable disagreement about how best to integrate one’s religious convictions with ones practices of daily discipleship, there is a fresh conversation about the implications of God’s call for humans who bear God’s image to steward well and relate properly to their fellow creatures.
In the last decades there have been academic (and often arcane) theological writings about animal welfare, but few widely-available, easily accessible books for traditional religious readers. Gladly, there have been many voices deconstructing the rather traditional but quite wrong-headed assumptions and attitudes revealing human hubris in “taking dominion” over the creation. Nearly every major Christian publishing house, especially evangelical ones, have done fabulous books about creation care, Christian environmentalism, and Bible-based ruminations on the beauty and duty of caring well for God’s good world.
Few of them, however, until recently, have mentioned much about animals, let alone animal welfare. This is changing, and it is wonderful to see lovely titles like "All God’s Creatures: The Blessing of Animal Companions" by Debra Farrington (Paraclete Press), "Will I See My Dog in Heaven?" by Jack Wintz (Paraclete) and "The Friends We Keep: Unleashing Christianity's Compassion for Animals" by Laura Hobgood-Oster (Baylor University Press).
More generally, there are books coming out about faith perspectives on eating sustainably. "Food and Faith: A Theology of Eating" by Norman Wirzba (Cambridge University Press) is serious but wonderful; "The Spirit of Food: 34 Writers on Feasting and Fasting Toward God" is a truly beautifully-written anthology, and the fabulous, new "Eat with Joy: Redeeming God’s Gift of Food" by Rachel Marie Stone (IVP) is the essential “go-to” entry level, must-read book on the subject. Each offers faith-shaped insight about land, creation-care, animals, and the ethical dimensions of our embodied human tasks such as farming, shopping, and eating.
Byron Borger is the owner of Hearts & Minds, an independent bookstore in Dallastown, Penn., and regularly blogs about books.