The Mary T. and
Frank L. Hoffman
Letters and Responses
I am saddened today, because my beloved pet rat Isabelle (named after the character in Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, my favorite novel) recently passed away. I found her lying in the corner dead in her cage. She was 3 years old, and died simply of old age, I guess. She was pure white with pink eyes, like a lab rat (but I hate comparing her to that because lab rats are so horribly mistreated).
She used to love popcorn. I sometimes watched movies with her in my lap, handing her kernel after kernel of it. She gobbled it up. She used to tickle my nose with her whiskers, and touch her tiny wet nose to mine. I loved Isabelle, and she loved me back.
I want to believe that I will see her again in heaven one day, but it's hard.
My youth minister tells me that humans were made in God's image, and Christ only died for humans, who alone possess eternal souls. I agree that Christ died for humans, for we are the only species capable of sin and separation from God. But I totally disagree with his thinking that animals don't have souls. Animals are perfectly innocent, and there is no question that if they do have souls, then they would only go to heaven.
My youth minister said that animals have a spirit, but they are not eternal, and disperse and fade when an animal dies. He also once said that God made animals for humans to use as food.
Why are most Christians so blindly anthropocentric?
I don't believe him, but I also worry when I think about the absurdity of what it is I want to believe. There have perhaps been trillions of rats throughout history: wild rats, sewer rats, lab rats that have died, and for all of them to be in heaven sounds kind of crazy. I don't know what to think.
Is Isabelle in heaven?
Do all the lab rats that have needlessly suffered throughout history merely to satisfy someone's scientific curiosity find compensation in a peaceful afterlife?
I'm not saying I hope that there are billions of white rats scampering around all over the place in heaven, but I'd just like to think that they can have their own comfortable little place to retire to after such a miserable, painful existence on earth.
Reply from Frank and Mary Hoffman
Thank you for your letter. We are sorry to hear about Isabelle's death, and know the emptiness you feel, but be assured that one day you will see her again in heaven.
You are correct, and your youth pastor is mistaken. All animals were created with souls and spirits, just as humans were, and do go to heaven. Our being created in the image of God is a special added gift that comes with the responsibility of being compassionate and loving caretakers for the while of creation.
Animals were not created to be food for humans, they were created to be our companions. Neither is it necessary for humans to run tests and experiments on rats or any other animal. And, yes, they will be compensated in heaven.
People blind themselves to these facts because if they didn't, they couldn't excuse away, or try to justify the way they live and the cruelty they condone.
I believe that animals will greatly outnumber us in heaven, and that once again we will be able to fully communicate with one another, even more so than we do with our fellow human beings.
In the Love of the Lord,
Frank and Mary
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