Christianity and the Problem of Human ViolenceChristianity and the Problem of Human Violence: Part 72: Forgiveness: Animal Abusers, part 1
from Guide to Kingdom Living

True Christian living requires us to live according to Kingdom standards which bring Heaven to earth.

Christianity and the Problem of Human Violence: Part 72: Forgiveness: Animal Abusers, part 1

By Stephen R. Kaufman, M.D.

Just as Simon Wiesenthal could not forgive on behalf of murdered Jews he never knew, we can’t forgive on behalf of abused animals. But, our faith teaches us that everyone is forgiven, “for they know not what they do.” People always regard their violence as justified, and indeed the writer of Proverbs wrote, “Every way of a man is right in his own eyes.” (21:2) For example, violent criminals generally rationalize their actions on the grounds that they have been victims themselves, entitling them to victimize others. In addition, we rarely consider whether mimetic behavior is wrong, particularly when it is widespread in our culture. Therefore, following the examples of their parents and other adults, children in Western cultures learn early in life to adopt exploitative attitudes and practices with respect to animals.

If we recognized that God forgives animal abusers who "know not what they do,” perhaps we could start to love, or at least not hate, them. We may have deep sadness and regret about what they do. We may strive to make it legally impossible for them to harm innocent creatures. However, I think our faith teaches that we must also communicate (through our words and/or our actions) that they are loved and forgiven by God.

While God may forgive them, they will only receive and personally experience forgiveness if they repent and strive to “sin no more.” God offers forgiveness freely, but it’s up the individual to receive it. Those who refuse to receive it lack faith that “the truth will set you free” and that “your faith will make you whole,” and they suffer. Their suffering may not be obvious, particularly since people tend to try to hide their existential pain. Chapter 6 of Good News for All Creation by Nathan Braun and me discusses this into greater detail.

Next week, we will further explore the challenge of forgiving those who mistreat animals.

Go on to: Part 73: Forgiveness: Animal Abusers, part 2
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