In a recent post on Her.meneutics, the Christianity Today women's blog, Saddleback Church's Kay Warren shared the story of being emotionally duped, then angered, by a heart-tugging television ad about suffering animals. As someone who has seen Rwandan children orphaned by hiv and surviving on dirt cookies, Warren urged readers to remember the chasm between humans and animals, and the respective dignity that chasm confers. "Only people have a spiritual dimension," she wrote. "Jesus didn't die for animals; he gave his all for human beings."
Warren's post received many thankful "amens." Her frustration resonates with many Christians who are concerned with appeals for animal compassion when so much callousness toward human suffering persists. Such concern is rooted in both Scripture's witness and the intuitive knowledge that, while animals and all of non-human creation are not disposable, neither do they have the same worth as humankind. It was the first human's nostrils into which God, in an embarrassingly intimate act, breathed life; it was the human patriarchs and their families whom God called into covenant relationship; when God chose Mary, a Jewish teenager in a backwater of the Roman Empire, it was human flesh he chose to take on. And though Paul writes in Romans 8 that God will usher the entire creation into freedom in the age to come, he also says that humans alone were chosen "before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless … to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ" (Eph. 1:4-5).
Given the highlights of God's story of redemption, Christians cannot help being a bit speciesist, a term coined by psychologist Richard D. Ryder for "the widespread discrimination … practiced by man against other ...1
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