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I think there are two ways to look at this question. One is the abstract, hypothetic question of what we think God would want us to do. This, I suspect, was the father's perspective. He likely viewed a human as more valuable than a dog, and therefore saving the dog reflected "wrong" priorities. The daughter reflected the human perspective - what an individual would be inclined to do based on their own values. She naturally valued a dog with whom she had a relationship greater than she valued a stranger, because she would grieve much more for her lost companion than for the death of someone she never knew. Neither answer is wrong - they simply represent different perspectives. A few thoughts:
1. Though you can generate biblical evidence to the contrary, I think the thrust of the biblical witness is that human life is more valuable than that of nonhumans. However, according to the Bible, nonhumans clearly matter to God, and protecting human life when nonhuman life is at risk is not an absolute.
2. We make these "burning building" decisions all the time. When we feed our companion animals, we're making a decision to dedicate food and monetary resources to our companion animals that could be dedicated to feeding malnourished humans. If we think it's obscene to privilege "pets" to animals, it's far less obscene than unnecessarily feeding oneself animal flesh, which, for the taste of flesh, involves killing God's creatures and reduces the amount of food available to the world's poor and hungry people. Worldwide, the taste for flesh has caused many humans to die. To be consistent in his ethic, the father who decried saving the dog rather than a human in a burning building should, for starters, be a vegan. Of course, when we indulge our desires for luxuries, entertainment, etc. we are making a statement of values as to what is more important to us - our pleasures or the desperate needs of impoverished people. I'm not condemning those who spend their hard-earned money on goods and services that give them pleasure, but I am noting that such purchases reflect values.
Go on to: Comments by Janice - 2 Jul 2009
Return to: Whose Life Is More Important?
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