Now, Religion in the News, a report and comment on religious trends and events being covered by the media. This week’s item is from the Long Beach Press Telegram, October 1, 2003, with the headline: “Clergy to Share Love with Pets and Their People—‘We’ll bless the pets again in the Fall of 2004, the date and time to be announced. No reservation is necessary. Seniors, families, singles, and children can bring their dogs, cats, birds, or any type of well-behaved pet. We’ll even bless your child’s teddy bear, if you’d like. Some unusual pets have included a hedgehog, an aqua frog, goldfish, an opossum, and snake.’
“The ‘Blessing Ceremony’ is believed to be the first of its kind in the region, according to organizer Justin Rudd. The event is part of Animal Appreciation Day and A Walk for the Animals, which is hosted by Friends of Long Beach Animals. The religious leaders will have taught or prayed briefly on the interconnection among all living things.”
Tom: Dave, some of the religious leaders—a Roman Catholic priest, the pastor of St Bartholomew Catholic Church—and of course, Catholics have blessed animals in the past; the Anglican Church does it all the time. We have a representative of the Jewish community, according to this article; an ordained minister of the Universal Life Church, a woman; First Congregational Church; Hospice chaplain for children in Long Beach.
The reason why I selected this…
Dave: Yeah, that’s what I’d like to know, Tom!
Tom: We get letters! When we write anything about animals, people come right away to the defense of their animals. But the question I’d like to know is: What position should we take with regard to animals? Now, I’ve seen it on TBN; people on there have said, “Well, your animals are going to be with you in heaven.” And “whatever will make you happy,” because heaven is a place of happiness. Certainly the position of these religious leaders with regard to the “interconnectedness” of animals—I mean, are we a part of that chain, and so on?
Dave: Yeah. Tom, I remember—this would be some years ago now, listening to an audiotape by Kenneth Copeland about how to get your animals saved and filled with the Holy Ghost. And I almost fell off my chair—I had to go back and listen to that again. I think I listened to it two or three times to make sure I didn’t misunderstand him. Now there’s nothing here about getting these animals saved, so Kenneth Copeland maybe should…would have an issue with them. How are you going to bless animals that aren’t saved? And I noticed also—and this rather concerns me—that only “well-behaved” pets… It would seem to me that badly behaving pets would be the ones that need straightening out—that need some kind of blessing. Well, Tom…
Tom: But, Dave, that brings up the issue that if they’re behaved, they’re entitled to a blessing. You know, it’s kind of a works—could be a works salvation kind of thing.
Dave: Yeah, Tom…uh…I’ll tell you what the Bible says: There’s going to be a shaking of all the animals, and even the fish and the creeping things when God returns to this earth. And there’re going to be some human beings who will be shaking too. And you will find that in Ezekiel 38.
But nowhere is this talked about in the Bible. There is no idea that animals would be in heaven. In fact, the scripture says, “The spirit of the beast returns to the earth, whereas the spirit of man returns to God who gave it.” And that will be in judgment. And the spirit and soul of man will either be separated from God in torment, anguish, remorse, forever, or will be with Christ in His presence.
Tom: Now, Dave, I know this is going to upset a lot of people—just what you’ve said—because people love their pets. Some…I mean, we have funerals! I think we’ve done a segment on that where thousands of dollars have been spent for their pet—in burying their pet, and so on.
Now, I think we make the mistake—maybe it’s part of the flesh—but we sort of anthropomorphize these creatures, make them a part of the family, and then begin to impute to them characteristics—qualities…
Dave: Right. Well, you know that some scientists are trying desperately to teach the alphabet to chimpanzees. You can teach certain programmed responses—they’re trying to talk to dolphins, and on and on it goes. There is a chasm between the animal kingdom and mankind, and you can never possibly bridge that.
But I notice this is an ecumenical work. This is something that appeals. You see, it’s like seeker-friendly, I’m sorry! “Let’s find out what appeals to people!” Well, as you said, people love their pets. This is a very appealing idea. “Well, let’s get the Catholics and the Jews and the Congregationalists and Universal Life Church, and so forth. Let’s all get together and bless these pets. That will make people happy. And maybe they’ll become religious. They might look with favor upon the idea of religion. And they might become church attenders,” and so forth.
But the Bible is very clear: “By grace are you saved through faith, not of yourselves, the gift of God. The gospel is the power of God to salvation to everyone who believes it.” It doesn’t say “every animal” because animals can’t believe. They have no concept of sin, of being lost. There’s no way that animals can be saved. Christ did not die for animals. He died for human beings, okay? So this is what the Bible says. Sorry, people, your animals are gone.
Tom: But Dave, are there animals in heaven? What about the horses that we find in the book of Revelation, and I’m not talking about the four horsemen and so on, but the horse that Christ returns on.
Dave: Right. He’s on a white horse when He comes back. I think that’s figurative language. Horses do not gallop through space. It’s figurative language, in my opinion, because this is how wars were enacted, and you even read of horsemen and so forth at Armageddon. But we know that there will be very, very few horsemen there. There are tanks and planes and so forth. So the Bible doesn’t use that kind of language, and how could the Bible explain how Jesus comes through space? I don’t even know if He comes through space! It’s just another dimension. So that’s figurative language.
Tom: Now, Dave, we want people to take care of their animals—treat them kindly, you know. That’s part of our stewardship. However, don’t go beyond that. You know, I have a bass at home—a pet bass. And I take care of my bass, but I don’t go beyond that.
Dave: The earth, the works therein, the animals, the trees and everything will be burned up. There will be a new universe wherein dwelleth righteousness that God is going to create.