Humane Religion Magazine
March - April 1996 Issue
In this day and age “humane Religion” often seems a contradiction in terms. The Judeo-Christian heritage that informs our western civilization has fallen into such disrepute that many who struggle for a just and compassionate world feel they must distance themselves from any association with religion. They seem unaware that the principles they cherish— social justice, nonviolence, and stewardship of the earth—were nurtured and came to fruition within the Judeo-Christian tradition.
Social justice, nonviolence, and stewardship of the earth were nurtured and came to fruition within the Judeo-Christian tradition.
In the time of the Latter Prophets of Israel, Micah told of a world in which “nation will not lift up sword against nation. Never again will they train for war.” And Isaiah envisioned a millennial world in which “they do not hurt, nor harm, on all my holy mountain, for the country is filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters swell the sea.” These prophets told of a world in which all species will be at peace with each other: “the cow and the bear make friends...the infant plays over the cobra’s hole.”
This is also the kind of world for which Jesus taught his followers to pray: a world that would reflect the goodness and harmony of heavenly places. “Our Father...thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, as in heaven so, too, on earth. He told his followers to give themselves, unstintingly, to the work of the Kingdom: “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the Kingdom of God. “
Christian activists have given leadership to such diverse causes as the abolition of slavery, care of the insane, the reform of labor laws and nursing institutions and the development of laws for the protection of children. And many who labored in these various fields also worked to establish the humane treatment of animals.
In England, William Wilberforce and T. Powell Buxton, credited with being most influential in putting an end to slavery in Britain, were also founders of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. And in America Peter Bergh, who founded the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, also successfully legislated for the protection of children against the rampant—and legal—abuses to which they were subject.
The Judeo-Christian tradition continues to produce women and men who are in the vanguard of the struggle to pave the way for a millennial world. A world in which human beings will be at peace with each other—and with every other creature. A world in which “they do not hurt nor harm...for the country is filled with the knowledge of the Lord.” #