October 20, 2011
Faithful Following, Part 4: One Believer at a Time
The HSUS's Faith Outreach Campaign brings the message of animal advocacy to an audience of believers
by Karen E. Lange
Many specific cruelties aren’t addressed in the Bible, but sprinkled throughout is a respect for animals as God-created beings, plus a hunger for a world in which compassion and harmony reign. The Book of Isaiah contains a vision of wolves with lambs, leopards with kids, young lions with calves. All the animals, even the carnivores, are peaceably eating straw together. The words, almost wistful, evoke the memory of an unspoiled creation.
They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: For the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea. (Isaiah 11:9)
This is the vision that The HSUS hopes to tap into. In a world where animals are often treated as objects, without regard to their pain or innate dignity, it’s audacious. But hope is something Christians are called to have plenty of. The Bible says that if they can summon even a small amount of faith—the size of a mustard seed—nothing will be impossible for them.
As the Q conference ends, a guitar plays and the audience rises and lifts their hands in praise. People sing: “Savior, you can move the mountains …” It’s a closing song and a sort of prayer that they will be able to carry what they have heard here into the world.
Very likely, many of them will actually do something about animal welfare, says Lyons, the conference founder. When asked which presentation made them think or most challenged their core assumptions, respondents ranked the HSUS talk in the top five of 35. “It’s planted [the issue] firmly in the heads of these Protestant Christian leaders,” says Lyons. “This is an issue that we can’t turn away from.”
So many people have already come up to Gutleben to compliment her on The HSUS’s presentation. She has the names of the 20 or so people who attended a question-and-answer session afterwards, down the street, and is slowly but steadily finding takers for all the books. She gets an email from Kevin Palau, president of the Luis Palau Association in Portland, an evangelistic organization that engages in social action and community service. Palau would like to find a way to team up with The HSUS, perhaps to add vet care to free medical and dental clinics put on by churches in the region. “It was encouraging to be reminded of the strong Christian heritage of animal protection and care,” Palau says later, in an email. “… The Q presentation challenged many Christian leaders, like myself, to continue advocating for the humane treatment of God’s creation.”
And then there is Tennant. Soon after she arrives home in Seattle, she sits down with her fiancé to look at the seven-pound CAFO book. They’re about to start a life together, and it seems like they need to figure out what sort of life. After leafing through the big photos of commodified animals and corpses of chickens and cows, landscapes buried beneath manure and water dark with pollution, they agree they don’t want to support a system so cruel, so destructive, so unhealthy. They decide to follow a mostly vegetarian diet, supplemented by the fish Tennant’s fiancé sometimes catches, and, when they do buy meat, to pay extra for products from animals raised more humanely.
Modest, seemingly mundane decisions. Nothing much has changed. And everything has.
For a video of The HSUS's Q conference presentation, go to humanesociety.org/faith.