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July 23, 2008

Sharing Our Dwelling Place With Animals

The Humane Society of the United States

Do your views about animals influence your faith? Contributors to The Francis Files share their stories.

by Lisa Kay Adam
Edinburg, Texas

After many years as an apartment dweller, I was delighted to move to a place with a small porch. When I placed some bowls of water there, my fellow inhabitants immediately made themselves known: a pair of doves that promenaded on the adjacent walkway, a toad that used one bowl as a ridiculously small swimming pool, dragonflies and damselflies, and a variety of smaller birds, including common sparrows. 

As the latter flutter under the eaves awaiting their turn at water, I often remember the Biblical Psalm in which the musician lauds the beneficent dwelling place of God, where "the sparrow hath found an house." 

I am a renter in this place, by which I mean something other than who pays the mortgage. Literature from several faiths affirms that the world belongs to God. "The earth is the Lord's, and the fullness thereof," says another Psalm. "All that is in heaven and on Earth belongs to God," states the Qur'an. If God has ownership of this home, the Earth, then I am only a transitory inhabitant, along with every other creature living here. We are roommates on a global scale, and I try to be a good roommate.

When I make decisions, I try to consider not only how they benefit me and my home, but how they affect our shared home.  Should I buy an unnecessary trinket, and how much energy was wasted in its production? Should I eat eggs from factory-farmed chickens, whose own habitations were far from comfortable and whose waste may pollute the land and water around them?  Should I purchase a pet or adopt one who lacks a home? How should I invest, spend, and give my money so that, at least, it does no injury to my fellow inhabitants—humans, domestic animals and wild—and perhaps even benefits them?

I share my home with several pets, and I consider them family. In calling animals my family, I am in good spiritual company. I think of St. Francis addressing the birds as his brethren, or indigenous peoples who have called themselves and the animals, the children or grandchildren of the great spirits. 

If I am my pets' caretaker and their family, then I am neither their owner nor their god. For me, this means a more peaceful mind and restored energy. At the end of the day, when I have done what I can for them, I lay my worries about them—and about homeless pets, crated pigs, endangered polar bears, and all the other roommates—at the feet of the Owner. In the morning, I can take up my part in caretaking afresh.  

Science has shown us how humans and animals are bound to each other and to the Earth in intricate society.  Faith teaches me that these bonds are spiritual ones, as well. When I consider animals and humans as family, roommates and fellow inhabitants, I am reminded again to follow the ancient injunction to "love thy neighbor."

Do you have a story to share of how your view of animals has influenced your faith or how your faith has influenced your view of animals? Submit your story and we may share it with our readers. The opinions of the authors expressed herein do not necessarily state or reflect those of The Humane Society of the United States.

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